Click. Click. Click.
That's the sound of television sets across America switching off NASCAR races. Ratings are sinking like the Titanic.
See all those empty seats in the grandstand - each one represents $50 to $100 that track owners won't be adding to their wallets.
Why? Because fans like me are sick and tired of being sick and tired of NASCAR.
Nextel Cup will crown a champion on Sunday. Who cares? We already know who's going to win. The same team that's been winning all season - Hendrick.
The champion will be Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon - most likely Johnson. Both drive for Hendrick Motorsports. Their teammate, Kyle Busch, should score a top 5 points finish.
Hendrick drivers have won 18 races, more than half the 34 races this season. So if you don't pull for “Team H,” why watch? Simply put, Johnson, Gordon and crew have stunk up the show.
But they've received a lot of help from Brian France, the leader of NASCAR, who's destroying everything his father, Bill France Jr., built.
First he introduced The Chase for the Nextel Cup - a 10-race playoff for the championship. It was supposed to bring higher ratings during football season. Instead, ratings are falling. It was supposed to give more drivers a chance at a title. Instead, it's just more of the same. It was supposed to be exciting going into the last race - with Johnson leading Gordon by 86 points going to Homestead, it's a yawner.
Being a traditionalist, I've always felt The Chase was a joke, but I've tried to give it a chance. The format keeps disappointing me and this Chase further exposes the system's weaknesses.
Johnson is going to steal the title from Gordon. He will have won two straight championships just because he finishes strong - the best in the final few races, not the best over the 34-race season - but in Brian France's eyes, he's still a champion.
You're saying, “Johnson's won the most races and should be champ.” I believe the best driver is the one that consistently finishes up front, not necessarily the one with the most wins. This year - and it pains me to say it - Gordon has put together the best season. Johnson is only the best at the end. He's won a few important battles, but overall, Gordon should win the war.
That's the problem with the Chase. It rewards the best driver at the end of 10 races, not the best driver at the end of 34. If you have a great 24 races and jump out to a big lead, but have bad luck in a few of the final 10, too bad - you're not champion.
How can you compare a Chase champion to the Winston Cup champions of the past? Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Petty - now those are true champions. They earned it by being the best for a season, not a few races.
France's second mistake is the Car of Tomorrow. It was supposed to level the playing field. Instead Hendrick has dominated the sport, in large part due to the new car. Hendrick has more resources and got the jump on the rest of the garage on the COT. France never reigned in Hendrick and they've made a shambles of this season.
Yes, the car was built for safety and I'm glad nobody has been hurt in one of these tanks, but the competition has suffered. It's like watching a bunch of kids race soapbox derby cars. The kid whose dad (Hendrick) helps the most wins and the rest of the children are left fumbling around with little side-by-side passing or excitement.
One final point. France's biggest mistake is letting tracks in the north and west have race dates and taking away events from traditional southern venues. NASCAR was born and grew to maturity in the south. You don't expand by taking away races from your base and thereby alienating your fans.
Now we're getting an influx of foreign-born drivers. That's great, but NASCAR's base can't identify with these drivers. I believe American fans not being able to pronounce driver names was what killed open-wheel racing in our country. Is that what's ahead for NASCAR?
In conclusion, NASCAR is way too big for its britches. France and a season too good to be true by Hendrick has taken a perfectly good sport and made a mess of it.