I happened to catch the CBS Evening news, or whatever its actual name is, on Wednesday night. They featured about a minute and a half to two minute article about the upcoming start to the NASCAR season. Now, first off, me catching any evening news is like seven potential life/water supporting planets found in the vastness of space being announced on a given day. I am not much a fan of really too many regular news outlets. Find it mostly depressing and repulsive anyways. Seems any more I can make up the news myself and be fairly close to what may or may not be happening at any given time in the world.
The article featured that the new season was going to be starting, and also featured some fairly bad news for NASCAR. I am going by memory here, so if I am not exact on the figures that were given, I apologize for being wrong. The article indicated that in roughly the last 8 or 10 years, viewership on TV went from 8 million down to 4 million. They were not completely clear, so I assume that means average per race viewership. They also indicated that attendance is down across all tracks and events by roughly 35%.
Since they needed an expert to explain all this to CBS news viewers, they dug up the Charlotte Observer’s top NASCAR reporter. Sorry I did not get his name and I am truly to lazy go look it up. According to this gentleman, the decline is because the drivers are too corporate. I can get behind that in some ways. The other big reason is because the sport is now too safe. I do not buy that one at all. We do not need to have a driver, or even someone on pit road, hurt or killed in order for the sport to be exciting. Check back over the last couple of seasons. Denny Hamlin has missed races to injury, Kyle Busch has missed races due to injury, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has missed races to injury, and I am guessing there is probably some other driver, or drivers, I have missed from Cup or the other top two series. Those are big names in the top series that missed time.
Even one of the top reporters for the sport does not get it. To me there are a number of problems. First is that NASCAR has become too big of a business. Although we do not know how much money NASCAR (the actual sanctioning body) makes, we can follow along how much Speedway Motorsports Inc. and International Speedway Corporation make. Both of these are publically held companies with huge interest in NASCAR. What happens when you have publically held companies involved? Must have huge profits to make investors happy. Therefore ticket prices, and prices associated with everything revolving around a race, are always going up. Families cannot afford to attend races. Case in point, I wrote a couple weeks ago I renewed none of my tickets for this season at any of the tracks I had tickets with. The competition being first and foremost, and family feel to NASCAR went away about 10 to 12 years ago. Corporate bravado and the rock star feel was ushered in. Last year we switched to the charter system for teams. No longer do we know how much was won for winning a race. To me, this again is a big turn off from what NASCAR use to be.
Along with this, one of the biggest mistakes made by NASCAR was done a number of years ago. The merchandising was brought under one roof. Teams no longer created and marketed their own merchandise. Everything for sale at the track now is just like the mile and a half tracks, cookie cutter. I use to look forward to each year about what would be new for my driver. Not any longer. It is basically all the same shit, and NASCAR expects me to buy it each year. For the die hard fan, this is a huge turn off. I will stay away with the entire Fanatics Tent garbage that is now at the rack as well. Loved the souvenir haulers and the opportunity to take pictures of my driver’s merchandise trailer. Sorry, not there any longer.
Finally, youth today do not want to watch two old guys on Sunday afternoon try to explain the sport to them. The time has come for DW and gang to go (the time actually came for them to go about five years ago). Possibly can keep Jeff Gordon, younger face that young kids can recognize from being only a year removed from being full time. These guys do not capture the imagination of younger fans, they do not hook them, and certainly do not real them in. Young viewers did not grow up watching DW battle Dale Earnhardt. Again, I cannot wait to see how these guys fumble their way through this segmented race on Sunday for the first time.
Speaking of which. Fans have been alienated by NASCAR by constantly changing the championship rules. The championship format does not seem to stay put for any longer than three years. It is a feeling of throw the darts at the wall and lets see what sticks. I predicted this week this formatting garbage goes away after this season is over.
One final thought. No one who actually covers NASCAR in the mainstream, ever has anything bad to say about NASCAR. Nowhere do I read any of the fans issues being taken into account. There is an expectation that the fans are just going to be loyal to NASCAR no matter what. I think those in charge of NASCAR are in need of a house cleaning to get a fresh line of linking to truly reenergize the sport. Just because Monster Energy is on board as a title sponsor, that does not mean their target demographic is tuning in for four hours on Sunday to watch the races.
I use to be a huge NASCAR fan. I am going to watch because I do love the sport and excitement it brings. As far as casual observers go, NASCAR is not catching them and will not. By the time DW and the Fox crew are done broadcasting their portion of the Cup season and spots for the Chase or becoming fewer and fewer, the young demographic is already watching baseball to kill the month to month and a half before the NFL and College Football return to the tube. At the same time, those same young fans are watching two months of the NBA playoffs from roughly mid April to mid June.
I’ll stick to what I said, within 10 years NASCAR will not be anywhere close to the form that we see it today, and that is sad.