I’ve been feeling a little down about NASCAR today.
The crowds at Richmond International Raceway last weekend were, quite frankly, terrible. There probably weren’t more than 5,000 people in attendance for the Xfinity race, and the local newspaper estimated the Cup crowd at 30,000 — tops.
Then come the TV ratings, which were down once again. They’re always down, it seems.
And what’s scary for everyone is NASCAR hasn’t even hit the bottom yet. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s impending retirement is certainly going to make the numbers look even worse in 2018.
So if you love NASCAR — and especially if you’ve loved it since before everything seemed to be trending downward — it’s all really depressing at times. And that’s not supposed to happen with something you voluntarily follow for enjoyment.
The question is: As a fan, what do you do?
The closest I can come to answering this question is to use one of the things I’m most passionate about: Electronic dance music, or EDM.
In Oct. 2015, there was an article from Forbes titled: “The $6.9 Billion Bubble? Inside The Uncertain Future Of EDM.”
The story had some of the same themes we hear about in NASCAR. “Once a fast-growing industry, EDM’s build up has slowed considerably as the market matures,” the story said.
I remember that was the first I’d heard of any potential downturn in dance music, and it honestly pissed me off. I thought, Screw you! I still like it! And I don’t care if other people don’t like it!
The truth is, I’m still going to enjoy the music no matter how many other people like it. And my sense is most of you feel the same about NASCAR.
When you hear about the TV ratings and the attendance and people leaving the sport, you sort of shrug: Oh well, their loss. Unlike your favorite TV show that loses viewers, NASCAR isn’t in danger of being canceled. The fact IndyCar still exists (it pulled in a 0.27 rating this weekend!!!) shows NASCAR can go on in some form indefinitely.
At the same time, NASCAR can’t sustain itself as a major sport if things keep heading this direction. The concern from people in the industry — drivers, NASCAR executives, sponsors, teams and media — is palpable, and I can assure you it’s the subject of many private conversations.
Those conversations end up becoming part of the public dialogue, because people who work in NASCAR generally love racing and want to improve it. Everyone wants to figure out what will stop the bleeding. They want to ask you, the fans, what you want.
The irony is a lot of you just want to stop talking about it. You want to get back to enjoying racing again, not spending time being frustrated about every little thing that happens.
Sure, you have opinions on what would make the sport better, but you watch NASCAR because it’s entertainment. It’s an escape from the many problems of the real world, and it’s no fun to have your remaining spirit drained by the very thing you love.
People in the NASCAR world are scrambling and scratching their heads, trying to figure out where to go from here. I want to make it better, too, and I’m not going to stop writing about possible solutions.
But that doesn’t mean you as a fan have to get sucked into the negative energy. You follow NASCAR because you love it, not because you have the answers to save it. If you don’t want to participate in all the hand-wringing, then don’t let it ruin a good thing for you.
My advice? Put your scanner headphones on, block out the noise and smile. It’s only five days until race day.