NASCAR's continued slide into obscurity

Watch a NASCAR race on television these days and you will see row after row of empty seats in the stands.Attendance at the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis last week dropped well below 200,000 -- the lowest mark in the history of that race and Allstate announced after the race that it was ending its sponsorship of the event.

Tickets for the Sprint Cup races at Bristol used to be the hardest to find. Now you can walk up to the ticket booth on raceday and buy spots in good seats. The track recruited Tony Stewart in a promotion to help sell tickets to its August race.

Ratings for the nationally-televised racing series drop week after week. The sport that once bragged it would overtake the National Football League in viewer interest is going the route of Roller Derby and staged "professional wrestling."

Lowes is dropping its lucrative sponsorship deal with Chalotte Motor Speedway. Race teams consolidate or just fade into oblivion. Morgan-McClure Racing in Abingdon used to be a powerhouse in NASCAR. It's gone. The Wood Brothers Team moved from Stuart to Charlotte, but is struggling. Richard Petty's fabled team exists in name only after another team bought The King's operation out just to use his name.

Teams struggle to find sponsors and former Charlotte Motor Speedway President H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler says he doubts the track will be able to find another sponsor to replace Lowes.

Some say the economy is killing NASCAR but the racing series is really hilling itself. NASCAR has become a sham sport, done in by rules changes that dumb down the competition and cookie-cutter, made-for-TV drivers devoid of personality.

It's like watching a loved-one deterioate in the waning years of their lives: Sad, but inevitable.

Watch a NASCAR race on television these days and you will see row after row of empty seats in the stands.Attendance at the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis last week dropped well below 200,000 — the lowest mark in the history of that race and Allstate announced after the race that it was ending its sponsorship of the event.

Tickets for the Sprint Cup races at Bristol used to be the hardest to find. Now you can walk up to the ticket booth on raceday and buy spots in good seats. The track recruited Tony Stewart in a promotion to help sell tickets to its August race.

Ratings for the nationally-televised racing series drop week after week. The sport that once bragged it would overtake the National Football League in viewer interest is going the route of Roller Derby and staged "professional wrestling."

Lowes is dropping its lucrative sponsorship deal with Chalotte Motor Speedway. Race teams consolidate or just fade into oblivion. Morgan-McClure Racing in Abingdon used to be a powerhouse in NASCAR. It’s gone. The Wood Brothers Team moved from Stuart to Charlotte, but is struggling. Richard Petty’s fabled team exists in name only after another team bought The King’s operation out just to use his name.

Teams struggle to find sponsors and former Charlotte Motor Speedway President H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler says he doubts the track will be able to find another sponsor to replace Lowes.

Some say the economy is killing NASCAR but the racing series is really hilling itself. NASCAR has become a sham sport, done in by rules changes that dumb down the competition and cookie-cutter, made-for-TV drivers devoid of personality.

It’s like watching a loved-one deterioate in the waning years of their lives: Sad, but inevitable.

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5 Responses

  1. I grew up working on a car we raced on Saturday nights in South Florida and watched “the big boys” at Daytona on Sundays when I could go there. The racing on TV now is not even the same thing. I commented to someone 3 or 4 years ago it was over for that sport. Too much TV and too much corporate money has killed it.
    Now wait till the end of this year and see how much money GM and Chrysler are willing or able to put into racing, considering they have a different group of board members and share holders now. You could say ‘it died with Dale’.

  2. If any national sport is sliding into obscurity it’s open-wheel racing. Take away the Indianapolis 500 and the Indy Car series would be all but invisible.

    At least NASCAR hasn’t had its TV audience fall off a cliff the way baseball has.

  3. for years but few have read the obituary. I used to love NASCAR, we went to races at Michigan, Richmond, and Martinsville. We watched on TV and held Daytona Parties for the 500. Then, starting in earnest in the mid 90’s, things changed for the worse. Cookies cutter tracks started being built everywhere but the South, and took races away from fabled tracks like Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, and Darlington. Rough driving began to be penalized, and rules turned every car into the same thing with only a different sticker on the grille to differentiate makes.

    We stopped going to tracks when tickets topped $50 a pop for marginal seats, and then we lost TV interest when half the races were on nearly identical tracks. We still went to local Saturday Night tracks like Langley, South Boston, Caraway, East Carolina, and others…and that’s where the fun could be had. The local tracks with local drivers, real cars, and affordable prices. Racing will live on, but NASCAR is dead to a large population, many of whom used to support it. What they call NASCAR today bears no resemblence to its roots, and that’s why it’s fading to oblivion.

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