A Word About NASCAR: Attendance Is Dropping

Attendance is down at NASCAR events.

Cruising through the forums we happened to see a little passage on Jayski’s Silly Season website concerning the drop in attendance that NASCAR has experienced the last couple of years.  Reading through the article we came to a different conclusion than the author.  For example, the article’s focus was on the economy for the drop in attendance numbers.  We find that hard to believe when just over a year ago, Bristol Motor Speedway was the hottest ticket in town.  The speedway’s record streak of 55 sellouts began back in August 1982.  There was a waiting list a couple of years long to buy tickets for a NASCAR Race at Bristol.  That streak ended this year at the Food City 500 where NASCAR officials estimated the attendance at 138,000, well short of the facility’s 160,000 capacity.  Other tracks have seen similar drops in ticket sales.

Sure, the economy played some part in that but we think that there are other issues that played a larger role in the decline of ticket sales.  Namely, the product has become boring.  Jimmie Johnson’s fourth consecutive Championship in a row while battling his Hendrick Motorsport team mates simply isn’t any fun to watch.  The whole “Chase” points system has eliminated 31 other contenders for the title and caused the last 10 races to be conducted differently than the other races on the schedule.  Driver’s not in the chase are almost forbidden to breathe on the drivers that are in the chase during those last 10 races.  They might as well not even be on the track during the chase because they are simply running laps so that someone else can look good winning a championship with a full field of cars.

Jimmie Johnson. Vanilla.

Let’s take a look at the driver’s themselves.  Jimmie Johnson may be talented, but he is as vanilla as it gets.  There is absolutely nothing spicy about the guy.  Having this key driver wearing a white hat all the time might work if there was a real bad guy that could actually compete with him.  The good vs. evil deal.  But none of the really “love em or hate em” drivers have even been close enough to make fans pull for Jimmie to win.

It doesn’t help that Team Hendrick and the #48 team seem to get every break that happens on the track either.  Things start to look like NASCAR is playing favorites.  The lucky breaks happen so often that Kevin Harvick claimed “they have a lucky horseshoe up their ass”.   Honestly, it sure seems that way, and it is boring.

We think that NASCAR is hurting itself by rolling out media machines that generate a lot of press but produce little on the track.  Case in point: Danica Patrick.  Wake us up when she is actually in the race, or at least on the lead lap.  And please, quit pushing Juan Pablo Montoya down our throats.  We understand the whole diversity deal, but the reporting has been so lopsided that it seemed forced on us.

You want to know why attendance is down.  Here it is:

  • The top drivers have no character.  There is image problems with the entire top ten.
  • Reporting during the racing stinks.  Sorry DW but we are tired of you forcing JPM and Danica Patrick on us.  We understand there’s not a lot you can do with Jimmie Johnson to make him interesting but give us a break on throwing the media darlings at us every ten minutes.
  • The whole race for the chase deal effectively eliminates the bottom 31 drivers for the last ten races.  Sorry, we just call it like we see it.  The point system stinks and has ruined championships.
  • Maybe we could actually have some reporters that aren’t afraid to call it like they see it.  We’re tired of the reporters that have too much skin in this game.  From Rusty Wallace and DW to Jeff Hammond and Brad Daugherty, these guys all have monetary ties to race teams in NASCAR.  Do you really think that makes for impartial reporting?
  • And yes, the economy.  With the above listed reasons making NASCAR racing a snooze-fest, do you really think we’re going to spend our hard earned dollars getting bored out of our minds?  Not likely!

Dirt track racing seems to continue to grow and I think we can be proud of that.  We’ve yet to go to a dirt track race and fall asleep on the couch while the race is running.  That’s usually what happens during a NASCAR race in our living rooms on the weekend.

To be fair to all involved, we are reposting the message from Jayski’s website here for readers to come to their own conclusion.

Posted on jayski.com:

Race attendance still dropping: NASCAR pledged the 2010 season would be aimed at placating its hard-core supporters with rough-and-tumble racing, but the recession still seems to be slamming the wallets of its middle-class fan base. According to estimates from official box scores, attendance decreased in nine of the first 10 races, with double-digit drops at Bristol Motor Speedway (14%), Phoenix International Raceway (13%) and Talladega Superspeedway (13%). International Speedway Corp., which owns Phoenix, Talladega and 10 more tracks that host Sprint Cup races, said during a first-quarter conference call last month that crowds at its speedways were at 81% of capacity. “The year is unfolding as predicted,” said Roger Van Der Snick, ISC’s chief operating officer. “We knew admissions would be down. We’re on track with expectations. The biggest impediment is the economy.” To spice up its competition, NASCAR tried to encourage more action by loosening the rules. But the short tracks most renowned for the fender-banging embraced by longtime fans also have suffered erosion in crowds that have been a bellwether of NASCAR popularity. Van Der Snick said blogs and Internet forums indicated fans still were warming up to NASCAR’s changes. “It’s going to take time to win some back,” he said. “If they were disillusioned with the racing, those things don’t change overnight. Just like the economy, there’s going to be a lag factor. I’m not too alarmed.”(USA Today), for track seating and race attendance information see my Race Track Attendance page.(5-6-2010)

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About the author

Jeff Huneycutt

Jeff Huneycutt has been in the automotive industry long enough to collect more project cars than he can afford to keep running. When not chasing electrical gremlins in his '78 Camaro, he can usually be found planning unrealistic engine builds.
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