NASCAR: Chase Elliott snubbed after first championship

Chase Elliott, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Chase Elliott, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Chase Elliott, NASCAR’s most popular champion in the last three-plus decades, was snubbed from the FanSided 250. But that’s nothing new for NASCAR.

The fifth annual FanSided 250 was revealed earlier this week. This yearly top 250 list is a huge compilation of fanbases in the world of sports and entertainment that are ranked from #250 the  #1 by FanSided, the parent network of Beyond the Flag and hundreds of other websites on all kinds of sports and entertainment.

With this being an annual list and not an all-time list, things change from year to year based on what happened throughout the year. But suffice it to say the following: another FanSided 250, another NASCAR snub.

We get it. NASCAR isn’t as big as sports like the NBA, NFL, MLB, etc. But this list isn’t all sports-based, and prior to last year, NASCAR had been represented on the FanSided 250 each year. The NASCAR fanbase itself was ranked all the way up at #71 in 2016. Despite the sport’s apparent “decline”, it shot up all the way to #24 in 2017.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr., who announced impending retirement toward the beginning of the 2017 season, was ranked #17 among sports figures at #203 overall.

He ended up back on the list in 2018 at #19 among sports figures and #225 overall, but NASCAR plummeted from #24 to who-knows-where outside of the top 250 (we’re going to be nice and assume #251).

But 2020 saw NASCAR become the first major sport to return to live action amid the coronavirus pandemic. It became the first sport to complete a full season amid the pandemic, and it saw its most popular champion since 1988 in Chase Elliott.

In other words, NASCAR was a lock for its first top 25 since 2017, right?

Wrong — not even its first top 250.

Yea, I get it. “NASCAR is declining” and whatnot. We’ve heard that since 2001. But at this point, it really isn’t, and ratings back that up. Sure, it did decline after drivers such as Dale Jr. retired, but it has stabilized in recent years.

If anything, Elliott’s championship caused it to grow — or at least not to decline for the foreseeable future like many had projected.

It produced the most first-day merchandise sales of any NASCAR champion in the last decade, as Elliott became the first Most Popular Driver Award winner to be crowned champion since his father Bill won the title 32 years ago. Could any other driver have caused that?

The last decade has seen the likes of multi-time champions Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch win championships, as well as Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano. Elliott, as expected, shattered their marks.

But apparently Elliott doesn’t have one of the 250 biggest fanbases either, despite the fact that many of his own competitors have backed him to be that guy to take the sport to the next level that only somebody such as Dale Jr. has ever had the opportunity to do.

Let’s not forget what else happened in 1988: the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship and the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series. The same happened in 2020. The Lakers ranked #1 in the FanSided 250, with LeBron James at #4 on his own, and the Dodgers ranked #5.

So like in 1988, 2020 saw the Lakers, Dodgers and an Elliott be crowned champion. But guess which one wasn’t in the top five — or in the top 250, for that matter?

Considering how many of the FanSided 250 are people/groups we’ve never even heard of (maybe you have), NASCAR probably should’ve had quite a few drivers on there, at least two or three.

How does Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time champion who announced his retirement before the season began, not rank after his ultra-publicized farewell tour?

Unlike last year, NASCAR wasn’t completely snubbed from the list, however. But their representative was Bubba Wallace, who has yet to win a Cup Series race and has not finished higher than 22nd place in the championship standings.

He came in all the way up at #79, ranking #15 among all sports figures, and they even admitted he wasn’t ranked there for anything to do with the actual racing (their explanation, not mine).

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So what does NASCAR have to do to get back on this list for the actual racing? Is it even possible at this point, or is it a lost cause? After Elliott’s 2020 snub, it’s likely that we won’t see a driver listed for his accomplishments on the track at any point in the foreseeable future.