Does Anyone Pay Attention to Watch or Understand NASCAR Races Anymore?
So....how many of you knew Sunday NASCAR's Kickoff Race for the 2018 season, the Daytona 500? Were you interested? Did you watch it on TV?
Yeah, sure, I have a few friends in Florida who knew and annually go to the race held the 3rd Sunday in February every year---but they appear to be in the minority these days.
For what it's worth---Austin Dillon won Sunday's race in a format that you'd need a guidebook to understand (it ended in "Overtime")....
Here's are your highlights assuming you were among the many who didn't know about the race:
In 2017, the viewing audience was down 11-percent in 2017 from the previous year. Those numbers are 18% less then they were in 2015 and 22% less than 2014.
The problems is magnified more if you look at attendance. The Daytona 500 is the "Marquee" event for the sport. The race was apparently "Sold Out"--but there were only 100,000 seats available, down markedly from 150,000 of 5-years ago. Mind you, the track just finished yet another "Renovation" that lowered the seating--but still it points to a problem.
On top of this, NASCAR stopped providing attendance figures 5-years ago (2013). They did not cite a specific reason for doing it, though it is clear they don't want to give away the notion races are not selling out...
To put it bluntly--the Sport went from a fast-rising potential challenger to the "Big 4" sports to being an afterthought in less than a decade. Growth, TV ratings, attendance and money was flowing fast and furious from 2000-2008, but the recession hurt the sport and it has never recovered.
Sports fans no longer seem interested in highly expensive cars running races that largely are hard to explain due to constant format tweaks and lack of marketable stars.
NASCAR has changed rules and formats for races on a nearly annual basis since 2012 and what's left has become a confusing mess that makes little to no sense to casual fans.
For instance: Did you know this years Daytona 500 was run in "Stages"? Or that it went to "Overtime" to determine Austin Dillon won? Dillon led exactly ONE lap the entire race, the last lap of "Overtime"....
Yes, that's right. Kurt Busch actually won "Stage 1", Ryan Blaney "Stage 2." What that means: I have no earthly idea....
And that's the point. If you can't bring in the "Casual" fan---you've got no chance to succeed in the marketplace. If your rules and events are confusing to them and have to be explained---you've got a big public relations problem.
Hardcore fans are great---they will always be there no matter what you do. But it's the casual fan that will put you over the top.
Football is not too difficult to understand in its basic form, basketball and baseball too. Which is why they draw more of the casual fan. Soccer is fast on the rise--but soccer is something kids and families are exposed to at an increasingly younger age helping build a fanbase and generation that gets the sport.
Racing is far too expensive for most to get involved with. Very few families can afford to buy cars for kids and work their way up the ladder. What's worse is to make the jump to NASCAR, costs millions. The serious competitors left in the sports are mostly concentrated in a handful of teams. Independent drivers and teams can't afford to compete with them.
At the end of the day---that is what is choking off the sports and stalling its growth--lack of development. You need to have a constant flow of talented, personable drivers coming in on new and exciting teams. That's not happening.
Which is why like golf--NASCAR will likely never be more than a somewhat fringe sport watched by those who will watch no matter what---never much more popular than it already is and forgotten about by most fans whenever their sport of choice begins.....
((Ratings and Attendance Sources--Sports Media Watch and ESPN))