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The lack of fans at Sunday's Food City 500 should be an alarm to NASCAR.

Monday morning is an important time in the NASCAR world.

That’s when drivers, crew chiefs, race-day engineers and team owners gather in expansive shops across the Charlotte, North Carolina, area to break down races.

Media types and fans also engage in spirited Monday morning quarterback sessions.

By Monday afternoon, a consensus emerged on Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Simply put, the unpredictable and fast-paced drama was the best show of this season. In a popular weekly Twitter poll conducted by veteran NASCAR journalist Jeff Gluck, 86 percent of the participants gave the event a passing grade.

So just how competitive was the Food City 500 on paper? Consider that the 47 green-flag passes for the lead was the highest number since NASCAR began keeping that stat in 2005.

That’s the bright side of the picture.

Now for the other side.

Not only was the estimated track attendance of 38,000 the smallest in recent BMS history, but the fan reaction on social media varied from lukewarm to bored.

According to several rather angry defenders Monday, the weekly debates over attendance have become pointless and destructive for the overall health of the sport. They contend it’s past time to focus on other “more important” issues and tune out the dissenters.

Hold on. While some disgruntled fans may be riding a bandwagon, it’s never wise to attack customers in an arena where lack of support is already an issue.

For years, NASCAR followers have felt left out of the loop as their favorite sport has been transformed by rule changes, schedule shifts and driver shakeups.

In numerous meetings with BMS campers last week, longtime fans basically offered the same views. They want more engagement with drivers and they want someone to actually hear their grievances.

These campers were definitely not rabble-rousers. They were successful businessmen, school teachers, retired coal miners and plumbers who attend NASCAR races around the country.

Each week, network television presents elaborate pre-race shows with the same cast of characters. We see drivers, former drivers, crew chiefs, and the wives and children of drivers. The positive drumbeat paints the picture that all is well.

Every other professional sport has roundtable talk shows where divergent views are aired. How many times have you heard commentators dissect the every move of NBA star LeBron James or NFL quarterback Tom Brady?

What would it hurt to at least listen to NASCAR fans, especially those who show up nearly a week in advance of events?

And what good is it to have a perfect race if the stands are empty?

It’s worth mentioning that a crowd of 32,551 attended Sunday’s regular season baseball game in Atlanta between the Braves and lowly Miami Marlins while Sunday’s WWE WrestleMania event in East Rutherford, New Jersey, attracted a record gathering of 82,265.

To steal a line from Charles Dickens in the classic work A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”

In the case of NASCAR, the gap between the believers and skeptics seems to be widening.

agregory@bristolnews.com | Twitter: @Greg_BHCSports | (276) 645-2544

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