Boy, NASCAR attendence really is down!

We watched the race at Bristol today. For those that don’t know, Bristol Raceway is like a football stadium. A half-mile track with grandstands completly around.

I remember when I started watching racing in the 80s that the stands didn’t used to go all the way. They got filled in as attendance increased. The place used to be packed every race. It was amazing how many people went to races. It was THE biggest sport in attendance.

The stands today looked to be less than 50% full. I’ve seen more people at weekday baseball games!

What happened? I mean, I know why I quit following it regularily, but I’m one person (and I never made it to a race there anyway.).

And the cars seem to have what I would call “Busch series” sponsors (showing my age). That is, sponsors from businesses I’ve never heard of. Most of the big spenders seem to have vanished. Is that related to the reduced attendance? Has NASCAR lost its luster?

Maybe stadium audiences are a victim of the sport’s success. It used to be you had to go to an event to watch it in many cases. But NASCAR is now popular enough that virtually every race is televised.

I don’t really follow NASCAR, but I do read car blogs and they have touched many reasons why the sport is in a slump:
–Ever since the introduction of “The Car of Tomorrow”, the cars are no different from each other anymore. That alienated a lot of Chevy/Ford/Mopar fanboys.
–The series has been dominated by Jimmie Johnson the last decade, and he’s seen as a colorless champion. He inspires no real devoted fandom or even any real hatred (the way Jeff Gordon did back in the 90s).
–The introduction of the Chase has devalued the regular season in many fan’s eyes. For example, Kyle Busch missed a third of last season due to injury, but still won the championship–because NASCAR gave him a special exemption into the Chase.
–A lot of fans believes NASCAR manipulates stuff like debris cautions to favor specific drivers or to make races more exciting. Here’s at a typical article.

That’s OK, TV ratings are down too.

I think NASCAR has turned into a cookie-cutter sport. They got rid of all the individualistic tracks in favor of cookie-cutter speedways; they run cookie-cutter cars; they want cookie-cutter drivers–any trace of life or flair in a driver is stamped on immediately.

They mistook becoming a fad for a permanent change. Now the fad-followers have left, and the permanent fan base is bored to tears.

I agree with installLSC’s points, except phantom cautions have always been there. Maybe they are just more obvious about it now?

I’ll add one thing to Frank’s comment. It seems NASCAR started “drama-ing” everything up. They may have stamped out individualism, but they upped “attitude”. Whe I quit watching, everything was about conflict, fights, strutting. They took a lesson from pro wresting and ran with it. That, and the stupid-assed Chase, ruined it for me most of all. Look at '92, when Kulwicki won. That championship came down to ONE LAP. That was exciting!

What is the “Chase”? Is it capitalized because it’s named for Chase Bank?

TV ratings may have declined from their peak but my point was that a lot more fans are watching races on TV than were doing so back in the eighties. And while many of these people are new fans, some of them are people who used to attend races in person.

It’s capitalized for the same reason “Super Bowl” is - it’s essentially the championship bracket for NASCAR.

The Chase is probably my number 1 reason for drifting away from following NASCAR.

The points system used to be set up to reward consistency. You get points for winning, but you get points for every other position as well, in a declining scale. You got bonus points for leading one lap, and another bonus for leading the most laps.

So, theoretically, you could win the championship without ever winning one single race. Since this was antithetical to the modern mind, where winning is the only thing, the system was changed to a “playoff” format. You’re in if you win.

So, again theoretically, if you win the first race of the season, you can skip every other race until The Chase starts, and still win the championship.

I’m not sure why that’s better.

That’s not true, you have to finish in the top 30 in points and you have to at least attempt to qualify for every race. Busch got an exemption because the injury was NASCAR’s fault, they failed to cover all of Daytona with SAFER barriers.

But yeah, the Chase is annoying. All that work and it comes down to luck in Miami in the last race no matter how well you did during the season. Won 13 races? Too bad you got wrecked by Josh Wise, see you next season. That’s just stupid.

Thanks for the clarification. Ignorance fought! Ignorance lost…

Weren’t a lot of the sponsors tobacco products? As of mid-2010, this is now illegal, and even when it wasn’t, it was starting to die out anyway; there’s a reason it’s no longer called the Winston Cup, and the all-star race no longer called The Winston.

Do you also remember a lot of gasoline companies sponsoring cars? The deal NASCAR has with Sunoco doesn’t allow any other gasoline company to sponsor a car. Shell and Mobil appear to get away with it as it’s actually Pennzoil and Mobil 1 motor oils.

There’s a lot of talk above about NASCAR popularity dropping as a whole, and yes that factors into general attendance–but Bristol itself is a little unique. They had something like a decade of consecutive sellouts there with a waiting list to get season tickets.

But Bristol has run into two big problems. First, it used to be an exciting bump-and-run track–there was one “good” racing groove along the bottom of the track. When you wanted to pass somebody, you would get behind them and bump into them, knocking them into the upper groove. As a result, you had a lot of “action,” but not necessarily a lot of full-on wrecks.

But then they had to re-pave the track, and when they did so, they tried to make it a multi-groove track. This made things a lot more boring. Then they ground down part of the track to try to “restore” the racing condition that existed before the repave, but they ended up with the best racing line being the higher groove–and if you bump someone out of that, they get put into the wall. So now you have a one-groove track that you can’t bump people out of, which made it a lot less entertaining.

The other problem has been weather–the past few Spring races have been rain delayed (I think NASCAR may have unwisely moved the date of the race to times when it’s most likely to rain). I think a lot of people just assumed the chances of crappy weather were too high to justify going.

Trump rallies? :smiley:

I’m not a racing fan, so this may be a stupid question. Isn’t cookie cutter cars kind of the point of stock car racing? I always kind of assumed that the point was to test the driver’s skill and not the engineering of the cars? I realize that that may be a blue sky goal, but it seems to me to be something they were originally aiming for?

Not really. In the early days of stock car racing (say pre-1970) the cars were legitimately stock, the same as you’d find at your local dealership. There was an old saying “win on Sunday, buy on Monday”. By the late 1980s, very little was stock anymore–but there were enough differences between makes that fans commonly knew drivers as “number X Ford/Chevy”, and manufacturer standings were kept and commonly known. When the “Car of Tomorrow” was introduced a few years ago mainly for safety reasons, the differences became strictly cosmetic. So Ford fans can no longer needle Chevy fans and vice versa based on race results.

I don’t know if I’d go that far - after all, there is still a Manufacturers’ Championship (although how much of that is truly make-based, and how much is based on which manufacturers have deals with which teams, is another question), and if it was that easy, why isn’t Dodge still in NASCAR?

But that’s essentially how all sports playoff championships work; the season is a qualifier, and the season leader can easily be upset in the end. American audiences generally seem to love this.

Sure, but football/baseball/basketball teams are exactly that: teams. One wins as a team. Racing, even with a “teammate”, is still largely an individual thing. A Hendrick car might block for another Hendrick car, but they can’t help you if Josh Wise wipes out in front of you and finishes your race, or if someone grudge-wrecks you.

Season-long racing series should reward both winning and consistency.

Former FCA (Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles) employee here.

Dodge quit because FCA did an engineering study that showed that if an intact NSCS car left the ground at the right angle it could cleanly jump over the top of the catch fences used at 1 1/2 mile tracks. We didn’t want the liability.