Is NASCAR Becoming More Like WWE? Cup Series Drivers Candidly Share Their Opinions
WrestleMania concludes tonight. It’s perfect timing when you consider how over the last couple of weeks, one of the hot topics of conversation among race fans has been whether the NASCAR Cup Series is becoming more like WWE.
Is it? We asked multiple Cup drivers that question, and they provided a range of interesting answers.
Marcus Smith refers to NASCAR Atlanta race as ‘sports entertainment’
WWE CEO Vince McMahon coined the term “sports entertainment” back in the 1980s when describing professional wrestling. It’s been associated with WWE since.
So when Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO and president Marcus Smith used the term following the race at the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway, it raised a few eyebrows.
“This is a sports entertainment business, and we served up a really entertaining weekend of racing here,” Smith said. “I had so many people remark to me about how exciting just watching practice on Saturday was, so I think that’s a big win. We’ve got a lot of positive momentum as a sport, and everybody I’m talking to is really enjoying that.”
Kyle Busch feels more like an entertainer than driver at Atlanta
In addition to Smith’s comments on Atlanta, drivers like Kyle Busch added fuel to the “sports entertainment” fire after the race.
“Yup,” Busch responded when asked if he felt like more an entertainer than a driver, racing on the track, which is effectively a shorter superspeedway where pack racing is the main product and often results in last-lap crashes and a lot of torn-up cars.
Drivers offer a variety of opinions
While Busch was definitive in his answer about being more of an entertainer than a driver in Atlanta, others in the garage suggested it’s more complicated. Many of them also said that it’s not at all like WWE in one particular way.
“It’s not WWE, for sure. Nothing here is fake at all in any way, shape, or form,” said Alex Bowman, who has won once in 2022. “I think, at the end of the day, we’re here to entertain people. We’re here to put on a show. Having good racing is part of that. So whatever package they throw at us or rule change they make to try to improve the event, that’s not fixing anything.”
“We’re definitely entertainers. I can promise you from a person inside the sport, it’s not fixed by any means,” Christopher Bell said. “The driver, the team that goes out there and brings the fastest car and drives the best race is going to win the race. It’s not fixed by any means.”
“There’s no, I guess, setup or anything like that as far as who is going to do what. So it’s still a sport,” Erik Jones said. “The entertainment value, sure there are some tracks that probably lean towards entertainment. I mean Atlanta, Daytona, Talladega, that’s obviously a little more entertainment. Come to a place like COTA, Bristol, Martinsville, the mile and a halves now. That’s real true racing.”
As Corey LaJoie succinctly put it, the opinions on NASCAR being sports entertainment are like bellybuttons.
“Everybody’s got one,” he said. “The definition of ‘good racing’ is subjective. What I think is good racing is different than what you might think is good racing. Some people like sprint car racing. Some people like Daytona. Some people like pigs racing at the fair. It’s all racing but what is considered good, what is considered not good. That’s all subjective and you’re not going to change anybody’s opinion on that.”
And the question remains unanswered. But there’s no denying that pig racing is entertaining.