The Decline of NASCAR–Part 2

Aaaaaaaaand, we’re back! In my earlier post, which can be found here, I discussed three major challenges facing NASCAR as it struggles to grow in this post-recession world. Beset by (1) the rise of corporate molded personalities such as 5 time champion Jimmie Johnson, (2) poor quality racing, and (3) bad broadcasts and commentating by networks such as TNT, NASCAR has stagnated. Track attendance is down. In 2012, no NASCAR races were sellouts. Television ratings have remained flat throughout the last 5 years, in stark contrast to the late ’90’s and early 2000’s, when ratings grew 5 to 10% every season. I’ve already examined 3 problems facing NASCAR. Today I look at two more issues that threaten the sport’s future.

4. Nascar has an image problem

Stock car racing is consistently one of the top three most watched sports in America, beating almost every major sporting league except the NFL in the ratings. However, Nascar’s exposure in the news media is minimal. On ESPN’s popular SportsCenter program, Nascar is talked about for at most five minutes in the course of an hour long TV show. In the New York Times Sports Section, which I’m using as an example because it’s the only paper I get, stock car races are lucky to get a two paragraph write up buried under the box scores. Midseason college basketball, youth soccer competitions, and national swimming championships all get more press and exposure than Nascar. And this is a problem. Nascar can’t attract new fans and new audiences if it has no exposure in the media. No one will get hooked on Nascar by reading a four sentence blurb about last week’s race.

Pictured: More popular than NASCAR?

If Nascar has a problem getting exposure, then it also has a problem with its image. Nascar is looked down upon by many, most of whom have never even seen an actual race. It’s perceived as a borefest where cars do nothing but go around in circles for hours on end. The drivers are seen as out-of-shape rednecks who sit in a car for a living. Many don’t even consider Nascar to be a real sport. And this is not true. Being a race car driver requires better hand-eye coordination than basketball, boxing, or football, better reactions and judgement than baseball, cycling, or martial arts, and more nerve than just about any other sport. Yet, people still hold Nascar in disdain, refusing to attend an event or to watch a race on TV. This perception needs to change, or else Nascar will have serious trouble with attracting new fans and increasing its ratings.

5. The Economy

Many of Nascar’s woes can be traced back to the economic troubles that the United States is going through. People all across the country are experiencing money problems, and this directly impacts their habits concerning Nascar. People can’t afford to pay for high-priced tickets to Nascar events. The cost of the gas needed to travel to the tracks also turns many people away from the sport. People can’t afford to take vacations and spend long weekends at a Nascar track. If they take time off, they’ll be perceived as slacking and will be the first to go if a new round of layoffs hit. The Great Recession has put a major dent in Nascar’s ticket sales and attendance records. However, the silver lining in this is that the American economy will eventually recover. America will bounce back, and when it does, once again prosperous race fans will be able to spend the money needed to attend races. Nascar just needs to ride the economic crisis out, and eventually it will come out on top.

Nascar is experiencing many problems, and as a result its viewership is in decline. But these problems are not fatal. They do not spell the death of this great American sport. How can Nascar fix its issues and surge to the top once again? Stay tuned to find out.

To read about how these problems can be fixed, click here.

Did Michael Waltrip Racing conspire to fix the race at Richmond? Read here for more info.

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