Sports Talk

NASCAR BLUES


It seems that several of the major sports are experiencing some financial stress and don’t seem to have the leadership that is needed to dig themselves out of the current downward spirals. Each of these sports has groomed its own destructive issues to near perfection, while on the other hand some of the problems are the result of changes in culture and society, and so in the next few articles we will take a look at some of the problems as they exist among some of these major sports entities.

We will kick it all off with a look at NASCAR. In 1947 Bill France Sr. organized a meeting in which the idea of NASCAR was conceived. NASCAR racing started gaining success throughout the 1950’s and 60’s and by the later part of the century was experiencing wild success packing out the stands with hundreds of thousands of spectators for each race.

Fast forward to 2019 and we see that attendance is down across the board by as much as 20% at many or most all the tracks. Daytona bragged of a sellout this year, but that was only because the track had removed 50,000 seats, reducing the capacity to 200,000 per race. Television ratings are taking a similar hit and so the question begs, what is going on in NASCAR?

Well it is the combination of several factors. First of all the premise of NASCAR, as it was birthed, is that it was a ‘stock-car’ race, in other words the cars were the same cars that families were buying right off the show room floor (with some modifications of course) and die-hard devotees of Chevy, Ford, Oldsmobile, Buick Dodge etc. turned out week after week to cheer their favorite vehicles and drivers on.

Well the science and machines of NASCAR have evolved over time to the point where there is nothing stock about them and the cars all follow a boring cookie cutter pattern on which the only distinguishing characteristic is the manufacturer symbol on the front of the car. A sport that used to feature many differing models now has narrowed to Ford, Chevy and of course the unpatriotic Toyotas.

A second problem that harasses all of motor sports on every level is that certain teams dominate the track week after week. The France family, who continues to lead NASCAR, decided In 2004 that they would introduce a playoff system to create more parity and hopefully prevent an exodus of fans from the sport. The playoff system, which has undergone several ridiculous changes since 2004, is in essence an attempt to manipulate the system to maintain parity and interest up to the final race of the season, but in truth has done nothing but infuriate many fans and in reality doing more damage than good to the sport. The France family just doesn’t get it and continues to tinker with the system, not repairing it by any means and instead creating a more boring situation.

Other problems NASCAR faces are inconsistent methods of dealing with drivers and teams who are cheating or exhibit behavior problems on the track, car speeds that have outstripped track design, and of course as with other sports the cost of attending is becoming more than many can afford. Add to that the lack of diversity of women and minority drivers/teams, which in 21st century culture has become a huge issue, and you can see that NASCAR has its work cut out for it.

NASCAR isn’t going away anytime soon, but the management needs to get proactive now in ways that help the sport get back on track. Remember, you can email me at sportstalkpioneer@gmail.com with comments, questions and column suggestions. Until next time “Win one for the Gipper”.

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