When the checkered flag few on Sunday, November 7th, NASCAR ended more than it’s season.
We said goodbye to the 6th Generation Stockcar. We said what looks to be goodbye to former Cup Series Rookie of the Year and 2008 Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame inducted it’s newest and well deserving members, including the 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
There are old faces in new places and for some teams, the same faces in the same places. New teammate dynamics (23XI Racing), an unlikely merger (PettyGMS), a champion trying his hand at ownership (RFK Racing), an Xfinity team ready for the big time of Cup (Kaulig Racing).
There’s also the familiar faces of Hendrick, SHR and JGR who all face a level playing field with a car full of unknowns.
We are a week away from the first “Clash at the Coliseum” in Los Angeles, bringing a new market and fresh eyes to the sport.
And then there’s Daytona.
It feels cliché to say, but it’s a great time to be a NASCAR fan.
We went into the offseason with a lot of unknowns, and I am not just talking about paint schemes. There were plenty of moments where we weren’t sure just how the Next Gen car would be fine tuned, but to NASCAR’s credit they have been up front and not afraid to show the work in progress. When they realized the 550 horsepower engine wasn’t going to work, they embraced 670 horsepower that the drivers approved of. While it’s not the 900+ horsepower the fans have been clamoring for, it’s a step in the right direction and it gives the drivers a smaller margin for error.
There’s also a good reason to just be tuning into NASCAR.
While this isn’t 1992 Hooters 500 level of importance, this feels like a big moment. The Clash is in LA, which is already preparing for the Super Bowl in Inglewood. It will be broadcasted live on FOX, and will have musical guests like Pitbull and Ice Cube. There will at least be 50,000 in the 1/4 mile track, most of which haven’t seen NASCAR up close and personal.
The past few seasons have seen NASCAR start to drift away from the “good ol boy” mantra, and embracing the current day worldview. Some say that NASCAR is missing that needle moving driver. In my opinion, maybe NASCAR doesn’t need that anymore. Each driver has a personality, and NASCAR just needs to continue to build on them. We don’t need the boisterous voices anymore. And that’s not to say NASCAR doesn’t need to honor it’s past, but with a potential new audience kicking in there’s a chance to embrace the changes it is making.
There isn’t just a new generation of car to marvel at, it also includes a new generation of fans.
Featured photo from Patrick Vallely.