Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is it time to change NASCAR's traditional race day?

   Is it time to change NASCAR’s traditional race day?

   For the second Chase for the Sprint Cup in the past three seasons, NASCAR is seeing a significant ratings decline during the 10-race playoff.

   In the 2010 season, every Chase race except for the season finale at Homestead, Fla., saw a ratings decline over the previous season.

   So far in 2012, in the six races run on the same day as the year before – one was rained out in 2011 – TV ratings have been equal or in most cases significantly down from 2011. The worst was this past Sunday’s race at Martinsville, Va., which was off 22 percent from a year ago.

   Small ratings increases and decreases happen all the time for a variety of reasons, but anytime a sport loses one-fifth of its audience, it should be a cause for concern.

   In the last several years, NASCAR has tried a variety of methods to recapture some of the TV audience lost in the past five to eight years.

   There have been numerous “tweaks” to the Chase format and its rules.

   Common race start times were tried, and then abandoned.

   NASCAR even loosened its authoritative grip by allowing drivers to settle more of their issues between themselves on the track.

   While certainly the economy has seen significant problems in the past four years, the NFL – NASCAR’s competition on Sunday – has seen no similar significant declines.

   So, the question arises, is it time to yield to the NFL juggernaut rather than continue to compete against it side-by-side?

   The NFL isn’t going anywhere, folks. In fact, even during the time NASCAR grew dramatically in appeal and ratings, it wasn’t because the NFL went south. The NFL grew, too, just not as much.

   And there are no signs America’s fascination with the gridiron will change.

   Hence an idea: Why not make Saturday afternoon the traditional race day for the Cup series?

   Yes, there are lots of college football games in the fall, but only the biggest games – a relatively small number – even come close to bringing in the number of national viewers that NASCAR Cup races do.

   While this change may be inconvenient for ESPN/ABC as they broadcast dozens of college games on Saturdays, the network would still benefit if, in fact, the audience for NASCAR grows because some fans are no longer torn away by the NFL.

   One other thing to consider: Fans and particularly those who work in NASCAR generally enjoy Saturday day or night races because it frees up a weekend day. It would be difficult to imagine at least those in the industry not enjoying many Sundays off.

   It would be a bold step. It would also step on tradition.

   But if the long-term success and vitality of NASCAR itself would be better off, would it really be so bad?


  1. Do It! When football season starts, Nascar season ends for me. Even if my Panthers DO SUCK!

  2. NO.

    Sunday BELONGS TO WINSTON CUP (yes I'm using the old name and I'll keep using it). Winston Cup held its own with the NFL forever and can do so again by making Winston Cup compelling, ferocious racing again.

    The Chase is failing in the ratings for ONE reason - THE CONCEPT OF THE CHASE IS FUNDAMENTALLY FRAUDULENT.

    Artificially locking out 4/5ths of the field for the final 10 races is wrong and people see through it. The top 12 in points are NOT supposed to be immune from the rest of the field; the championship is NOT supposed to be about a driver out of contention artificially put back into contention with ten races left because of a points re-rack (Tony Stewart basically admitted as much last season); the championship in racing is supposed to be about winning over everything else for the ENTIRETY of the season, NOT the last ten races.

    Contrary to the myth, racefans do not prefer Saturday night for Cup; they want Saturday night to belong exclusively to the local tracks. The ratings have never gotten better by switching races to Saturday night; on the contrary Saturday night makes it too hard to attend Cup races (virtually the entirety of the audience is out of state).

    NASCAR's switch of start times of late was them knuckling under to ESPN's arrogant and unneeded demand for later start times; NASCAR needs to push start times to 12:15 PM.

    What NASCAR needs to do is put start times back to 12-12:15 for the whole season; put 400-mile races back to 500 miles; abandon the Chase format entirely; go back to the Latford Point System and add big point bonuses for the race win and most laps led - 125 bonus points for the win; 10 for leading; 100 for most laps led.

  3. Biggest reason for decline!
    Jimmie Johnson.
    He won the pole and I did not watch the race, knew who was going to win and won some money!

    1. I totally agree with you. Five-Time has created a monster while driving away thousands of old-time fans. Yes, the ladies love him but many fans don't. I don't buy the myth that The Chase has driven fans away. Bottom line, the cars not in the Chase can still race to win. But if they had done that early in the season then they would have been in the Chase. The old points system sucked. Usually by this time in the season who ever was in 1st plaqce was hundreds of points ahead of 2nd place and that was boring. Kenseth proved that. Points for Pole Position are needed. Go Brad!

    2. The old point system wasn't bad - just inadequate. All that was needed there was to increase the bonus for winning the race and for most laps led to make winning and most laps led paramount to winning the championship.

      The cars not in the Chase have nothing to race for because the win has zero value; it's only about points and there is nothing to race for when they aere locked out of the top 12 with ten races to go.

      Points for the pole are USELESS - the pole is just a qualifying spot; it had ZERO relevance to the win.

  4. Logically the idea of going to Saturday races makes sense and would more than likely have a positive impact; on making the down hill slide of NASCAR appeal a little slower. But the reality is that NASCAR killed of it's "die hard" fans by abandoning the competitive tracks like Rockingham, N. Wilkesboro, and to a lesser degree Darlington. NASCAR ran off the fans who passed their passion for the sport and it's characters down to their kids and grandkids. And even though Jimmy Johnson and Chad Knauss are great talents, something about them and their success has homoginized the sport. I don't have the solution(s) but I would certainly identify those as problems. How and what platforms the races are broadcast on may have an impact aswell. That's my 2 cents worth

    1. Actually going to Saturday night doesn't make sense for Cup - it never has; it became a fad and track owners foolishly tried it.

      Abandoning tracks like Rockingham and North Wilkesboro did nothing to drive away fans because those tracks were inferior venues in markets that had dried up. Darlington is the same situation - its fan base is no longer big enough to justify more than one race date.

      Jimmy Johnson's problem is not that he;s homogeonized - it's that he's a designated champion by his factory. Chevy racing boss Herb Fishel brought him to stock cars (first ASA, then the Busch Series) and the path right away was he would eventually go to Hendrick Motorsports, Fishel's designated champion team (the story that Jeff Gordon hired him is myth). Nowhere did Johnson ever have to earn anything - it was given to him right away.

  5. Replies
    1. It's the Chase, and a whole lot more: Spec racing that has led to too many races being decided by fuel mileage = boring, drivers are more corporate employees than real-men race car drivers of old who tell it like it is, demise of too many traditional tracks (frequently replaced with 1 1/2 mile cookie-cutters), demise of the Southern 500 (Darlington, Labor Day week-end, Southern pride on display), political correctness trumps everything else, too money-centric, death of Dale Earnhardt Sr, and it just no longer seems real but is more like a made for TV movie. But, in spite of all of the above and a few other complaints I could register if I gave it some thought, I do still watch and probably always will; paying for a ticket, that's unfortunately unlikely.

    2. The problem is not spec racing, it's technology racing - technology takes away passing.

      The traditional tracks (Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, Darlington) lost their audience and couldn't justify staying anymore, and the cookie cutters are a good competition model - they're a better competition model than the uncompetitive noose that is Darlington.

      Being money-centric is too one-size-fits-all a complaint to work.

      What would Dale Earnhardt have brought to the table had he lived? I'm not seeing anything he could have brought to the sport anymore.

      It's more than the Chase, but it isn't the catch-all complaints I've heard too often in discussions about this subject.

    3. Monkeesfan, I certainly respect your right to your own opinion; to each his own. But I'll stick with my previous comments, and sadly watch as NASCAR drives away even more of its traditional fan base.

  6. I never know when the race is coming on. Early, late, Saturday night? They're all over the board now. Then there are the personalities (or lack of). They are all vanilla. No rivalries or really aggressive racing. Locking out 75 of the field from even being mentioned for the last 10 races has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever heard. If they would have just worked on the points like everyone had said, the drivers would be going for the win and not just a top five. They're racing to the rules that they are given. I don't blame them, but don't kill it by moving it to the yard work/soccer/family day.

  7. I think there are a number of reasons for the decline of NASCAR popularity. First, there was an artificial level of popularity for this sport and the only place for that to go was down. Football, baseball, and basketball have been steady in their popularity, and, therefore, can remain at their level. Then we have the added incentive of 'drama'. The year Matt Kenseth won the championship without winning a race was the straw that birthed The Chase. We could not have such a champion!! After all the tortoise cannot be allowed to win the hare's race!!! True, some championships in the past were won by large margins, but many came down to the wire as well. Then we have the administration...Brian France just does not bring out the best in the nurture of this sport, and it does not help that there seems to be a change in the rules every time the wind shifts. Fans begin to wonder if anyone is at the helm or if the ship is adrift. Of course the economy is a definite factor in racing as much of the revenue is received through sponsorship as well as through attendance tickets. Racers are required to give more and more of their time to sponsors in order for their teams to remain viable. There are many factors that affect the sport of racing and I do believe there are a number of people who are being paid large salaries that may not be earning them. They are being paid to be let them create!!!