Friday, May 11, 2012

Dale Junior: It's not just me

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes issue with the idea his current career-worst winless streak and lack of winning a Sprint Cup Series title are reasons why some tracks are still dealing with attendance problems.

   As Earnhardt has reiterated in the past, he believes economic factors still greatly affect race fans - many of whom travel long distances to the races they attend.

   "I don’t really think (TV) viewership and attendance is directly tied to the success of our team. We do have a great fan base and a loyal fan base that I think watches the races regardless of how we’re running. I just think it’s challenging financially for the demographic to afford to come out to a race," the sport's most popular driver said.

   "I think hotel prices are really high and gas is really high and just trying to get here and enjoy yourself has become quite expensive. A lot of people are not willing to make that sacrifice. They can sit at home and either watch it on TV or mow the lawn -- I don’t know. I think that it will cycle around and things like this always do kind of have a cycle. It will improve over time. When the confidence is gained in the consumer to come back out and spend that kind of money.”



  1. NASCAR and the related industry are their own worst enemies. E.G. those $79 / night motels in Anniston, Oxford, etc. Alabama were charging $249 / night for the same, cheap rooms last weekend? No wonder so many seats at Talladega have been covered over to fool the TV into thinking they aren't empty.

    A side note: What's with the regular "That's Racin" column that won't accept the standard Charlotte Observer log on for comments? Not everyone in the world thinks Disqus is the most wonderful think since sliced bread...

  2. apologies above - "think" = "thing" (Spell checker only gets you so far...)

  3. I know this is a hard concept for most media members to get through their thick skulls, but I'll try again: SOME OF US ARE NOT DALE JR. FANS! Some of us root for the Richard Childress guys, some root for the other Hendrick teams, and, believe it or not, there are fans of Ford and Toyota teams.

    I was a Jr. fan right after the old man died, but once he cast his lot with that crook Rick Hendrick, I moved on.

    So Jr. is absolutely right. People aren't staying away in droves just because Jr. isn't winning. They're staying away because 1) it costs too much, as Jr. said, and 2) because the product on the track is crap. I have lost count on how many weeks in a row I have fallen asleep watching these races (it's at least 11 or 12 in a row). When I wake up, I turn the channel and check back every now and then to see how the RCR cars are doing.

    This new car has done nothing to alleviate the problem of fans being inundated with "clean/dirty air" and "aero push" and the like. The races are quite boring. That's why the stands are empty.

  4. Excessive Cost, plus the superior TV viewing experience of HD and surround sound are what's driving the attendance problem. That, plus restrictor plates.

  5. Hotel prices are set by the market, and gas prices, while inflated, have been easing down. The affordability argument only goes so far. The TV viewing experience also only goes so far - there is no simulation of the actual experience of attending and witnessing a race or any sporting event.

    The hard reality is the sport is almost universally lacking anything interesting. Racing in and of itself is what keeps people coming back, but the quality of the racing is almost universally poor. Daytona and Talladega are the exceptions proving the rule - especially with Brian France's foolish meddling to take away tandem drafting, a campaign that hasn't worked (as evidenced by this past week's Winston 500) but has forced the racers not to race (instead they breathe the engines). This is where King Ward is wrong - restrictor plates have never hurt attendance; on the contrary that form of racing has regularly outdone the others in attendance and ratings because it's better racing.
    The "new" car as noted by J has been a failure, but also throw in the incompetence of Cup director John Darby, who clearly has been the biggest influence on Brian France as far as technical rules go - in his tenure from the early part of the previous decade the sport has gone through multiple tire changes, three spoiler changes, and also three swaybar changes, all the while cutting downforce - and it hasn't worked; the philosophy behind these changes (cut downforce) doesn't work. The changes for restrictor plate racing to take away tandem drafting is the latest example of John Darby's failure as a rulesmaker; the 2009-2011 package that allowed tandem drafting made for superior racing; the compromise package used in the Nationwide series produced two tremendously competitive races in 2012 because that package allows tandem drafting.

    The lack of participants worth rooting for is another angle for the sport's decline. Other than Richard Petty and a few others, the sport is inundated with unappealing personalities - Kevin Harvick, the Busch bash, Rick Hendrick and his bunch, Carl Edwards, Roger Penske and his bunch - none of them is worth a damn. And the upward mobility in racing for short track drivers from the likes of Stafford and Thompson Speedways and Bowman-Gray Stadium and so forth has long been severed - we may never see a Cup champion again who learned to race on local tracks; it has all become about F1 rejects because they can work with engineers better.