By admin | January 12, 2010
By Richard Allen
Yes, you read the headline of this column correctly. I, an outspoken critic of the direction NASCAR has taken in recent years, am predicting that attendance and television ratings will rise in 2010.
I have a two-fold reason for making such predictions.
First, NASCAR has taken what is for them the unprecedented step of listening to complaints. This has been evidenced in the implementation of double file restarts, the apparent replacement of the CoT’s rear wing with a spoiler and possibly even the elimination of no-bump zones and yellow line rules at Daytona and Talladega. But in regard to causing improved attendance and ratings, the best move they have made is the change in starting times for most races.
Many races this season will start at 1:00pm eastern time. The earlier and more consistent start times will help people know when to tune in to actually watch the race rather than hours of fluff filled pre-race shows. Also, the earlier start times will benefit those fans in attendance.
Over the past few seasons I have had many people tell me they no longer go to races because the later start times make it too difficult to get home in time for a decent rest before going to work the next morning. When faced with a four or five hour drive to get home after a race that does not end until 6:00pm or later, the average person may simply opt to stay at home and save their money rather than do all that tiresome traveling to watch what may turn out to be a less-than-entertaining race. At least the fans know they will be able to get back home at a decent hour this season.
And more, starting races as late as 3:00 pm leaves a very limited window of opportunity to work with in the event of bad weather. That is very frustrating for someone who paid for a ticket and sat for two hours in the grandstand watching what amounted to a circus only to have it start raining at the time for the command to start engines.
As far as television goes, the earlier start times will cause potential viewers to get into a race before they find something else to do. Since many NASCAR Sprint Cup races take place on warm Sunday afternoons, it is very easy for the casual fan to drift away from the television and find other ways of occupying his or her time if the race does not start early in the afternoon.
So, earlier start times will play a role in boosting both attendance and television ratings in 2010.
However, all of this column is not lined in silver. A second reason why I believe attendance and ratings will rise is the simple fact that the previous year’s numbers are so low that the comparisons will be made somewhat easy. Since both numbers have been in almost steady decline since 2004, one has to believe the bottom, or at least a false bottom, is somewhere in sight.
Before I had three children and actually had a little extra money I used to dabble in the stock market from time to time. One strategy that some investors occasionally use is to buy stock in a solid company that has had a down year. The hope is that the company will be able to show profit gains simply because the previous year was bad and the comparisons are easy. This, however, depends on the company in question being a solid company. Is NASCAR indeed a solid company?
And for the last bit of skepticism to be cast on what might be a year of increased attendance and television ratings, I do not believe the increases will be very big ones. As a matter of fact, I would use the word slight in describing any potential positives in the coming 2010 season.
Don’t forget too that lowered ticket prices will no doubt play a factor in any attendance increases that may be seen in 2010.
In closing, NASCAR will at last experience a year of increased attendance and television ratings in 2010, but it won’t be much of an increase.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in the Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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