NASCAR battles expectations of what's possible with what's expected

jutter@charlotteobserver.comJune 12, 2013 

Less than 24 hours after the third-largest blowout in NBA Finals history and there is nary a peep from any fan demanding changes to the way professional basketball is played.

There shouldn't be, of course.

But I promise you this, if Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race had ended with Jimmie Johnson winning by the third largest margin in series history, a large contingent of the motorsports media, as well as the fans, would be clamoring for rules changes.

Why is that? Everyone is at least a little bit to blame.

The biggest problem appears to be that what is possible each week in a NASCAR event - a down-to-the-wire finish complete with lots of side-by-side racing in the process - has become expected rather than appreciated when it just happens to occur.

Fewer people will not tune in to watch the next game in the NBA Finals because they fear another blowout. In fact, some may tune in just in hopes of seeing one (San Antonio fans for instance).

A down-to-the-wire, last-second game-winning shot outcome is possible in each NBA Finals game but fans don't come to expect it.

NASCAR fans - at least the vocal ones - have come to expect such nonstop action and believe something needs to be "fixed" when it doesn't happen on a regular basis. There is a contingent of media who follow the same path.

It is, of course, an unreasonable expectation and most fans probably understand that not every race can be a barn-burner.

Whether fans today want to hear it or not, NASCAR racing is far more competitive than 10 years ago and enormously more competitive than back "in the good old days" (whenever they were).

NASCAR, the tracks and even the TV networks - and probably the media, too - share in the blame of some fans' unreasonable expectations.

If all of your advertising - whether it's from NASCAR, networks or tracks - focus on big wrecks, photo finishes and pit road fights, you can't be surprised when fans leave disappointed when they see none of the above.

The fight in the 1979 Daytona 500 may be a defining moment in the sport's history but it cannot define the sport and how it's portrayed in perpetuity.

If it does, everyone will leave disappointed.

A little more appreciation of good racing, rather than just "good drama" by all involved would help balance expectations.

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