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Does NASCAR on Saturday night really hurt local racing?

By admin | April 27, 2011

By Richard Allen


NASCAR is about to enter a stretch in which three of its next four Sprint Cup Series races will be contested on Saturday nights. For some time the question of whether or not these events held on days other than the more traditional Sunday afternoons hurt attendance at the many local tracks around the country.

The reason I consider this to be a topic of interest is due to the fact that last year I attended a number of local races on the same Saturday nights in which Sprint Cup races were being televised. A few years ago I probably would have never even considered doing so, but of late, I have found myself less attached to NASCAR and more attached to so called ‘grassroots’ racing.

A look at recent attendance figures and television ratings for NASCAR reveals that more and more people seem to have lost that attachment to the premiere stock car circuit(although it is only fair to point out that NASCAR television ratings have, for the most part, improved in 2011).

NASCAR has trended toward more Saturday night races in recent years in an attempt to reinvigorate their fan base and gain greater television market share in prime time. Other sports have also headed in this same direction. For example, college football used to avoid scheduling games on Fridays so as to not interfere with high school games. Now, there is a college game on almost every Friday night in the fall.

411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tennessee is a dirt track which contests the vast majority of its events on Saturday nights. The track’s promoter, Chris Corum, insists that his show must go on no matter when NASCAR chooses to schedule their races. “I believe it’s all in the way you approach it as a promoter,” he explains. “Our fans know that they can usually catch an exciting night of racing at 411 and still make it home in time to see the last 25 laps of the Sprint Cup race.”

My belief is that NASCAR racing on Saturdays does not have as much of an impact on local racing as one might expect. I believe there are two major reason for this to be true.

First, there is not as much crossover among fans of the two types of racing as might be expected. When attending dirt and short track asphalt races at local tracks, I have noticed very few people wearing hats or T-shirts revealing NASCAR fandom. Often times, the only link between the two might be a fan wearing a hat or shirt of a NASCAR driver such as Tony Stewart or Clint Bowyer who is also involved in dirt racing.

Forms of racing do not interchange as easily as might be thought. There are two different sets of fans for each.

Second, I believe the advent of the DVR and other recording devices have almost encouraged people to not watch NASCAR events live. I very often hear fans say they record Sprint Cup races and then watch them back later so they can fast forward through commercials and other distractions. This would easily allow fans who do watch both NASCAR and short track racing to visit their local venue and take in an evening of live action yet still be able to watch every televised lap of a NASCAR race.

To further show that NASCAR may not have the impact on local tracks that some might believe, Corum points out that even on the night NASCAR raced only an hour and a half away in Bristol his track had one of its better attended races of the 2010 season.

While it might be best for local tracks if NASCAR conducted all of its races on Sunday afternoons, it is not necessarily a back breaker for the smaller venues when they compete head to head.

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3 Responses to “Does NASCAR on Saturday night really hurt local racing?”

  1. Bill B Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I agree with both your points.
    Up until the last few years where rating have taken a huge dive I wouldn’t have thought about asking this question but you might be able to turn that question around…

    Is it possible that when NASCAR schedules a race on Saturday night that they are losing viewers to local short track racing?

  2. Michael in SoCal Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    I live in SoCal where we have Irwindale Speedway for our local racing (and Perris Speedway for the dirt enthusiasts). Irwindale has a special section right above turns 3 & 4 - the NOS Party deck - where they have TVs televising the Cup race when there is a Saturday night race. It’s a great way to catch the Cup race and see some local racing at the same time. And the unique location above turns 3 & 4 gives you great views of the whole track.

  3. Bill Higbee Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Rich, this is one of your best written, thoughtfully stated articles yet.

    Bill Higbee