Earlier, in part 1 and part 2 of this story, I discussed the problems that are facing Nascar. And there are plenty. The sport faces plunging attendance, declining TV viewership, and fans who see lethargic racing, boring drivers, and a lack of excitement. These problems, although serious, do not spell the death of Nascar. But how can Nascar fix these problems? Well, you’ll see here.
1. Better cars
The much reviled Car of Tomorrow, which was introduced in 2007 and quickly became the subject of unilateral hate, has been phased out of Nascar. Starting this season, the new Gen-6 cars have been introduced into the sport. And what a difference they have made! The new cars immediately got a positive reaction from the fans. They are much more aesthetically pleasing and look more like their street counterparts. All of the Car of Tomorrow models looked exactly the same. The cars have also led to more exciting racing. The races in California, Las Vegas,and New Hampshire were all much more exciting than they had been in years. However, Nascar still has some work today. Lethargic follow-the-leader racing still persists at tracks such as the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Daytona and Talladega featured long stretches of double-file racing where virtually no passing occurred. Gone are the days when a driver could charge to the front of the filed in just a few laps. An improved aero package for the superspeedways would go a long way to rectifying this.
2. TV deal
Nascar has made agreements to have its races broadcast on FOX, TNT, and ESPN throughout the season. The TNT and ESPN deals come up for renewal at the end of the 2014 season. Renewing these deals, especially the agreement with TNT, would hurt Nascar and decrease its viewership. TNT consistently puts out poor quality, commercial filled broadcasts that turn even the most exciting races into snoozefests. NBC and CBS are reportedly interested in broadcasting races. Nascar would be well-advised to consider their offers. In order to gain more exposure, Nascar races need to be broadcasted on major networks like NBC and CBS, not on cable channels like TNT and ESPN. I mean, who really watches TNT?
3. Stopping Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson has won five straight championships. Take a moment to digest that. In any other sport, or even with any other driver, his accomplishment would be celebrated, revered even. The only other teams that have done this are the 1950’s Yankees, the 1960’s Celtics, and the 1950’s Montreal Canadiens. That’s it. And yet, when people talk about Johnson’s achievement, it is not with reverence or with awe. His streak is talked about with utter disgust. By many, Johnson is considered a bland and boring driver. His consistent performance is driving fans away from the sport. So, what can Nascar do to stop this?
First of all, they can Jimmie-proof the Chase, much like the PGA tour did after the rise of Tiger Woods. The PGA deliberately made their courses harder, adjusting tee-off spots and hole placements in order to ensure parity and make the courses more difficult for Tiger. Now, obviously Nascar doesn’t have the ability to change the layout of their tracks, but they do have the ability to change the schedule. If Nascar were to take out Chase tracks that Jimmie performs well at, such as Martinsville, Phoenix, Kansas, or Dover, and replace them with tracks where he consistently performs poorly, such as Bristol, Watkins Glen, or Richmond, it would go a long way towards stopping Jimmie’s dominance. Upping the scrutiny on Johnson’s cars would also help Nascar hold back the 48. More incidents like at New Hampshire, where Jimmie was sent to the back of the field after he failed post-qualifying inspection, would put a damper on the 48’s success.
4. Better racing
This fix is fairly simple. Fans and sportswriters alike have complained about the high volume of intermediate, Cookie cutter tracks, and with good reason. Nascar races at 1.5 mile ovals such as Texas, Las Vegas, and Atlanta often feature long boring stretches of single file racing. There are on average only two caution flags for crashes per race. Races are often won and lost by strategy calls on top of the pit box, rather than by a great move on the track. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Jimmie Johnson is often at his best on these tracks. The solution? Move races away from these cookie cutter raceways. Replace them with road course events, or short tracks. Another superspeedway race like Talladega would be a good idea as well. Nascar should even consider hosting a race on a dirt track. The Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway (7 ET, July 24 on SPEED), has already generated an insane amount of interest–and that’s just a Truck Series race! It featured great racing and some of the best storylines of the year. It doesn’t matter where Nascar moves its races. It just needs to move them away form the 1.5 mile cookie cutters.
5. The economy
Many Nascar fans have stopped coming to races because of the economy. They simply can’t afford it. Aside from reducing the cost of its tickets, there’s not much that Nascar can do to stop this. Nascar just needs to ride the recession out. When the economy improves, so will ticket sales.
Eldora was a step in the right direction for Nascar. To read about how the race went down and whether it was a success, click here.