May 8, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Three of the remaining founding members of NASCAR’s legendary Alabama gang are not only a group of winners and champions, they’re also very wise men.
Last weekend, the superstretch of Talladega Superspeedway was renamed in honor of the ‘Gang. And during an interview, brothers Bobby and Donnie Allison, as well as Red Farmer dispensed some very sage advice to today’s NASCAR stars:
Not slow down on the racetrack, that is, but for drivers to slow down and appreciate and reevaluate the relationship with their fans, according to a story on 110nationsports.com.
“You’ve got to make sure that the drivers, the heroes, even though they’re making millions of dollars, they’ve still got to remember the people in the grandstand are the ones that pay their salaries,” Farmer told the web site. “Without the people in the grandstands, they wouldn’t have that income. They’ve got to take care of those people in the grandstands, sign the autographs when they want to.
“Maybe slow down a couple of steps when they’re trying to run to meet their schedule and maybe take time to talk to people they’re signing the autographs for. Then they’ll come back. You can’t forget the fans. They’re the ones that make the payroll, and you’ve got to make them happy.”
Farmer is spot-on with his advice. For many of today’s biggest stars, interaction with fans is limited at best. Sure, they may spend an hour or two at their souvenir trailer on race day mornings, but that’s because they’re obligated to do so by contract.
What Farmer and the two Allison brothers want to see is drivers take more initiative in having greater interaction with fans, even on an impromptu basis.
NASCAR Hall of Famer, three-time Daytona 500 winner and 1983 Winston Cup champion Bobby Allison said that back in his racing days, drivers were far more fan-friendly.
“We were families. Our wives and children came and our parents and the community backed us,” Allison said. “The current guys come in their motor coach with their handler or three or four PR people and they don’t talk to anybody. They don’t sign autographs. And they don’t go over to the short tracks even to watch.”
With NASCAR having endured significant drops in at-track attendance and in TV ratings over the last six to seven years, the only way the sport can get back to its glory days of old is to have drivers take the initiative and become more of a giving type, rather than just takers when it comes only to race purses and things of that nature.
“Get the enthusiasm back in about racing, not just NASCAR Sprint Cup racing but the enthusiasm about racing and the idea that the whole family can be part of it,” Allison told 110nationsports.com.
Younger brother Donnie said that the sport itself has never been closer, with great parity.
“NASCAR, in my opinion, has worked very hard to get the racing back to where the guys are racing,” Donnie Allison said. “The guys can drive the race cars. They can race.”
Now it’s up to the drivers to build upon that off the track to bring in new fans and bring back former fans.
The question is, will today’s drivers listen?
Follow me @JerryBonkowski
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