The following is more from my interview with ESPN NASCAR analyst Dale Jarrett, after this there are a couple more posts to come — all good stuff.
Me: Do you think that NASCAR could get bigger in terms of media coverage? It’s huge in its own right, but it still doesn’t quite get the respect, I think, that the NFL does and the NBA. Do you think it could get bigger and that the coverage could expand?
Jarrett: It could expand and it has expanded a lot, but what everyone would need to understand is how different our sport is because we don’t really have home teams. That’s the thing that separates our sport from getting more media coverage is that we don’t have that home team in Los Angeles or New York. The teams are based primarily around the Charlotte/Mooresville area.
Even though we go and have these tracks in a lot of different areas and that the media coverage has expanded tremendously you’re still not going to get that weekly and daily coverage because they don’t have the facility to go to, the team to go to there in that market area and talk to them during the week to see what’s going on. So that’s always going to keep us and make us a little more difficult of a sport for everyone else around the country to follow as much. They really have to have an agenda to why they want to do that. We’ve done a good job with that, ESPN’s done a good job with that, Fox has done a nice job, NASCAR has done a nice job and all of the teams and drivers and PR people have really helped in that respect to making their drivers and their teams accessible to the media.
It’s still always going to be something that we’re going to fight and there’s really no cure for it. So are we ever going to reach the NFL level? Probably not, simply because of those reasons that we don’t have those teams based in those areas for the media in those big market areas to cover on a daily basis.
Me: Speaking of the NFL actually. The No. 88 was your car number for a very long time and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. has it. Do you think that NASCAR should retire car numbers the way they retire jersey numbers in other sports? Or is it kind of par for the course that in NASCAR numbers change and numbers move?
Jarrett: Yea, I think we kind of set a precedent that that wasn’t going to happen in our sport. Obviously, NASCAR likes and requires that we keep it to a two-digit number, one or two, on these racecars.
When Richard Petty retired and they didn’t retire his number I think the rest of us could probably figure that our numbers weren’t going to be retired after that. If the guy that won 200 races couldn’t get his number retired then rest of us were probably not going to measure up to those standards or come anywhere close to having our number retired.
It is a little different but I think there again our sport is a little bit different in that respect. Whenever they take one of those numbers away from a team or something like that, or even a number of them, they have others that they can work around.
So I think everybody’s ok with the numbers not being retired. The drivers get, that deserve to be, in the hall of fames and things like that. It’s more the driver than what it is the number that they drove. And a lot of times in this you see where as NFL players go through their career they might be able to stick with the one number and in our situation it’s very rare that someone has just one number throughout their career.
Richard Petty might be the only person that drove the same number throughout his career and only had that one number, and I’m not even positive that that’s an absolute fact. It’s the only number I ever remember him running. But I think that everybody’s ok with the numbers not getting retired.