Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – KANSAS CITY, KS – Let’s not waste any time. Let’s get to the good that took place this weekend at the Kansas Speedway.
Kevin Harvick may be on a winning streak not seen since Jeff Gordon’s 1997 championship run, however Saturday night’s race he had to earn. Several of Harvick’s wins earlier in the season came by way of dominant performances both on the track and in the pit lane. Though Harvick’s crew never faltered Saturday night, his car certainly didn’t have the all out dominant speed we’ve come to be accustomed to this season to date.
Teams like the No. 12 of Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson’s Chip Ganassi owned No. 42 and the ever-present Kyle Busch have closed the gap between themselves and Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Ford. They need to continue to shrink that margin because Harvick shows no signs of letting up on the competition if they don’t. His five victories in twelve events have given him a comfortable margin when it comes to stage and playoff points which will be all important in the season’s final ten race playoff.
If Harvick’s team can carry this momentum all the way through November, NASCAR may want to call the trophy designers and get a head start on engraving Harvick’s name into a second championship trophy.
NASCAR once again put on a great show at the Kansas Speedway but yet again it seems their timing just isn’t right. With the Mother’s Day holiday pushing the schedule to a Saturday night, NASCAR had ever chance to make this race a big deal. Instead, it started at 8 pm on the west coast and didn’t end until 11:30 pm. By which time most fans were either asleep, or unable to watch as it was aired on Fox Sports 1, which is always a guarantee for a lower ratings number than on network television.
One of the year’s most interesting events, complete with a pass for the win within two laps remaining, got little to no national attention as it was aired on cable and the finish came long after most people cared to be watching. With the sale of NASCAR a real possibility, I’m quite sure no one is really considering such things as a high priority at the moment, but one can’t help but wonder if things like this didn’t contribute to this situation we’re in to begin with.
With the recent news that NASCAR is looking for a buyer to take over the reigns of the top stock car sanctioning body in North America, we enter a time of uncertainty for the future of our sport. What was always certain up to this point in time was 36 weeks a year we’d wake up on a weekend and expect a NASCAR race to take place. Unfortunately it’s now a real possibility that this may not always be the case moving forward.
For the last fourteen years fans have endured major changes in the way racing has looked, sounded and been officiated. Fatigue set in and many have stopped showing up to the track all together. Vast expanses of empty grandstand have become the norm at places most never thought possible. Through all of this the sport has to date survived.
With future new ownership most likely far more interested in a financial bottom line than a love of the sport and an unwillingness to see it fade into history, the very real concern that failure to reignite passion in race fans could lead to the end of this sport in the form that we know it.