HARRISBURG, N.C. — As somebody who has written about auto racing for practically 4 many years, I’ve a real concern for the long-term way forward for the Daytona 500.
The annual 500-mile battle at Invoice France’s 2.5-mile Palace of Pace has been a crown jewel occasion for NASCAR racing since Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp crossed the end line aspect by aspect on Feb. 22, 1959.
That dramatic end was a preview of issues to return.
In the course of the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s, race followers from throughout the nation migrated south to the Sunshine State every February to spend time on the seaside and cheer for the courageous males who navigated the excessive banks of Daytona Int’l Speedway in stock-appearing cars.
The motion typically stored followers on the sting of their seats, such because the dramatic end to the 1976 Daytona 500, when rivals Richard Petty and David Pearson tangled and crashed coming off of flip 4 on the ultimate lap.
Three years later, stay tv protection of the Daytona 500 eternally modified the NASCAR panorama and the game’s marquee race was quickly being talked about alongside main occasions in mainstream, stick-and-ball sports activities.
Due to broadcaster Ken Squier, the five hundred even turned often known as The Nice American Race.
Quick-forward to more moderen instances and the Daytona 500 has turn out to be higher recognized for its dramatic, multi-car crashes that usually get rid of a majority of the rivals and play a big function in figuring out who takes the checkered flag. To most race followers, as we speak’s Daytona 500 is a demolition derby as an alternative of a race.
Mix that pathetic model of racing with the anticipated afternoon showers that delayed this yr’s race for practically six hours, and it’s no marvel the tv scores for the 63rd working of the Daytona 500 hit a brand new low.
Individuals don’t like the present model of racing on the Daytona tri-oval and they’re turning their consideration elsewhere, and that’s a foul signal for the way forward for NASCAR’s most vital race.
If one thing doesn’t change, the Daytona 500 may simply fade into the historical past books.
Don’t consider me; look what’s occurred to the Brickyard 400. When the NASCAR Cup Sequence made its first go to to the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August 1994, it was one of the crucial important occasions within the historical past of American motorsports.
The annual race attracted monumental crowds and drew spectacular TV numbers because it helped gasoline NASCAR’s wonderful progress throughout the late Nineties.
The Brickyard 400 turned one among NASCAR’s crown jewel races alongside the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500.
Then, inventory automotive racing’s annual go to to Indianapolis started to fall on exhausting instances. Tire points marred the 2008 race, crowds started to dwindle and it was lastly acknowledged that the distinctive rectangular form of the Indy monitor was merely not conducive to good inventory automotive racing.
This yr, NASCAR’s go to to Indianapolis Motor Speedway can be run on the ability’s highway course, basically ending the storied custom of the Brickyard 400 and relegating a former marquee occasion to the historical past books.
The winner and his staff will nonetheless kiss the bricks on the start-finish line after the checkered flag, however it is going to be the top of 1 period and the start of one other.
If adjustments usually are not made to deal with the present points in NASCAR’s hometown, what is going to the Daytona 500 appear like 5 years, 10 years down the highway?
Will Daytona and NASCAR officers have the option keep the race’s status, or will it expertise an analogous destiny to the Brickyard 400? What impression will NASCAR’s Subsequent Gen automotive have on the game’s signature race when it debuts subsequent yr? Will it repair the racing?
At this level, there are definitely extra questions than solutions regarding the way forward for the Daytona 500.