5 Problems NASCAR Must Fix to Broaden Its Appeal
It's safe to say that NASCAR is a sport that pays homage to its long and diverse history. All you have to do is just take a look on any given week, and you can see a window into the past. Be it a throwback paint scheme, a fan wearing a black Earnhardt baseball cap or the track the cars are racing at, there are many ways NASCAR salutes its history.
Yet, in this day and age, progress is key to growth. No matter how hard NASCAR tries, an overwhelming majority of sports fans refuse to regard NASCAR as a legitimate sport and refuse to take it seriously.
Here are five things NASCAR must do to broaden its appeal.
5. More Emphasis on Different Tracks
If NASCAR were to include a more diverse selection of tracks in its top touring series, it could go a long way in reaching out to other fans. As it stands, there are only two road courses in the 2013 Spring Cup schedule, three in the 2013 Nationwide Schedule and zero in the 2013 Camping World Truck schedule.
Road courses harbor an appeal and excitement all their own, and they are true tests of a driver's ability. Sure, many NASCAR fans may claim that road courses reek of pompous gentlemen drivers or that their favorite driver hasn't exactly conquered twists and turns, but in many cases, tracks like Watkins Glen can hold the appeal of, say, Bowman-Gray Stadium.
Remember the 2011 race?
On that note, this is a hackneyed idea, but NASCAR needs more dirt. NASCAR needs a return to the down-home dirtiness of a dirt bullring.
The Camping World Truck Series is heading to Eldora this summer, so for a rough-and-tumble division, it has the right idea. But the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series need to follow suit. It could be a one-off non-points event along the lines of the All-Star.
4. Emphasis on Diversity
In recent years, NASCAR has devoted more attention to its Drive for Diversity program. Such graduates as Darrell Wallace Jr. and Kyle Larson have been grabbing headlines week after week. Aric Almirola has also been doing well this year in the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports. And Juan Pablo Montoya, though not a Drive for Diversity student, has posted some good results in his NASCAR career as well.
Still, this is a sport that is mainly dominated by white males, which hasn't done much to boost NASCAR's appeal. Look at the NHRA. Any man or woman of any race or nationality could win on any given day. In the IndyCar series, although only one woman has gone to Victory Lane, there has been a diverse selection of nationalities that have won races on the circuit of the years.
Why can't this be duplicated in NASCAR?
NASCAR is doing something right with drivers like Wallace and Larson. Now, if it could only focus on female drivers with talent who have worked their way up the ranks, then the sport could be on the verge of an iconic breakthrough with its diversity program.
3. Location, Location, Location
Another appealing aspect about the NASCAR circuit is the location where some of the tracks reside. Charlotte Motor Speedway isn't far from the bustling metropolis that is its namesake. Pocono Raceway is nestled in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. And have you taken a look at the area around Watkins Glen Raceway? It's beautiful!
There are some tracks on the circuit right now that have no business holding two events in a season. If there were more tracks placed in various areas across the country—if not the world—that could broaden the sport's appeal.
What if Hawaii held a Sprint Cup event? Or if Cuba held a Nationwide event? For that matter, a Camping World Truck Series race at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan would see boost in fanfare.
2. Sign Relevant Sponsors
With the travesty at this year's Texas race in regards to the race's title sponsor, the NRA, NASCAR had a tough time with the signing of sponsors. By signing a sponsor that had a purely political motive and as much credibility as PETA, NASCAR had egg in its face.
We've yet to see the No. 29 Playboy Magazine Chevrolet, the No. 18 American Atheists Toyota or the No. 6 Trojan Ford. Although they have just as much right to be a part of the sport, there hasn't been as much as a peep from those guys.
I'm not knocking any of those organizations, but there would more than likely be an uproar if they joined the sport. There was an uproar over the NRA, but nothing was done.
So just keep the sponsorship dilemma simple. Keep it relevant to the interest of the fans so as to avoid any outcry or issue altogether.
1. Encourage Drivers to Develop Their Personalities
Ask anyone on the street if they know the name "Dale Earnhardt," and they'll more than likely say yes. Have you ever stopped to wonder why? If so, you probably haven't been a fan for long.
During his time in the sport, Earnhardt fostered his name into a brand name. As eccentric as he was, he stole the show, even when he had a subpar showing. But The fans knew him, loved him and hated him—and, ultimately, they respected him.
Today's drivers could learn from Earnhardt in how he fostered his reputation. That's not to say they should all grow a killer mustache, but they could learn how to truly be who they are behind the wheel instead of being bland and vanilla.
The more casual fans may know who Tony Stewart is, but do they know who Clint Bowyer is? I didn't think so.
Being great isn't only about results. It's about captivating the crowd as well. That is instrumental in being remembered in the long run.