How NASCAR is working to put a spark back into races

Peter Dawson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in Auto Racing

"We have to put on a great event," Gossage said. "It's why we do all the buildup with the pre-race activities and make it a major production, because we can't affect what goes on between the green and the checkered flag."

A fan council created in 2012 meets three times a year to make recommendations.

"Some things they talk about are outlandish and not realistic, because at the end of the day you still have to make business decisions that are sound," Gossage said. "But we have taken their ideas and implemented them."

NASCAR and the teams have grown their driver development programs the past several years. But, it's too early to tell whether the rising stars such as Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney will be as popular as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

At TMS, fans made it clear they prefer brash drivers like Elliott, son of 1988 Cup champion Bill Elliott, over more laid-back drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Earnhardt.

"(Elliott) is a real person, he isn't a phony. He's got a really big heart and he's committed to it," said McLaughlin, the long-time fan. He then recalled the Martinsville race, when Elliott lost the lead after contact with Denny Hamlin.

"I wish he whooped Hamlin ... last weekend, but he'll get there."

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