Race Weekend Central

Reducing Noise at the Track: The Next Great NASCAR Idea…Not

You are sitting on the start/finish line, thirty rows up on a bright, sunny afternoon. Forty of the most powerful racing machines on the planet are lined up on the grid, their crews standing by like a motley assortment of festively adorned soldiers. The last notes of the Star Spangles Banner fades away on the wind as the local flying school gives the crowd a wiggle of their wings overhead. The Grand Marshall takes the microphone in their hand, inhales and says…

“Drivers! Start! Your! Engines!”

The pilots flip a switch on the dashboard and…

The pleasant hum of a herd of nicely tuned sports engines rises from the pavement below and you continue to discuss how it’s a really sweet day to be sitting in the stands.

Hey! Something’s wrong there. What could it be?  On Monday, SportsBusiness Daily reported that NASCAR is considering reducing the noise generated by racing engines as one of the fan-friendly initiatives in their efforts to reach a broader audience.

Um…why would they want to do that? I mean it sounds like a completely daft concept. Isn’t the whole point of going to the race is to have your seat rumble to life beneath you when the command is given? To require high-tech headsets in order to be able to hear the tower and teams chatter while protecting your ears from permanent damage?

Well, in an ever-widening generational divide according to the number crunchers, NASCAR thinks that if the noise at the track was lowered to the point where conversation would be possible while the green flag was flying, more fans would be willing to pay for a ticket since they could talk to their neighbors as the laps tick by. Those “more fans” would fall into the mythical Millennial generation that apparently can text at 100 words per minute but don’t give a damn about muscle cars and raw power.

I say mythical because once anybody attends a stock car race and experiences the raw sensation of the unleashed power of a racing engine, it doesn’t matter if you’re eight or eighty.  It’s awesome. When you take away the noise that physically buffets you with its intensity, you’ve just lost the rock concert feel of the entire afternoon.

A Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race is not a tea party. If you think it’s the place to bring a picnic, spread out a blanket and nibble on savories while you wait for the pack to pass by, you’ve definitely come to the wrong place.

I get that hearing loss is a real and preventable health concern for those who work in the garages and even casual observers. However, in my list of guilty pleasures in life, the chance to swap the opportunity for pleasant conversation for having my heart rattled in my chest by the force of a passing race car will be taken up each and every time.

While I suspect that in the name of political correctness NASCAR will ultimately start to whittle away on the decibel level, I can’t say this is a change that I truly support. If anything, muffling the engines would simply reduce the sensation of attending a race. When you’ve bought an expensive ticket for the once-a-year opportunity to wrap yourself in the scents, sights, and sounds of excitement, trading away any part of it simply feels like a rip off.

One last thing to take away: In 1988 the Boston Red Sox added an exclusive enclosed seating section at Fenway Park above home plate.  It was called the 600 Club. Members could watch the baseball game through plate glass windows while multiple CRT monitors showed the broadcast nearby and the sound of the field was piped in overhead. What actually happened was high-powered execs shared shots of whisky and stock tips as they walked on carpeted stairs. Attendance at the park struggled throughout the 90’s.  In 2005, the plate glass was removed due to overwhelming feedback from members of the club that due to a lack of sights, sounds, and smells they no longer felt connected to the play on the field. After the 2005 renovation, attendance at the park remained at an all time high for the next decade.  NASCAR might want to put that in whatever they’re smoking.

Something Shiny

Chase Elliott launched his Chase Elliott Foundation this past weekend with a colorful addition to the Hendrick Motorsports drivers’ uniforms. Patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta designed five different sets of racing shoes that were worn over the weekend by all the teams. The shoes will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to the hospital’s summer camp program.

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