[media-credit name=”Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]The weather was perfect, if not hot, and the pre-race show was amazing. No one does the patriotic opening act like Charlotte Motor Speedway, so why was the attendance so bad? That’s a good question that comes in the form of multiple choice. Take any of these and you may win, but picking just one will not answer the question.
The Economy – This has long been the excuse for people not attending the races this season, but gasoline was down to $3.29-3.49 all along the way, with the highest prices being in West Virginia. With the economy improving somewhat, it might be ticket prices which have tripped in 20 years.
The Saturation of Information – No longer do fans have to come to the track to see what is going on. Even though many newspapers don’t send writers to many of the races anymore, we have the internet, Twitter, Facebook, a bevy of television shows, and Sirius XM Radio that keeps everyone up to date. Long gone are the days waiting for SouthernMotorRacing or Grand National Scene to come in the mail. Most fans simply get more information than they can handle. With most of the tracks being built during the boom era of the sport, a lot of seating was the norm. Today, there are just too many seats. Although the official press release said that 140,000, the printed capacity of the track, large blocks of empty seats could be seen in the third and fourth turns, as well as the backstretch. There were lots of fans there, but nowhere near 140,000.
The Racing – Here’s where it gets sticky. Many close to the sport continue to insist that the racing is “better than it ever has been before.” They reference the 1960’s and 1970’s races where only ten cars were on the lead laps and so on, but the truth is, most races have not had the excitement factor we saw a few years ago. Why? Some of it has to do with the pressure drivers feel to make The Chase. It’s hard to be aggressive and rub fenders when one mistake puts you out of the race and not in The Chase. Sunday night, we saw a long train of competitors driving around in line. Most of the small number of cautions were mostly for debris. Many fans left early or spent time in the concourses during the race just to get a break.
The Lack of a Driver like the Late Dale Earnhardt – Earnhardt was unique, but not so far off from the other drivers of his era who were hell-bent on winning a race. In today’s environment, if you make The Chase, you still have a chance to win the title. Witness Tony Stewart last year. Yes, he won half the Chase races, but he overcame a bunch of very consistent teams who sat back and watched the magic Smoke brought to the final ten races. In other words, keep you nose clean for 26 races, make The Chase, and do your work there.
Of course, I didn’t mention Dale Earnhardt, Jr., which is in error. Junior is by far the most popular driver in NASCAR and yet he has a large losing streak that can be counted instead of races. More than a few of his father’s fans picked the son as their favorite driver. Let it be said that Junior is nothing like Senior on the track. Many believe that a win by the No. 88 would cure the sport, but I feel that any revival will come from one or more remedies from above.
There are many who think there is nothing wrong these days, but dwindling ticket sales and TV ratings say otherwise. The early ratings tell us that the Indianapolis 500 drew more viewers than the Coke 600. I find that hard to believe. Has America lost their love of stock car racing?
So take your pick and let’s see what the results are.