Facebook Feeds NASCAR Conspiracy Theory

by on December 27th, 2010
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I have been a NASCAR fan for most of my life. I have also been lucky enough to take that passion to levels most fans never get to experience by, at one time, being a member of a NASCAR Modified team, and now someone who writes about the sport. As such, I have acquired quite a large number of NASCAR fans as friends on my Facebook page. However, even I was surprised when I logged on expecting to find the many Tony Stewart fans I knew lived there celebrating their driver’s thrilling win of the Sprint Cup, and instead found the conversation dominated by a conspiracy theory of race-fixing.

NASCAR started the season in Daytona hoping a new points system would bring an added excitement to a sport that had seen the same driver, Jimmie Johnson, win the sport’s championship five years in a row. The general feeling was at least if Johnson were to win a sixth straight maybe they could make it a little more interesting if several drivers had a chance to unseat him at the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami.

The sport got more than even they could dreamed of as the 2011 season wound down. Jimmie Johnson had been eliminated from title contention bringing the excitement of a new champion to the fans. The championship would be decided at the final race between two of the sport’s most popular, and different drivers. Carl Edwards, whose consistency had allowed him to lead the points for much of the season, and Tony Stewart who barely qualified for The Chase, but once doing so used his aggressive style to win five of the final ten events. A perfect ending to a NASCAR season.

However, as I logged on to my Facebook page, at the conclusion of what had been the most exciting points finish in NASCAR history, I was shocked at what I found. I truly expected the large number of Tony Stewart fans there to be celebrating wildly in true Facebook style. Pictures of Stewart during and after the race followed by who’s and “The Man”, and even “Smoke!!!”, the Office Depot driver’s nickname.

What I found instead was a conversation dominated by a conspiracy theory that somehow NASCAR had allowed the cars of Stewart and Edwards to be just a little better than those of the other 41 competitors in the race. The finish was too perfect they felt. How could the two who were battling for the win, and the Sprint Cup, be so much better than the rest of the field? In fact, one Facebook user posted “The third place finisher, Martin Truex Jr., just crossed the finish line, a week later!” to emphasize just how dominant Stewart and Edwards had been.

Anyone who has been around the sport of NASCAR, especially behind the scenes, knows it is impossible to “fix” a race. Even if the tech officials were to let a car, or two, onto the track with some sort of unfair advantage there are too many factors which they can’t control that would have bearing on the final outcome of a race. Part failure, accidents by other drivers, weather, are all out of the control of even the mighty NASCAR.

Yet, here they were, those wanting all of us who had just witnessed something that would be talked about with events like Dale Earnhardt’s Daytona win, and Richard Petty’s two hundredth career win, to think somehow NASCAR had controlled how this had all played out. Come to think of it had social media had the presence years ago that it has now those great moments would have probably been considered “fixed” as well.

Social media can be a great thing. A way to share your thoughts with those who you consider your friends or peers. However, what we also must remember is it is an unedited forum open to anyone. Totally uncontrolled. That is until NASCAR figures out a way to make it it’s own. But that’s another conspiracy theory for another time.

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