Poll: Auto racing more popular in America than NBA and NHL

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Back when NASCAR was white-hot in the early to mid 2000s, there was plenty of talk about the stock car series having supplanted the National Hockey League (which, it must be noted, suffered a lockout in 2004-05) as the fourth major sport in America.

Since that point, NASCAR’s popularity has cooled off while the NHL has come around nicely after yet another stoppage in 2012-13. But a new Harris Poll has revealed that “auto racing” – not just NASCAR specifically, but auto racing in general – is not only more popular in the U.S. than the NHL, but the National Basketball Association as well.

In no surprise whatsoever, the poll (which was first reported on by ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell) found that the National Football League was the most popular sport in America among adults 18 years old and up. The NFL took 30 percent of the vote, followed by Major League Baseball with 14 percent, and NCAA college football with 11 percent.

Auto racing’s advantage over the NBA and NHL isn’t big, it must be said. Auto racing grabbed seven percent of the vote for the fourth position, while the NBA garnered six percent and the NHL, five percent.

The seven percent figure for auto racing is also down from the eight percent that the sport got in last year’s Harris Poll on the same subject.

One could interpret that as some sort of justification for the recent tinkering in NASCAR, which now has a new knockout qualifying format and could overhaul its Chase post-season and points system very soon.

According to Rovell’s report, the poll also notes – perhaps in an unflattering light in the eyes of some – that “those with a high school education or less tend to gravitate to auto racing.”

I’ll just say that there are many highly educated fans within the sport as well, and leave it at that.

F1 2017 driver review: Sebastian Vettel

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Sebastian Vettel

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 5
Races: 20
Wins: 5
Podiums (excluding wins): 8
Pole Positions: 4
Fastest Laps: 5
Points: 317
Laps Led: 286
Championship Position: 2nd

2017 was supposed to be the year Sebastian Vettel finally fulfilled his ambition of emulating Michael Schumacher by returning Ferrari to its championship-winning heyday.

Instead, it ended in disappointment and frustration – once again.

Ferrari arguably made a greater step across the change in technical regulations for 2017 than any other team, living up to its pre-season tag as favorite by winning the opening round in Australia in fashion.

Vettel and Ferrari led their respective championships following the Monaco Grand Prix as the German ended a 16-year win drought for the Prancing Horse in the principality, and even heading into the summer break, a shot at both championships was looking good.

However, cracks had started to appear. Vettel’s remarkable antics behind the safety car in Baku sparked controversy after driving into Hamilton, suggesting the tension of the title fight was beginning to take its toll on the German.

The final run of flyaways was where things really fell apart for Vettel, though. Singapore looked to be a slam-dunk win, only for a start-line crash also involving teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen to put 25 free points in Hamilton’s pocket.

Reliability woes then struck in Malaysia and Japan – two more races Vettel could realistically have won – to make it game over in the title race, with Hamilton wrapping things up in Mexico.

Vettel only finished the year 46 points back from Hamilton, proving the impact the three bad races in Asia had. Realistically, this was a title race that should have gone down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Instead, Vettel remains a four-time champion, level with Hamilton, who had just one to his name back in 2013 when his rival secured his fourth.

Ferrari’s internal issues will come under the microscope over the off-season, and Vettel himself knows there is plenty to work on. Staying cool under pressure and not letting things boil over as in Baku is the most obvious area for improvement.

But there is reason for hope. If Ferrari can keep up with Mercedes and repeat its impressive step into 2017 through the upcoming off-season, we may well be treated to another Vettel/Hamilton scrap at the front of the field, perhaps settling once and for all who is the greatest driver of the post-Schumacher era.

Season High: A crucial win in Hungary despite battling with a broken steering column.

Season Low: Letting tensions flare in Baku and hitting Hamilton behind the safety car.