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The Value of a NASCAR Championship

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

On Tuesday evening, Bubba Wallace attended a New York Knicks game with NASCAR Cup Series Champion, Ryan Blaney. Blaney noted that was cropped out of a picture posted on social media. Many NASCAR fans wondered why Blaney was shut out despite being the NASCAR Cup Series Champion. Did it maybe have something to do with how Blaney won the Championship, or, maybe the value that a Cup Series Championship holds to general society?

  • Ryan Blaney won the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship despite being the #11 seed heading into the Playoffs. He won 2 races in the Playoffs, and he finished 2nd in the Championship race at Phoenix to take home the crown.
  • The NASCAR Cup Series Championship is a major accomplishment for drivers and race teams. However, the general population may not hold that accomplishment in as high esteem.
  • Fans were a bit surprised when Ryan Blaney pointed out on social media that the Knicks cropped him out of the social media post. Many assumed that the Knicks would include the Cup Series Champion in this type of post.

The Way He Won the Championship

Ryan Blaney won the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship, but, few would say he was a Championship favorite during the regular season. His 14.1 average finish was 6th amongst drivers who competed in all 36 races in 2023. His 3 wins were tied for 3rd, 8 top-5s were 11th, and his 18 top-10s were tied for 3rd.

While he did compete well in the Playoffs, and he did ultimately deserve the Championship, he was not consistently performing as highly as some others throughout the season. Throughout most of 2023, if NASCAR fans had told casual fans about who the best driver in the sport is, Ryan Blaney would not have been on that list.

Blaney winning the Championship was controversial to many fans as a result. Many decried the fact that he was not the best driver throughout the entire season. Regardless of those complaints, Blaney won the Championship under the rules that were set before him.

That doesn’t mean that it was exactly flashy to NASCAR fans. If NASCAR fans are split on who the Champion is, then being the Cup Series Champion is not going to go as far as one might think.

How Much Does a Championship Matter to the General Population?

Being a NASCAR Champion is a big accomplishment, but, it doesn’t have everything to do with how popular or recognizable a NASCAR Cup Series driver is. Dale Earnhardt Jr., for example, is easily recognizable and was routinely in commercials as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver. He never won a Cup Series Championship.

NASCAR Champions do not represent cities like typical sports teams do. When other sports teams win Championships, entire cities come together to celebrate the home team winning the Championship. Most NASCAR race teams are based in the same area outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, and many NASCAR drivers come from small towns. It doesn’t make the same cultural impact as another sports team winning a Championship.

Even within NASCAR, the Championship to some fans is not as big of a story as individual races are. The Daytona 500, for example, pulls in the highest TV audience of the year, and the winner of that race is sometimes not even a threat for a Championship. The general population, based on TV audience, cares more about who wins the Daytona 500 than who wins the NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

This is why drivers who build brands on social media and in public tend to be more recognizable. Bubba Wallace, who was featured in the New York Knicks post, has made waves for his activism and public advocating regarding race relations. Due to him being more prevalent to the general population, Wallace was viewed by the Knicks as likely more recognizable than Blaney would be.

A NASCAR Cup Series Championship is a huge accomplishment that every driver should aspire for. However, winning a Championship is not a golden ticket to mainstream popularity.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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