One more weekend of racing, and then the sport disappears over the horizon.
After the 600 Sunday, NASCAR will head off into the direction that doomed it all those years ago, back when the sport was flush with tobacco money and thought it could do no wrong.
We watched the sport go to places like Pocono, which we were told was in the New York market, which is like saying Myrtle Beach is in the Atlanta market.
It set a precedent that still haunts the sport today, a desire to push into big cities for television viewers and far from the base that created the sport in the first place.
So after Charlotte, the sport just ceases to exist for the Southern race fans who have no interest in Chicagoland, wherever that it, or Michigan or Loudon or even Indianapolis, which we now can admit was an interesting idea at the time but has been a failure and an embarrassment to the sport and the track.
This weekend, as we wake up early to watch the Formula-1 race in Monaco and then the Indianapolis 500, we’ll await the longest race of the year on the longest day in motorsports, knowing full well we’ll all wake up on Monday morning and it will all be gone.
For three long months.
It’s curious why NASCAR never figured this out, and even now with a change in the schedule coming next year, we’ll still go months with the sport wandering about until it weaves its way back to Bristol in August.
And the really sad thing is, all these years later, the decision to leave has messed up both Charlotte and Bristol. No one would’ve ever believed that. Charlotte was the best-attended race of the year in its heyday and the Bristol night race was an impossible ticket.
Charlotte has eliminated its old unreserved grandstand in the backstretch, reduced its number of seats and still struggles to get the place three-quarters filled. Bristol has gone years now without selling out what was once the most-popular race on the schedule.
So there’s a sadness as we head into Memorial Day weekend knowing that Charlotte will be the last real recognizable race we’ll see for a long stretch and that Bristol, when it finally arrives, will be a shell of its former self.
For years, we’d go to the 600 in May and to Daytona in July and then Bristol and Darlington at the end of summer. Starting next year, they’re even taking the Firecracker 400 away from July 4 and moving it to the end of August. Thus making the summer swoon even longer.
They just never learn,
Deep down we all know this won’t end well.