The last couple of years if you read any commentary about NASCAR you would read about declining attendance at the track and ratings on TV. It is sad to see the pictures of massive grand stands with very few fans. It’s also sad to see the TV ratings lower than the year before. It is easy to say there is something wrong with NASCAR and fans are leaving the sport. But are they? Can we know if they are?
NASCAR is a product of their own success; there are so many ways to keep in touch with the sport that going to the track is less important than it was years ago. NASCAR has apps, the networks have apps, we can keep in touch with the action no matter where we are. NASCAR embraced Twitter and Facebook; there are updates on the race there. Even the fans are engaged on Facebook and Twitter. If you wanted to know what was going on at a race and check in on it, you can and no one would know about it. It doesn’t show up in the ratings and you are not seen at the track. It literally looks like no one cares.
How about the racing, isn’t that what it is about. Well the racing is better than ever. Each and every week we have not one but about 15 drivers who can win a race. Sure there are some that seem to have a better shot than others but the days of 5 or fewer cars on the lead lap are over. Oh, the good old days where maybe five drivers had a shot and were on the lead lap but usually less. It’s hard to see people tweet and talk about the good old days.
Sure the “at the track” attendance is lacking. Much is said about the Xfinity and Truck race attendance being light but back in 2001 to 2005 even those series did not have great attendance unless they were at a stand-alone short track. Those series at a 70-90 thousand seat track never filled the seats. It was mind boggling going to one of those races, passing fans in the campground that were not. Now those tracks look even worse when shown on TV.
I stopped going to tracks as media because I felt I was losing touch with the sport. I don’t want to pick on any track but last year at Chicagoland Speedway I went for the first time ever as a fan for the whole race weekend. I bought the whole package and received a Fan Zone Pit Pass. On the first day, the ARCA race, I tried to go to the infield for the prerace. The security guard told me that I could not but he let me anyway but he said you won’t be able to do that tomorrow. I did and I was the only “Fan” there other than friends and family of ARCA drivers. If you want people to think that there is a party that they need to be a part of, shouldn’t there be people on TV at the party. Why so exclusive?
On Friday for the Truck race and Saturday for the Xfinity race I could not only go to the prerace in the infield I couldn’t go on pit road and look at the trucks and cars? Again, If this should be a party you should be a part of shouldn’t we have people at the Party? TV is great at showing parties. They love that but if there is no one there then they have to fish a story. It won’t be about the party. In support of Chicagoland Speedway, they did give me access to the infield and pit road before the Cup race. It was the party I’m talking about.
This year I went to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Just like Chicagoland I was given pit passes. This time for the Xfinity race it was only good during the race. No prerace, no seeing the cars lined up before the race. For the Cup race, just like Chicagoland, it was what was expected. As I said above, why the limit, they should have a party and make it available for TV so that it appears that it is the place to be.
So what is wrong with NASCAR? Nothing is! NASCAR, the tracks and TV need to make it something you need to attend, something you need to watch. It has to be a party you have to be at.
Feature Photo Credit: 309149 Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.