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NASCAR Fans, April Fools Don't Mix

Apr 2, 2009 – 1:44 AM
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Geoffrey Miller

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NASCAR fans, the point has been taken: April Fool's Day jokes just don't fly.

A day after many fans thought the NASCAR world as a whole was crumbling to the ground, we've learned that NASCAR fans just don't take kindly to false news reports in an attempt to be irreverent and humorous. The violator of the NASCAR people's trust was automobile magazine Car and Driver, and everywhere you looked on April 1, there was a reminder of their egregious error.

And when I say 'everywhere you looked', I mean everywhere -- including places like a major search engine site with a headline reading 'April Fools' hoax has NASCAR fans in a frenzy'. Yeah, it was that bad.

Car and Driver posted what's now an infamous article to their website (to the best of my searching abilities, it no longer exists) claiming that U.S. President Barack Obama was forcing both Dodge and General Motors to exit NASCAR by the end of 2009 as part of their last-minute lifelines for survival announced this week.

According to the faux story, the automakers were going to save $250 million by dropping support of America's top racing league.

Well, that story quickly circulated as many people were utterly and completely oblivious that they were being roped in to one of the best-played hoaxes of the annual day of jokesters. As the day wore on, several NASCAR websites began putting updates on their site proclaiming that C&D's article was indeed a prank and that NASCAR's downfall was not imminent due to a lack of manufacturers.

Over at Jayski, a warning was posted to readers, calling it a "sad tradition" of April Fool's Day gags from the magazine. The Charlotte Observer's David Poole recalled pulling a prank on his college paper at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, saying he "knows better now" that not everyone finds it funny.

Now, if you make a search for Car and Driver, numerous articles pop up talking about how fan after fan e-mailed comments around to various outlets trying to find out if the article was true. Without a doubt, I'd say Car and Driver's stunt topped just about everything else on April 1 in the amount of volume it received -- think the advertising team is happy today or what? -- but in terms of comedic value it fell flat on its face.

This wasn't similar to Expedia's offer of a $99 trip to Mars or a London newspaper declaring it was switching to Twitter because "studies have shown that all news can be told in 140 characters or less", but rather, it had a strange tone that said "Hey, this might be true."

For the record, C&D removed the post later in the day.

Of course, with the way the pair of major American auto companies are failing to make any sort of profit, the near future could very well see a dramatic reduction, if not complete pull out, of NASCAR support given by GM or Dodge. The optimistic race fan hopes that the return on the investment to NASCAR is good enough thanks to the large crowds and overall sponsorship pride race fans have, and that any remaining auto companies will stay in the sport.

I'll grant NASCAR fans a pardon on this one because of how sensitive the subject was -- heck, I even wrote something similar a year ago -- and how close to the truth it could have been. Surely, C&D could have found a less sensitive topic with more humor.

In the same breath, however, I'm worried that NASCAR media sources looking to just brighten up someone's day with a well-placed joke will have to tread so lightly that we don't get a laugh. I mean, come on, don't tell me that reading a faux-quote from Jimmie Johnson saying that he "plans to grow that beard until it's "so thick it doesn't fit in my helmet" (props to Busbee at the Marbles) isn't something that makes you laugh.

I know the world isn't great at the moment and that we all get caught up in the grind, but let's make a promise for next year to be a little less miffed at getting 'taken' by an April Fool's joke and more open to laughing it off. After all, we all seemed to have dodged -- for the time being -- that nasty little Conficker character.

Isn't that something to be more Carl Edwards-y (backflips and smiles) about than Kyle Busch-y (100-yard tantrum dash to the motor home lot following bad race) about?
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