Since I wasn't at the racetrack this weekend, I decided to watch the eighth race of the 2011 Chase at a local restaurant in Charlotte. There were countless televisions on when I walked into the restaurant, each with the day's various NFL games being shown.
I found an uncrowded area of the restaurant and asked for the NASCAR race to be shown on at least one TV. Simple request right? After all, this is Charlotte – the home of stock-car racing.
What I discovered in that restaurant should be alarming to NASCAR and may shed some light on the issues facing the sport.
While I convinced the employees to switch the channel, they would only do so at the end of one of the football games. As soon as the race was on, the employees received "numerous requests" to change the TV back to football.
Losing out to the majority, I was moved to the other side of my table to watch the event on a much smaller screen located across the room from my seat. Still, I was happy it was on in the first place and did not complain.
Due to a taping of a TV show going on that day, I was again shuffled around to another part of the restaurant. This time I was nearly by myself, with a much larger screen to watch the race. Content, I sat and ate my wings and watched the battle on the track.
As people began to gather at my table, they immediately attempted to change the television from NASCAR to football. I protested, of course, but could hear comments along the lines of, "Who wants to watch cars going around in circles?"
After moving to yet another table, the group that had previously attempted to change the channel did so immediately.
Now, what's wrong with this picture? This is Charlotte, after all.
The city that NASCAR calls home. The city that has the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The city that has nearly every race team located within 40 minutes.
Yet people don't want to watch a race when out for food and drinks on a Sunday?
Ratings have been up during this year's Chase, but what does it say when a restaurant full of people do all they can to shut it off?
The championship battle has been intense and compelling, Kyle Busch has made attention-grabbing headlines outside of the NASCAR world and it has never been easier or more accessible to watch a race.
It is easy to criticize and to call for change from the sanctioning body, but what I witnessed Sunday afternoon was truly eye-opening and alarming.
When a large group of people in the very city that NASCAR calls home cannot stand to watch a race – a playoff race at that – something is wrong.