It is harder to kick Nascar now that it is no longer down

Having struggled with sinking ratings, slipping sponsorships and lousy racing, the race is seeing a positive turnaround after two town-hall meetings.

Powered by automated translation

CHARLOTTE, NC // It has been easy for the past several seasons to kick Nascar as it struggled with sinking ratings, slipping sponsorships and, worst of all, lousy racing. It is not fair, though, to talk only about what has gone wrong, particularly at a time when Nascar is doing many things right. Those positive turns are often overlooked, partly because it is far more fun to flog all the flaws than it is to give credit for making positive change.

It has been almost a year since Nascar opened its ears in two town-hall style meetings between top executives and the competitors. The sport was in trouble - the economy had wreaked havoc on everyone's bottom line, and nobody was all that thrilled with the competition - and Nascar was willing to listen to ideas. Those meetings were a major turning point for the industry because actual changes have followed. And a year later, Nascar is coming off one of the most celebratory weeks in its history.

A glitzy US$195 million (Dh716m) Hall of Fame opened this month amid a tremendous amount of anticipation. Nascar celebrated all last week with numerous events, then moved to the race track for the annual All-Star race. The racing, like it has been for most of the year, was much improved. Granted, the field had to first figure out how to catch Jimmie Johnson, the four-time defending series champion, but ever since the wing was replaced by the traditional spoiler in March, ol' Double J has not seemed so invincible anymore.

The "have at it" policy, designed to allow drivers to self-police on the track while also encouraging more emotion, again gave Nascar a juicy storyline when teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch raced each other hard for a shot at the win. When that aggressiveness led to a race-ending crash for Busch, he threatened to kill Hamlin over his team radio (lovely to see you again, "old" Kyle!). By the time Joe Gibbs, the team owner, had diffused the situation with a closed-door meeting, it was already Sunday and attention had shifted into the inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Nobody knew what to expect out of the ceremony that honoured the founder, Bill France Sr, and seven-time champions Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, among others.. It was a celebration of the past and the present, and a rare opportunity for the entire industry to step back and look at everything that is going well right now. * AP