NASCAR races are known for the fast cars, expensive sponsor, and all day races. However, why are the attendance numbers and television ratings dropping from year to year and race to race? We are currently headed into the final round of the 2016 Chase for the Cup and there are massive sections of seats empty and television viewership is way down. NASCAR popularity has declined so much that in 2013, NASCAR actually stopped releasing estimated attendance figures for each race.
During the NASCAR season, the sport has to compete with almost every other sport on the continent of North America. The entire Major League Baseball season takes place within the NASCAR season, including the World Series. The National Basketball Association and National Hockey League both have their playoffs and respective postseasons, as well having the beginnings of their respective seasons during the NASCAR season. More directly, NASCAR completes with football. NASCAR races are held on either Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. Saturday, beginning is September, is home to college football. Saturday nights are often when the biggest games of the day are occurring. Sunday afternoon is known for being the home to National Football League football, also starting in September.
NASCAR races are also very long. Races can take up to four hours long and are seen as extremely repetitive. There are nine 500 mile races on the Sprint Cup Series, each taking over three hours to complete. Cautions, rain delays, and other extenuating circumstances are not helping the length of races either. Some options discussed are reducing the 500 mile races to 400 mile races. This is expected to reduce the length of time it takes to complete a race by 30 to 45 minutes. This would bring NASCAR races to about the time it takes to complete an MLB game (which fans complain is also to long, but that is an entirely different story).
A third factor is the expense of going to a race. Tickets are more expensive. Tracks are in locations that quire fans to travel long distances. The distance causes the fans to need hotels. Concessions and merchandise are expensive. Fans are less likely to go to races because they are getting increasingly more expensive. What doesn’t help this fact is the decline in corporate sponsors. After the economic downturn in 2008, NASCAR began to lose corporate sponsors because they companies couldn’t afford the expense. The sponsorship expense is quite large and many companies became simply unable to pay for it anymore.
How can NASCAR fight the decline in its fan base? Some options include reducing cost and the length of races, but NASCAR needs to implement more drastic measure to attract new fans and re-attract the fans it may have lost. NASCAR is not diverse at all. On Sundays, fans watch 39 white men and one woman race. By increasing the diversity within the race, NASCAR will be able to attract a more diverse fan base.
In other news, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, and Joey Logano are moving into the final round of the Chase and will be competing for the championship on Sunday at Miami.