There is no doubt that NASCAR has faced its share of struggles this season, from sagging attendance at the tracks to a significant drop in the television ratings, even during the Chase.
While NASCAR has thrown just about everything they have in their arsenal at these problems, including ‘boys have at it,’ double file restarts, green-white-checkered finishes, all of which have led to some of the best racing in the sport’s history, NASCAR still seems to continue its struggling.
So, what is the solution? Well, perhaps NASCAR should do what so many do in times of trouble and strife. NASCAR should just get some good ole time religion.
Lest this article be construed as the ramblings of a zealot for a particular religion, please know that it is not. There are, however, some basic principles from that ole time religion that might not only apply but help NASCAR’s current predicament.
One of those first ole time religious principles is the need for a revival in the land. Yes, NASCAR does indeed need a revival throughout its land, and even in its soul.
Sure, times are tough but rather than focus so much on the business of NASCAR, the leadership of the sport needs to become more like evangelists on a mission rather than corporate suits. They need to stir the souls of NASCAR fans, reminding them of why they love this sport, instead of focusing on ways to pick their ever slim pockets.
This revival across NASCAR-land should recapture how much fans love the sport and the lengths they go to participate and get to the races. The governing body needs to focus more energy on fanning the flames of fans’ passion, reminding them of why they have decided to worship at the house of NASCAR rather than the houses of baseball or other sports.
Just like that ole time religion, NASCAR might even consider hosting some tent-like revival sessions with and for the fans, letting them share their stories of the sport with the NASCAR leadership. To encourage the fans to participate in these revival sessions, NASCAR could also work with the sport’s drivers and personalities to share their racing passions, as well as listening to the fans’ stories, allowing them to express what their driver, their team and their following of NASCAR has meant to them.
This revival of the NASCAR spirit could even translate throughout the sport’s media, giving voice to fans’ passion for the sport rather than endless hours of complaints focusing on what is wrong with it. Perhaps a radio show hosted by a passionate fan with various drivers not only sharing their racing stories but again listening to how fans came to the sport and allowing them to tell their own stories might just be one avenue to start and continue the NASCAR revival.
In addition to ole time revival, NASCAR might also utilize the principle of proselytizing from ole time religion. Anyone who has experienced that mountaintop religious experience cannot wait to share it and that is exactly what NASCAR needs to encourage more is the sharing of that racing experience that is so unique to the sport.
This is an avenue where the race track leadership and promoters could assist NASCAR in the proselytizing process, by providing incentives and even more boldly, perhaps even free tickets for a new race fan accompanying a current race fan to the track. Everyone in the sport knows that if you can get someone to the race track, you have created a fan for life, so tracks must consider making that as easy and cost-effective as possible in order to continue to bring new fans to the sport.
Once tracks get these newbie fans to their venues, they should also consider special perks to continue the proselytizing process, as well as perks for the current fans that brought them. Perhaps a NASCAR 101 course for these groups could be offered, including some basics about the sport, ways that they can plug in, such as using scanners or FanView, a pre-race demonstration of a pit stop so they understand the strategy of the sport, and even a surprise driver appearance that again cements that personal relationship on which NASCAR was built.
Another proselytizing option similar to that used in ole time religion is to focus on an avenue that has attracted so many to the sport, the family. For most, racing is in the blood having grown up at the race track or having been brought, or in some cases even dragged, to a local short track or other venue.
While NASCAR and its many race track partners throughout the country have done a good job in making tracks more fan and kid friendly, there are still many more opportunities for proselytizing the sport through children. Sure, this is an investment with perhaps not immediate return, but it most certainly ensures the long-term viability and survival of the sport in the future.
In addition to creating family and kid zones in the grandstands, tracks need to get even more serious about how they treat them at the track. The bottom line is that what every kid really wants when they come to the race track, especially for the first time, is to meet that driver, team or personality that they so idolize.
So, in addition to having drivers make appearances in the corporate boxes and the hospitality tents, NASCAR should think about innovative ways they can get those drivers in front of kids, especially those children who are coming to the race for the first time, as well as their families who have sacrificed to bring them.
Another possibility might be for the drivers and their children to meet the fans and their children, again making that personal connection even stronger, hopefully cementing that relationship for the rest of their lives as race fans.
Whether through focusing on new converts or creating opportunities for children and families, the bottom line in these challenging times is that NASCAR must again search for and find its soul. Then and only then, perhaps taking some lessons from that ole time religion, can the sport flourish and grow.