With Attendance at an All-Time Low, Is NASCAR Dying a Slow Death?

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst IJune 5, 2010

DAYTONA, FL - JANUARY 12:  A lone driver practices in front of the empty stands during the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup testing at the Daytona International Speedway on January 12, 2005 in Daytona, Florida. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The fans jumped up as soon as they saw the directors come out of the board room. They all slowly asked: “How is NASCAR, is it going to be all right, when can we watch again?”

The directors said, “I’m sorry, but we did all we could, but NASCAR didn’t make it.”

Little Johnny was the first to ask, “Why did NASCAR get cancelled? Don’t the racing gods care any more? Where were you, Brian, when NASCAR needed you the most?”

All that Brian France could do was look down in disbelief and turn the rest of the day over to Mike Helton.

Mike Helton would be the one to address the fans, and explain why NASCAR would no longer be one of our greatest pastimes.

Instead, it would go down in the annals of sports history as one of the biggest disappointments, ever since the big brass thought that changing what had worked for 50+ years killed the sport, instead of benefiting from it.

As the questions were asked one at a time, all Mike could do was look at his old boss and try to explain how NASCAR might have been mismanaged for the past 7-10 years.

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He did the best that he could without putting himself in the middle of all the turmoil that would follow, once the decision was made to shut down all the tracks, and once and for all, not have to listen to any more complaints from the teams or the fans as well.

Mike asked the fans, “Would you like some time alone with each one of the tracks before we tear them down?”

Little Johnny was the first to step up teary eyed, as he asked Brian to stay with him while he said good bye to Daytona International Speedway.

Johnny slowly ran his hands lovingly over the start/finish line, as he reminisced about his very first visit to the 2.5 mile superspeedway.

“Would you like a piece of the track?” Brian asked, Johnny nodded yes.

Brian slowly bent over and took out his pocket knife; he then proceeded to take out a chunk of the old speedway next to the start/finish line, and he carefully handed it over to little Johnny as he began to cry.

Brian looked over at the youngster and told him that it would be alright, and that maybe someday racing would resume under another name.

As the fans slowly made their way around country, saying goodbye to some old friends, they each reminisced about their favorite NASCAR moments, and how each track was their favorite.

Pretty soon, it would be time for the wrecking balls to make their way in, and slowly tear apart each fans memory.

The drive home would be the most difficult part of the journey, especially since most of the fans that showed up for the news conference, expected to hear that NASCAR was on its way to bigger and better things.

How was it that a sport that dominated the air waves so much in the early time of its existence, all of a sudden just took a steep downward spiral into oblivion?

Was the dwindling economy and lack of sponsorship to blame?

Or was it because the owners refused to bring their young drivers up the old-school way, so that when it was time for them to drive in the upper series, they would at least be competitive?

The rising cost of tickets and concessions had to be one of the big players, I'm sure.

More than half the races were at least 10 to 30 thousand fans short of a sellout, because NASCAR was no longer affordable for the average family.

Instead, it was marketed more for the business-class side of society, the same path that basketball, baseball, and football took.

The true NASCAR fans were basically forced to watch their favorite drivers from the confines of their own living rooms, instead of the mega-seat stadiums that were built to house the faithful who hung around to watch the sport slowly be destroyed.

Then along came the Chase which was supposed to make racing more exciting, and give each driver an equal chance at winning a championship.

Instead, it widened the gap and gave the average team no hope for ever winning a championship, unless they had some sort of magical lucky wand that could pull a championship out of thin air.

We can’t forget about the C.O.T. that was supposed to bring parity back to racing, and make it affordable for all teams to run at a more competitive level.

Just like the Chase, all it did was give the heavily funded teams a guarantee that they would at least have one, if not the whole team in the Chase.

How is that parity when not one Dodge made the Chase in 2008, and the fans had to sit back and watch Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson, all but make a mochary of the chase by winning all the championships with the new car?

How many issues have come out in the open since they started running the car full time, and just this season NASCAR decided to take away the wing in favor of the original spoiler.

Tires have never been this big of a problem in the past, neither has a poor-handling car.

Maybe a handful from years past, but when over half the field can’t get a handle on it, is this what the fans really want to watch?

Or better yet, pay their hard-earned bucks to watch drivers slamming into walls because tires or an ill-handling car are once again an issue?

NASCAR is slowly dying right before our very eyes, and the best that comes from the front office is, the fans and teams need to quit complaining.

Well maybe if they brought us a good product, and listened to those who are supporting them, they wouldn’t have the issues of loosing sponsors because the fans no longer want to support them.

As Johnny got home from school there was a letter on his bed, it was unmarked and read:

Dear Johnny,

Sorry for all the confusion and not listening to those who wrote letter after letter, asking me to please look into the problems that NASCAR was having.

I am also sorry for not listening to those team owners, crew chiefs, and drivers who pleaded with me week after week to let them help me make the car work better for the benefit of the fans.

I really felt in my heart that it would work out and help make the sport more enjoyable.

In my own mind, I felt that I had the right idea, but I should have taken the time out to listen to those around me especially the fans that supported what my family started over 60 years ago.

They had the right idea, and I guess my biggest problem was thinking that change would do the sport better, never realizing in the long run, sometimes its better to just leave well enough alone.

What I should have done was listen to the over 3,000,000 fans that pleaded with me to not do anything except go with the program that NASCAR was founded on.

What happened has already happened, and it’s my fault that your generation will have to suffer because of my wrong doings.

NASCAR was built on pride, but it’s too bad that it died of greed, just like so many companies that were around and can no longer be found.

When we first went to National T.V. full time in 2001, we had a lot of good ideas, but just got too greedy with them, and took the sport away from the everyday working class family.

At one time I blamed the fans for not showing up, but I never once looked at the dwindling economy, and how I made it hard for them to attend their favorite sport.

I had a chance to help the American people by lowering my prices, and giving them some sort of solitude away from their everyday struggles of life.

But instead I raised my prices because I felt that was how a business should be run, never once realizing that it’s better to have a sold out stadium at two-thirds the price, than to have one half-full.

All I had to do was look at all the empty seats week after week knowing that more fans means more revenue at the concession stands, and the merchandise trailers.

What I may have lost at the ticket stands, I could have easily made up elsewhere, but the most important thing would have been to see the younger fans enjoying what most of their parents were raised on, and that is NASCAR racing.

Maybe someday another individual can look back to the roots of NASCAR, and realize where I went wrong, and start a new series.

Just like anything else, it will take time, but if done right, it can be just as exciting.

Your Friend,


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