By admin | March 2, 2011
By Richard Allen
As mentioned here(http://racingwithrich.com/?p=1379 ) NASCAR’s 2011 season has gotten off to a great start. Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 win and Jeff Gordon’s victory in Phoenix have the sport looking like a recovery of attendance and television ratings could be in the offing this season. However, there is one major issue on the horizon that could spoil the whole thing.
Gas prices have risen well above $3/gallon as trouble brews in the often volatile Middle East. Experts are predicting this upward trend to continue for the foreseeable future.
I am not typically one who buys the excuses NASCAR has passed out in recent years as to why attendance and ratings have decreased. I tend to believe the Car of Tomorrow, the Chase for the Championship and Jimmie Johnson’s dominance have had the deepest impact on the sport. However, this time I am going to accept the explanation that gas prices play a role in attendance.
While higher fuel prices will make a trip to the track more expensive, the real threat to NASCAR comes from what the added expenses will do to the budgets of average families.
If a family has two working parents who drive to work, the day to day cost of simply getting to the job will rise. And more, higher fuel costs cause higher prices at the grocery store as companies raise their prices to offset their own expenditures. This in turn will take an even bigger bite out of the family bank account.
Ultimately, the end result will be that as families spend more on day to day necessities, luxury purchases such as race tickets and trips will be sacrificed.
With that said, television ratings may provide the only true evidence as to whether or not fans are coming back to the sport or if the ‘Bayne Bump’ was indeed only a bump. Logic would seem to indicate that if people are truly interested in racing they will watch on TV if they can’t make it there in person. So in theory at least, ratings should rise this season if NASCAR has actually made a turnaround.
NASCAR, dirt racing, NHRA and IndyCar will all suffer at the venue itself if gas prices continue their current upswing. Not only might grandstand seats go unused but concessions, souvenirs and hotel rooms will not be sold.
At a time when NASCAR desperately needed to see evidence of a turnaround, they might well have been getting one. But, in already uncertain economic times one more variable has been added to potentially spoil any positive gains seen to this point.
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