NASCAR: Reality Show or Sports Entertainment?

48 Crew happy with Jimmie Johnson’s Darlington Win
Photo – Mary Ann Chastain/Associated Press

The controversial Busch reality show reappeared this past weekend, along with the good-times story of Jimmie Johnson reappearing in victory lane, finally getting Hendrick Motorsports their 200th win, after 16 winless races. These two stories highlight NASCAR’s 2012 dilemma with at least a portion of their fans.


In a year when NASCAR is making concerted efforts to listen to fans, there appears to be a vocal segment that are hooked on the recent trend of reality show drama. And when the sports entertainment value is lacking throughout the race, with a string of long green flag runs, they gravitate to the reality show drama after the race. And in the past decade, whether it’s during or after the race, there are two drivers involved in most of the controversial drama these fans seem to crave – The Busch reality show.  


A few weeks ago the Busch reality show gave fans a “feel-good” story with Kyle Busch Motorsports getting their first victory with brother Kurt Busch behind the wheel. Some saw this as indication, that perhaps the controversial brothers were turning a corner in handling their past issues. 


Within less than a month, however, after a bad day on the track in Darlington, Kurt Busch’s anger-management – or lack thereof – once again made it’s appearance post-race, putting Ryan Newman’s crew in jeopardy of injury. Behind the wheel of his Phoenix Racing, No. 51 car, Kurt Busch chose to use his vehicle as a means of communicating his frustration and discontent with Newman – not once, but twice after the race was over. 


Post race, Kurt remained true to his past with his denial of the second incident being intentional, by saying he “accidentally” hit Newman’s car while taking off his helmet. An incredible statement and quite ironic, that it just happened to be Newman’s car he hit after, intentionally burning rubber in Newman’s pit, while crew members scattered to avoid injury. 

And now, fans are awaiting word from NASCAR on how they will respond after their investigation of the incidents. And undoubtedly, fans will once again hear another Busch apology.  


While fans are happy for the Hendrick organization, the story of Jimmie Johnson returning to victory lane bringing this 16-race-in-waiting milestone to reality is pretty ho-hum compared to awaiting NASCAR’s response to a driver using his car as a means of communication and putting others well-being at risk in the process. 


For some race fans and the sport of NASCAR as a whole, what’s truly sad is that all the post-race drama created by an out-of-control personality, overshadows some of the great racing that actually did occur on the track. 


To win the race, Jimmie Johnson, held off two of the most successful racers this season, including the 2011 champion, that snapped his historic string of five consecutive championships. 


With Stewart’s championship crew chief, Darian Grubb now calling the shots for Denny Hamlin, there’s been an interesting rivalry developing between the two teams. They’ve been competing for wins and are currently standing at two vs. two between the highly competitive teams. With the five-time champion’s win at Darlington, Jimmie Johnson is making a statement that he’s intends to race these two teams on his way to perhaps his sixth championship.  


So which fan are you? Are you watching the sport of NASCAR for the racing value of sports entertainment? Or are you watching this sport for the reality show drama? 

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