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Lessons learned in NASCAR 2009: NASCAR’s fanbase continues to erode

By admin | December 7, 2009

Now that the season ending banquets are behind us we can officially lay the 2009 NASCAR season to rest. So, what did we learn from this past year of racing?

I have complied a list of lessons learned from the 2009 season. Over the next several days I will publish this list.

Here is one of my thoughts on the list of lessons learned from 2009:

Lesson #2- Over the course of 2009 we learned that NASCAR’s ever eroding fan base is…well, ever eroding. Empty seats were evident at virtually every race on the circuit throughout the season. Even tracks such as the Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway, which at one time seemed to be guaranteed sellouts, struggled to fill seats. And despite claims of sellouts, both of those facilities had pockets of empty seats when the green flag was dropped on their events.

There were so many empty seats at the Talladega Superspeedway in October that the painted pattern on the grandstand seats was clearly evident when viewed from overhead camera angles. Talladega was at one time a tremendous fan favorite. Although the track may not have the same sellout record as Bristol or Richmond because of its enormous size, it has had far better attendance in past years than it had this season.

NASCAR officials are quick to point to the economy in explaining the vacancies on race day. However, one fact flies in the face of that argument. That fact is the ever decreasing television ratings.

Across the board broadcast ratings were down for the 2009 season, and that is compared to a particularly weak 2008. If it were true that the economy were the sole reason behind the drop off in attendance it would stand to reason that television ratings would be higher.

If people still loved the sport they would tune in to watch on television even if they could not afford to attend an event in person. It seems as though there must be a deeper issue than just the economy causing the attendance and ratings declines this sport has experienced in recent years.

NASCAR officials had better figure that out soon rather than hiding behind pitiful excuses like the economy or they will be wondering why no one is watching after the economy makes a turn around, whenever that is.
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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13 Responses to “Lessons learned in NASCAR 2009: NASCAR’s fanbase continues to erode”

  1. Ken Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 5:09 am

    What did they expect when they mandate generic cars driven by generic drivers on generic tracks? The manipulations by NA$CAR of the race with fake and unnecessary caution flags to keep the racing close does not help. The TV coverage was horrible with little racing shown as the talking heads followed a prepared script and were lost when their chosen drivers didn’t do well.

  2. cliff Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 6:02 am

    Rich, i totally agree.. i do watch at home and listen too raceview.. i went too the Charllote race in the fall.. race was boring and we left early…and trust me it was freezing there..plenty of seats available all over the track don’t know if it cause it was so cold there or PPl didnt want too watch a boring race..these COT’s(crap of today) need togo it’s like watching a IROC race…thanks Rich love your columns tell us when you open up the fantasy league next year… cliif

  3. Smiff_99 Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 8:26 am

    “……it’s like watching an IROC race.”

    WHAT!?!? At least the IROC series was ultra-competitive and incorporated a variety of tracks for a number of years….NASCAR today doesn’t even compare with the competition of the IROC series….which, of course, isn’t even around anymore :(

  4. crazykylefan18mm Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    i agree the tv coverage is absolutely ATROSCIOUS…these freegan diahreha mouths need to shut the eff up…10 people talking at once about what a driver had for lunch..or how long it took to get a hotdog….the female one is the worst…she is constantly yelling about some stupid trivial piece of blah blah blah…the other thing is the lack of in car cameras….keep them on,,,,show more speed related type shots…more engine noise..and less retired drivers trying to sound relevant….dont even get me started on those freegan imaganery caution flags…nascar under brian france is a complete failure…greedey..greedy.greedy..all @ the money….well see what that got us…remember when brian france took over,his father had to stand up and take over a press conference cause this dipship couldnt get an answer out….i go to loudon…i have not paid more than 25 for a tik in 6 years…oh yea thanks bruton smith…he gonna pull some crap with the track dates even though loudon had the least empty seats on the circuit….

  5. Cotton Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    I watched fewer races in 2009 than I have in years. I think the dullness of the racing is caused by NASCAR’s insistence on parity. I would love to see NASCAR go back to cars that were much closer to those we actually drive. I wish I could be a Ford fan again. The race cars we watch today are simply NASCAR race cars. The only tie they have to any manufacturer is money and that isn’t enough. It used to be really neat to speculate, going into Daytona, if the new Chevrolet would be competitive with the old Dodge. Or if the old Ford would still have an aerodynamic advantage over the new Oldsmobile, etc. Wish we could do that again.

  6. john Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Do you you remember what the backstretch seats looked like during the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. It looked like a nationwide race.

  7. Eddy Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I had seasons ticket to Bristol for 12 years and last year was the last race I could bear watching . When they repaved Bristol , they gutted the last reason why everybody loved to come here….the great door slamming racing. At least with the old Bristol track even the COT s were bearable to watch .
    Stockcar racing is not football or baseball , we are different fans looking for different thrills… HELLO nascar are you listening ..??

  8. Eddy Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Also , the last F1 race in Australia had more cautions and crashes than the last race at Bristol…….. something is not right here .

  9. Cotton Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Sounds like Eddy likes caution laps. Well, I don’t. I’d rather watch raicing. Professional race drivers should be able to pass cars witout wrecking them. I pretty much quit watching Bristol when everybody started driving like Dale Earnhardt. That’s not racing, it’s called demolition derby and it doesn’t take much skill.

  10. Joe Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    I don’t go to races anymore, the reason, Rude fans, over priced hotel rooms, traffic. Hell I can watch on my 67″ TV, see a better race, as long as I turn off the sound, and turn on race view, and track pass, and if the race is too boring, the kitchen and bathroom are near by. and I can watch the first few laps of racing, take a nap, wake up for the real race in the last 30 laps.
    NASCAR needs to let the teams have more freedom to work on the cars, no one is happy with the cars all being the same, hard to pass, even when your car is faster

  11. Marybeth Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Fox News Channel is saying that Nascar is hoping that Danica can turn around lackluster ratings and attendance.
    If Nascar, Brian France, are really serious about turning around ‘lackluster falling ratings and attendance’ they need to get Jr. out of HMS and back into a competitive car. 2 Busch Championships and 18 Cup wins aren’t all just flukes. He also needs a proven cc he can trust and have confidence in when going into a corner at 200mph. I have read many remarks that HMS always has one team that is not on a par with the other 3 cars. Jr. has been stuck in 25/88, and I do not see 2010 being any better that 2009 if he is still at HMS. Rich, I hope that you can use your influence to get Jr. out and into a competitive ride for next year. It is not fair to Jr. to do this to him, and it certainly isn’t fair to Nascar ratings and attendance. HMS has let a lot of drivers go. Kyle Bush’s wins did not take off until he got to Gibbs. Getting out of HMS is the best thing that ever happened to him. He could be the one test driving the R&D car for JJ. Let’s see what you can get done here, Rich. Marybeth

  12. Josie Says:
    December 9th, 2009 at 6:46 am

    To Marybeth…maybe Junior just isn’t that comfy with the COT…you mentioned his stats…with Nationwide and the old style car he did pretty good. It seems he just doesn’t get the COT. I am not a fan of the COT…but when you have to race what you “brung”…that being the COT…it seems Junior had better spend the off season getting his butt to “feel” the car…or just call it quits and get himself a job on one of the TV gigs…or become a full time owner….

  13. Hambone Says:
    December 9th, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Once again… How to fix NA$CAR:
    1. Hang Brian France from the tallest tree in Rockingham.
    2. Sh*tcan the stupid & insulting chase.
    3. Put THE Southern 500 & Rockingham back to thier rightful places on the schedule.
    4. Sh*tcan toyota. They make a fine car/truck but have no place in NASCAR.
    5. Hang Brian France from the tallest tree in Rockingham.

    Until these things happen, NA$CAR can kiss my “old fan” a$$.
    These are not negotiable.