By admin | May 28, 2009
By Richard Allen
It has finally happened. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has a new crew chief.
So, will there be a revitalization of the ‘Junior Nation’?
It is not exactly a well kept secret that NASCAR attendance and television ratings have been on the decline for a while now. It could be that the decline relates directly to the less than stellar performance of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. over the last 3-4 seasons.
After all, Junior is the sport’s most recognized media personality. And, it can be difficult to continually market your most known commodity when that commodity is putting forth below average results.
Junior easily has the most fans in the grandstands at just about every race. However, even the most die-hard of the so called ‘Junior Nation’ had to have lost a little faith during the hard times of the most recent seasons.
I had a long time race fan, who is also a Junior fan, tell me a while back that he was not going to anymore races or buying anymore souvenirs until he saw better performance. According to this fan, it was just too frustrating going to all the effort required to make it to a race knowing that his favorite driver would not run well.
Particularly among casual fans, this could be a ‘tune in to see what happens’ moment.
An example of this possible effect comes from the world of golf. Look at what happened to golf attendance and television ratings last year when Tiger Woods left the tour to have knee surgery. Then, look at what happened to attendance and ratings when he came back this year.
Granted, Earnhardt has not been away. But based on his recent performance, he might as well have been.
No doubt, there will be at least a few, if not many, who will tune into the next few races to see if the change from Tony Eury, Jr. to Lance McGrew will make a difference in Junior’s #88 team. If there is indeed an improvement, those ‘fans’ might hang around throughout the rest of the season. If not, any bump in the number of seats filled and televisions tuned in will be short lived.
Ultimately, there is a chance that the ‘Junior Nation’ may be back at full strength, at least for a little while.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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