Pretty Boys vs. Good Ol' Boys, Part I (a collaboration)
As I read Chris' article, I had to chuckle. Not because I believe there is anything fictional in his structure, but how embarrassed NASCAR should be for allowing this to happen. A recent student of the sport's history, it makes me think of some of the great legends that have been behind the wheel in no more elaborate settings than a shelled helmet, blue jeans, a flannel shirt, and even wing-tipped loafers. (For all of you Dave Marcis fans)
I'm trying to picture the look on Tiny Lund's face, or even perhaps Junnior Johnson, after being told they had to lose weight because the sponsors thought they were too hefty. Or try this on for size: STP telling Richard Petty in his hay-day that they don't want the cowboy hat any longer because it reflects badly on their product? I could go on for days on this, but I won't.
The pretty boy trend started a lot earlier than we all might think, and all you have to do is read up on this next giant of NASCAR's past. Glen "Fireball" Roberts was one of the greatest drivers the sport has to this day, seen driving a stock car. Though his nickname came from his pitching skills and not driving, he was NASCAR's first pretty boy. Fireball was stout, clean cut, well-dressed, articulate, and educated. The first driver of his kind. He could drive the wheels off of a race car, then speak intelligently about it. NASCAR depended on him on several occasions for public speaking arrangements because he was the "all American kid". However, it wasn't about sponsorships back then, it was to help establish NASCAR as a legitimate sport with an attempt to appeal to all audiences.
However in today's world, team owners and sponsors are telling drivers how they should look in order to slap a decal on their hood. They dictate how they should act, maintaining a constant state of policital correctness. Nearly a field of 43 robots. My job is to not question fanship, but in the current generation of NASCAR, how many women have become fans of a driver because they're "cute" or their car have "pretty colors", and not neccessarily because of their driving skill? This is not a generalization. Let me state that again, THIS IS NOT A GENERALIZATION! I've been contacted by just as many of our female readers who actually appreciate driver ability, yet have been told by others, that in the beginning, it was looks and colors. Corporate American hopped on that band wagon in regards to NASCAR which is a major contributing factor in why it looks as it does today.
Dale Jr. was slightly apprehensive about moving to Hend(p)rick because he didn't have the "Hendrick look" as he was quoted, and he re-emphasized that he never would. It worked out I guess, huh? Maybe an exception to the rule, however.
The atrocity of Kasey Kahne should have ALL of his fans fuming. This is where sponsorship has taken the ride way too far. I'm not a fan of Kasey's, but I don't have a melt down when he wins either. However, for allowing himself to be such a corporate puppet on a monumental embarrassing level, he should officially be stripped of his man card. Though I would like to believe that Robby Gordon has a little bit more of a stature than to get to the point where he has to pull desperate strings to get a tampon company as a sponsor. (Yes, pun intended) Most of the driver commercials I get a kick out of, but this All State commercial with Kahne is watched for only one reason: It's like a bad car accident, you know you shouldn't look, but gawk uncontrollably.
Rest assure there is still some hope. Patrick Carpentier doesn't shave, and rarely does Jr. Kyle Petty still has long hair, and Brendan Gaughan in the truck series is known as the mountain man of NASCAR. It's unfortunate, because I don't see the trend changing. I couldn't phathom telling the drivers of yesteryear to let their team mate lead a lap, dress a certain way, spend some time at a day spa, or jump around like some in-touch homo for a commercial. It's what NASCAR has become, but it's our duty to still admire our driver's for what they are: Racers!
Next, I'll tackle the top 35 rule...until then...
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