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« Is Danica the most divisive NASCAR driver since Dale Earnhardt? | Main | Matt Kenseth’s post-race interview explained why Kentucky race lacked passing »

The ‘Jimmie Johnson effect’ + TNT = summer lull for NASCAR

By admin | June 5, 2014

 By Richard Allen

Yes NASCAR fans, it’s that time again. It’s the time for some things to change in the Sprint Cup Series and for some things to stay the same.

Among those things that will be changing is the television network covering the sport. TNT will replace Fox as the primary broadcaster of NASCAR’s top division over the next few weeks. To some racing enthusiasts that is good news while others regard the switch as a negative.

  TNT will be covering NASCAR for the next few weeks.  

In a recent poll conducted among my Twitter followers, 57% of fans voted that they wanted Fox to cover more races while the other 43% declared that they were glad that Fox’s time had come to an end. Several of those who were glad it was time for a network change indicated that much of their reasoning for voting that way was due to commentating brothers Darrell and Michael Waltrip.

Television ratings have been down, in some cases sharply, for most NASCAR Sprint Cup races this season. TNT is a cable network which does not reach into as many homes as Fox so viewership is not likely to get a boost in the coming weeks.

Further, this will be TNT’s last season of covering NASCAR as a new television contract goes into effect in 2015. This network has often been criticized by fans for excessive showing of commercials during its NASCAR broadcasts. With this being their final go around with the sport, it’s would seem likely that there will be as many or more interruptions as in years gone by.

One thing that seems to be staying the same, or at least reverting back to previous norms, is the dominance of Jimmie Johnson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver had gone winless through the first twelve events of the 2014 Sprint Cup season. Suddenly, however, he has returned to form by scoring two consecutive wins in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and last Sunday’s race in Dover. Not that the six-time champion has any bad tracks, but the schedule is now pointing toward some of his more favorable venues, which does not bode well for the competition.

 Jimmie Johnson seems to have returned to his old ways.

The trouble for NASCAR, its tracks and its television partners is that recent developments do not necessarily bode well for them either. Even with all his success, Johnson has never been a huge fan favorite in the way other multiple-time series champions like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt were. But at the same time, he has never really fit the role of an arch villain either.

For whatever reason, there’s just very little, comparatively speaking, about Johnson that inspires people in terms of racing fandom.

During the most recent off season, NASCAR instituted changes to its championship format that the sanctioning body hoped would generate greater interest in the sport. And that may indeed happen for the final Chase for the Sprint Cup deciding race later this year in Miami. However, TV ratings have taken a negative turn, and from the looks of the grandstands in Dover, attendance isn’t skyrocketing either.

When the factors of a smaller television network and the re-emerging dominance of a driver who seems to not stir the passions of most fans are taken into consideration, it would seem that NASCAR could be in for a summer lull.

Topics: Articles |

3 Responses to “The ‘Jimmie Johnson effect’ + TNT = summer lull for NASCAR”

  1. Eric Says:
    June 5th, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    Great article, admin! Love the site! I’m 23 and grew up a NASCAR fan as Dad took me to early Legends and Bandolero races at ATL Motor Speedway back mid/late nineties. Fast forward to now, all my current friends who don’t watch NASCAR/general sports fans, I ask them to name drivers or tell me an event they remember …… none can even name 5 current drivers but they recall Dale Jr. 500 win and Joey Lagano vs Tony Stewart brawl from Auto Club Speedway in 2013. To keep up passion and receive national attention, NASCAR may need some WWE influence- it needs discussion/drama! I love NASCAR but their is little personality; I’m worried about its future growth, stability, identity, direction, etc.

  2. Bill B Says:
    June 6th, 2014 at 8:04 am

    I think the new system where once you win you pretty much are in the chase has backfired on NASCAR with regards to ratings for regular season races.

    Once a fan knows that their driver is in the chase and that nothing really matters until September, they don’t really feel the urgency or importance of any of the other regular season races. This breeds complacency.

    Yeah, that final race of the chase might have the best ratings of any NASCAR event ever, but will that offset the loss from the other 35 races?

  3. midasmicah Says:
    June 6th, 2014 at 8:28 am

    Great article Rich. And Eric. We don’t need gimmicks, just better racing. I don’t watch cup lite or truck races for the obvious. Now sprint cup is slowly chasing me away. From this 30+ years fans’ view point, nas$car still refuses to listen to their fan base.