NASCAR – Why local dirt racing is thriving while NASCAR is on decline (commentary)

NASCAR – Why local dirt racing is thriving while NASCAR is on decline (commentary)


While the crowds and interest level for NASCAR seem to be on the decline, local dirt racing is thriving. Brewerton, Fulton, Weedsport, Can-Am and Land of Legends Raceway are all coming off very successful seasons and the reasons why I believe they are succeeding are exactly why big-time racing is falling off.

First of all, the drivers are accessible. If you want to chat with your favorite NASCAR star, good luck! Fan access to drivers is tightly controlled so most fans only know their favorite driver from TV or talk show appearances while at local races fans can buy a pit pass, wish their favorite driver good luck and maybe even have a beer with them after the races are over.

Secondly, these local drivers are not multi-millionaires, they are working Joes like most of us. They work in their race shops late at night and spend almost as much time on their race cars as they do at their daily job. They stand in line at the gates with the fans, chat with them as they wait and deal with the same trials and tribulations that we all do and that makes them real, not just some photo in a program.

Unlike NASCAR, the drivers are able to speak out about things they do not like about the sport. I remember years ago when Tony Stewart blasted NASCAR after a race he was called into the office for a chat and then afterward said that cold medicine had affected what he said and retracted his previous statement.

Sure, you never want to bash a track publicly as it is in bad form, but local racers voice their opinions in other ways. If a track surface is not racy, payout is low or calls are made in an inconsistent fashion, drivers just go somewhere else. Unlike in NASCAR’s top circles, there are lots of racetracks to go so in a way the local scene polices itself.

And then for the best of the best, or those that want to be, there are several traveling series that offer the racer a chance to go on the road, see new tracks and race against other competitors at their home track. That’s one thing that has made the Super DIRTcar Series so popular.

This past season, 244 modified drivers attended a Super DIRTcar series race and of that number more than half went to only one race. To them the SDS is the big time and the chance to race against Matt Sheppard, Billy Decker, Brett Hearn and the rest if even only once is a thrill they look forward to and plan for all season long.

No franchise fee is required and only the top 12 in points are guaranteed to start on the SDS while on the Monster Energy Cup Series only a few spots are available as those teams that own franchises are going to start every week no matter how they perform. On the SDS all a team needs to do is show up with their license and unload. It’s that simple.

And finally in local racing if you take out the leader on the last lap you get black flagged and sent to the rear. There is no “let the drivers have at it” mentality that often penalizes the leader at the white flag and leads to the inevitable last-lap takeout which has become standard in NASCAR races especially at the short tracks.

So as we digest the season in our area we can feel good knowing that the sport is solid, teams have lots of options and no matter who you are you can get to the front if you’re fast enough, bold enough and talented enough behind the wheel which is just like NASCAR used to be.

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