Monday, March 21, 2011

Is NASCAR 'back' or not?

   If Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway provides any lessons learned I hope it's this: Three races does not a spectacular season make.

   Nor do three good races mean the sport has "turned the corner."

   And it certainly doesn't mean "NASCAR is backkkkk" as some fellow media colleagues so willfully crowed when ratings went up and great crowds were on hand in the season's first three races.

   Bristol, folks, was a dose of reality. In 14 years of covering NASCAR - two races a season - there were never fewer people in the stands for a Cup race than there were on Sunday. And this is no exaggeration: Some races I have covered in what was then known as the Busch Series drew better than Sunday's crowd.

   On top of that, overnight TV ratings were off nine percent. That percentage will likely grow when the final rating is released later this week.

   I understand those who make a living from this sport greatly desiring that it has turned a corner. And along with that their hope the sponsor money faucet will open up. And the race fields will be filled with cars that intend to run the entire race.

   But wishing it so does not make it so.

   Three races does not a comeback make in a 36-race season. Nor would three subpar races be reason to put the sport on its deathbed. However, anyone who thinks there isn't a serious problem still out there when one of the sport's most iconic venues is slightly more than half full, has the blinders glued shut.

   Undoubtedly, these comments will be labeled "negative" and I'll be criticized for wishing ill on NASCAR. Nothing could be further from the truth. Good or bad, exciting or dull, I just want - as Carl Edwards said at Las Vegas - for NASCAR to be NASCAR.

   Whatever NASCAR is this week, today, is how it should be reported - good, bad or indifferent.

   Because in the end, it will take all the 'negative' people and all the 'positive' people to fix what's wrong here. Neither group showed up much at Bristol on Sunday and apparently found something else to watch on TV.


  1. As the 88 continues to do well perhaps Nascar can cross that off as a reason Nascar is struggling.

  2. Very good points in your article. If the media would simply report the sport instead of trying to be PC for NASCAR, the fans might start taking the information provided as fact, not wishful thinking.

    Also, it would be nice if the tv broadcasts were shown with a wide angle view on the camera. If I hadn't been to races and know that what I see AT the track is totally different than the in car and single car shots that I see on TV, I would never spend the money to go to the track. All the "cool toys" that the production truck likes to play with takes away from actually watching the race. If you want to get new fans interested in seeing a race, someone has to show it to them from the comfort of their homes. Fox did this in 2001 -- why they have "forgotten" how to do it for the past several years escapes me.

  3. Yep, they're back. Back to where they were headed last year.

    Lots of reasons why I guess. But I dont think changing the driver intro songs (snicker) is the answer.

    They have got to get some relevance. Some reason for me to put off cutting the grass to watch. They dont have it now.

  4. As for the crowd, that's easy to explain. The talking heads refuse to acknowledge that the recession has NOT ended. There is s still a 20% under-employment rate. People are still struggling to pay their bills. It costs too much to go to a race.

    Ratings - that was the most "un-Bristol" Bristol race I have ever seen. It was, for the most part, the same boring parade that Vegas was (and how you could consider Vegas a good race is beyond me). The quality of coverage by FOX has gone in the toilet. I don't like the way they have made the crawler with the running order smaller and slower. And they are doing what NBC used to do - resetting the crawler back to the leader every time they show a replay. If your favorite driver wasn't in the top 10, you had a miserable time trying to find out where he was.

    Is NASCAR "back?" I agree with the earlier commenter - it's back to the low-quality product it has been for most of the past several years. The 2 excellent races to start the season appear to be the exception while the boring, no-passing parades remain the rule.

  5. NASCAR is just the same as any other sport any more. They seem to have the same winners every year and every race. It would be nice to limit teams to just 2 cars instead of 4 cars. By doing this it would help the smaller teams be more competive every week and create more interest by limiting this big money teams form pulling information from 4 sources to make there cars better when the smaller teams can not share from the same pool of infomation. Until Nascar starts listening to the fans I will not be watching any of the big three in the Nascar Series. I have move to Grand-AM road racing it is so much more exciting.

  6. 10-12 years ago, when NASCAR was still fan friendly, virtually every driver on the circuit would show up somewhere in the town they were racing to meet regular fans and sign autographs. Now, if you're lucky, they might meet with fans of their particular fan club, which excludes the typical NASCAR fan that just likes racing and not any one driver in particular. I also don't think drivers switching rides every other year has helped either. All the Dale Jr fans that shelled out $150+ for their leather jackets didn't like that they had to buy new 88 jackets so they just said "to **** with the whole thing. Besides JJ and JG, what driver is drivng the same # car that he drove 5 years ago? None. Much like free agency has eroded fan loyalty in other profession sports, NASCAR is not much different.