The Frontstretch: As Chase Ratings Fall, Can NASCAR Bring Back the Fans? by Amy Henderson -- Friday November 9, 2012

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As Chase Ratings Fall, Can NASCAR Bring Back the Fans?

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Friday November 9, 2012


Eight weeks into the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup and amidst flip-flops in points and favorites, one thing has remained constant: TV ratings. And the numbers aren’t pretty. In seven of the last eight races, ratings have been down over 2011 by a significant margin.

To be fair, ratings fell in several races this year, but early on, the differences were by 100,000 viewers or so if they were lower. Now, the split is much wider, up to a million fewer people watching, and despite signing a fat contract with FOX, NASCAR should be worried-they haven’t re-upped with either TNT or ESPN for an extension, nor have they signed anything with a different network…and the more the numbers freefall, the more the value of a contract stagnates.

There are a couple of questions to ask here. First, why the drop now, in what should be the most exciting part of the sport’s season? And what can NASCAR do about it?

There are a few possible reasons for the plunge. The first, of course, is the Chase itself. NASCAR’s “playoff” format has never been popular among a great number of the sport’s fans. When NASCAR’s official website ran a poll asking whether fans liked the format, more than three-quarters responded in the negative. Fans never saw the need for a system that mimics stick and ball sports because NASCAR itself doesn’t resemble them. So it’s entirely possible that the system itself is to blame. But that’s not the only possibility.

Could it be, as some fans have suggested, that trying to compete with the powerhouse NFL is taking viewers away from the races? Perhaps. If people are disgruntled by the on-track product, it’s certainly possible that they would switch to the gridiron, where there is action on every play. It’s also possible that many casual fans simply prefer football and watch NASCAR as a diversion to fill the void between the Super Bowl and the season-opening kickoff. But if that were the main cause, it doesn’t explain the fall in ratings for the Saturday night race in Charlotte. While that race dropped less than some others and football could be playing a role, it’s unlikely to be the only cause.

There’s also the possibility that fans simply don’t like ESPN’s coverage of the races. What makes that alone difficult to believe is the fact that four of the five races leading up to the Chase, ratings were actually up over last year for the network. It could be the Chase race broadcasts themselves. There have been complaints from fans that drivers not in the Chase don’t get any coverage during those races, even while running well, and that could certainly drive away the fans of those drivers not shown, resulting in the lower Chase numbers.

Fans tiring of seeing Jimmie Johnson win might be one reason for low Chase ratings but for the fact that Brad Keselowski’s attempt to beat him should get the support of those fans.

One more explanation could be that it’s not the Chase itself, but rather the principal players-a lot of fans are tired of Jimmie Johnson being the perennial winner after five straight titles. And now, after a one-year absence, Johnson is back on top of the points with two races remaining. But Johnson hasn’t had the points lead for the entire Chase nor does he have a comfortable lead now. Brad Keselowski is within striking distance, and is a very different off-track personality than Johnson, who is often considered too vanilla to be likeable. So it should stand to reason that fans would tune in in hopes that Keselowski could take Johnson down in his own game this time. Last year’s numbers, fueled by a Tony Stewart-Carl Edwards title fight, were up slightly over 2010. But 2011’s ratings were lower than 2009’s numbers during a Johnson championship.

It seems, then, that there isn’t a single cause to the problem. And if the cause should dictate the solution, it stands to reason that there should be multiple solutions. There isn’t much NASCAR can do about Johnson’s dominance except wait for it to reach its natural conclusion, which, like the dominance of Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jeff Gordon before, it will. NASCAR can’t do much about the content of the television broadcasts either, but ESPN can, and it seems like with the floor dropping out, should. While the championship battle is important, it’s not the only thing to talk about for several hundred miles of racing. ESPN needs to diversify the content, covering whichever drivers and teams are having great runs both before and after the race whether they’re in the Chase or not. Otherwise, what is the incentive to watch if you aren’t a fan of Johnson or Keselowski and you aren’t going to see the drivers you are interested in?

But you would think that if the network was willing to make this type of change, it would have done so already. Why would they allow viewership—and the value of advertisers’ time—to drop if they thought this was a solution. Clearly, ESPN isn’t interested in stories that don’t involve the Chase and the drivers in it.

There’s no easy answer for the NFL problem either, except for one thing that NASCAR did in 2011 that they didn’t do before that and haven’t done consistently this year: move the start times back to shortly after 1PM Eastern. The races last year with that consistent, early time did do better with the fans. It’s also been suggested that all Chase races be run on Saturday nights at tracks with lights, but I’m against that as a solution. While it would eliminate the NFL overlap, it would also eliminate four unique tracks in the Chase: the flat mile at New Hampshire, Dover’s high-banked mile, Talladega Superspeeday, and the only short track in the Chase at Martinsville.

Making that change would mean at least one more 1.5 or 2-mile oval in the Chase. There are already five of those in the Chase and fans have been vocal about not liking that already. But to run all the races at night would necessitate it. The four tracks without lights have various reasons for not having them, like the noise ordinance in New Hampshire that precludes night racing. Martinsville and Bristol could possibly be interchangeable, at least in that both are short tracks. Richmond is unlikely to give up its status as the final race before the Chase even for a playoff date.

Even if Daytona would give up its traditional Fourth of July date for a swap with Talladega, poor attendance at Talladega on a July Sunday afternoon in sweltering summer heat is one reason that track’s race dates are in spring and fall. Darlington could possibly be swapped with Dover or New Hampshire, but if all three of those switches could happen, that still leaves one date that could only be replaced by a sixth cookie-cutter…a move that is unlikely to boost ratings in the long run.

Which brings the whole conversation back to the Chase itself. Is it the problem? It could be. Many fans have seen the format as nothing more than a cheap gimmick to make the sport more exciting than it is on its own, and worse, they feel that the champions it has produced are less worthy of that title, or would not have won, under the old format. Add to that they are seeing points races that are exciting and close in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series without the Chase format, and feel that NASCAR is trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

The solution looks tantalizingly simple—remove the format and you remove the thing that is driving away the fans. But it isn’t an easy decision nor one that should be taken lightly. In order to drop the Chase format, NASCAR would have to convince title sponsor Sprint that the last nine years have been nothing but a terrible mistake. They would also have to admit that to themselves. And what if it didn’t work? What if the traditionalist fans who left the sport over it don’t come back? What if the casual fans prefer football no matter what NASCAR does now that the NASCAR fad is over? What if Jimmie Johnson wins a bunch of titles anyway? What if the ratings continue to fall? Then what? NASCAR is left with nine years of statistics that some people feel don’t count and an audience that is still not watching.

The final answer is two-fold and difficult. First, NASCAR has to find a way to give fans a compelling reason to watch every week, and that means improving the week-to-week product through changing the cars or reorganizing the schedule. It can be done, but it won’t be easy. Also, through doing the above plus celebrating the sport’s past, it needs to shift its thinking. Instead of attracting more casual fans, a market that may be tapped out, NASCAR should concentrate on making the fans who are still watching transition from casual to passionate. The passionate fans are the ones who will bring their children into the sport, and attracting the next generation is critical to the sport’s long-term health.

But, in the end, that’s the long-term solution. Instead of a huge, casual fan base, NASCAR needs to concentrate on having a smaller but more passionate one. Whether that means schedule and car changes, dropping the Chase or all of that and more, it’s the key, in the end, to preserving the sport as we know it. Ratings are falling, and it’s time for more than a band-aid to stop the bleeding this time. NASCAR is in a pivotal time, one where it’s not too late to fix the problem, but where it could become terminal if not cured now. It’s no longer as simple as just cancelling the Chase or tweaking the schedule; it will take an all-out assault on identifying and changing several aspects of the sport. It can be fixed. But action must be taken soon.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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Kenneth Leffel
11/09/2012 05:13 AM

Nascar makes it too much about the driver and not enough about the car. NASCAR stands for National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. I’m old (73) and sure would like to see stock car racing one more time. Nascar is going in the right direction with the new body design but,they need to go all the way and do away with coil binding, bump stops and do away with the tricked up rear ends. I’m also a FORD fan so you know I’m not a happy fan. I don’t think any of this would help Ford but it would help me enjoy racing again!!

11/09/2012 05:47 AM

I was fascinated to read that Nascar did a poll of ‘avid fans’, all of whom said they love the ‘chase’ format. Isn’t that rather like preaching to the choir? Shouldn’t they be polling those that, say, USED to be avid fans but are no longer? Isn’t that more likely to give them answers to their attendence/viewership problems? Yet another example of Nascar finding a way to get the answers it wants, rather than the answers it needs.

11/09/2012 07:07 AM

It’s the chase. Think about it. The championship is decided over ten races. Everything else is pre season. How well do you think the NFL would do if three quarters of their regular season were suddenly declared not to count and that only the last four or five games counted? Toss in the complete removal of any innovation or experimentation being allowed on what are essentially spec cars and you have a recipe for boredom. It’s only going to get worse.

11/09/2012 08:43 AM

First I think the whole idea that fans are consumed with the championship is a fallacy. Most really are the that interested in don’t believe.
Two things are at play here I believe. Young people aren’t as involved in the car culture as their predecessors. Two. The core fans who can in during the 80’s and 90’s are 20-30 years older now, other things are more important.
But changing the dire tion won’t be easy.

Sherri T
11/09/2012 08:51 AM

I hate the Chase. I’ve never like it and I hope they do away with it, but I think the coverage of the races and the focus of the media and NASCAR has gotten away from the drama of each race in itself. If we have to have this awful format at least only cover it for a small portion of the time. There are still 43 cars (at least at the start) in the race and although the chase contenders usually do well, they don’t always. Concentrate on each race, cover ALL drivers doing well. Discuss strategy used by those doing well (whether chase teams or not). That’s what drew me to the sport. The other thing that I think we’ve gotten away from and part of that is because the sport became more popular was the “realness” of the folks in the sport. I enjoyed NASCAR as opposed to other sports because the personalities in the garage, the people behind the wheel, and at first the folks behind the microphone were real people. They didn’t make themselves or competitors out to be the great celebrity athletes that other sports did. They showed us some great personalities that we could relate to. Some of these changes in NASCAR and especially in the broadcast booth and the way the races are covered has taken that closeness to the people of the sport away. Take off the suit coats and ties, put the chambray shirts back on, let the team members and drivers talk like real people again and some of that will come back. (I hope)

11/09/2012 09:05 AM

This NASCAR season marks the 20th anniversary of one of the greatest, if not the greatest, championship contest of all time. The 1992 Winston Cup season didn’t have the Chase, but it was a nailbiter decided by a single lap! Five drivers went into the final race at Atlanta with the potential to win the title. The Chase isn’t necessary to have a great season, and 1992 is proof.

Glen H.
11/09/2012 09:21 AM

Could it be that after 34 weeks of races that the fans are burned out?

The season is 9 months long and the races are pretty much the same every week – the same 5-6 teams are always at the top. The fans just get tired of watching it so they tune out.

Shorten up the season, maybe race every other week and maybe people will still be interested come November.

11/09/2012 09:24 AM

Why am I not watching?

1. Boring, boring, boring racing, way too long, with little or no passing, and mostly watching drivers conserve fuel.

2. Jimmie Johson

3. The Chase is BS

4. Fake cautions and awful officiating.

I’ll continue to watch the Truck Series every weekend because the races are a reasonable length, the drivers drive every lap like they want to WIN, and there’s no Jimmie Johnson.

Give me shorter Cup races (mostly) on a better variety of interesting tracks (not twenty races on 1.5 mile crapovals), and give me racers who aren’t driving conservatively for points positions.

In the meantime, I’ll stick to V8 Supercars, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, and the Camping World Trucks.

awww shucks
11/09/2012 09:28 AM

it is the economy. i’d love to see 3 races a year in my area, but the current economics are not in my favor. and it won’t improve in the next four years with our re-elected administration. the working class is shrinking. who goes to these races? auto entusiasts and the working person. the suits and people who are jobless are not going. so this group of “intersted fan base” is getting smaller and smaller with less money to go. when the cost for electric skyrockets soon the stands will be emptier yet.
as for TV ratings, most of the races in the second half of the season are broadcast on cable (pay) TV. more people have to cut costs and a LOT more are dropping cable or satelite to go with broadcast tv. i think allen bestwick is one of the best in the business and would watch him do all the races if i could. so blame the chase if you want but i tune in to watch my guy race year in and year out. people do not have disposable money anymore. THAT is the reason for declining veiwership. real life and real problems……

Wayne T. Morgan
11/09/2012 10:16 AM

Kit cars, the chase, NA$CAR rules, are three things I hate. The season is not long, the races are not too long, if you think so watch WoO sprints, just my thoughts.

11/09/2012 11:01 AM

Here is my list of why NASCAR lost me as an avid fan:
1) Chase system was and is stupid
2) Rules not being implemented nor enforced consistently.
3) Bowtie preference, read as HMS, with variousl rulings
4) B.S. cautions especially see #3.
5) caution for car brushing the wall? come on
6) The Chase and Championship have become more important than each race itself. This really needs to change quick. Note many comments about points racing by fans and readers of various articles and sites.
7) Not enough diversity in coverage. Too much focus on top 10, top 5 even though there is actual racing for position 10-20, 20-30 spots.
8) TV coverage is poor and personalities have trumped the racing.
9) Too many segments, break aways, and wasted time on simplistic stuff takes away from the coverage
10) Too many commercial breaks too close together.
11) few if any success stories for common guys or the little guy 2010 had the Jamie McMurray story now no such stories thus same old same old.
12) Too much time spent on same things pre-race shows are too long, in race segments about the same people get boring, post race coverage too short
13) Too much focus on driver not enough on team
14) B. France fubaring up his families cash cow.

11/09/2012 11:46 AM

Kenneth said it the best and (other than mine) his is the only other comment I have seen anywhere that suggests that there is WAY TOO MUCH emphasis placed on EVERYTHING OTHER THEN THE CARS! I mean c’mon people! Non gear head people are for the most part not interested in automotive endeavers including NASCAR. Look what has happened to all the gear head TV shows that used to follow a “how to” format. Dumbass 22 year old ADHD afflicted producers thought they needed to add fake DRAMA to the program in order to get viewership. OOPS! No viewership at all and now SPEED is going away. Anybody seen fake drama in NASCAR recently? OOPS! Declining viewship! It’s the Gear Heads that watch automotive oriented programming. Everybody else watches the other sports. BZF, FOX, ESPN and their ilk think they know better than US as to what we want to see or worse what they are going to let us see. Think about it. Why is it such a hassle to buy a new car these days? It’s because the 24 year old “salesman” is trying to sell you a car based on it’s NAV systemand not by pointing out the automotive related aspects of the car. Ask HIM some questions and you’ll likely find that he is the same guy that was selling cell phones last week! These are not car guys and NASCAR has let it’s grip on car guys slip away. TV producers are in the same boat. The head motorsports producer at FOX used to produce soccer broadcasts for God’s sake. What does he or his kind know about what a gearhead want’s to see? He doesn’t. He is going to show us a close up of the bumper in the car in front of Junior for 15 straight laps before we go to ANOTHER 5 MINUTE COMMERCIAL BREAK. Want another example? How did Chrysler turn around it’s losing ways? The company is now run for the most part by GEAR HEADS! They cleverly emphasised the actual CARS themselves over the accountants! Seriously, most of the other crap going on in NASCAR (chase, 1.5 mile cookie cutter tracks, etc.)would make one bit of differnce if the emphasis was placed back on what brought NASCAR to prominence in the first place….THE CARS! It’s supposed to be about the CARS!

11/09/2012 01:10 PM

it is simply na$car’s mismanagement of the sport. the chase sucks. flipflopping start times suck. flipflopping which channel has the race sucks. espn’s crummy race coverage that mostly shows johnson and kes sucks. espn’s habit of following the leader for the last 3 laps when there are exciting duels for second or third or fifteenth sucks too.

Rich Norton
11/09/2012 02:02 PM

I believe that true NASCAR fans are not fans of the chase. Nothing against Johnson, he has learned to play the chase system, but I think another championship by Johnson will be very bad for NASCAR. If they insist on continuing the chase it needs to change drastically. Bristol, a road course, Richmond, Darlington, need to be added and some of the 1.5 mile ovals removed. If NASCAR can’t see this then they aren’t listening to the fans. The other problem is drivers just logging laps until 25 to go. Bump up the bonus for leading the most laps back to 10 points. If this doesn’t get drivers up on the wheel and fighting for the lead, there is no hope left.

just talking
11/09/2012 02:18 PM

I guess I miss the Car issue from above.

I would rather drivers be the focal point and not cars. But the sport belongs to engineers and money, but not drivers. Maybe the sport has gotten too mechanical – “hit the marks” and all. If they changed the design of the cars, put the stock back in to racing, I think the drivers would have more impact on the race. There would be some separation in skill level and driving style. Fans want to follow people, not machines.

Points racing is awful. I just hate it. In no world should a fifteenth place be something good.

The Chase makes much of the rest of the season irrelevant. How many drivers are testing and not racing once they are locked in, or not, in the Chase?

Lack of risk by drivers and teams. Failure is hurts more than success helps.

Boring races – goodness are they boring. The Chase and points racing helps make the races boring, but so do the car and tracks.

Races are too long, especially when we hear the drivers talk about logging laps. That is just great to hear at home.

Try not to compete with the NFL. Try week night races. Drop a few races if you have to.

More short track races. They are the most exciting. Why not add some?

I don’t mind Johnson’s dominance. I am kind of in awe. But I do not understand how all the drivers just seem to accept it. Take him on sometimes.

The Chase races are completely non-competitive. As if the races weren’t boring enough, most drivers are afraid to touch the Chasers. That is not a formula for excitement.

The sport is in real trouble. The young demographic has no interest in the sport.

Anyway – thanks.

11/09/2012 02:28 PM

I, too, was amused to see the survey about the “avid fans”. I never saw any such survey and it appears with the attendance and ratings down that there avid fans are few and far between.
I hate the chase, always have, always will. NASCAR didn’t need to change anything, they did it to suit the TV entities to make it “more exciting” and its been a bust. Johnson has 5 10 race trophies, whoopee. It isn’t the same as having done that over a full season schedule.

I’m not interested in the next 2 races. Honestly I lost interest after Kansas when I wondered to ESPN via twitter why they skipped over Gordon’s 10th place finish to talk about Hamlin finishing 13th. The response? According to ESPN – only the 2, 48 and 11 were “important”. So I guess only fans of the 2, 48 and 11 showed up at the next few races? I didn’t bother to turn the TV on – I watched football and worked outside. So now we’re effectively down to 2 drivers – maybe- but I’m not a fan of either one, so again, why should I watch?

Oh yeah, I won’t. Make the race important again, make it fun – oh wait, NASCAR, ESPN have forgotten that a sport is supposed to be fun. I’ll spend my Sunday doing something else.

And no, it’s not the economy – is it part of it? Sure people have to pick and choose where to spend their $ but it isn’t as big a part of it as France & friends would like to pretend it is.

Jacklegged Nascar Expert
11/09/2012 02:46 PM

If a man is sixty years old now, who will be buried first, he or nascar?

11/09/2012 02:53 PM

season is too long..start in feb end in begining of wont win against the nfl..even if jr was winning..som tracks wont have 2 dates sorry and more sat night races,ppl have things to do on sunday afternoons.

11/09/2012 09:45 PM

Conservative points racing on boring tracks by drivers afraid to say ANYTHING that might offend a sponsor.

And NO TEAM can catch the almighty Hendrick Machine nor do they have John Middlebrook in their back pocket.

Not every race fan is a Chevy fan.

11/10/2012 08:50 AM

There are several things wrong with NASCAR.

1. The Chase. Every team competes against every team every race. It is not like other sports where teams only play each other a few times a year. A playoff in NASCAR is artificial hype.

2. Competition is restrained because too many cars/teams are associated with one another. 14% of the cars in the field are Hendrick (Hendrick & Stewart). What % is Roush? Team cars don’t (or appear to not) race each other hard. They won’t risk wrecking each other. There should be one car per owner with no collusion between teams. I would rather see only 5 cars on the lead lap if they are actually close to each other and racing for the win. I don’t know how to enforce it but with their resources I’m sure NASCAR could hire enough smart people to figure it out.

3. “Open wheel” attitude. Where is the bumping, pushing, rubbing, forcing drivers out of their preferred lines, ect.? Where is the “I’d wreck my mother to win a race” attitude? Too many “drivers” and not enough “racers”.

4. Too many tracks that don’t produce close racing. I understand NASCAR wanting to race in LA instead of North Wilkesboro but why won’t they build a short track in LA that produces good racing?

5. Debris cautions. Why race hard during most of the race – the teams know that NASCAR will throw a caution so they can catch up. This makes much of the race boring.

6. Too much emphasis on points instead of individual races. The championship should be a complement to the races not the driving point of the season. Too much “big picture” racing and not enough racing for the win.

7. Lucky dog, wave around, etc. No sport should allow anyone to arbitrarily catch up.

8. Allow racing back to the yellow. Was it really so dangerous – how many drivers were hurt by this? Team racing was the only thing that made this unsafe. If someone is overly aggressive & races in situation that was not appropriate NASCAR could always park them for the rest of the race.

11/10/2012 10:03 AM

One more point – tight screen shots of the cars need to be eliminated. TV should show wide angle shots that give the viewers a since of speed and allow them to see the cars wiggling or getting loose. The tight shots (which I believe are to clearly show the sponsor) detract from ones ability to comprehend what is going on.

In basketball does the shot only show the center? What would a football game be like if you could only see the person with the ball? You need a wide angle view to understand what is happening.

11/10/2012 12:33 PM

All of the above posts are great and to the point. Couple of points left out is the COT or genaric car. It did not work for IROC and totally sucks in NA$CAR. Way too many rules. NA$CAR has spec’d the heck out of everything. What is so wrong with finding an advantage within the rules?

And as many have said the networks have killed it. After one season with DW and company I quit watching the races when FOX covered it. Have not watched a race in 10 years. Better to just read about it.

11/10/2012 10:02 PM

There will be 8 (major) Hendrick cars on the tracks in 2014 with Harvick joining Stewart-Hass Racing.

That’s nice. More of the same. Kinda like what happened after the election.

11/11/2012 12:40 AM

The reason NASCAR is so efffed up is due to stupid management. Proof is in the following…

1.)The bodies should be EXACT,STOCK, ROOF,FENDER,FASCIA DOOR,EVERYTHING PRODUCTION BODY PANELS. No deviation from stock, only factory installed or available from the dealer spoilers. That is it. Period.

2.)A Toyota using basic FORD and CHEVY design parts without EVER selling a pushrod V-8 production vehicle is an insult to anyone that knows what 10W-30 means.

3.)I concur with the comments about ‘wave-around’ and ‘lucky dog’, what a bunch of mamby-pambys! It is called RACING! Not ‘catch-up’! Ketchup is for burgers!

4.) Rules favoring a certain brand. Example: deficient Chevy cooling system… The Ford FR-9 is technically advanced in that area, so NASCAR hurts the Ford which helps the Chevies. Wonder if the fact that there is a General Motors vehicle on the Daytona 500 Trophy means anything? YuuuP! DuuuH!

5.) Thanks for the stupid transformer and idiot ground-hog characters Fox Sports. The ground-hog should have had a different name for each track… Like “Dover Don” and “Texas Tilly”. That would have been tolerable. It was not cute and endearing like the gopher in “Caddyshack”!

6.) Watch how much the ratings fall if a Toyota ever wins the championship!

7.) Before Toyota entered the Cup series, Robin Miller, who covers INDYCAR, on Wind-Tunnel said that Toyota would do what they had done in INDYCAR, upset the cost-factor of the sport by absorbing costs (they have)support acquiring engineers and staff from established teams, attracting drivers that can help the brand increase their competitiveness(Mark Martin) and championship drivers (Matt Kenseth). Is it a surprise that Lee White, head of Totoya NASCAR operation worked with both drivers while at Jack Roush’s NASCAR team? See the reality? Toyota Racing Development, TRD, Turd for short!

8.) Why do you think Carrol Shelby stayed away from NASCAR? Mario Andretti throw a Daytona 500 win? Not! Dan Gurney entered 15 races, won 6! A.J. Foyt won a Daytona 500 too, don’t you think they would compete there more if it was fair?

9.) Mark Martin goes to Hendrick, does the track recon (tire testing)and then places second for the season in ’09. Trains Gustaphson,then Papa Smurf Hendrick switches him to Gordon, team as a whole goes down! Martin goes to idiot Michael Waltrip’s team, FLASH!, its now in the chase! Surprise? Too bad Martin never went to INDY, his car control and prudent driving is a perfect fit.

10.)The utterance that a car is a “start and park” is a ‘WTF’ to the TV viewer, a total insult to the paying fan.

11/11/2012 08:51 AM

Well, I, and many others, were hoping Toyota would hurt the dominance of Hendrick/Chevy.

And they started too until Nascar put their foot on their LEGAL engines via restrictor plate. (Among other things Nascar did)

And now that John Middlebrook has helped good ole 5-time out earlier this season, it’s a wash.

I honestly don’t know why other manufacturers still spend the money in Nascar anymore.

If you’re gonna be in the cup series you need to be in a Chevy. And preferably a Hendrick Chevy.

11/11/2012 09:38 AM

as i read through the comments i see several common threads. this was one of the best reads ever for people interested in why nascar’s popularity continues to slide and would like to see something done to get back to racing. real racing, where winning races are the ultimate prize.

i’ll sum it up as nascar has lost/sold it’s soul and it’s focus.

Compare the real message (not the self advertisements) of nascar to the nfl (yeah i know but bear me out) and you’ll see a marked difference. with the nfl, the importance of the game at hand is the ultimate message. this game is compromised of these two teams comprised of these players and is important because of this reason and here are the sub stories. with nascar tell me what is the prime message? i bet most people come away with a view that is anything but the race at hand. what comes to you mind first? the chase? the cars? the drivers? who has what sponsor this week? what the sub stories of this race are? is danica running this week? Hardly ever the race itself.. the focus is on the details (manufactured or not) hardly ever is it the event itself unless its the daytona 500.

france and helton have often referred to “the product.” i think they should figure out just what the hell they are really selling, racing or an advertising agency. if they are snake oil salesmen who are runnning a for profit privately owned advertising agency then they seem to be doing quite well. if they are running a racing sanctioning body, they look to be failing increasingly miserably.

Sue Rarick
11/11/2012 10:51 AM

Nascar’s problems can be brought down to one word…BORING…plain cars with plain drivers driving plain tracks with lousy coverage. Plus there was a reason the Mobile Economy Run never caught on in the 1950’s … It was BORING.

And nobody has mentioned that there was basically only 18 full time truck drivers and around 20 full time Nationwide drivers this year. With teams having to build around 15 to 20 new cars per team, how many full time Cup cars will show up? There will be a lot more start and parks next year.

11/12/2012 02:55 AM

There are several Nascar followers and fans in South Africa. Granted we all tend to be motorracing fans firt, it shows that Nascar can attract younger fans.

The Chase is a gimmick and the sport would do well letting it go.

The Nascar season is not too long and neither is the races.

Nascar needs to put all the races on the same network. I do not expect us in SA to get all the races, but in their core market they should want

Nascar need to stop making money of the race teams. They can fleese the fans, the networks, the vendors, the tracks, but they need to make it affordable for new teams to enter racing. Rather than letting a team get a $60000 payout for S&P, give them the use of a (lower spec) engine for some races and subside tires. So they are still guaranteed $600000 minimu for the race, but Nascar claim back

Speaking of that, allow teams to take home tires they have purchased. Let them test with it if they so wish, but limit the amount of tires a team can purchase over the course of a season.

Fake cautions needs to go. If there is debris show it on TV – clearly. If there is no need for a caution don’t throw it. If there is just cause for a caution or red, throw it – even if it means ending the races without a checquered.

There is more, but that’s enough for now.

11/12/2012 02:01 PM

It is the product on the track. Fix the racing & fans will watch. The only part of the races worth watching is the last 80 laps. There is almost no excitement that occurs in the first 60 – 75% of most races. Take away the aero dependancy & put it back on mechanical. Get Goodyear to bring a softer tire that gives up 4 or 5 seconds a lap over the course of a run. If drivers can pass each other, it makes it exciting. Sure there are many, many other tweaks that can be made as far as the broadcast and rules etc… but the biggest thing that is keeping fans away from the track & the TV is the product itself. As it stands, the product just isn’t very good. NASCAR has a HUGE opportunity to fix it with the 2013 car – however, I’m hearing that the 2012 chasis can be modified to fit the 2013 template. Here’s hoping NASCAR has gone far enough with the new car to take the dependance off of aero & that Goodyear has figured out a way to have a soft tire that gives up, but won’t blow out.
(Perhaps a double compound rubber – starts out soft & wears to a harder compound over 50 miles w/ less grip, but won’t blow out?)
Fix the racing, & the fans will watch – regardless of the broadcast, rules etc – if it’s exciting, fans will put up with a lot.

11/12/2012 08:51 PM

With the decline in ratings, it’s really a death of a thousand cuts, it would take me hours to review all the ways the sport has been mismanaged.

But a big problem is the Chase. Instead of every race all year being meaningful in the championship, now it’s only ten. How can that be a good thing? It was a greedy move by executives who weren’t happy with, what we now know, were actually quite good ratings!

The Chase points format is simply frustrating for most fans, as one DNF or crash (often now their own doing) will effectively take their driver out of Chase contention.

It does not produce worthy champions. Tony Stewart winning the title in 2011 was a joke. Gordon was certainly the superior driver in one of Johnson’s championship seasons. The playoffs format does not fit the sport at all. The playoff races are no different than the others. Johnson, Stewart, or whoever performing better in the ten races that happen to be at the end of the schedule (and are NOT a proper cross-section of NASCAR tracks) does not make them more deserving than the driver that earned the most points in the entire season!


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