Why Is NASCAR Losing Its Fan Base

BobLee
July04/ 2016

I’m not sure how much of its fan base NASCAR is indeed losing BUT….. I have read that the mega-tracks like Daytona and Charlotte are converting large sections of their grandstands to “open areas” in order to make the remaining seats more of a premium. That sends a message that The Golden Era of NASCAR might indeed be “in its Empty-NASCAR-Seatsrearview mirror”.

We’re not talking “WNBA empty seats” but a lot more than even 2-3 years ago.

Some (many) claim the demise began with the closing of North Wilkesboro…. and Rockingham. I am NOT a subscriber to that theory. NASCAR enjoyed 10+ years of sell-outs and high TV ratings well after “the small town short tracks” gave way to the Big Market Mega-Tracks with The France Family and Bruton’s Gang slugging it out for prime dates.

I think the “why” is a confluence of socio-cultural-techno changes in American society and not any one “here’s why”.  Everything, except the MacRib, has a shelf line, an alpha and an omega.  George Burns didn’t live forever and neither will Betty White.

My personal experiences with NASCAR was during that period post-North Wilkesboro and into Ft Worth, Los Angeles, Las Vegas et al. I’ve told parts of this story before….

For 8+ years in the late 20th Century and early New Millenium I attended over 30 NASCAR races across America. I enjoyed VIP credentials and access to all the closed doors and High Security areas that a typical NASCAR fan would cut off a thumb to get to.  Short of the rest room on Jeff Gordon’s motor home, I could go about anywhere.

I was Up Close & Personal to all The Dales, Rustys, Jeffs, Marks, etc as well as yearly “Miss Winstons” and a host of B and C level celebrities that got to say “GGoldbergentlemen, Start Your Engines…”.

My Favorite “Gentlemen, Start …..” celebrity was Goldberg (The Wrestler). He and I became pretty good buds over a 2-3 year period.

I learned Colin Powell is a real jerk. And David Browning does the World’s Best Barney Fife impression.

I recall a couple of very young and very nervous young C&W singers about to sing The National Anthem before Busch Series races in Atlanta and Charlotte.  A Kenny Who? and a Brad Who?  Thats Chesney and Paisley for you Albert.

Then there was the time Emmitt SmithDanica and I discussed the quite obvious lack of AfAms at Bristol as we gazed up from the Start/Finish Line into 140,000 screaming Tennessee rednecks.

Alas, The BobLee Era of NASCAR was pre-Danica. I exited about two years before she arrived. DARN IT!

I’ve got stories galore from pretty much every venue in NASCAR but I’m saving the juicier ones for my memoirs.

Then one October Sunday in Charlotte about ten years ago I ate my last Pringle. Amid another cacophony of crowds and noise and stealth bombers doing fly-overs and fast cars going around an oval…. I decided “I’ve had enough of this.”

I left twenty minutes into that race and have never been back.

Kinda like when I went “cold turkey” on playing golf 15 years ago. I still watch The Majors but have not “waggled” once since I said “I’ve had enough of this”.

Will I ever say that about posting incredibly insightful columns here? I doubt it.  This is a “pry my cold dead fingers off the keyboard” thing.

Anyhoo…. NASCAR IS “losing fans” as described in the following article. The reasons are more numerous than stated in the article but all the “whys” add up to empty seats and falling ratings.

The drivers aren’t GOBs any more – “Good Ol’ Boys”. All the GOBs have retired or died. About the only Real GOB left is Dale Jr.

I sorta follow Carl Edwards because we know his momma and step-dad but other than him… they could all be Tampa Bay Rays or San Jose Sharks or Charlotte Hornets for all I know or much care.

You probably have thoughts about this. Lets hear’em.

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Humpy Wheeler on What’s Wrong With NASCAR….

NOBODY knows Sports Promotion / NASCAR like Humpy Wheeler.   A very SMART man and a very GOOD man….

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Why NASCAR Is Losing Fans

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nascar/2016/07/01/nascar-fans-attendance-cost/86587042/

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Jake
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The cost of admission is really keeping the fans away. I never missed a race on tv when Rusty Wallace was racing. We’ve lost the drivers that really had followings. I remember when just about every pick up truck in the area had a #2, #3 or some other number on their window, not any more.

EDWARD FULLAM
Guest
EDWARD FULLAM

THE POWERS THAT BE HAVE MESSED UP THE SPORT SO BADLY ITS SAD TO SEE WHAT THEY DID TO IT
IT STARTED BACK WHEN THEY TOOK THE LAP DOWN CARS MOVED THEM TO THE REAR TAKE FROM THE HAVE NOTS GIVE TO THE HAVES
RULES CHANGE EVERY RACE CANT FOLLOW THEM ANYMORE
ABOUT THE ONLY GOOD THING THEY DID WAS MAKE THE CARS SAFER
IS IT ANY WONDER FANS ARE LEAVING
THEY DONT RACE ANYMORE
THEY RIDE AROUND THEN REST THEN DO IT AGAIN THEN ONE MORE TIME
IM SORRY THATS NOT RACING

Mike Kruenegel
Guest
Mike Kruenegel

Although I am not Southern by birth, when I moved to Florida in 1993 from Northern California, I became a southerner. Living 45 minutes from Daytona was a dream come true. No more! For 10 years I could watch Daytona 500 practice free from the grandstands. Gone. Motorheads like me could pay a parking fee and reasonable admission for every person in your truck and park in turn 3 and 4 to meet good people and enjoy the race at ground level, hell, you could even smoke a cigarette, if you wanted to, or fly a symbol of southern heritage… Read more »

Frank Styers
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Frank Styers

I use to love the real races, but since the restrictor plates and the cars having to be equal and not go as fast as they can if someone has the guts to drive it I don’t watch it anymore. NASCAR is it’s own worst enemy. There is no innovation to make a car faster and better, all cars look alike with same lines. Daytona and Talladaga both look like follow the leader with a new leader each lap. This thing called “lucky Dog” Sucks!! If you are lapped then go to the back of the line! Yep NASCAR has… Read more »

PTH
Guest
PTH

Nascar screwed itself, they had one of the most loyal fanbases in any sport and finally got tired of being shown the door by the PTB’s by trying to become a gentrified sport, is “rasslin” next. I was an intrested tv fan, never been to a race but enjoyed watching and discussing with some of my friends. Liked the character of the old time drivers and the interplay, but not so much anymore. I am off the cable grid nowadays so much of the season is lost as I make no effort to see anything if I can’t get it… Read more »

PTH
Guest
PTH

Dem “GOB’s” ain’t likin alcohol as wine, and fried chickin beats cheese anyday. They ain’t shure about “wimin” drivin especially in them overalls that cover everything.

Bob
Guest
Bob

If I decide to watch cars race at 200 mph using ground effect and down force I’ll watch Indy cars. Give me cars and drivers where braking is once again critical for success. Fast down the straights and get on the brakes to corner then give her the gas. They are trying to fix it a little using smaller spoilers. I would like to see them open up the grill and cut that stupid splitter off the front of the cars. At least try it and see. Let the best drivers win not the best aero package. Later BobLee

Bob
Guest
Bob

PS BobLee I like the mile to mile and a half tracks best. Charlotte is my favorite.

Down East Heel
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Down East Heel

Historically eastern NC has been a hotbed of NASCAR fans. We used to say when a newbie moved to this area they had to pick a driver in order to establish residency. While this has recently changed, for a couple of seasons I was unable to listen to a race as there were no affiliate stations in this area. While it is ok to expand the brand to Kansas City and California, I’d argue NASCAR forgot their roots.

I love the restrictor plate races but the lack of passing last Saturday made it a lackluster race.

Retro Rock
Guest
Retro Rock

When NASCAR stopped being on AM,or heck, even FM local radio; that hurt a lot. You want to be outside in the garage working on your car, or doing some other project, while listening to the race. When you hear about big wreck, then you run inside and check out the TV. I live in the massive media market of Washington DC, and for decades NASCAR has not had ONE radio station. I even used to call NC Senators and tell them to hassle NASCAR about it. We`ve only had WFLS 93.3 out of Fredericksburg VA, which is WAY too… Read more »

Tom
Guest
Tom

I used to love to watch a race on Sunday but with the new tech, the endless ads and vanilla drivers the sport is no longer exciting. When the Coke 600 has the same leader for virtually the entire race and the same for the recent Daytona race why bother to watch. At least at the Indy 500 there were 50 lead changes.

Don
Guest
Don

I’m going to tell my age here, but I got into NASCAR racing when Fireball Roberts was still running. When Fireball died, I switched to Richard Petty because he didn’t live all that far from me. Now my man is Tony because he is the closest thing we’ve got to a Cale Yarborough or a Curtis Turner….and he’s getting ready to retire. I’ve been to a few races. Was at Michigan when Dale Jarrett won. Went to the first Brickyard and learned quickly that Indy didn’t know that NASCAR fans wanted to be able to see the whole track. I… Read more »

Geek49203
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Geek49203

I was also at MIS when Dale Jarrett won his first.

Was also there when Dale Jarrett lead every lap but 2, during his first pit stop. No cautions, looked like fast Interstate traffic. Fans woke up to leave when it was over.

Danica is a genius. She too (at best) middle of the road natural driving talent and made a huge market brand for herself.

oldwuf Vet
Guest
oldwuf Vet

I’ve lived in the “cradle” of NASCAR my entire life. Humpy pretty much nailed it. AD (after Dale) NASCAR drifted the wrong way. It doesn’t help that the working man in the rural/semi-rural south is either not making the money he was 10 years ago or he’s working overtime and weekends to make it. Once they got “fancy” they’re competing with every other sport for that demographic. Also, there are no rivalries – teams, drivers, manufacturers, families. Best friend’s father always pulled for Pearson and the Wood brothers. Chewed Levi Garrett, only bought Fords.Never would’ve pulled for a Petty and… Read more »

MercerMac
Guest
MercerMac

What did me in was when they went to night time racing. Getting home at 4a in the morning is not my idea of fun. “Take their race an shove it”. The COT with a logo on the hood is a joke. I’ll watch the last 10 laps of a few races and declare victory..MMF

Smokey Yunick
Guest
Smokey Yunick

Humpy Wheeler with another good synopsis that compliments yours, BL. “Let’s send Richard Petty to diction school” LOL!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwCByvLkSK0

James Johnson
Guest
James Johnson

NASCAR’s acceptance and “pushing” of social issues has driven many of their fans away. I doubt very many of their fan-base subscribe to: “green” energy, HB2 transgendered bathrooms, the Confederate flag as being “offensive” and I have had just about enough of pink breast cancer awareness (which is more than adequately covered everywhere else) I go to races to escape the social issue pressures of daily life, not to have them shoved in my face at the track.

Ron
Guest
Ron

NASCAR stopped being stock car racing a long time ago. 1) All the cars are the same. They might as well be IROC vehicles. I know a lot of it is in the name of safety, but it was nice when the old expression of “see it win on Sunday, go out and buy it on Monday” was true. The way it is now they might as well randomly draw and pick out a car. Let them get creative to win. Establish safety rules and everything else is fair game and make the cars at least resemble send have the… Read more »

RP
Guest
RP

1. The Teams. You can expect a driver from 1 of three or four teams to win. If one of them don’t then it’s a car that was bought from one of those teams.
2. 15 place back cars get no air time or are talked about.
3. Not many drivers in the top 15 look like they’ve earned their way. A lot are there off of daddy’s money.

Doug
Guest
Doug

I’ve been to several races at Bowman Gray when we lived in Winston-Salem and think it is just about perfect. Knowledgable old school Nascar race fans. Packed house every Saturday night (except no racing Independence Day weekend) with my kinda folks. Or as my son says, full of beer gutted gals wearing them half shirts. The only big race I’ve been to was the Labor Day race at Darlington in the early 90’s It was just after my youngest son was potty trained and he would not go into a porta-john, no way, no how. We’re sitting in the full… Read more »

Fireball Roberts
Guest
Fireball Roberts

ticket prices and caution flags. especially the caution flags. Why waste an entire day either going or watching a race when the dreaded debris caution flag is going to come out sometime during the last twenty laps. Bunching the field back up, and a shootout to the finish. It negates EVERYTHING that happens before that last caution lap. But Danica on the big screen is a good idea

Bryan
Guest
Bryan

Mr. Lee, You have nailed it sir. I have been to approximately 60 NASCAR races but haven’t been in several years. My interest has waned and it’s hard to give specific reasons. I suppose the lack of real good old boys probably has something to do with it. Man I remember how big of a deal it was to get to watch a race on TV. There were only a handful per year on broadcast TV and this was pre cable days. If I was really lucky my dad would drive us to “town” to his friends house were cable… Read more »

Geek49203
Guest
Geek49203

I used to be a member of the NASCAR media. My 2 cents: 1. No more Winston. You know, those marketing geniuses who put jingles into our heads that I still know 50 years later? And they supposedly spent over $1 billion on NASCAR, back when $1 billion was a lot of money. Nixon’s ban on tobacco ads on TV and radio funneled all of that money into sports, and the Master Settlement took it away. Blessed be the name of the gov’t or something. 2. FOX TV. Damn, that first race, Dale Sr got killed, and they broke away… Read more »

JoeH
Guest
JoeH

I think you are most correct in your views. I attended a couple of big races (Darlington) many years back and have followed NASCAR since, as a reasonably interested but casual fan (don’t go to races). As you have stated in other areas, football, etc., the 65″ HDTV screen had had an effect. Another factor is that today’s racing has only speed as a main attraction. Too many of the races now are a block of cars going very fast, pacing/drafting to get to the end period. Nothing much else happens. You get the pretty certain ‘one big one’ as… Read more »