I attended my first NASCAR race last year when I hit up the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Up until this point I had only watched NASCAR on TV and with all honesty, I really didn’t know what to expect. Sure I had seen the thousands of fans and RVs that lined the infield, but again, this was from the comfort of my couch. So now I was there at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a place that is considered to be holy ground by the NASCAR faithful. I was expecting to see a complete madhouse, complete with packed stands, lines of people and motor homes galore, what I got was something completely different.
At first we we’re worried because we didn’t have any tickets, but once we arrived there were scalpers everywhere trying to pawn off entry for the lowest price. I think online ticket prices were somewhere around $70 per seat but we only paid $40 for two… not bad right, and this was well before the green flag dropped. Once inside we noticed that out of the 257,325 available seats, only about half were full – and this was at the Brickyard 400… not some little circle track event.
According to an article in last weeks Time Magazine viewership of Sprint Cup races has fallen a massive 25% since 2005. Corporate sponsorship has fallen off dramatically and with high prices and a bad economy, fans just can’t afford to get to the races. Another reason that viewership has gone down is perhaps due to all the politics that have consumed the events. Gone are the aggressive drivers and inner-pit feuding that most fans have come to know and love. This is what makes racing exciting as no one wants to see politically correct drivers who can’t voice their opinions or go balls out for the win.
One has to remember that NASCAR is as blue collar as it gets. It’s a sport that was built on the backs of old moon shiners and has it’s roots directly tied in with a complete sense of lawlessness.
Clint Bowyer, a four-year Sprint Cup veteran, states:
“I’ve got Cheerios for a sponsor. I have children at home who are buying our products in the stores and watching us race so I can’t go out and act like an idiot on the racetrack.”
Another aspect that has attributed to the downfall of the sport is the lack of variety in the cars. Every car that races today looks exactly the same albeit some different decals and to be honest, it’s hard to root for a decal. Just think back to the heyday of NASCAR, to the Ford’s, Chevy’s and Wing Warriors from Dodge and Plymouth. This was NASCAR and this was racing. Today’s NASCAR is a corporate conglomerate that has lost it’s passion and it’s way, and the fans are letting them know. It’s a tough game out there and for NASCAR the time has come for them to try and figure out how to get more octane into those engines.
Read more: TimeMagazine.com