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Look out Talladega! Here come Junor Nation

By admin | October 28, 2010

By Richard Allen


There seems to be an on going debate between those who are fans of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and those who are not as to the importance of that driver to NASCAR event attendance and television ratings. After a good run by their driver last Sunday in Martinsville will the ‘Junior Nation’ show up in full force this weekend in Talladega?

The scenario could not really have worked out better as far as the testing of the ‘Junior Effect’ on attendance and ratings goes. Not only did the driver have a good run in which he led 90 laps and looked like a threat to win his first race in over two seasons, but also, the Sprint Cup Series is heading to the track on which he has scored more wins than any other.

In recent races the Talladega track has seemed to have as many or more empty seats than those filled. This at a facility known for close quarters competition because of the use of horsepower robbing restrictor plates which keep cars running in tight packs for the entire 500 mile distance. Surely the folks at Talladega Super Speedway and its parent company, International Speedway, Corp., liked nothing better than watching the #88 Hendrick Motorsports car run at the front of the pack last weekend.

So, did Junior’s run cause the telephones to ring and the e-mail requests to come in at a faster rate this week? Of course, we will never know how much of an impact there was because we won’t know just how many people actually made a decision to attend or watch solely based on Junior’s recent performance.

More of a debatable issue than this one race would actually be what such a sway in attendance really means for the sport. If fans are basing their choices on whether or not to attend on the performance of a single driver, any driver, then the overall product NASCAR is offering gets called into question.

What if there is no big personality to draw fans to the sport years from now? Is the racing the big draw or is it just the individuals?

So, look out, Talladega! Junior Nation is on the way, or at least maybe they are. But what does it really mean if they do show up in force?

Follow @RacingWithRich on twitter.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

5 Responses to “Look out Talladega! Here come Junor Nation”

  1. Justin Says:
    October 29th, 2010 at 8:15 am

    I think the fans do decide to attend in person, with the hopes of seeing their favorite driver win the race. It is just magnified with Jr, because he has the biggest fan base.

    Just to make an example of what I mean, and sticking with jr being the driver. If I was a Jr fan, wanting to attend a race, I am sure as hell not going to go buy tickets to see him race at Watkins Glen. I am going to buy tickets to watch him at ‘Dega, Daytona, Richmond, Michigan, etc. Tracks he runs good on…. Just from my point of view

  2. JR Says:
    October 29th, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Attendance based on how well a driver did in the previous weeks race is a sign that fans don’t give a crap about racing, they’re just driver groupies.

  3. yankeegranny Says:
    October 29th, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I am a JR FAN first, and I resent being called a groupie. What is wrong with following a driver and going to races where I would expect him to race well ? I base my attendance at a race on the facility, which is why I don’t go back to Martinsville, and buy season tickets to Richmond. Having Jr run well is just frosting on the cupcake as far as I am concerned. I will admit that when Jr went 6 laps down at Richmond in Sept, we went back to the bus and watched college football. Since we have Direct TV Sunday ticket, if Jr is not doing well, I will switch over to the NFL games. Needless to say, I watched the WHOLE Martinsville race last week.

  4. Steve S Says:
    October 29th, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Well grannygroupie, what do you watch the rest of the year when theres no college football and jr’s racing aint so much?

    If jr doing poorly is why the seats are empty and because of last week there will be tens of thousands of little kids at day care instead of trick-or-treating because their folks went to fill dega to watch the great and powerfull jr then I garrantee Obama will give jr a job on Monday to solve unemployment before Tuesdays election!

  5. JR Says:
    October 31st, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Yankeegrannie says she’s offended by being called a driver groupie then proceeds to prove my point.