Race drivers are 'too boring'
Nascar chief executive says top drivers need to 'get mad' or risk boring fans.
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2008 08:08 GMT

France hands Johnson yet another trophy in Florida in 2006 [GALLO/GETTY]
The USA's top stock car drivers have been urged to show their emotions and "get mad" on and off the track – or risk driving bored fans away from the sport.

Bosses at Nascar – the second-biggest motorsport behind Formula One, with multi-billion dollar profits – are concerned that drivers act like they're "in a library" when not behind the wheel.

And they say a bit more fist-pumping, risk-taking and arguing with rivals could spice up the sport.

Nascar chief executive Brian France said stars like triple series champ Jimmie Johnson should not be worried about tarnishing the wholesome image of sponsors.

Jimmie who?

And he said the strait-laced attitude meant Johnson had failed to become a household name outside racing circles.

"He's a California guy, a very nice guy, a cool customer and obviously very talented," France said on Tuesday.

"But he's not going to do a lot of things that are going to wow you or stun you or surprise you in the ways that sometimes other athletes make their mark.

"We need to do more with our athletes to bring out their emotions."

Many Nascar fans long for the days of drivers like Dale Earnhardt Sr, known to sideswipe a rival's car to gain a competitive advantage or jump out of his cockpit at the end of a race to confront another driver.

Earnhardt, dubbed 'Ironhead' and 'The Intimidator' by fans, was killed in the 2001 edition of the Daytona 500 race.

Johnny be good

Johnson claims the Sprint Cup Series Championship in November [GALLO/GETTY]
France said that merchandise sales of wealthy sponsors "are based on doing the right thing" - but that drivers shouldn't always follow suit.

His comments fly in the face of other sports such as football, where players can be booked for 'over-celebrating' or taking off their shirts.

"But our fans like to see the emotion," he said.

"If you're running 200mph and you're about to win a race and somebody spins you out, you don't need to hop out of the car and act like you're in the library.

"You're mad. You're upset. Our drivers have some restraints built in because of the commitments they have.

"And that's not all good at times when we're we're working to build up their awareness and image. But we're going to work on that."

France said Nascar has lessened penalties for drivers who show their frustration.

"We're telling the drivers that's what the fans want to see," he said.

"We're trying to encourage them to have some new flexibility to be themselves."

Al Jazeera and agencies
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