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NASCAR must seek substance over flash if they are to reverse their fortunes

By admin | January 11, 2011

By Richard Allen


The reader should keep in mind while reading this piece that ‘NASCAR’ is used as an all encompassing term meant to include the sanctioning body itself as well as the television and print media that cover the sport, the tracks, the teams and other entities associated with NASCAR.

Other professional sports leagues have had success marketing particular personalities and/or events to gain market share, increase interest in their respective sports and sell merchandise. The NBA and the PGA Tour have benefited from pushing personalities in front of the public. The NFL has made its championship game into a near holiday and Major League Baseball has somehow survived strikes and drug scandals to maintain a high standing on the American sports scene.

NASCAR, on the other hand, seems to be failing miserably at trying those same approaches.

The reason for the relative success of those other leagues as opposed to NASCAR is pretty obvious when closely observed. There is more substance than flash in the offerings of those other leagues.

Is that to say other sports aren’t built around hype? Of course not. Does that mean those other sports sellout every arena? Of course not.

But look at the difference. NASCAR has put a great number of its eggs in the baskets of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Danica Patrick and the Chase for the Championship while others market Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods and the Super Bowl.

If you were assigned the task of hyping a championship event would you rather promote the Chase or the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl? If you were told to create buzz for a particular participant would you rather promote Tiger Woods or Danica Patrick?

The point is, if a particular personality or event is going to be made the focal point of the sport, that person or event better be worthy of the hype.

For as much as they are talked about, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant and the Super Bowl deliver the goods. Woods and Bryant have won multiple championships and proven themselves to be deserving of the recognition they receive, personal issues aside. The Super Bowl delivers extraordinary ratings every year, no matter what teams are involved.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has not won in over two years yet a number of ad campaigns and promotional materials place him at the center of NASCAR. Danica Patrick’s highest finish in a Nationwide Series race last year was 19th yet consider the amount of in focus camera time she received last year. The Chase for the Championship has brought the sport lower television ratings instead of boosting interest.

Now, we hear that famed daredevil Travis Pastrana is coming to NASCAR. While his exploits at jumping cars and other obstacles are impressive, he brings nothing of real stock car racing substance to the table.

What would be wrong with teams and the sanctioning body actually seeking out dirt track and short track asphalt drivers from the South and/or Midwest to bring up to the sport’s highest ranks? It would be nice to see a driver with real oval track racing credentials get a shot for a reason other than having money behind him or her.

A few examples of such exist, but not many.

Of course, money is the key. Someone with grease under his fingernails may not be as appealing to sponsors as someone who has spent more time in a manicurist’s chair than under a race car.

Alas, I guess this is just another one of those things for ‘old timers’ to complain about. But old timer or not, at some point there has to be someone with a background in stock racing come along that can actually produce substance rather than flash. I believe many in the NASCAR business would be surprised to find that such a thing could also produce ratings and ticket sales.

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14 Responses to “NASCAR must seek substance over flash if they are to reverse their fortunes”

  1. Mavis Kekle Says:
    January 12th, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Mr. Allen, your words tell the story well.

    NASCAR has a major crediblilty problem. It also lacks social significance, as it continues to sell a product that has neither evolved to acknowledge or meet the expectations of the present day. Fans are not stupid!

    Today’s consumer expects quality rather than quantity.

    Unfortunately, 2011 looks like another season of a lot of confused dogs chasing their raggedy “tails”, as they attempt to place a positive spin on some rather bland “tales”.

  2. Jim Says:
    January 12th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    So what’s Tiger done for you lately? And personally speaking, I quit watching baseball years ago. I don’t care to watch drugged up athletes set questionable records.

    Baseball lost it’s credibility long before NASCAR did.

  3. Kevin Says:
    January 12th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    The cause is as follows:
    NASCAR (BF) and their Marketing degrees promoted a sport to a fickle fan population that is into techy devices and has a short attention span. NASCAR enjoyed a spike in popularity becuase of this, however they alienated their tried and true fan base in the process. Now, the fickle newbies are pressed to spend their hard earned & limited dollars, and are being choosey about where they are spending them. Meanwhile, the tried and true former fan base, who would have sacraficed just about anything but their once a year trip to the NASCAR race, are standing looking at a sport they no longer recognize.
    NASCAR gambled that they would be able to turn this new generation of fan into lifelongers & they lost. They lost the base of the sport, and now they’re in real trouble.

  4. JPE Says:
    January 12th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    NASCAR can start to reclaim some credibility by moving the Southern 500 back to Darlington on Labor Day.

  5. Russ Says:
    January 12th, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Well said. The Frances thought they could take on the NFL and got a jarring dose of reality. Now the NFL is going to add two more regular season games, thats going to hurt even more.
    It seems everything Nascar has done is nothing but flash, with no substance. And in spite of the claims to the contrary, the technology, which the younger fans crave, isn’t there. Therefore they will have a tough time getting them into the fold.

    Almost reminds you of a company being milked of its assets for short term gains.

  6. Cotton Says:
    January 12th, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Kevin has it right. JPE is right, too, but it will take more than just bringing back the Southern 500.


  7. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    January 13th, 2011 at 3:19 am

    Rich, I feel that Jr. is costing the Cup Series Money because it would have to involve a lot of things to bring some of the Old School Fans to the table again including:
    A. Cutting certain races B. Having Fresh Drivers and C. Finding Stronger Inroads to Minority Fan Bases. If you look at it, you can easily promote some of the Nationwide and Truck Guys and Girls easy after some of the Cup Guys misfire. Another thing, is ARCA is slip sliding only because of guys and girls like Speed, Nelson, Milka, and Danica and what will they do if Kimmel retires? He could have been a star down here, but, he is their star and oak. On the Late Model Front, it will be a talent war unseen since Sports Cars- F1 -Indy Car fought for racers in the 1960s and 1970s and we need to get fans out of the house and into the stands as I would like to see a Short Track that was well run and better than the Titans in Nashville or a Short Track in Birmingham to deal our next DW or Bobby Allison, which would be a comic strech to compare Darrell Wallace or Mason Mingus to those two Hall of Famers, not just in NASCAR, but in Auto Racing, Right Now.

  8. Bill B Says:
    January 13th, 2011 at 7:19 am

    NASCAR got greedy. They were doing just fine before BF came in and made a lot of half-baked changes. NASCAR should have been more interested in cementing the fans they had instead of worrying about attracting new ones. Fans seemed to be OK with the way things were. Over the long run they would have done just fine.

  9. Roguemick Says:
    January 13th, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Great article.Too bad more of the mainstream journalist don’t have the balls to say it.Thanks.

  10. John Says:
    January 13th, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Jim - However baseball has regained it’s credibility long before NASCAR ever will.

  11. ginav24 Says:
    January 13th, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Rich, your article makes very good sense, therefore, NASCAR will pay no attention to it. I have nothing against Dale Jr, but he’s not the reason I watch NASCAR. I used to watch it for the racing, but with all the of efforts to hype the sport instead of making sure that the product on the track was fun and competitive, I’ve lost a lot of interest.

    Brian France wanted to get the casual fan, well, what he did most was run off the diehard fans and those of us who are still watching have become the casual fans.

    The majority of fans polled say that don’t like the chase, but France acted like he had no idea that was even possible when asked the question at the media event at Homestead. Clueless and out of touch and IMO the ratings will continue to fall since the only change to the chase that most fans want to see if to have it disappear.

  12. RoyMullins Says:
    January 13th, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    More southern drivers who act, sound and look like southern race car drivers instead of Gap employees. Is the #1 problem with nascar.

    There is no one for the common man to identify with which was a strong selling point of the sport in the past.

    They really need to start pulling drivers from southern dirt tracks instead of northern go cart tracks if they ever want to get their identity back.

  13. Gordon82Wins Says:
    January 14th, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Name any aspect of the sport - the points system, the car, the venues, the qualifying, racing back to the caution, whatever, and NASCAR tinkered with it. Always in the name of flash as you’ve pointed out.

    That Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t produced on the track has resulted in blatant rule changes to get him into the playoffs, and everyone knows it.

    The only thing with NASCAR that needed fixing when Brian took over was the broadcasts; the commercialpaloozas that go along with each event are apparently the one thing NASCAR won’t try to fix.

    They can change whatever they want now. I stuck it out until the endless hype of the Chase at the end of last season. I’m done.

    January 14th, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Rich, very good article.

    I agree that the Southern500 should be held on Labor Day week end at Darlington.

    The Chase is stupid and should be no more.Just one of the things that ol bz france doesn’t listen to the fans about.

    Nascraps stealing of sponsors, so the little start up teams have to start and park.

    Also it would be nice if olbzfance could come on tv and talk to us looking like he hasn’t been near a bottle of something. Just look at the pictures, if you don’t know what I mean.Also nervously touching the mikerophone, his sleeves, watch, throwing back his shoulders and jacket. ol bz should take lessons from Mike Helton on how to speak to us and look dignified doing so.

    Last but not least, if the newphew of the france’s and Jeremy’s crew man can be let race and work on a team again, Jeremy should be given the same right. Nascrap has gotten enough out of totally ruining a man’s life and career. MANY people think and know this. I know some will agree and some will disagree on this, but just think it could of been your driver whose career got ruined.

    Thank You’s for reading my thoughts.