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Sorry NASCAR, it isn’t just the economy

By admin | August 5, 2009

By Richard Allen

Have you noticed all those empty seats and statistics showing lowered television ratings in NASCAR lately? If you have followed the sport at all during the 2009 season then you almost certainly have.

Well, NASCAR has an answer as to why those things are happening. Simply, it is the economy causing the reductions in the grandstands and television screens. However, there is something wrong with that explanation.

If the economy were the only reason for lowered attendance at the track then television ratings, at least in theory, should rise if the sport were as popular as it had been in the past. Even if fans were unable to afford tickets and a trip to the track, they would still watch on television if they enjoyed the product being offered.

Even with a lagging economy, if the sport were entertaining enough, people would find a way to make it work. They would skimp somewhere else and make the sacrifices to attend something they love. However, they are not inspired to do so. That is why the attendance is falling off. The sport is not as inspiring as it once was.

To further counter the “it’s the economy” argument, consider this. In recent weeks I have been to numerous dirt track races held at the tracks here in east Tennessee. At 411 Motor Speedway, Volunteer Speedway, Tazewell Speedway and The Mountain Raceway the crowds have been large and enthusiastic.

“I believe our crowds have been better this year,” said 411 Motor Speedway promoter Chris Corum. “I’m not so sure the economy hasn’t actually helped us.”

Granted, tickets prices are not as steep for dirt racing as they are for a Sprint Cup race. However, the folks who attend dirt races are the most likely to be affected by an economic downturn. Many fans and competitors alike in that form of racing are involved in the housing trade as well as industrial jobs. Those sources of employment are the hardest hit when the economy goes sour.

No matter the cost of the tickets, whether it is $10 at 411 or $100 at Bristol, if a person does not have it, they do not have it. However, if the show they want to see is good enough they will be inspired to find a way. It is not just the economy, NASCAR is not inspiring them to find a way.

“The fans that follow dirt racing are hard core fans,” Corum added. “They know the sport inside and out. They know what body, chassis and engine every one of the drivers are using”

NASCAR had those type of fans several years ago. The hard core fans who centered their lives around that form of racing. However, NASCAR brass decided over the last decade or so to abandon long time markets such as the Carolinas and Tennessee to chase after new fans in California and other big city markets.

Those new fans turned out to be fickle, or at best casual. When the times got tough, they dropped NASCAR. Now, NASCAR finds itself needing those core fans and they are no longer there.

Corum says those fans have found a new home. “People who may not be able to afford going to a Cup race anymore might choose to come to their local short track instead,” he declared.

Sorry, NASCAR. The bad economy excuse does not fully explain your dilemma. You have lost your core fans and you can no longer inspire new ones. Changes better be made soon because the economy will eventually turn around. Then, there will be no excuses aside from the product on the track for having less than full grandstands and blank television screens.

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

Topics: Articles |

18 Responses to “Sorry NASCAR, it isn’t just the economy”

  1. Rick Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 5:01 am

    This is a ridiculous argument as viewership is down in every sport and will likely be down in even the NFL which has no COT so should they change rules in every sport. The truth is there is a change in the whole amount of options for entertainment accross the board and people are finding other things to do than spend the money to attend all the races so local short tracks and businesses will probably do a very good business as people stay closer to home. If nascar had stayed in areas where only their core fans were they wouldn’t have achieved the growth they had and many of the half full venues of today still contains 25 to 40% more people than the venues they raced at in the good old days. I have been a nascar fan for a long time and the nearest track to me is a solid 16 to 20 hour drive away and I do what I can to find out everything about the races. It seems the hardcore fans that had nascar racing right on their doorstep should have not whined about the bad weather and just shown up at Rockingham, Wilkesboro and some of the other tracks and not been so spoiled thinking it would always be there whenever you wanted it. My advice is to take the rose colored glasses off and enjoy the closest most competitive racing nascar has ever had and quit complaining.

  2. Scott Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Rick’s right. These so-called “core” fans wouldn’t show up at the Rock when they had it, but once they lost the race, the started whining.

  3. George Michaels Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Ol’ Rick bin n da’ funnee tabacka barn 2 long.

  4. Tex Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Your article could not be more correct and because the truth hurts sometimes, those who do not wish to accept it are often wary.

    NASCAR is in serious trouble and faces a continuously downward spiral.

    When firesuits begin to look like “clown suits”, and those who wear them act the part, one knows the sport really has problems.

  5. Lou Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Nascar lost me with COT and their wacky rule enforcement. I am a retired racer. Ran mods, sprints, stockers about 20 years. Racing at the cup level has become a glorified IROC series. Nascar has boxed the racers into a boring big box solution.

    The idiots who run their little club should be taken out to the wood shed and reeducated. Let the racers race. Let the engineers modifiy. Stop penalizing racers for acting like racers.

    How about the new penalty for attempting to drive aggressive they threw at Robbie Gordon. Have they lost their minds. Bumping is now illegal if you you broadcast your anger regardless of the result. Rubbing is racing and payback belongs in the game.

    The racing would be better presented if they made the drivers dress in a tutu and skip around the track waving a rainbow after winning the race. I would rather set myself on fire than watch these Nascar generated mind numbing billboard parades of sponsor spouting drivers playing nice to the never ending beat of advertisements.

    They don’t pit for gas and tires. It is Sunoco and Goodyears. Even the track is a sponsor plug. How have the overlooked the chance to find sponsorship for the green, yellow, white, black and checker flags?

    The ultimate micro managed races of all take place at the restrictor plate tracks. Nothing more than glorified train racing sans the hitch. Nascar is a joke.

  6. John Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Rick- According to, though attendance at the stadiums have dropped slightly the TV ratings remain the same or slightly higher than 2008. To say other sports have experienced the same significant drop in TV ratings as NASCAR has is inaccurate. The fact of the matter is, the races are simply too long and boring.

  7. Bob Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 11:32 am

    You hit it on the head, people who want to watch racing don’t bother with the Cup series, not much racing in that series anymore.

  8. bonnie bartz Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    When the chase was instituted,the media went to hell in a hurry .At least 50% of the fan favorites were invisible.If your guy wasn’t in or close to the cutoff,he was forgotten. All 43 of these drivers have a loyal fan base,and the back40% of those are ignored. OF course we quit watching!

  9. JR Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Very good article. I agree with you. NASCAR marketed itself to new fans in an effort to achieve giant growth spurts which translates into their being able to charge more for ads and for being the “official this” and the “official that” in addition to charging more for TV rights, more for tickets, more for hot dogs, etc. They cared not about what “dumbing down” the product meant to the hard core fan. All was fine with them until they lost most of their core fans. They had built their kingdom on a pile of sand that erodes away with the slightest breeze. When the situation forces them to return to the old ways, the real fans will be back. As long as there are restrictor plates, COT’s, Lucky Dogs, pit road speeding, cautions to bunch the field, penalties for every aggressive move and political correctness required from all involved, they will keep most of us away.

  10. D Jones Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I think the TV ratings are down for two reasons.

    The start times of the races and the in the horrible coverage of the race.

    If the races started every Sunday at a specific time (1PM ET has been mentioned) fans could plan their day accordingly.

    If the cameras would show the race how one would see it in person, that would help. Instead, we get the view from the car. Why watch when you can’t get the perspective of being there.

  11. Charles Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 5:17 pm


    One of the things that fans who were going to Nascar races maybe now the short tracks is how good the races are that day or night!

    You dont have any points usually at stake to worry about! I have been to a lot of them, the action is for that race and not about down the road like the Chase is doing!

    Nascar would be wise to use some of the logic of a Saturday short track event and maybe use it on their events!

    As to some of the bloggers saying the core fans were not showing up at Rockingham, on there last race they had apox 65,000 fans,and usually had that many at most of their events< that is more than ever has showed up at Somona and probably at the Glen ! By them still going to these ‘forced on us” road races and not going to tracks like Rockingham, North Wilkesboro etc you can tell Nascar is getting father away from its roots!

  12. yankeegranny Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Commercials, commercials, commercials, horrible broadcasting, starting times that are all over the map, the”chosen ones,” to whom the rules do not apply,phantom speeding tickets and debris, and coverage that only shows the front of the field. i hate cookie cutter tracks and road races.

    I like the lucky dog(should be given once a race) and, the chase,
    Personally, I watch Jr on RaceView. and keep the reg TV on muted so I can see why there are cautions. If Jr is out of the race,I turn it all off and go out and watch the grass grow.

  13. Robert Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Having been a fan,and follower since the early 60’s,NASCAR has finally chased me away.If I,the customer,wanted to watch IROC racing,I would have supported that series.The manipulation of the outcome of these fiascos is so blatant.When the “Golden Boy” is not preforming up to par,throw a few debris cautions,give him back another lap,or two.When Tony Stewart compared NASCAR to WWF,he was more right than wrong.NASCAR is nothing more than the circus coming to town,complete with Clowns!

  14. midasmicah Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Hey Rick. Come out of your nas$car induced coma and smell the roses. nas$car has squeezed the very life out of it’s racing and they’re paying the price for it. What would you rather watch? 400 miles of racing at Chicagoland speedway or your local third of a miles track where you’re guaranteed some excitement. I have been an avid nas$car fan for 20 + years and I am trying to find reasons to keep watching sad excuse for racing. Some people call it “the good old days”. I call it the new days of crappy racing.

  15. Joe in Pittsburgh Says:
    August 7th, 2009 at 8:59 am

    I have quit watching Nascar myself and wont return until they bring back real racing and not these poor excuse of a parade events.

  16. buster Says:
    August 8th, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    well the guy who is leading before the chase gets nothing,but points,not a share of the title. the first 26 races mean nothing but only too the top twelve. the cot has been a piece of effing nothing,to many penalties, the race is boring,the big tracks is pitiful.

  17. ralph Says:
    July 12th, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    i use to have tickets to both dover races, charlotte an daytona from back in the 70s ,i stopped renewing them when they stopped having real racing ,now we go to real racing every weekend at our local dirt tracks you can speed there you can bump there you can have a few words there with out a fine ,and most of all no damm restrictor plates

  18. ralph Says:
    July 12th, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    has become very boring,, don,t even watch it anymore