NASCAR’s Great Divide

It feels like NASCAR is stuck in a rut lately. Everyone is waiting for something to happen or someone to break out. Whatever that something is, people hope it will inject freshness and excitement and energy back into the sport.

But it occurred to me recently I’m not even sure what the something is. What development is going to come along and suddenly change the course of today’s NASCAR?

A string of epic races? A dramatic rivalry? The sale of NASCAR? I’m honestly not sure.

So maybe it’s not NASCAR that’s in a rut. Maybe it’s me.

Think about it: The races have been pretty good lately (except for Kentucky), even though the results are predictable. Aside from the trio of dominant drivers, it doesn’t feel that different from a typical NASCAR season.

Has NASCAR changed in the last few years? Not really, aside from the big-name drivers. And yet there’s something missing that’s not allowing me to enjoy each week as much as I’d expect.

I’ve asked myself recently what that could be. I don’t want to feel this way; it’s troubling, frustrating and discouraging to do so.

If I’m being honest, a large part of it stems from what’s been happening to NASCAR over the past few years, and for two reasons.

First, in case you somehow haven’t been paying attention, NASCAR is struggling these days. TV ratings have plummeted, tracks can’t tear out seats quickly enough and sponsors are leaving. It’s painful to watch something you love go through a decline like this.

But second — and this is where it gets particularly disheartening for me — is there’s a growing divide within the sport about even acknowledging the hard times are occurring.

One of the best things about NASCAR has always been the sense of community and the tight-knit family feel. These days, though, there are two distinct sides developing.

In one camp are the people who are extremely concerned about the future. These people, who view themselves as realists, believe NASCAR is headed in the wrong direction and something must be done.

In the other camp are people who believe that while NASCAR has challenges, they aren’t that different than any other sport right now and believe public hand-wringing over its health only does harm.

Increasingly, the two sides are having a hard time seeing eye to eye — even though they both deeply care about NASCAR. There’s extreme sensitivity over every public comment, which turns into a “with us or against us” environment.

This has manifested itself in several ways lately:

— Last week, Forbes wrote a story that declared NASCAR is “certainly not dead and far from dying,” but is merely in transition. This story was seized upon by the people who believe that’s the case — or want to believe it — and cited as proof things aren’t that bad.

— At Pocono, NASCAR’s chief operating officer Steve Phelps lamented the industry “tends to focus on the negative” and added, “I’m not really sure why.” Phelps’ comments were criticized as out of touch by those who felt the opposite way.

— After the Pocono TV ratings came out, some on Twitter trumpeted NASCAR was the No. 1 sporting event of the weekend; others lamented another race that flirted with all-time low ratings. And this was for the same event.

You’ve probably figured out I’m firmly in the “greatly alarmed about NASCAR” camp and thus frustrated and puzzled as to why others would not feel that way.

But those on the other side — including some of my very good friends — are equally as frustrated. They’re understandably weary of hearing bad news every week and just want to enjoy their racing in peace.

I get that and appreciate where they’re coming from. But to me, NASCAR is like a patient who went into the hospital with a simple fever but whose condition has deteriorated over time.

More and more symptoms keep popping up. Is it a terminal illness? Not yet. But if doctors don’t prescribe the right treatment — or any treatment at all — then yes, the patient will eventually die.

I promise you some people in the NASCAR industry will read that line and be angry about it, but it’s true. Just as in medicine, ignoring the reality doesn’t help anything. We wish it could be different, but it’s not.

Some within NASCAR prefer to focus on the positives: The patient is still breathing. A lot of patients in this hospital are also sick. Our patient isn’t as ill as some others.

Meanwhile, I want to jump up and down and scream: DO SOMETHING!

That’s part of why I’m feeling down these days. There are so many potential changes NASCAR could make to help slow or reverse the downward trend — all are well-known to fans at this point — but talking about them over and over feels a bit hopeless.

Something needs to change, because it’s not too late to save NASCAR. There’s still hope.

But you can’t start making major changes until acknowledging there’s a problem. And unfortunately, the NASCAR industry is still not at the point where everyone agrees there’s anything seriously wrong in the first place.

71 Replies to “NASCAR’s Great Divide”

  1. I have 5 grandsons, all under 18 and I cannot get them interested in watching any race, except maybe a road course. The jargon intimidates these newbies.

    They ask me stuff like “Grandpa…

    what’s a wave-around mean?

    what’s it mean to be a lucky dog?

    why is pit road closed, I don’t see any accidents on it?

    why do laps keep counting down between segments?

    why are there no brake lights on the cars?

    why do the cars look so different from what I see on the road?

    why can’t they use rain tires, wipers in more races?

    1. Do you have any sort of ‘Grass roots’ racing near you? Asphalt or dirt? I would highly recommend bringing them in person to some form of racing so they can develop a proper appreciation for the speed of the cars, etc
      . I don’t believe the TV alone will do the justice necclessary…and this is coming from a 22-year old who actually gained an appreciation of NASCAR by simply watching on TV and eventually turning on to iRacing (which has done wonders for me in terms of my Motorsports fandom). I don’t think the NASCAR product is as strong as it once was to where it can generate interest from the television alone. Especially the new “instant-gratification” generation that NASCAR thinks they need to create gimmicks around to spark interest. Sorry for the winded paragraph.

      1. Do you have any sort of ‘Grass roots’ racing near you? Asphalt or dirt? I would highly recommend bringing them in person to some form of racing so they can develop a proper appreciation for the speed of the cars, etc
        . I don’t believe the TV alone will do the justice necclessary…and this is coming from a 22-year old who actually gained an appreciation of NASCAR by simply watching on TV and eventually turning on to iRacing (which has done wonders for me in terms of my Motorsports fandom). I don’t think the NASCAR product is as strong as it once was to where it can generate interest from the television alone. Especially the new “instant-gratification” generation that NASCAR thinks they need to create gimmicks around to spark interest. Sorry for the winded paragraph.

        *Edit 1: This was in reply to @Gary

      1. I think NASCAR has a long way to go with it’s streaming of events and its self advertising. NASCAR needs to stop seeing itself as a sanctioning body and as a promoter.
        Let the tracks continue to promote the events in a way to sell tickets in the current format; but NASCAR should be promoting itself to grow viewership instead of leaving it to TV.

        There should be a NASCAR.tv where you can watch LIVE all K&N Pro Series events, in the same format that you can watch LIVE World of Outlaws, Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, Lucas Oil Off-Road, Lucas, Lucas, Lucas (Lucas Oil sponsors and promotes a lot of series and has it’s own production company and LucasOilRacing.Tv that puts some events on the web Live.)

        Probably not all, but a lot to most of the Modified races should be shown LIVE on NASCAR.tv as well as LIVE racing from some of the NASCAR sanctioned home tracks. (Like fanschoice.tv does now, but unfortuantely there quality and service is quite low outside of Speedweeks at New Symrna in my experience.)

        Then on raceday the NASCAR Drive (that very few people know about which is awesome!) can be put on the streaming site but allow the user to select in car audio, TV broadcast, or Radio Broadcast to pipe in over the pictures. Give the fans the same type of viewing choices that NASCAR Drive offers with how many cameras to view at once, and cameras such as the on-boards, battle, and extra camera that varies track to track Keep the format to all side by side commercials as it is today. . But also allow users to select the TV video feed. If you have cable, you can use NASCAR Drive coverage (just like today) to enhance your raceday experience by having the “full” commercial free coverage as a direct live stream (just like today) on one screen and have the cable coverage on another. If you do not have cable you can stream the TV feed and get exactly what is shown on the cable networks, with full commercials, but also replays and graphics. Count the views on this stream as NBC or FOX viewership; your reports just need to say viewers of X network via NASCAR.tv streaming.

        NASCAR can utilize the weekly programming on FS1 and NBSN initially to advertise NASCAR.tv; and then once your subscriptions go up you use NASCAR.tv to advertise for the weekly shows, the events themselves, and to watch the main networks (or use the TV feed).

        Having your own channel, like football, mlb, nba, nhl all have allows you to do a lot of unique things and bring unique content and bring more Live racing to the fan than ever before. And now you don’t have to sell it to the cable companies, you just need your own server.

        There is a lot to be worked out, and because of that it may have to wait till 2025; but there is so much opportunity to put racing in everyone’s homes. Streaming PPV of dirt and asphalt short track racing is a big business now (when looking at things to scale.) NASCAR needs to respectfully and thoughtfully get into that business in some way of getting there events out there from bottom to top.

        1. I went on a rant about how they need to do more streaming, but NASCAR’s issues are substantial.

          Everyone yells “more short tracks” including me; but NASCAR races short tracks practically every week, but we don’t see it. So go back to my streaming and show these event Live.

          But also we gutted the ladder systems of NASCAR in 2004 in the name of profits. When the Winston money left that benefited the lower series in addition to the top series; anything that was not going to be profitable for the Brian France NASCAR was reformulated or cut.
          Now 14-15 years later we have when from 14 or 15 divisions of NASCAR to 6. Cup, Xfinity, Truck, K&N Pro, Modifieds, Hometracks (which is just NASCAR in name and money paid).
          We have taken strong series like Busch North and turned it into a weak Series of K&N Pro Series East, with fields in the teens and a bunch of kids, and program drivers. There are no more Kelly Moore’s, Matt Kobyluck’s, Martin Truex, Sr., Butch Gilliland’s, Scott Gaylord’s, Jim Inglebright’s, and old men of the series that can supplement their living in the series and make the young drivers moving up the series actually have to prove themselves against these series staples. K&N is like a high school baseketball or football game; and the interest in it is not much higher than that. Live coverage would help, but the series needs to be re-imagined and some how retrospected so that some really darn good late model drivers in there 30’s can buy a car and race with the teenagers and make some money and get some exposure and get made a local hero of when the series comes to town or when he’s back in his late model.

          NASCAR needs to be more active in there hometrack partners in advertising them during Cup weekends that are anywhere adjacent to them. And of course occasional Live streaming. NASCAR could help celebrate all drivers who are darn good at this level instead of just pressing 14-16 year old kids.
          Racing has alway’s been a man’s man sport; doesn’t mean that women aren’t welcome if they are passionate and willing to get gritty. But what it mean’s is the fan base is having a hard time latching onto high school aged kids as leaders of the sport from a participant standpoint. Unlike stick and ball where college students are praised like professional athletes. The bases are just polar different in this aspect on the average. And it’s because when you go to the roots, the roots is not tied to schools and kids; but short track with real men, with real passion, and some very talented kids occasionally. (and some not very talented kids more frequently that need much more seat time.)
          I watched a Sprint Car driver race for 3 or 4 years at my home track. The kid wasn’t any good. But he was a kid, and came from money. Everyone knew he was going to NASCAR and he did after never having accomplished anything in a Sprint Car or Midget. He ran a year and a half in Xfinity and was touted because he was young, but daddy couldn’t keep buying rides and everyone saw what I saw at the dirt tracks, he wasn’t any good. And now he races with the All*Star Circuit of Champions. He’s actually getting better as he ages and gets experience and has won some lower sanctioned shows. But he should have never been in NASCAR based on his talent.
          ^^That is a huge problem with NASCAR. People do not believe they are actually seeing the best talent in the top series anymore, and with every NASCAR Next class, we believe it less and less. I would absolutely do away with NASCAR Next. Real fans aren’t buying it.
          I would have absolutely worked with Bubba to find sponsors and get him in a Cup ride like they did. But NASCAR should generally not be picking winners and losers, which is what NASCAR Next does. But what they really should do is help find sponsorship for there team owner partners so that the teams have sponsor dollars before having a driver and now the team and sponsor together can hire the best driving talent that will also best represent the brand. That is how you would get fans to embrace things again in a big way, is if hiring on talent returned. You’ll never get past daddy has a billion dollars and son wants to race so they buy rides, but if you get independent sponsors that just want good exposure tied to teams that can hire talent. Fans would rejoice.

          The challenge is you can no longer place one sponsor or event 2 sponsors with a team; you need 5 or 6 per team to run a season for most teams. There’s no easy fix but we have to get the asking price of sponsorship down, so that more sponsors can afford it (justify it) and others can buy a bunch more races.

          The top teams get all the TV time and results, so all the sponsors are with the top 3 or 4 organizations and the other 10 are working with less and less and the field is becoming separated, and smaller. The grand charter system that was supposed to save the owners is still bankrupting people and now buyers for charters are slim and not near the value as was promised.

          The lack of parity in all levels of NASCAR, including now ARCA, and the shrinking fields is the most concerning. You can’t have good races on these big tracks with 20-30 car fields with about 15-20 good ones only. You need lapped traffic to have good racing, and we don’t have enough lapped cars that are fast enough to fight for their position and make a difference in these races.
          *If you disagree with this, look at any Bristol race it gets crazy in lapped traffic because they can’t get out of the way, look at Chicago, and look at any regional dirt or asphalt short track. Racing doesn’t start until you get to lapped traffic.*

          There are so many, so many things that are wrong. There are things that are right. (I’m afraid we are about to breaks those things). But it’s hard to enjoy it to the fullest when you are worried about the very important things that are broken and the future. But the racing I say is still the best it’s been since the late 90’s- early 2000’s

          1. Damn. I haven’t really been able to put together why I’ve lost interest personally, but I think you got it.

            Lately I’ve been going back and watching highlights of races 2004 and older and even when the races were sort of “follow the leader” there was still something fun about watching that. It also seemed like everyone involved; announcers, drivers, crews, everyone was just having way more fun. They seemed relaxed. Rain delays were even fun back then because drivers just screwed around and messed with whoever was interviewing them like they were old buddies. It just doesn’t feel that way anymore. Everything has gotten too serious. The chase/playoffs has made every week a “make or break” week. I think there’s too much pressure because now winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. You would think that would lead to better racing, but I think it just leads to way more over aggressive racing and guys wrecking each other constantly. I don’t find that exciting personally. I want to see two drivers duel it out all the way to the line cleanly. Not saying they can’t make some incidental contact, but some of the battles today are straight brutal. The best example I can always come to is the duel Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson had at atlanta in 2012? I can’t remember the year. They were driving hard, sideways in every corner, but they never tried wrecking each other. It was a good hard battle where both cars came home in one piece.

          2. I pretty much agree with what you said. But consider in addition how you became jnterested in NASCAR, NHRA. Etc. You had a car you could work on without a computer and so did your friends. You had the Detroit rivalries that showed up every day on the streets and parking lots, drive-ins, etc. it was a fun and reasonably inexpensive hobby. Not anymore. And show me one Camry owner who bought their car because of NASCAR results. After 50 years I’ve lost interest. How in the world will they ever interest new people. I just don’t see it happening. I have one idea but it won’t work on every track every weekend.

          3. That’s not how I became interested directly; but I guess by extension. My dad was a diesel mechanic and worked on cars for a living. I however had no interest in working on cars. But dad was into racing and I got into it from that and much more so than he ever did.
            The love for racing has to be fostered from generation to generation. Now they may have no interest in racing, like how I had no interest in taking cars apart. But you have to nurture any interest and take kids to the track above all if they show any interest in the sport.
            You will never appreciate racing until you have spent a day or night at the track hearing, seeing, and feeling the cars.

            How people my age and a little younger interact and deal with automobiles is totally different and it’s fair to say there is not a passion that was seen before. But that doesn’t mean the generation is unreachable, you just have to connect closer to there level; through engineering, technology, computers, and iRacing platform. Racing games are still popular, but usually a fantasy type experience. What can help as others mentioned is taking iracing, which is starting to happen, but bringing it down to a lower level of consoles, and pcs without the stick that it has to be expensive.
            You start to cultivate interest and you need to be able to come in via ads that just say watch the real thing Friday night for free at NASCAR.tv

            And on Friday night’s there shpuld always be a Live free NASCAR event during the summer months that is streaming be it Trucks, K&N, or Hometracks. Friday Nigh NASCAR.

            Make it easy and put it where they live.

        2. Your comments need to be posted in a large NASCAR audience. my twitter account will not handle the amount of good ideas you have posted. @mitchellejones

        3. They already tried that. Failed miserably. Plus for some, NASCAR is ppv while not getting nbcsports. If Nascar ever goes full PPV, then put the nail in the coffin.

          1. Respectfully I feel like you might be out of touch with what is out there and is being successful.
            You are also not distinguishing differences from what DirecTv Hotpass was. And maybe that’s my fault.
            First NASCAR Drive is out there now and on top 3 series racedays have that same coverage with just a couple options for audio added. This content is free today and should be free then. Just put it in a unified location for live streaming.
            Continue to have your TV partners like FOX & NBC but allow their full coverage to be streamed on the unified location that I propose to be NASCAR.tv. But yes, to access a full produced version of the race you would have to pay for some type of premium subscription. And fans should be given options, rates by year, by month, or by race.
            I believe the lower series should have a mix of premium subscription required passes to watch the event while also having some races presented free to all.
            I would suggest every Friday night from late April to early Oct to have atleast 1 live NASCAR event available to view for free to all. Call it Friday Night NASCAR.

            This gives folks without cable options to see every race Live every time. While not forcing anyone to take on further subscriptions if the have cable and networks already.

            While also giving you the chance to get more content in more homes without the limitations of cable networks.

            Lots of options with a streaming service, and lots of folks are making it work and it’s growing in motorsports. This is not what was tried with Pocono in the 80’s and with DirecTv. There may be some commonalities but this also isn’t the 80’s or even 2008.

    2. These could all be solved by the commentators remembering that some viewers are new, and don’t understand everything. In the UK, Martin Brundle does exactly that on the Formula 1 coverage, and he also states that whilst seasoned viewers might already know this, new viewers may not, and that’s why he explains those details. It’s a simple thing, but it makes it way more accessible for new viewers.

      1. Maybe the best in all of sports broadcasting, except Doc Emerick.
        He was a great racer, and now a great , knowledgeable, humorous, articulate, racing commentator.

        1. Maybe the best in all of sports broadcasting, except Doc Emerick.
          He was a great racer, and now a great , knowledgeable, humorous, articulate, racing commentator. Followed NASCAR for 55 yrs, faithfully and attended over 100 races. No more, I am all in for F1 and Indy cars.

    3. Asking questions is great because it shows they’re curious and interested. The questions you wrote come across as an old timer who wants NASCAR to be what it was in the 70s and 80s.

      why do laps keep counting down between segments?
      -Because they are driving around the track, doing laps, why wouldn’t they count?

      -why do laps keep counting down between segments?
      See above

      -why do the cars look so different from what I see on the road?
      Because it’s a stripped down, finely tuned and carefuly built racing machine and not meant to ferry a family around safely.

      -why are there no brake lights on the cars?
      See above.

      -why can’t they use rain tires, wipers in more races?
      Cars are too heavy and they will have to drive incredibly slow to stop from wrecking.

      -what’s it mean to be a lucky dog?
      First car 1 lap down gets his lap back and yes, he has to drive around to complete that lap before he is on the lead lap.

      -what’s a wave-around mean?
      It’s in place to make sure the leaders are in front after a yellow since the lead lap cars do not pit at the same time as cars one or more laps down.

      The sport has changed a lot recently and although I would disagree, you can certainly make the case it has contributed to a decline in popularity. You could also make a case that there are kids out there who want to get into the sport but they are influenced about older fans constantly talking about “the good old days” and how the sport sucks now and how stage racing is garbage. That certainly is not helping grow a fan base.

    4. Answer them..lol my 7 yr old is getting his F1 education at every chance..lol
      He knows the red cars are Ferrari, and that’s our team..lol
      From yellow flags, to safety cars.. Answer them..

    5. Gary, these are not your grandchildren’s questions, they are your personal complaints. What gave you away? The TV announcers do not use the term “Lucky Dog” anymore. Per NASCAR instructions, they call it the “Free Pass.” And you think you are so clever!

      1. I wonder how many other “NASCAR instructions there are? I think they are the problem. Contrived racing, knee jerk rules, not allowing drivers, owners, mechanics, and broadcasters the ability to call a spade a spade.

  2. This a well synopsis of the problem and the opposing camps. I see the solution in a few dimensions, but primarily distribution. NASCAR has to take control of distribution of the product. MLB was forward thinking on this and it has paid off well. In person is a unique and special experience, but the reality is the broadcast is NASCAR to the vast majority of the audience. It should go like this:

    Step 1: Offer a credible streaming option. This should include some free content and some premium content that you could pay for. As an example, offer alternate audio tracks. One with an ex crew chief for the die hards. This eliminates the complaints of DW dumbing it down for a generalist audience.

    Step 2: Begin smarter programming: There’s 7 days in a week. NASCAR needs someone like Humpy Wheeler that is thinking about creative ways to attract viewership.

    Step 3: Be forward thinking:

    NASCAR can do things other sports can’t and should embrace that. AR and VR experiences should be at the top of the list. If the NBA could put a VR camera on Lebron James, they would. NASCAR can do this fast and lead the way on this.

    1. Hi Charles:

      Direct TV DID already offer a separate NASCAR package that included a split screen allowing you to follow one of a number of the most popular drivers at that time and it also allowed you to hear the in-car audio (rated PG with a warning at the beginning of the broadcast) AND the network broadcast and screen. They first charged for it (and it FLOPPED) then they offered it for FREE as in incentive to grow their subscribers……which ALSO failed…

      1. You’re missing the point. NASCAR depends, more than any other major sport, on traditional cable and satellite to get their product to consumers. Given the percentage of younger Americans who either have never had one kid these options or will eliminate it, this means they’re not even a potential NASCAR viewer at all.

  3. Amen! My family have been avid NASCAR fans for over 55 years. We would attend at least 6 races a year (Daytona January and July, Charlotte, Rockingham, Martinsville, Richmond, Darlington and ‘Dega). We were there when Earnhardt died and Jr won the Daytona summer race. Something happened to NASCAR following those events, Bill France Sr died and the “show” died with him. Brian France took over the reigns and began to look at NASCAR through the lense of dollars and cents. The “show” that we all came to love was now delegated with rules and regulations. The teams with endless budgets snuffed out the characters and journeymen racers. If NASCAR would put the stock back in stock cars and give all teams a strict budget (cap) maybe racing could recapture the allure and excitement it once was.

  4. Everything we do today is different than we did last year, it’s not even in the same spectrum as to what was done 5, 10 and 20 years ago. Everything in life is a constent evolution. NASCAR in many ways has been constantly evolving. The fans got vocal, many left. Many say they left but still seem to know what goes on week to week. As a fan of the sport my role has changed. I remember being 12 years old and being a pissed off fan because the Fords where dominating the 92 season and at 12 I was a subject matter expert as to how bad that was for the sport. As I got older, more wise and in some ways more of a “subject matter” expert I too have changed how I view the sport. I used to care despot about a consistent run for the championship. Wins where nice but so was a good points day. If the 3 couldn’t win it better surly be a Chevy. I think to some degree those still matter. But I am older wiser and the subject matter exper I now am takes what Bobby Hamilton Sr said after winning his truck championship at homestead in a dodge but thanked not only Dodge but Ford for outing on a fantastic championship weekend and Chevy for those comitment to the sport and then thanks all the sponsors that spend money in this sport because it takes them all to make it what is it. To day all we do is bitch about everything. Bitching is very contagious. If I walk in a perfectly fine house and say I smell something funny and keep staying it, soon there is a good chance it’s going to catch on. It’s an epademic. It’s a disease and it effects the sport. It effects sponsors wanting to spend money in the sport. It drives fans away from the sport. It spreads like wild fire that simply just keeps spreading. It’s bad for the sport. It’s bad for everyone. I try to compartmentalize the sport. Because there is still one thing that has never changed in this sport. The basic principle of the sport and why at 5 years old I watched the sport. It’s quite simple really for me. Every Sunday since I started watching and countless year befor my time, a group of drivers line up and take the green flag and race door to door to the checkers. Some races are more exciting then others. Some are ok, some are fucking amazing. Regardless there is still nothing I would rather do on Sunday the to sit down, Escape The rate race of life and get lost in a race. The is still going on. It’s always been there. The point sistem can change, tracks have gone away, sponsors come and go. Car numbers change but come Sunday I am yelling at my TV and stering my drivers car for him on my couch as he tries to get that win. I love it. I am still as passionate at I have ever been. I’m just passionate in different ways now. I have learned to love all aspects of the sport, not just my driver, his team and manufacture. And look I still get pissed. Last week at Pocono I was pissed and I was not pleasant to be around when my guy did not get the win. But that’s ok. Come Monday it was behind me and I look forward to the next race….and so on. Get back to what you fell in love with, I think we all fell in love with the race. The race is still good. It not the past, it’s never going to be the past so let it go. Just watch the race.

  5. Agree 100%. I think many of us saw the disconnect with the France interview on the radio. There is zero care for the fans point of view only the “important people”

    Fans have been complaining about cookie cutter tracks for YEARS. Toss IRP, Rockingham, Iowa and other short tracks back into the schedule and you will start to see things turn around. That’s only a start. It’s like a marriage when they say happy wife happy life. In this case happy fans, happy sponsors.

    The point is, they would rather please the TV networks and track owners than the fans. At first I was against the selling of NASCAR, but each day it sounds better and better.

  6. I honestly think Jimmie Johnson winning so many champions in 5 years hurt the industry. Also, all these racing on NBC is on their NBCSN is not available on some people’s price range. In Canada, that channel is almost $20 Extra on cable. My friend had to stop watching for that reason. I know people didn’t think WWE’s network would not last a year. But they have at least 1 million subscribers if not more and they are like in their 4th year. That could help bring people back if they put old races on their for no more than $10. Put Dale Jr’s podcast on that and the other drivers who have a podcast. That virtue reality mentioned above would be cool. I’d get that if it really feels you are at the actual track by the start finish line. Allow kids free to the Xfinity and Trucks for kids still but add a flat price for kids for the Cup series. $40 or more for a child is too much. Offer a buy 4 tickets get one free in all sections. Offer a day where tickets are $20-50 off once a month for one track or something. Highlight the rookies. I listen to the broadcast and William Byron hardly gets talked about. Talk more about the one car teams like Matt Dibendetto or David Regan. There some drivers in cup I have never heard of or even know what they look like. Spend 10 minutes or whatever to solely talk about that driver with a side by side full screen or a little box on the side like they do on the news. There is so many things they could do. There is way too many commercials on both Fox and NBC and a lot of them or the same one over and over again. I do not understand the laps of caution that seem to go on forever during the segments. I do not think any of those should count at all during the segment changes. Stop focusing on one driver. Stop putting the pressure on Chase. As much as I love Dale Jr, it did get to be too much at time. And that’s coming from a big fan of his. That’s just some of my thoughts.

    1. +1 for the kids at races. Baseball has experimented with this successfully (the Orioles have seen success with it)

  7. I think the avenue to attract the next generation of fans is through sim racing.

    Born in ’96, I became an avid fan in the early 2000s. I got out of it around 2008, but started sim racing in 2010 and my interest in the sport came back with it.

    I would like to see the Trucks/Xfinity go back to racing at short tracks.

  8. The base has shrunk because the ability to have pride in your car by working on it is melting away. The Car Wars between the automakers has disappeared. Nobody really cares about driving a Toyota Camry because it wins in NASCAR. The big rivalries that car owners could identify with are gone. The local tracks that bred fans are disappearing. Claimers, powder puffs, and other start-ups have faded away. The fans born into the sport in the 50s and 60s have better things to do. And the drivers have little or no personality because that is what the sponsors want. Stewart did great commercials and Danica was great with GoDaddy. Kasey Kahne had some good ones too. Other than that, tell me one memorable commercial with a NASCAR driver.

    1. I guess you missed some of the ones with Dale Sr or Jr for Chevy many years back…..

      Or the fun ones with Mikey and Darrell Waltrip for Aarons…

      But as for todays mostly corporate clones…..different story…..

  9. Is NASCAR going to race electric cars someday? The world is evolving and NASCAR has to evolve too, but can it evolve enough to stay relevant?
    I still watch most weeks but I lack any real passion for it.
    I totally agree with you Jeff, you have to admit you have a problem before it can be fixed. I love your work and hope you have a Plan B for your career. I hate to sound like a pessimist but I don’t see a long term future for NASCAR.

    1. FASTEST way to kill NASCAR would be to eliminate the ROAR of the engines by making them “electric”….

  10. Good article. Unfortunately NASCAR’s behavior seems to emulate today’s political climate. When Phelps placed the blame on the media, I immediately thought, “if you don’t like it, declare it fake.” We all know what we know and we have no tolerance for anyone having thoughts or opinions different than our own. We aren’t even willing to listen. It no longer matters whether an idea or thought is good or bad, it only matters which side said it. The sky is falling side (patient’s dying) or the everything is rosy(patient is still breathing).

    Add with anonymity offered by social media, no holds are barred. Look how many times the answer to someone’s remark is: “It’s Trump fault”. Or it “Obama’s fault”. Heck, being a liberal anymore just means someone doesn’t agree with your thought or opionion.

    And this whole process seems to permeate NASCAR.

    Personally, I turn on car racing and sports as a diversion from everything else going on. Not for it to be same as everything else.

    Now, I just observe where NASCAR is headed. I have no idea. If I changed things, the guy with the most points win the championship, the fastest cars race regardless, and I’d get back to tolerances noticeable by the eye and a template. not 10,000th of an inch measured by a laser.

  11. I have said for years that we the fans are the problem. Nascar is constantly put in a position that any change that’s made makes half the fans made it only takes 3-4 changes to have the entire fan base mad about something. I also don’t think we were very inviting during the Nascar boom we had grown proud of our small but cult-like community and when fans came flooding in instead of welcoming them we got made because with the influx of fans NASCAR had to make some changes. And that war is still going on today and is what is at the root of the story above. This is just my opinion but let’s take a look inside and try to come together once in awhile. It wouldn’t kill us and it will help our sport!!!!

  12. I think we ALL need to take this “whole who is right” and “who is wrong” thing one step back to where all this negativity and toxic environment originated. In the world we live in now minority groups have a MASSIVE effect on our daily lives through news headlines. Same sex marriage, the marijuana debate and a plethora of other supposed “major issues” are jumped on by the media, and peoples opinions are most often based on that reporting as they believe this to always represent the truth behind the issue being debated.
    I see NASCAR and where it is supposedly heading in no deeper trouble than any business or organised structure whether it be sport or economically based . TIMES ARE TOUGH for sure. Nascar has its struggles, (everywhere is struggling) but the media and more importantly SOCIAL MEDIA can also present a horrendous outlook. BUT…. really is it that bad ? There is a distinct group of individuals with ages ranging from probably six years old to elderly who hit social media sites and bombard such with hugely negative comments and opinions that basically tear at the very thread of this sport and what it represents. Once again, a relatively small splinter group who arent able to enjoy NASCAR as a sport (and probably never will) are able to access social media to push their toxic and damaging opinions and have them read in both social media and main stream media. Once in place, everyone reads this crap, which is often based on ignorance and personal bias, then jumps on the negative bandwagon and bingo, the sport is determined to be in an out of control spiral.
    I believe both SOCIAL AND MAIN MEDIA are destroying the positivity and great things that are happening right now in our sport with their negative rumours and inuendo having a huge affect on such, something that up to only recent years ago was not available with such ease. These days you can put what you like on Reddit, Insta and Twitter, open for the world to read, and once read, personal opinions formed.
    I have followed motorsport at all levels and types, and also personally competed for some 55 years and believe NASCAR to be one of the most entertaining sports on the planet.
    People need to search out the truth, not the inuedo and also realise there will always be negatives put forward. Maybe it would be good to be part of the solution not be part of the problem by looking at what great things are happening right now and let the future sort itself out.
    To Geoff Gluck: Maybe you can report on some really positive happenings in the sport right now, and as you said in your article, not be focusing on what the sport isnt, but focusing on what it is and what it has to offer right now.

  13. First of all, great article… And I’m very impressed with all of the thoughtful comments. NASCAR’s slow demise is not simple and it involves over a dozen factors. One big problem is the current 14 to 25-year-olds in America. I have several friends who are lifelong gearheads that all tell the same story. We have grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and other acquaintances that don’t really care about cars or even driving for that matter. If a kid does like race cars, why waste your time watching a race on TV when you can drive in a virtual race against other kids on your 60″ TV screen?

  14. I have been to at least one NASCAR race every year starting in 1968. There have been more changes over those years that have been positive than negative.
    On the Panics Side: I agree with Jeff Gluck and others that the time for multiple small tweaking and hoping it will get better is over. Unfortunately, none of us have the magic answer. It may be time to start over as if creating a brand-new series that is more competitive first to last, start to finish, fan focused, fully Wi-Fi enabled tracks, better in-race TV and at track coverage. Everything should open to change as long as the attending and TV fans win.
    On the Stay the Course Side: I am just as excited when the green flag flies now as I was 50+ years ago. So just line them up and start the race and I am basically happy.
    Now for my self-centered statement: With the drastically reduced attendance, it is sure nice to not be stuck in traffic for hours pre and post race. We currently attend one race weekend a year at AMS and CMS. But at CMS the reduction in seating has compacted the remaining fans in a smaller area with ZERO increase in restrooms and concessions which makes access to those the worst ever.

  15. I
    I think the cars that run towards the back don’t get the TV attention they deserve They too have sponsors , Why would a sponsor want to spend millions and not even get mentioned or see on TV something wrong somewhere

  16. First off: Probably the BEST article I have read from you Jeff. Well done!

    With that said-I AGREE with you. You can’t fix it if you deny its broken!

    Im not going to re-hash all the changes I believe need to occur (re: I have been a fan since 1987 and I know a TON of NASCARS history from before then…) in NASCAR. They are NOT going to make them no matter how many “I-told-you-so’s” I tell them at the NASCAR Fan Council.

    But I believe that when those at the top have so much “passion” for the sport that they want to sell it, that speaks volumes to the REALITY that is “Today’s NASCAR”…. and especially what THEY think of the condition of the sport is…

    Its in HUGE trouble and they are only jumping off a sinking ship!

    No one “sells” any business if they thought profits were on the way up! They know the reality of their predicament and are getting out while the “getting’s good”….

    Sorry gang~NOTHING is too big to fail. NASCAR is no exception.

    And it is not at all bad “EVERYWHERE” as some of you have stated above. Take a look at ANY NHRA coverage and you will see HUGE crowds, almost as much as any time in their history….

    I agree with those that say that todays “know nothing” millenials (sorry Jeff) have ZERO love or passion towards cars. Mainly because a lot of them can’t afford to drive or even WORK on a car on ANY LEVEL. “Change a tire lately Buffy?”

    And its this trend that should be most disconcerting for NASCAR. I got into the sport when I was 21, which is when I owned a Chevelle that I was also occasionally drag racing and I could take it apart aircleaner to oil pan…..

    Now a-days todays Millenials probably could not tell you what an aircleaner is-let alone point one out….

    Their knowledge of automobiles is provided by great sources like “The Fast and the Furious”……

    So it remains to be seen what, if anything, could be done to save NASCAR….

    …as I have been saying lately: NASCAR R.I.P 1948-2017

  17. Hey kid…Jeff, right….You want solutions? I got solutions. Just join me in the dark alley that is my mind.

    1. Track diversity – More short tracks and road courses are needed on the Cup schedule. The 1.5 mile cookie-cutter ovals need to go. Since attendance at the tracks are falling, NASCAR no longer has the excuse of needing to keep a date at Kansas or Texas instead of going to Five Flags or Nashville Fairgrounds.

    2. Rotational schedules – Yep, different tracks in different years. Maybe a two- or four-year rotation with a few common races like the Daytona 500, Southern 500, Coke 600, Talladega, Bristol, Martinsville? Beyond the “mainstays” how about mixing it up and going to Sonoma one year and Laguna Seca another year? I’d love it if they alternated Watkins Glen and Montreal, Chicago and Road America, Homestead and New Smyrna, Kentucky and Nashville Fairgrounds, Charlotte and Rockingham, the list goes on and on. Or, how about a track in Colorado at all, so I don’t have to fly to my nearest track? This would have several benefits, including that larger teams wouldn’t have reams of engineering data year-to-year to fall back on, meaning maybe some smaller teams might have a fighting chance once in a while. Also, the only reason the 5-year schedule exists as it does is cronyism/collusion between the France family and the Smith family. It’s time to hurt them both.

    3. Fix the aerodynamic dependencies on the car. Use the X-3 test car as a baseline with its raised snout. Get rid of the splitters and side skirts altogether to stop the cars from being glued to the track. Raise the bumper cover up, especially at Daytona/Talladega. Let teams play around with gear ratios again. And for god’s sake, please end this nonsense of flattening out the right side of the car for side force while skewing the left (especially left-rear) of the car. Make the cars symmetrical, and make them more proportionate — including the nose, greenhouse, and tail — to their street-legal counterparts. Make the tires softer so they will give up more grip throughout a run. Increase the fuel tank by a few gallons to encourage longer runs again.

    4. Keep the Stages/End the Chase – Stage racing has been a pleasant surprise to me. I wanted to hate it but it is actually improving the racing a bit. Get rid of the stage cautions or stop counting laps between cautions. Bring back fuel mileage races, especially on road courses (which currently will never happen with how the stages are broken out). Get rid of the Chase and the 16-teams that are in it. A cumulative, season-long battle for a championship based on points was what made NASCAR grow to the popularity that it did.

    5. Covered grandstands – What a novel idea, huh? Create a barrier to the elements for the fans. Block the sun. Protect from wind and rain, or snow in Martinsville’s case.

    6. More fan amenities – Upgrade the wifi at tracks. Gonna say this one again for the slow ones in the back. UPGRADE THE WIFI AT THE TRACKS. It’s ridiculous that it’s 2018 and the track infrastructure feels like 1997. Include USB charging ports with the seats, or designate areas like at the airports for phone charging. Bring back the haulers to distribute merchandise. Have a dedicated place and time during the race weekend where every driver entered has to sit down for a two-hour autograph session with fans. Make the concessions more affordable, and yes this means beer.

    7. Fix the penalty system – Starting from the rear of the field isn’t even a penalty anymore, so let’s up the ante. Get busted in post-qualifying tech…you start the race 2 laps down. Get busted at any point in the next 8 weeks after the first infraction…you go home early, miss the race, and explain to your sponsors why you were caught cheating. If you are busted in post-race inspection, you lose the trophy, forfeit all winnings for that race, and lose all the points for that race. I bet the cheating is curtailed after that.

    8. Promote more than just the top drivers — I can’t say I even know what Corie Lajoie or DJ Kennington (not an actual DJ, apparently) looks like. Speaking of DJs….

    9. New music acts – End. Country. Music. Bring in EDM DJs and hold festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival or TomorrowLand in conjunction with the races to bring in some different fans. Maybe do a promotion that if they buy tickets to the EDM festival and the race, they get in free to the Truck and Xfinity races.

    10. Encourage fighting – Eliminate penalties for fighting. Encourage it even. This harkens back to the short tracks and shorter tempers that led to some of the best moments of watching races when I was growing up. I don’t even like hockey that much, but I’ll go to see some fights break out. Kick his ass, Sea Bass!

    11. Get rid of the charters – Can we all finally admit that the charters were Rob Kauffman’s ploy to recoup money from Spingate? He sure was quick to sell his off once MWR folded. And over time, the charters have been worth less and less and less due to a lack of demand from new teams entering the sport. The only thing charters have accomplished is shrink the field size. Bring back the old 43-car fields. “But what about start and park teams?”

    12. Start-and-park teams – If a car fails to make it to 1/2 the race distance, regardless of crash damage or mechanical failure, NASCAR confiscates the car and impounds it for the next 30 days. This should weed out any S&P teams pretty quickly.

    13. Put the Waltrips out to pasture – DW and Mikey are cartoons at this point, with Darrell’s Pollyanish, kiss-butt attitude and Mikey’s lissssssspy, cringeworthy grid-walks. They have literally BECOME Digger. The IQ of the FOX broadcasts is easily 40 points less than NBC right now, and that’s probably generous.

    14. Get rid of Rutledge Wood – I don’t know what California focus group decided that this guy was good for NASCAR, but they need to be buried alive for their misdeeds. Rutledge Wood is what 40-something suburban soccer moms think NASCAR personalities should always be like: sterile, vapid talk show fodder, with a distinct Trashville plaid shirt. The ultimate L.A. liberal boardroom definition of what “country” should be.

    Rutledge Wood is what happens when a liberal, millenial marketing agency gets ahold of personnel decisions for a major broadcasting network. I’m sure in the meeting with the brass they were throwing around phrases like “Southeastern suburban appeal” and “contemporary, cross-platform advertising fusion” when they were discussing who they should hire.

    Seriously though, Rutledge Wood looks like the type of person who actively tries to get a middle seat on the plane, just to make conversations with strangers to make up for the fact that his father left when he was a child and his mother drank her way to oblivion. Granted, none of that is probably true, but that’s how my mind processed it.

    15. Fix Bristol. All the VHT sticky stuff in the world can’t help that track reclaim its lost glory. Tear it up and put the true 36-degree non-progressive banking back. Make the low-line blender come back. That’s what put 180,000 butts in the seats back in the 1990s.

    16. Eliminate the yellow line rule at superspeedways – Safety has improved immensely since this abomination of a rule was first implemented to reduce the big wrecks at Daytona and Talladega.
    Let them pass wherever they want to.

    I think that’s about all I got for right now. I’m sure I’ll eventually think of more. Jeff, please write me back if you would like to know more, or if some fancypants NASCAR exec wants my help.

    1. Brilliantly stated. We agree on all the content, but the scheduling is the most important and the most difficult to change given the contracts with the tracks and with TV. The idea of covering the grandstands is a new one, but it makes sense…the dangers of sun exposure are now apparent, not to mention the comfort. Plus rain delays are way more palatable if you can remain dry. Shorter races can also help and working out arrangements with local hotels to not create mandatory 3 or 4 day stays is a bigger knob to turn than ticket prices.

    2. The great divide comes from the foolish pedantries of some fans and some commentators, such as Ducky’s proposals.

      1 – Cup, Xfinity, and Trucks are major league racing – this means superspeedways. Superspeedways are the most competitive venues in motorsports. Short tracks are inferior, road courses the least competitive in motorsports. Fans and the sport need to stop hating mile-and-a-halfs and face the sport’s real issues.

      2 – Rotational schedules? Jerking around tracks because some idiots want the sport to go to minor markets better served by the smaller divisions of NASCAR? That’s never good business. The sport doesn’t need to go to Montreal or New Smyrna, and face the fact Rockingham got its chance in 2008 and proved it no longer belongs.

      3 – When fans discuss reducing aero dependency, they don’t even know the meaning of the term and they’re asking teams to unlearn what manifestly works. It’s the DRAFT that matters, it’s not “aero.” Those who advocate taking away side skirts, forcing teams not to alter the bodies, etc. they are advocating a failed concept – the 5&5 Rule. No. Instead run the draft ducts, run the bigger spoiler with raised endplates sporting the 1-inch wicker, harden the tire so teams can run 500 milers on just four sets at most, widen the tire slightly for better grip, and reign in the power. Make the draft important again.

      4 – Yes to larger fuel cells – take away fuel mileage entirely; get back racing with just three pitstops.

      5 – End the Chase, yes – revert to the Latford Point System with substantially larger point totals for each win and for most laps led per race. Go to four stages instead of three, increase points for winning each stage, and keep the race under green between stages.

      6 – You ignore why tracks eliminated covered grandstands – it made fans less, not more, comfortable.

      7 – Tracks are already improving fan amenities; at some point fans themselves have to stop demanding the moon.

      8 – You think increasing penalties will stop team cheating? Only when teams figure out they’re not gaining anything in terms of running well from it will it stop.

      9- NO to eliminating fighting penalties. Instead suspend whoever gets involved for four races.

      10 – No, we don’t need new music acts – the music acts have to prove they’re worth it first.

      11 – Eliminate charters and eliminate send-homes after qualifying. You enter, you pay the entry fee etc., you race, period. Stop caring if a team is “start and park” because they’re working to build something.

      12 – Get CBS and MAVTV involved in NASCAR.

      13 – No more exclusivity deals – allow rivals to “official” sponsors to sponsor teams, tracks, etc.

      14 – No more Goodyear monopoly – let Firestone and Hoosier support teams; more engineering help means more competitive teams.

      15 – More use of this modern bear grease – open up more grooves. No to the old untraceable Bristol that fans finally got tired of – this is why Bristol doesn’t sell well anymore, not because it finally got it right and made itself a real racetrack 2010 onward.

      16 – No more out-of-bounds – any paved area of a track is fair game for passing, period.

      17 – Go back to 500 milers at Pocono etc. 500 is a better race, better test of racecars and racers; the outcome always changes in the extra 100 miles.

      18 – Go back to 12:30 start times and no more night racing. Night belongs entirely to local tracks.

      19 – Bring in outside accounting firms to monitor teams’ spending and work to implement a cap on spending.

      20 – Put more TV money out of Cup and into the other series like Xfinity, Trucks, the Mod Tour, etc.

  18. If you want to enjoy racing again, get off social media. It is a cancer growing on our society.

  19. I think if they would lower how much they spend, it would solve a lot of their problems. How does it cost 3 or 4 times more to run the Cup series over the Xfinity series when the engine is pretty much the only difference? I don’t know if they could realistically put a spending cap on each team, but they can limit the number of people a team can have at the track each weekend. Go back to when it was the same people working on the car all weekend, even doing pit stops. It also seems like each team runs a brand new car each week. Limit the teams to a low inventory. They wouldn’t need 30 million dollars and 6 sponsors if they didn’t just look for reasons to spend money.

    They could also require engines to be sealed and used more than once. Due to the gear rule, which I’m still bitter about, engines last forever now. The only reason races are so long is because endurance used to play a role. Bring that aspect back.

  20. Part of the problem with NASCAR is they’ve made the cars faster, they’re slicker, the drivers are better, the tracks are nicer, wider, more pavement…it’s reduced the wow factor.

    I attended Mid-Ohio this weekend for IndyCar for the first time and was at the top of the keyhole. TV does nowhere near the justice to how imposing that looks in person. To go through that corner complex fast and not a mistake of going through the grass for instance requires a good driver.

    Now take NASCAR. There’s pavement everywhere on the apron, so if you miss your corner entry, so what? If you start to spin in a turn, so what? There’s plenty of pavement to go down. (Other series have this issue of track limits as well, it’s not a NASCAR-only problem.) The cars are so aerodynamically tuned that it removes driver input and yet the spoiler/rear wing/splitter add nothing as far as capital-R racing to a race. Car bobbling in a turn at 150mph, people see that on TV, it engages the “wow, these guys are really going for it”. There’s also these higher-banked tracks where the driver can lean on the banking going through. Adds speed but not much else.

    I know these things are never going to happen, but make the cars closer to their road equivalents by removing some of the aerodynamic aids that add nothing to the race, like the splitter. (they thankfully ditched the rear wing). Reduce track banking to lessen speeds but also to increase driver input, making them brake more in turns. Also, some of the tracks could be a lot narrower. I’m not just talking outside wall to apron, I’m talking outside wall to inside wall. We were just at Pocono which is the most egregious example of this, but you could move the pit lane wall out 30 feet and the wall behind that as well and it’d still be a super-wide straightaway.

    Will any of this happen? Of course not. The expense is too high. The race track promoters wanting to put restrictor plates all over the series is like what happened in the late ’80s with Daytona and Talladega, a solution to a problem that’s not created by the engine, which is all a restrictor plate affects, but instead due to the tracks themselves fighting their obsolescence and unwillingness to invest money in capital-intensive projects like “reducing the angle of banking”. The only reason we have restrictor plates is Daytona and Talladega are owned by the same family that owns NASCAR, they had to protect themselves from a car entering the crowd, and they were the dirt-cheapest solution for NASCAR to implement. Meanwhile millions and millions of dollars have been spent by race teams for these engines used 4 times in a 36-race season.

  21. Put races back on network tv would help tv ratings. Go back to tracks like Rockingham and North Wilksboro would bring in big attendance.

  22. I just don’t know how you can lose three of the best personalities – Earnhardt Jr., Gordon and Stewart – in such a short amount of time and not go through some type of lull.

    As a dedicated Tony Stewart fan since his rookie season, I just can’t get into raceday on TV or at the track the same way. I’m hoping that time will change that with the emergence of a new driver I can latch onto, but the personalities (and rivalries) are just not there so we are left with on-track action, which has not helped much at all.

    The best path forward for me to continue on as a fan is improving the raceday experience, which will ultimately carryover to TV in some form. I believe stage racing is not the way to go about it as manipulation of the racing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Let the event be pure and instead focus on shortening the lengths (did wonders for Auto Club Speedway and makes ISM Raceway events feel like you can’t miss a lap) while also reducing ticket prices. Make it an option where you can take your whole family so the money is funneled away from other sports. It’s absurd how high ticket prices remain while there are so many empty seats. I can tell you one thing that really pisses me off is renewing my seats for full price and then a month or two out from the event, guess what pops up on Groupon or even the track’s email offers?

  23. Great article and interesting comments.

    I am a newer fan, in that I began watching around 2003 and many of the things that older fans complain about (the Chase, cars not looking like actual street cars) are things that have always been for me.

    What really makes it frustrating for this fan are the following:
    1. An overabundance of rules for the cars. As a fan it does not improve my experience to watch identical cars driving in a circle. If a crew figures out that flaring the side panel increases their performance, why is that suddenly outlawed? As a fan I am sick of cars spending hours trying to pass tech due to a 32nd of an inch difference. Or being disqualified because their spoiler was off a literal hair. Get rid of the lasers and other than mandated safety systems, let these people do what they are good at…building and driving innovative cars. Who knows, maybe some of those innovations could even translate back to street cars.

    2. TV coverage. It is a cliche by now, but the Waltrips are way past their sell by date. Rutledge Wood is horrible. I do not need NASCAR to give me perfectly polished but BORING announcers. I want people who know the sport and can communicate their knowledge to people like me who do not know every in and out. Larry Macreynolds is great at explaini g technical details…yet Fox relegated him to the bench. Jr has been wonderful in the booth because he has the knowledge of the cars as they are now (not 20 years ago) and love of the sport and he isnt afraid to get excited. More of that…not stupid breaks talking to fans in the infield or droning on about how things were 25 years ago. Or perhaps take a page from MRN, who consistently offer fantastic race coverage. They can make a run away race by Harvick exciting because they will actually talk about battles in the middle of the pack.

    3. Give me a commercial free streaming option. But don’t relegate it to some weird side by side or driver only view. I will pay for the ability watch a complete race with the same camera angles and sound from the normal broadcast.

    4. What I won’t pay for is cable just to then pay an additional fee for the channel NASCAR is on. Sorry, not going to happen. I don’t live in an area where I need cable for tv, and NASCAR isn’t enough to justify it. To that end, if you aren’t going to give me a streaming payperview option with no commercials then stick the races back on normal tv. The only reason I ever saw NASCAR in the first place was because of the Fox and ABC broadcasts. Not sure how you can expect new fans without giving them a way to see you.

    5. More variety of tracks. I love the road courses, my husband loves Bristol and Darlington. We both love Talladega. Do we want to see them every week? No. Nor do we want a 1.5 almost every week, although those tracks can produce good races. And while I recognize that each 1.5 might have differences that the drivers see (turn 1 at Mich is differe t than turn 1 at Chicago), those do not translate to this fan. And so it is darned boring.

    6. Accept that NASCAR is a niche sport and cater to what those fans want. While we have our different opinions there are consistent themes across the board that NASCAR could actually use.

    1. “Accept that NASCAR is a niche sport and cater to what those fans want. While we have our different opinions there are consistent themes across the board that NASCAR could actually use.”

      An excellent point. This is my biggest complaint about the coverage. I flip on the race each weekend and hear broadcasters explain why drafting helps, that drivers can adjust the track bar from inside the car, that cars don’t have speedometers, etc. I don’t flip on a basketball game and hear announcers tell us that after a foul you get 2 free throws or hear a baseball announcer talk about how 3 outs ends the inning. Cater to the real fans, the ones that tune in every damn week. Stop catering to the few people flipping through the channel that might stop and watch. I spend the money that supports the sport, stop alienating me in favor of people who will probably never watch.

  24. The main problem is Brian Z. France. Never at the track, looks like an idiot on stage. How could any sponsor deal with him and not think he is out of his league. He never has been qualified to lead the sport. He sure likes the money. Thed board needs to replace him with a CEO who knows the sport, bleeds with it, and knows how to network and sell to everyone from the RTA to me who has to watch on TV because it is too expensive to go.

  25. Since the beginning, the France family has owned and controlled the sanctioning body and for the past two decades or so, the France family corporation (ISC) and the Smith family corporation (SMI) and their allied tracks, Pocono, Dover and Indy have operated the sport as they’ve seen fit, in their own best interest. TV contracts, track sanctioning agreements and the schedule are about profit, not racing. There’s nothing wrong with that except the sport is trending on the wrong direction, the game has changed and Daytona and. Charlotte proclaim stay the course while Rome is burning.
    Its time for the France family to divest itself of one of it’s interests, preferably the sanctioning body, So that an independent group can begin the changes (schedule, track, race length, rules etc) that hopefully will begin to right the ship, otherwise it’s just Chip Diller hollering “all is well”.

  26. Great article Jeff. I appreciate your concern and stand there with you. A lot of really good reasons listed here for the decline of Nascar…I believe they include the death of Dale, Sr., the retirement of Dale, Jr., Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, the greediness of signing large television packages that end up putting the race on channels some viewers cannot afford or even receive, the decline of kids getting involved in cars early on in their lives, too many tracks having two races where there should only be one and there’s probably a few reasons I have forgotten to list…I think to get it on the right track it may have to contract to rebuild…including having a smaller nucleus of fans, smaller audiences at tracks and smaller television contracts before it gets better. None of this will probably happen though with drivers expecting to continue to get paid so much money.

    1. NASCAR from a fanbase perspective wasn’t really hurt by Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death. I’ve said for some time they were so lucky that when he died, they had the most organic fanbase transition imaginable going to his son.

      In theory, it’d be nice to go do a “fan census” of sorts I’ve always thought. If you could somehow figure out the percentages of people that watch and the reason why, be it a particular driver or what. The only real surrogate we have for driver fanbase is merchandise sales if you could get those numbers. But think about if you could figure out what happened to the Gordon fans. How many of them are still watching? If so, what new driver did they gravitate toward, or are they still looking. It’s one disadvantage racing has to team sports which have a fanbase that will always follow even when the star retires. I know NASCAR tries to make it a team sport, but no one is ever going to make a team the equivalent of what Ferrari is in F1. The closest you get in North American non-sportscar racing are the Penske Indycar fans, which might as well be racing’s version of Yankee fans.

  27. I have followed Nascar since 1984. Over all that time there have been a lot of changes of rules, regulations, inspections and drivers. We complained but continued to follow because we loved the family atmosphere, the enthusiasm of other fans, Nascar as a whole and the France family’s dedication. The feeling that “we can complain, but will defend to the death if outsiders complained” was real. IMO most of this is now missing. Fans are divided, Nascar is living under a rock and Brian France, it seems, has checked out. There are many, many reasons for Nascar’s dip, but IMO, again, I believe the core of the issues begin here.

  28. I say this to anyone generally:

    If you do not think that Toyota entering NASCAR has turned off some fans, and turn away other completely…. you are totally disconnected to reality.

    At Eldora of all places, the PA announcer asked which manufacturer was going to win the Dirt Derby.
    “Is it gonna be Chevy?” Cheers and sounds of response.
    “Is it gonna be Ford?” Cheers and sounds of response.
    “Is it gonna be Toyota?” Loud and persistent boos rang through the stands.

    Should people feel this way? Probably not. But do they… a incredibly large number of NASCAR fans feel this way.

  29. I’m on the other side and particularly one of those beyond sick of the constant refrain of “NASCAR’s dying,” “It’s a sinking ship,” and so on from armchair experts on social media. People that continue to harp on that (as though their words are going to mean anything; when someone actually important in auto racing tells me the end is nigh, then I might buy into it) need to take a cue from a line in John Mellencamp’s great “Peaceful World:” ‘If you’re not part of the future, get out of the way.’ Move on to another activity and shut up. No the sport isn’t perfect, yes there are real issues, and yes it’s going to take a period of readjustment. The sport got a little too big for its britches with the network TV boom. It became the flavor of the day, a trendy thing to like. People that didn’t know an axle from a tailpipe would be wearing driver jackets (the same kind of person that would want to “go to the track bar for Happy Hour”). Now the people not particularly interested in investing 3-1/2 hours or more of their time in a stock car race (in this day and age I’m not sure they’re interested in investing 3-1/2 hours in anything) have moved onto other activities, and a lot of the disenchanted old guard have as well. Personally I’m still all in like I always have been. I was born the night of the 1986 Awards Ceremony to a pair of die-hard Bill Elliott fans, and from infancy with the 1987 Busch Clash to last weekend in Pocono, I’ve almost always been parked in front of a television or in a seat at a track. I’m still loving it (even with the three dominating, of course being a fan of one of them helps, but I’ve learned in three decades how cyclical this deal is so I don’t get too wrapped up in a period of dominance) but I’m not naive enough to say it’s perfect.To me as an outsider and a fan that’s been around for those three decades, the big issue I see is identify and engagement. They both tie into the sponsorship/money issue. It’s hard for die-hard fans, let alone the casuals and newbies, to identify with a particular car or driver unless they pull for Denny Hamlin or Joey Logano or (til the end of the season) Jimmie Johnson. Everyone else just about runs a different car every couple weeks. You’ve gotta buy three or four different shirts in three or four different color schemes just to stay relevant with the particular car for each race, whereas it used to be every driver and every fanbase had its sponsor and associated colors that were in season from Daytona to Atlanta or Miami. I dunno about anyone else but I don’t want to wear a plain t-shirt with just Smoke, Kevin, Clint, Kurt, or Aric’s face plastered on it, that’d be weird, but that’s about the only way you can constantly identify with your particular driver anymore. That or a Ryan Truex-style shirt. I miss when the money was at a level where companies could cover an entire season, because the series had the look and feel of the traveling show that it is. Now, tune in one week and then tune in two weeks later and the people may be the same but it’s an entirely different field of cars. Imagine a new fan tuning in and latching onto Kevin’s Jimmy John’s ride because they love Jimmy John’s sandwiches. They tune in the next week and the Jimmy John’s car is nowhere to be seen and they’re none the wiser that Kevin is in the Busch Beer car because they didn’t identify with the driver quite yet, seeing as they see the car for 3 1/2 hours and the driver maybe for a couple of minutes pre- and post-race. I don’t feel like fans are engaged by sponsors as much anymore either. When’s the last time anyone saw a show car outside of the Fan Zone at a race track? I think back to the 1990s when you could just about walk out of the grocery store with a 1/64-scale promo diecast attached to your cereal box, pancake syrup, headache medicine, and so on. If not a car it was a decal with your favorite Coca-Cola Family driver’s number bottlecap or cut-out cards on the back of a box of crackers. It seems simple, but it was a really big deal. It kept the engine running, so to speak. Now there’s virtually nothing aside from the actual retail diecast sold on the toy aisle (at least here in Calhoun, Georgia, which would be prime real estate for it with all the tracks within reasonably close proximity). There are enough grocery sponsors on individual cars or of the series themselves to make an impact in the supermarkets again if they so chose, perhaps not with the diecast anymore (I love them but they’d be ripe for some fool to steal). Trouble is, it’s not economically viable for them to do so. If NASCAR could manage to reign in the cost substantially (not chip at it with mandated pit guns and the like) to give the sponsors the ability to promote like they used to, it would help to draw new fans while engaging those of us that are already here. That’s far easier said than done, and like I said it’s going to take some considerable readjustment on the part of the sanctioning body, the teams, the tracks, and everyone else involved. But I see enough positives going on right now that I’m not about to throw in the towel or abandon ship.

    1. To be clear, Jeff, I wasn’t targeting you in that first bit. Your anxiety about the state of the sport is measured far better than the knee-jerk reactions from so-called “fans.” That’s who I was talking about.

    2. @ Aaron-Spoken like someone who has NEVER been to a race! Or certainly never been to one before the year 2000….

      I say the sport is in DREADFUL shape because it is! I have the photographic proof of what it used to be like track side at Daytona vs now…

      In 1992, at the Firecraker 400, which was my first LIVE race, it was a SEA of people. Even on that Thursday when the teams were there simply to practice qualifying. The souvenier trailers (remember them??) had people 10 deep for Earnhardt, Martin, Alison and most others. There were 30+ trailers in the area off of turn 4. There were litterally 50 or 60 THOUSAND people there that day and then on the day of the race that Saturday, their was not a seat to be had, as the race had SOLD OUT almost a year prior……

      The manufacturers “midway” was packed with even MORE trailers that had product displays, show cars, simulators, movie theaters, etc. etc…..

      Fast forward to today…..ITS NOT EVEN CLOSE!!

      With the improvements they made to Daytona, the stands are now cavernous…AND EMPTY! Last year at the “Coke Zero 400”, with about 4 hours left til race time, there were all of 16 people buying stuff from the paltry 6 trailers present on the Northern side of the grandstands. And the “midway” had nary anything to do…

      So please, refrain from ignorant rants about how “healthy” NASCAR is. Those thoughts are the stuff of fiction and fantasy…

  30. I cannot believe anyone would say NASCAR is doing well. It’s not. Forget about nay-sayers and that it’s dying. it’s not. Throw out the idea that NASCAR cannot be a top 3 sport. It can. Yes, seats are not full for races. Yes some sponsors have left and are leaving. Yes we lost Dale Jr, Tony, Matt, Jeff, Jeff, Carl to retirement BUT, we have too many young drivers to name that can bring along the next generation of fans. How??????

    NASCAR. tv…..you have to show all the races around the country you can get your hands on and TV is NOT the only medium. Streaming to the 20-35 year old’s phone and IPAD brings them along all the while the older crowd like me enjoys the 100″ media room TV or at the track with a Hot Pit pass Kids have no affinity for cars like I have. NONE. You have to get their attention on the device and hold it whilst they grow an affinity for a young driver they see doing commercials and winning races.

    I do not listen to negative media about the sport nor will i listen to those that say “everything is GREAT”. Fact is……NASCAR has to grow another base of fans with the younger drivers and the ONLY way is getting the races in all auto classes to the handheld device until they get older and enjoy/afford a 100″ screen or a race day ticket.

    If this does not happen soon, then I have to side with the “Nay-Sayers.

  31. I watched NASCAR when I was younger with Dale Sr and Rusty… I always wanted to go to a race, but never could because they didn’t race near me… Even when Gateway got a track, the Cup still doesn’t have a race there… I stopped watching about the time Sr passed away for a while until last year… my wife found 2 tickets cheap for my 4 year old son and I to go watch in Kentucky last year… even though for the most part 2017 Kentucky race was boring racewise, I fell back in love with the sport… my son loved it so much we went to the full weekend at MIS in June… that trip cost me over 1000 for the weekend… between camping, race tickets for 3 nights and pit passes… even during rain shortened races we had fun… everyone on every level made the trip wonderful from the NASCAR officials bending a few rules to let my boy get closer to the cars, track personnel telling us the best places to stand to meet drivers, drivers who stopped and talked and signed stuff for my son, and wonderful camping neighbors feeding us breakfast or letting us get a little cover out of the rain to cook… My son is hooked and now won’t miss a race… knows who his favorite driver is, who his teammates are, who his enemies are… he’s ready to make the circuit and hit more tracks… that being said, everyone on the lower levels up to the drivers and pit crews are doing everything they can to help the sport… I believe in this day and age NASCAR needs a streaming service… if I didn’t have cable for kids channels, I wouldn’t have cable… a lot of people nowadays don’t have cable… it’s some streaming service… also, lowering the ticket prices may fill the stands more… I live close enough to a lot of tracks that I would drive up to 6-7 hours to go to a race, but can’t afford to because ticket prices are so high… also, maybe change the schedule up some… I realize that there are track contracts, but change up where the final race may be ran at to give more people the opportunity to go watch the championship race… I know that may be tough given the dates of that race, but there are plenty of locations that could house that race… involve other race tracks in the playoff chase… MIS and Pocono have 2 races and neither one is in the playoffs… Playoffs and stage points are awesome, but maybe once playoff time hits, run 2 separate races… one for the ones who didn’t make it and say a 50 to 100 lap shootout between the playoff qualifiers… last 2 places are out each week…

  32. Where to start? Stages? I fail to see the purpose other than points. Do away with the points. Pre-race inspections? Any failure over the second try should be banned from that race. Go ahead and keep the fines and such, but don’t let the car run that particular race. I know that the teams have paid to automatically have a spot in the races. That’s probably the worst part of it and the declination of the racing experience. That’s why they can go through inspections to their hearts desire and still race, starting at the back of the pack. We all saw last week how effective that was.

    So, take away the stages and come up with another way to dole out those precious points. Only two pre-race tries for inspection and you’re out…which leads to giving the owners back they money they paid to have permanent spots in the races and make it the free-for-all it once was.

    Now, for broadcasting. Bring back TNN!!!!!!! They did a great job! I could probably handle FS1, as they do a pretty good job, but NBC doesn’t know which side of the bread they should butter. Don’t let them have it at all – ever again. The announcers don’t bother me at all – none of them. The thing that really bothers me is to see these announcers all ready to get going, all dressed up in shirts and ties and slacks – and sometimes suit coats or sports jackets. Please let them blend in and look like the rest of the crowd. They look so uncomfortable. I’ll stop for this time, but I’m not done by a long shot!

  33. All sports are in trouble. NASCAR is just first. They can do things to improve the sport on the margin but the best they can hope for is flat to slightly down ratings in the longer term. Every day is a rat race for most Americans now. No time to even mow their lawn or cook meals. Why do you think they have 3.5 hrs to watch races? They don’t.

  34. I began to lose my “fanatic” (fan) status when the engineers took control of the sport. To me, it seems like the engineers are racing and the drivers are just along for the ride, always complaining about downforce, aero, grip, sticky stuff on the track. Nobody is talking about drivers racing cars.

  35. I quit watching due to the chase. I prob never missed a race on tv from 95-05 but the chase caused me to stop. Someone could win 30 races in a year and still not be champ. Then the car of tomorrow was awful. I haven’t even watched stage racing. That is even dumber. I could name every driver by sponsor for the longest time. Doubt i could name more than five now. Sport is done.

Comments are closed.