Why NASCAR is Just Plain Depressing!

Sam HeganCorrespondent IJuly 19, 2009

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 22:  NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France speaks with the media during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Lowe's Motor Speedway at the NASCAR Research and Development Center January 22, 2009 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR for NASCAR)

Depressing, that was the word used by one long time employee of an undisclosed NASCAR team to reporter Joe Menzer, of nascar.com in his article, “Relief May Be On The Way For Angry Chicagoland Fans." The unnamed source said something needs to be done by NASCAR to increase spectators at the races.

If NASCAR has to admit any problem, it will do so in its usual way. They will blame somebody or something else, but never bad decisions by NASCAR. Now some readers will say, man you’re being very hard and critical of NASCAR. I would respond that yes I am, but not so much at NASCAR as the France dictatorship.

When NASCAR was founded, Big Bill France ruled over the organization with a steel fist and didn’t hesitate to tackle anyone that threatened his leadership. The 1969 Talladega boycott is a prime example of his fight against any threat to his kingdom.

NASCAR in the early days was fighting the USAC and AAA stockcar racing series and did whatever it took to keep his drivers competing under the NASCAR banner. That was then and today is much different.

Brian France has sat at the foot of not only Grandpa, but also his dad, Bill France, Jr. He witnessed how they ruled over the series using strong arm tactics, bullying drivers, owners and that one try at a drivers’ organization.

Another early influence on Brian was the George family of Indianapolis fame that dictates car rules to suit the race series regardless of manufacturer participation. I see a lot of the IRL influence being implemented into today’s Cup series with the COT and a move toward a spec no-car.

The COT, to this writer, is the biggest mistake ever made by NASCAR. It completely leaves the original intent that made NASCAR so popular. The idea of a “Stock,” car has been completely destroyed by the COT and that is saying a lot when compared to the previous models used in NASCAR.

This season has seen owners show up at one race with Ford decals on their COT and then show up with the same car a week later with Toyota decals.

The spec vehicle concept has all but ruined the IRL and it did end IROC, yet Brian is pushing the American auto manufacturers out of NASCAR with his version of a spec car. Instead of working to make the cars look more identifiable to the race fan, thus getting brand loyalty back into the series, Brian is moving NASCAR the opposite way.

The article states as the biggest reason for the poor turnout for the Chicagoland race last Sunday was due to the way tickets are sold for that track.

Again, Brian and NASCAR has pinpointed the reason as being more to do with the fact that a fan is required to buy a full weekend set of tickets instead of one day tickets. Problem solved, NASCAR is beautiful, and Brian dodges another admission about the lack of fan interest in his interpretation of “Stock” car racing.

The Chicago track is owned by the France family’s holding company, International Speedway Corporation that owns 13 NASCAR speedways. Therefore, what happens at Chicagoland will most likely happen to all of their tracks?

The independent speedways have competed directly with the ISC tracks for those all-important race dates, yet the independent tracks tend to outdraw them. This may be directly related to the all-inclusive ticket policy of the ISC. This combines the Cup race with the two other top tiered series, the Nationwide and Camping World Truck races.

With dislike of the COT growing among the race fans, boring races, and the terrible TV coverage, it is no wonder why viewership and track attendance is dropping.

The economy notwithstanding, the bang for the buck going to a race, or watching one on TV has made the other venues more appealing. NASCAR needs to ask the fans what is wrong and not unilaterally dictate what we will watch.

The TV coverage is a case in point. During the high growth days on the early and mid eighties sponsors put their money into the race teams as the coverage stayed on the cars at the track. Today we are bombarded with a continuous parade of TV commercials hawking everything from male member enlargers to auto parts.

These same sponsors are today leaving the garages completely. It makes little financial sense for many companies to give a team $10 to $15 million when they have to also put together an expensive commercial and then pay exorbitant fees to run these ads during the race. They make a TV commercial that will run on many shows plus the race and pocket those all-important dollars once given the teams.

Where are the sponsors that made NASCAR so popular? During the TV heydays we saw companies like Proctor and Gamble with most of their product line, STP, all of the major oil and gasoline companies, and many national grocery store chains to name a few.

Proctor and Gamble use to advertise every product they sold on the Cup cars and many of them in the Nationwide series. Today they only do token sponsorship as the bang for the buck no longer applies to the cars on the track but in the hated TV commercials.

The core of NASCAR since its beginnings have been the older fans that stuck with them through thick or thin. Those fans, sometimes made fun of by the mainstream media as being a knuckle dragging, beer gut, Southern country bumpkin, is the fans NASCAR has to keep.

To ignore them for a fly by night, instant gratification, do what’s cool today new fan is completely insane.

Depressing was the term used and I have to agree completely that today’s NASCAR is depressing. No longer is the everyman series focusing on the grass roots fan base, but a very irrelevant spec car series that is losing its core fan base.

I wish NASCAR well and can only pray that the powers that be will see the wrong direction its heading and correct it before it is too late. Maybe then, we’ll finally get to see the loved NASCAR of old.