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« Does NASCAR need TV blackouts and fist fights? | Main | Having the Super Bowl first makes sense for NASCAR »

Poor economy may drive NASCAR back home

By admin | January 28, 2009

By Richard Allen


It is never a good thing for the economy to go bad. However, the recent economic downturn could force NASCAR to refocus its business model and that could be a good thing for the future health of the sport, if it has not come too late.

During the high economic times of the 1990s and the early 2000s NASCAR got the notion its product was ready for a more national stage. So, the sanctioning body decided to drop long time venues like North Wilkesboro and Rockingham in favor of more glamorous locales such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami.

Initially, the sport experienced moderate success in those new cities. Soon, however, the newness wore off and the casual fans in those places found other things to occupy their attention as has been evidenced by recent poor attendance, particularly in Los Angeles and Miami.

Now, with the economy experiencing a slump unlike anything seen in recent years, sponsors, team owners, and most importantly, fans are having to watch every dollar carefully. With less disposable money to spend, people are less willing to be frivolous. That means casual fans will be even more scarce than they have been of late.

If NASCAR wants filled seats, they will have to find their most loyal fans. Those fans reside in the Carolinas, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia and Alabama. Given a choice between NASCAR and the NFL, the folks in Miami will choose the NFL. Given a choice between NASCAR and the multitude of things to do in Southern California, the folks in that area will choose things other than NASCAR.

NASCAR needs to come home to the places where people will put stock car racing first. The problem for NASCAR is that many of those former fans are just that, former fans.

Many tracks, including Daytona, are offering special discounts to get patrons in the seats. Lowering ticket prices could be a step toward renewing their relationship with the old fan base. Other moves by the sanctioning body could go a long way toward making amends with those who used to live and die with the sport.

Returning driver accessibility to the levels of the bygone era and attempting to develop more Southern drivers would appeal to many. And, of course, improving the on track product is the most important thing of all, but that is a topic for other columns.

During high times NASCAR was able to get away with ignoring its roots. Hopefully, they will see the need to come back home before it is too late.

I am not saying I am glad the economy has gone bad. I do not want someone who has lost a job and may happen to be reading this column to think I wanted the current recession so that NASCAR would return to its roots. What I am saying is that NASCAR actually reflects the nation as a whole. It allowed greed and overconfidence to cause it to misread its proper place in the grand scheme of things.

Now, it is time for the NASCAR organization to get back to the things it does well in the places best suited for its product.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

*Click the link below to listen to my latest podcast, “Does NASCAR need TV blackouts and fist fights?”

Topics: Articles |

17 Responses to “Poor economy may drive NASCAR back home”

  1. sam Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 5:50 am

    Brian France ran off all of the fans who made him a billionaire. Do away with
    Brian France
    Lucky Dog
    Calf. Track

  2. Tom Wilkinson Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 6:42 am

    Better not get rid of Toyota they may be the only one left. As far as the chase and lucky dog goes, get rid of them along with the top 35. Who knows why they ever went to California in the first place.

  3. The Old Guy Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 7:03 am

    I’m afraid that it’s too late.

    NASCAR has simply become a high dollar “IROC” series.

    It started with the common template cars. Now we have the COT. NASCARS next move will be to lower costs by having a common engine.

    The sport that I have loved since 1949 no longer exists.

  4. John Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Too late,I for one have moved on and left what is left of Nascar behind.Man I once burned with a fire for the race every Sun,now not so much.

    Mr.France threw the true fans under the bus one time too many and it’s going to come back to haunt him in these lean times.

    I’m Southern and I’m redneck,it took some doing to get me to the point where I just didn’t care anymore but he manage to do it and as anyone can tell you once you throw water on the fire it’s a lot harder to gitter to burn a second time.

    Sorry to say but I just don’t care anymore.My loss,Mr Frances gain I guess.

  5. Charles Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Well written article Richard! You nailed it as far as Nascars growing up to fast and lossing their former fan base!

    Nascar needs to get back to basics and really mean it!
    What made Nascar was it was a sport that was not made up or aritfical back in the day! When drivers could be drivers and car owners could have a say in a mechanial engineering to who won instead of the political or money factors that determine winners!

    But one thing they need to really bring back is the competition between the brands of cars!
    No matter what Nascar wants you to think, their was a large fan base that went “not just for the driver” but to see competition between the “brand of car”!
    These fans are finding other sports or hobbys now!
    I know the car industry is in trouble now, but they still have a major impact in Nascar!

    I have yet to see many motorsports that have a single manufacterer or ’spec car’ which is the way Nascar seems to be headed succeed!

  6. Pete Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Get Ward burton a good ride!
    youll see excitement again .
    Lower prices for calif tickets. We pay 3x (165 a seat!)what the rest of country pays… for everything.
    Thatll get more seats filled.
    We dont throw canned beer at the racers on track. Why do you? let us real fans back into the garage area. see you at fontana

  7. Keith Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Pete you won’t see me at Fontana ever I have been offered free tickets and a free place to stay out there and I won’t go to that lousy track. I pay about $165 for Daytona and Indy and Bristol I guess you are a real fan because you are getting ripped off.

  8. Donnie Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    You nailed it. Case in point… I live in RI about 100 miles from Loudin. A few years ago, tickets for both races were scarce as hens teeth. If you had a ticket, you were living large, and you let everyone know it. Problem was that the people who had these tickets, were the “fair weather” fan who only wanted that ticket,just to have bragging rights. Then the N.E. Patriots came along. Guess what… they moved on to the next hot “in” thing to have, tickets for Gillette Stadium. These temporary”new fans” had no interest or respect for the sport of Nascar, but the Nascar brass were courting them to make a buck. I would like to think that the suits in Daytona use this an opportunity, to see the their mistakes of turning their backs to the loyal people who have supported the sport for 30+ years.

  9. Hambone Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    NASCAR must do things in order for this former 45+ year fan to even remotely consider returning…

    1. The Village Idiot (B. France) must go.
    2. Sh*tcan the chase for the chump points scam.
    3. Sh*tcan toyota. (They make a fine car, but have NO PLACE in NASCAR).
    4. Return Rockingham & THE Southern 500 to thier rightful places on the schedule.
    5. The village idiot (B. France) must go.

    If these things are done, I might… MIGHT consider returning. THESE ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE.

  10. yankeegranny Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    I am a NASCAR ;oving NY Yankee who moved to SC a few years ago and am now a NASCAR fanatic. Darlington is in my backyard and I love the racing there, also am a season ticket holder at Richmond. As a “new” fan, this is my take on the sport noe,
    1, Keep the chase and the luckydog
    2.Give it up: the COT makes all the cars the same,Ford,GM, Dodge, Toyota. The decals are all that are different.
    3. Get rid of the road course races..boring, boring, boring
    4. Move races back to classic Southern tracks
    5 . Get new leadership in NASCAR
    6. Driver; get rid of the sunglasses and quit sounding like puppets in interviews( We already know who sponsers you)
    7. Let the teams be a little creative without consequenses
    8. If you do need to penalize a team, sit the team out the next race.
    9. Drop that d*** top 35 rule and past championship provisional. If you can’t qualify on speed, go home.

  11. Steven Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    All sports have changed. I live in Central California, but have Phoenix Int’l Raceway Tickets because the racing is much better. If you want to fix nascar make them racing the cars they manufacture…then only Dodge has a car that can compete…all the others are FWD. Maybe then, Detroit will build real cars again.

    By the way…I root for anyone but Earnhardt or anyone who driving anything but a Chevy. Go Carl!

  12. Ken O Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    NA$CAR can’t really go home. When they started moving to the big cities, the NFL invaded both Tennessee and North Carolina. There is now something else to do on Sunday afternoons. With the majority of the drivers now yankees or westerners, the southern fan has no local connection with the sport as they did in years past. When the spsort lost its regional flavor, it lost its soul.

  13. midasmicah Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    I’m from California and have been to California Speedway.
    Believe me, it’s not a great venue to watch a race. That’s not the point. What did LA ever do to deserve two races? Hell, they can’t even sell out one. I used to love watching the short track races at North Wilkesboro and The Rock. I’m one of those people that’s pretty close to being a “former fan”. I hope na$car actually listens to it’s fans. Otherwise they’re adding one more nail in their own coffin.

  14. midasmicah Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    One more thing. agree with hambone. “no brain” France has to go. As long as Daddy’s rich little boy is in control of na$car, nothing is going to change. na$car seems to have went out of their way to alienate their fan base. Why? They say money is the root of all evil. In na$car”s case it was sweet seduction of television. I’ve been a fan for 25+ years and I absolutely hate what Fancy France has done to the sport. Give the emperor his new clothes and send him on his merry way.

  15. sam Says:
    January 30th, 2009 at 6:16 am

    Do you see the same point being made by your readers here. Brian France has screwed up Nascar. People want to see the real manufactures cars, no Tokyo entrants, No COT, No Chase, No Lucky Dog and most of all the person who is responsible for the mess Nascar is now in must go. Someone earlier referred to him as the village idiot Brian France.

  16. Tommy Says:
    January 31st, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Brian France’s true ambition and desire in life is to own an NFL team. Every decision he has made as CEO has reflected that desire.

    However, Brian, who never could be thought of as a “bright light on a X-mas tree,” has never understood what makes the NFL so popular. Yes, regionalism and loyalty to local teams is a big part of their success.

    Just as important is the management of the competition. In the NFL, EVERYONE has the OPPORTUNITY to be successful. In Nascar, only the token few who have the most resources and money have a chance. When it takes 4 teams and an annual budget of $100 million in order to compete, something is drastically wrong.

    Race fans want to see competition and different winners. They do not want to see the same 3 or 4 drivers winning every single weeks. They don’t want to see a race with a few haves and 20 field fillers who are trying to survive until next week.

    Nascar is crowing about their “15″ new teams. Almost all are organizations without significant backing and no chance of finding any funding. Starting at California, you will see a line of cars driving into the garage 15 laps into the race, collecting their 40th place money and showing up the next week with 3 sets of tires and 6 crewmembers.

  17. Ohio Dave Says:
    June 26th, 2009 at 11:00 am

    I have been a nascar fan since Fire Ball Roberts , I listened on a cheap radio in the garage and rooted for the fords. The scoring crawler on the tv screen used have the make of car beside the drivers name, no more. The make of car is gone along with about 60% of my interest. Now it’s all decals and the sponsor is the most important thing. The driver has to take 37 drinks of Coca Cola and try to mention their 77 sponsors. The $100 million dollar budgets are rediculous. I saw a commercial and a team owner said they have 450 people on the payroll , I know they have other business but that is to much.

    You will not see me at a race again and i don’t care if i miss one on the TV. I quit drag racing years ago when the sport sucumbed to the high rollers. I took a look at the NHRA rule book and I could not belive what I read . They have left no place for a person to race a stock car (older model) it’s now called nostalgia class. The rules for this class are quite cumbersome. The NHRA is a show just like NASCAR same winners each week. I need a new interest.