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Gas prices threaten to spoil NASCAR’s solid start

By admin | March 2, 2011

By Richard Allen


As mentioned here( ) 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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7 Responses to “Gas prices threaten to spoil NASCAR’s solid start”

  1. Charles Says:
    March 2nd, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Nascar needed a day like they had at Daytona!!! That got the season off to a bang! It had sometime for young and old fans, even though Bayne was the youngest winner, I think having the Wood Bros back in victory lane did more and brought or reenergzed a lot of its former base the “old fans” as well! the 50+ crowd!

    Nascar thinks 50+fans are a dying base and need more 18 to 34 year old males, but the last time I count they are making 50+ people everyday! This I think and the “car fan” is the biggest lost fan base that they need back!!

    You are right fuel prices will effect the sport, especially if its long term!

    But just got the second race of the year over! and already the ‘points day’ is the main theme of the Nascar Pr system!

    Just because they got a bump in the rating and attendence, after a exciting Daytona, I will project if they
    keep “cheering” this “Chase more important than the race”and if you watch TV like Race Hub, its main headline seems to be “Chase Points” whos in where, someone gots to improve, its almost like we are nearing the last race of the year!!! Over and Over again!

    Then that will be worse than high fuel prices, and hurt TV as well!

    The Honeymoon could soon be over!!!! Fans come to see exciting racing!!!and by the way has anyone fiqured out the new simplier points system yet??????

  2. Jesse Hopper Says:
    March 3rd, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Thank you Charles, could not have said it better. Car guys, great comment.

  3. zhills fan Says:
    March 3rd, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Other than the fuel situation, get rid of the top 35 rule, the chase, and the IROC cars and attendance will improve.

  4. Russ Edwards Says:
    March 3rd, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Gas prices will almost certainly affect attendance at the track, for reasons more imagined than real.
    That said, where is the real money that keeps Nascar and its participants coming from? TV, ticket sales, souvenir sales, and sponsors. And while tickets and souvenir sales might decline, one could argue that sponsorships might increase from increased TV ratings.
    As long as the cars keep taking to the track, everything will depend on the product that people see.

  5. Kevin Says:
    March 3rd, 2011 at 10:13 am

    You are right on, gas prices have a more imagined effect than real effect. Short term costs however aren’t that impactful. I’m probably going to the high side of average with this statement, but assuming the average family has two cars that each burn a tank of gas a week. With the increase to date in fuel, that is an average of $12/week or $48/month. I’m aware that over the course of the year this probably equates to the cost of a small family going to a NASCAR track, I can think of plenty of things that I can do around the house to scrape up and cover the cost of $12 a week if I have to. Eventually the high cost of oil will work its way through to all the everyday plastics and products that we use every day, but short term, anyone who can draw up a budget won’t be overly impacted by the extra cost of fuel.

  6. Kevin Says:
    March 3rd, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Note: I’m from Canada, so my math was based on the price increase here of approx $0.38/US gal which is what the price has risen here in the last 2 weeks.

  7. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    March 6th, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Please, Rich, I feel that I would rather beg for mercy instead of hearing about Dictators, Piggish Owners and Bad Celebs as man, we all need good role models for kids,Rich!

    Peace Out,