The Fall of NASCAR

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abpk2903
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The Fall of NASCAR

Postby abpk2903 » November 29th, 2018, 11:26 am

A topic that is maybe something new to discuss on this board but I feel like is very interesting in the sports world.  The Sports Business Journal is reporting a 700,000 viewer drop for the sport in 2018 as compared to just a year earlier in 2017.  Now to be fair, Dale Earnhardt Jr did retire at the end of the 2017 season but the sport has lost over 5,000,000 viewers since 2005.  What was once one of the most thriving sports in the entire country and had corporations salivating at dropping $20-$30 million a year to get their name on the side of a race car is now nothing but a shell of its former self.

 

The TV viewers may even be the least of the concerns.  The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series championship race team, Furniture Row Racing, has closed their doors due to lack of sponsorship.  Jimmie Johnson, the 7 time NASCAR Champion, lost his Lowe’s sponsorship and it took them around 6 months to find a corporation to replace that sponsorship.  Target, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Coors Light, Sprint, Subway, GoDaddy, Dollar General, National Guard, Army, 5-Hour Energy, and countless others who were once staples in funding this sport are nowhere to be found at a racetrack.   Richard Petty’s owned car spent a majority of the season with a primary sponsor.  Roush Fenway Racing that spent much of the 1990s and 2000s as the most dominate team in the sport had to go pluck Matt Kenseth out of retirement to get sponsorship for many races throughout the second half of the season. Monster Energy is entering their final year as a Title Sponsor of the series and NASCAR has already announced they are moving on from a title sponsorship due to lack of interest and instead offering sponsorship “tiers” for interested corporations.

 

The most troubling issue of them all is the attendance.  Now when the attendance issues really started to become noticeable about 10 years ago, NASCAR wanted to point at the same issues that are facing other sports.  Yes, MLB and College Football and even the almighty NFL do not see the demand for tickets they did a decade ago but those sports are much more regionally based.  A Pirates fan still probably is going to watch and track the Pirates.  Instead of watching 5 games in person and 150 games on the couch, they may watch 3 games in person and 152 games on the couch.  At the end of the day, they are still watching and the money will funnel back to MLB and the Pirates one way or another.  But in NASCAR, it is a little different.  It is a national touring series so the series only takes one trip to New England a year.  They head to Chicago, once.  Even in their “heartland” of the Carolinas, they only have about 6 events per year.  So when fans aren’t showing up, you really begin to wonder where they may be at.  Additionally, many NASCAR fans will tell you they fell in love with the sport at the track.  Football broadcasts well but it is hard for your TV screen to show you what 195 mph looks like, along with the sounds, smells, and ability to see multiple points of action along the track at once.  NASCAR is a very difficult sell without seeing the event in person a few times to truly understand what is happening throughout an event.

 

So let’s look at their attendance, well we can’t because they don’t release attendance statistics any longer.  They stopped announcing attendance in 2012 but I can tell you this.  I have been going to the Bristol Night Race for 20 years.  10-15 years ago the alternative market value of each ticket was $800-$1,000 a seat in our section.  They would get 70,000 to the undercard (Busch series at the time) event the night before the main event (Cup series race).  I went to that same race this year.  They had dozens of sections tarped off.  I got a free ticket with the purchase of a video game.  The tickets I bought for my family were $60 for the best seats at the track and I bought them 2 weeks before the event.  It was a gorgeous summer night and they may have had 60,000 people there.   

 

Here is the craziest thing, taking information from Jayski’s silly season website in 2013 (which many tracks have done major seat reductions since) here is some statistics of how drastically tracks are removing seats.   Charlotte Motor Speedway was once 156,000 seats and they are now 41,000. Dover was once 135,000 seats and they are now 85,000.  Talladega was once 143,000 seats and they are now 80,000.  Richmond was once 110,000 at capacity and it now is at 50,000.  The worst part is even with severe capacity reductions at almost every track they still struggle to get these venues half full.

 

Many close to the sport are beginning to wonder if the sport will even survive another decade.  If there are any NASCAR fans, or past NASCAR fans, or casual observers on the board, what do you see as the greatest cause of the fall of this sport?  I mean it is really astonishing how quickly this sport has fallen from the prosperity that they once had.



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Re: The Fall of NASCAR

Postby Earl34 » November 29th, 2018, 12:18 pm

You can never point to one thing only in situations like this, bu the biggest factor that pushed me away was Nascars desire to "clean up the sport". Penalizing dirty driving, discouraging rivalries from developing, borderline rewarding multi car teams with preferential treatment because they would not fight each other as hard on the track. I don't know how much Nascar pushed this behind the scenes, but the perception was out there. NASCAR basically took the Redneck Roots away and fans like me started dropping out.

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Re: The Fall of NASCAR

Postby konjo78 » November 29th, 2018, 12:20 pm

Me and my dad stopped watching the past few years. Here are a few of my issues.


1. Races have become too long without much action. Too many races with very little passing between leaders and most 1.5 mile tracks have become stale/boring.

2. Season is too long to care, (feb-november)

3. Didnt like race structure now with stages.

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Re: The Fall of NASCAR

Postby dougkeklak » November 29th, 2018, 12:28 pm

Getting away from their roots to move to more metropolitan areas to have races at has hurt too. But I agree with the others reasons in this thread.

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Re: The Fall of NASCAR

Postby abpk2903 » November 29th, 2018, 12:48 pm

I think as much as everyone wants to blame NASCAR for everything that has caused the sport to decline (and trust there is a list from here to Daytona Beach full of horrendous business decisions) I think some things have happened out of their control.

1. The wind tunnel. Teams figured out how to manipulate the air passing over their cars to make it almost impossible for a car behind you to catch and pass you. Thus making the high speed events less entertaining.

2. Equipment is too reliable and doesn’t break. 20 years ago at the race track the car that took off to start the race and build a 5 second lead didn’t mean much. Usually it meant they were pushing their parts (breaks, engine, suspension) too hard and eventually they would fall back from that pace. However, today equipment doesn’t break so it is just truly who can bring the fastest car to the track. No longer does the driver influence how hard they use their equipment early in a 500 mile race. They can go out there and run as hard as they can for the full 500 laps. 

3. Costs. The sport got so expensive, teams and drivers can’t take risks to tear up their cars. A car costs in the $300,000 to $500,000 range and top teams only race them 4-5 times in their lifespan. So if the second race on the track they total the car in an accident, they are losing $1 to $1.5 million. Not matter how big the team, if you wreck a handful of race cars a year, you simply can’t make ends meet.

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Re: The Fall of NASCAR

Postby TheAnalyst » November 29th, 2018, 1:36 pm

Here are my feelings on this. NASCAR used to be huge. My dad and brother had yearly tickets to Richmond. They went there and camped for the weekend. People always had NASCAR polls going on at work or their own personal ones for each week. Most of us watched the races every weekend from the 70’s /80’s until recently. Everyone I know started losing interest in the last 10 years or so, and I don’t think any of them watch races anymore. These are diehard car people, some of them big time. Why did they stop watching/going?

NASCAR let Toyota in. For the younger generation this might not mean much. But it had been for ages a Dodge/Chevy/Ford (American) racing series. People didn’t like it.

The Car of Tomorrow. Referencing above, there was a time you could watch a race and instantly know your Ford’s from the Chevy’s and Dodge’s. COT killed that. It isn’t as bad as it used to be. These are supposed to be Stock Cars. Most cars going around the track do not even slightly resemble stock cars. It used to be win on Sunday, sell on Monday.

They don’t want fans to be Ford vs Chevy. NASCAR wants you to follow a driver. I knew a lot of people who were big Mark Martin fans, but when he went to Chevy, they said goodbye to him. Ford vs Chevy brought an edge to the sport that is gone.

Ticket prices got way out of hand.

The sport needs an antagonist. It was Dale Earnhardt. NASCAR doesn’t want that. It brought a lot of excitement. You had a guy to root for/against. I know NASCAR doesn’t want drivers to get hurt, but even back in the old day, on average they didn’t. What happened to Dale was a freak accident.

Most of them don’t like the playoff format.

It seems like at times rules are made up/applied on the fly to favor certain teams/drivers.

The France family has too much control and think they are infallible.

If you think about when most of these things were implemented, you have your reasons why interest is declining in the last 10 years. And because the fans they are losing are now parents/grandparents, their children do not follow the sport. Do teenagers these days even watch it at all?

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Re: The Fall of NASCAR

Postby abpk2903 » November 29th, 2018, 2:06 pm

I’m 29 and I’ve taken a particular interest to the demographic of NASCAR fans. I’ve attended probably 10 races in the last 4 years. I can tell you that in 10 years, 70% of the fans left at the track won’t be able to climb the bleachers to their seats.

Ticket prices were an issue for a period. For instance, Bristol Motor Speedway at one time made you buy a ticket to the spring Busch/Cup race and the fall Busch race just for the right to buy a cup ticket. That priced the middle class “family of four” right out of the market. Hotel rooms were also out of control. Our hotel 27 miles from Bristol Motor Speedway would require 4 nights at $479 a night. BUT that is no longer the case. I just took 4 people to that same Bristol Night Race in August for both the Xfinity (Busch) and Cup along with 2 hotel rooms for 2 nights and it cost $1,400 for the entire trip. 

NASCAR panicked when they lost Dale Earnhardt and Adam Petty (Richard Petty’s grandson) within a few short years. Can I blame them for immediately trying things to make the sport safer? No. At the end of the day, part of the allure of racing is the high risk, high reward daring moves that drivers would make.  When you take that away, part of the excitement leaves to. But I will never fault NASCAR for trying to be safer.

When I get a little more time, I will post some thoughts of things NASCAR could do today to regenerate some excitement to their sport. But as TheAnayst has pointed out, the France Family seems to have little interest in resurrecting this sport.

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Re: The Fall of NASCAR

Postby TheAnalyst » November 29th, 2018, 2:25 pm

Maybe they can get rid of the "debris on the speedway" cautions at the end of the race when they want to change the outcome. Don't WWE things up, as one of the Busch's referenced one time when he was going to win and the caution came out for debris that no one could see. Just let them race and stop trying so hard to script everything.

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Re: The Fall of NASCAR

Postby Crimson's Ghost » November 29th, 2018, 2:36 pm

I'm 28 and I've never watched a race in my life, and I would say most if not all of my friends my age are in the same boat. 

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Re: The Fall of NASCAR

Postby 12HankQB » November 29th, 2018, 2:42 pm

Crimson's Ghost wrote:I'm 28 and I've never watched a race in my life, and I would say most if not all of my friends my age are in the same boat. 

I'm 28...I concur...if half of the cars went the other direction, I'd be a huge fan.
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