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Is the “Book of Dale” good for NASCAR

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 13, 2018 at 3:49 PM

You can’t blame FOX Sports for trying.

The network has tried to tap into the “Good Old Days” of NASCAR with its latest set of commercials, the “Book of Dale.” In these promotional segments, current drivers will read quotes from seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt and clips are shown with the action from two decades ago with the black No. 3 Chevrolet often bumping the cars ahead of him.

One commercial used to promote the Atlanta race had Austin Dillon, the current driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet, reading the Earnhardt quote, “We can’t all be good guys. Some of us have to wear black hats.” Then, it showed clips of Dillon racing followed by a clip of Earnhardt in the No. 3 with his famous last-lap spin of Terry Labonte at Bristol.

Dillon finishes it off with the words, “I think I want to be on the evil side too.”

It’s walking a tightrope for NASCAR. The organization is always getting bashed for not catering to its core fans and then fans complain how today’s drivers have no personality and no appreciation of the sport’s history.

Clearly, some have an appreciation for the past.

However, the downside of showing the nostalgic images of Earnhardt is it reminds fans of how much fun the sport was then and how much they long for the good old days. And I’m not referring to the good old days as the 1960s or ’70s, when a driver would win a race by 2-3 laps.

It’s more like the NASCAR of 20-25 years ago, when you had guys like Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Bill Elliott and a young Jeff Gordon trading paint.

In one sense, the commercial achieves the opposite of what they’re trying to accomplish.

I’m not bashing FOX or NASCAR because I’m as guilty as anyone of waxing nostalgic. I spent five days in Charlotte with the National Motorsports Press Association convention and the NASCAR Media Tour in January, and the story which had me most excited was Terry Labonte talking about the last-lap wrecks with Earnhardt for the two most famous finishes in Bristol Motor Speedway history.

Clips from those races and the 1979 Daytona 500 wreck between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough are probably used to sell more tickets than any video in NASCAR.

In one sense, it shows how today’s drivers have failed to build a fanbase to rival anything of years ago. You don’t see the NBA constantly using images of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson instead of LeBron James and Steph Curry to promote their league, or the NFL using Joe Montana and Dan Marino more than Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

Hopefully, some of the young drivers will soon catch on and create special memories for a new generation of NASCAR fans. I love seeing the video clips of one of the greatest drivers ever, but it will be better when fans start asking questions like, ‘Do you remember that race at Bristol when Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney were both sliding across the finish line?’”

We’re simply not there with the young drivers yet, although I hope they get there soon.

HARVICK’S STREAK

Kevin Harvick won his third straight Monster Cup Series race at Phoenix on Sunday, the 24th time that has happened in NASCAR’s modern era (1972-present).

The last time it happened before Sunday was 2015 when both Kyle Busch and Joey Logano won three straight races that season. Busch, who missed the first 11 races of the year after breaking his leg in an Xfinity Series crash at Daytona, won at Kentucky, New Hampshire and Indianapolis. Logano had a late-season surge with wins at Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega.

Harvick, who previously won at Atlanta and Las Vegas, will look to continue the streak this Sunday at his home track in California — where he has one previous win, but three runner-up finishes.

ANY VOLUNTEER FANS?

Volunteer Speedway had its season opener for its weekly racing program last Saturday and drivers from the Knoxville area collected the majority of the trophies.

Three Knoxville drivers won features — Eddie King Jr. (Steel Head Late Model), Trevor Sise (Crate Late Model) and Michael Millsap (Classic).

Jed Emert of Maryville was the Sportsman Late Model winner, while Russellville’s Gary Blanken topped the Modified Street ranks and Josh Brock of Corbin, Ky., won in Open Wheel Modified.

Tim Maupin of Johnson City finished ninth in the Crate Late Model feature, five spots ahead of Jonesborough driver Tim Byrd.

MUDDY CREEK OPENER

For the motocross enthusiasts, Muddy Creek Raceway has its season opener set for this weekend.

Saturday is a practice day with another short practice session on Sunday at 8 a.m., followed by racing a little over an hour later.

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