Is stock car racing our most popular spectator sport?

Quoting from the February 16, 2001 issue of “Entertainment Weekly” magazine, at page 86, “Sure, it’s easy to make fun of any pastime whose storied figures have names like Cale, Junior, Rusty, Cotton and Fireball. But they … and others helped elevate a dirt track competition into our country’s most popular spectator sport.”

I’ve got to take issue with that. Stock car racing IS NOT the U.S.'s most popular spectator sport. Anyone who says it is must be relying on a really funky means of measurement. To say car racing is a more popular spectator sport than Division 1 college football, let alone NFL football or Major League Baseball, is out of his mind.

I think their definition of “Spectator Sport” might be a little different than what you’re thinking. With football, basketball, soccer, golf… you can have a pick-up game with the guys on the weekend, get involved yourself. Not so with NASCAR. It’s much harder to say to the guys “Hey, lets hop in the car and race around the track for awhile.” It’s more an investment than something John Q Public is going to get involved in. Therefore, NASCAR, the sport in the whole, is more of a spectator sport than football is as a whole.

Now, I know that the numbers are going up for NASCAR events (and I’m sorry I can’t cite… I’ve been looking but can’t seem to find the numbers that I need… this is just from 20+ years of watching the sport and talking to my Dad who runs his own NASCAR site and has been watching the sport pretty much since it’s inception) Whether the numbers are to the point of that of NFL events, I don’t know. But another thing to keep in mind is how you count those numbers. With the NFL, you have multiple teams playing multiple days of the week. With NASCAR, you have one race a week (well, two or three if you want to count the Busch and Craftsman Truck series’ in the mix) Do you could each person that goes to each NFL game in your total, or do you just take it on a game by game basis? There are a lot of factors to concider when figuring this out.

Whether NASCAR is more popular than the NFL… I dunno. But I know it’s fast gaining popularity (of which I am two minds… I have a problem with “bandwagon fans”, but it’s good to see my sport finally getting some recognition) and I don’t see it declining any time soon.

Just my 2 old pennies…

let’s call it a spectator event, and not a sport…

they can get upwards of 150,000 people at the Sunday events, but there’s only one big one each Sunday…NCAA Div I football can have anywhere from 10,000 to 108,000 people at one game, but there are 30-40 games every Saturday for 10 weeks. MLB can have anywhere from 3,000 to 45,000 5 days a week at a possible 15 stadiums. I don’t have any solid numbers, but my instincts tell me these two are way ahead as far as total attendance numbers for a season. The Braves alone can have 3 million people come to their games in a season.

I would have linked to, but I found the TVGuide listing more helpful:

History of Stock Car Racing
120 min.
Stock-car racing’s remarkable journey—from its origin as a disreputable Depression-era
pastime to today’s flourishing billion-dollar industry—is covered in this comprehensive look at
one of America’s most popular spectator sports.

Junior Johnson, “King” Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt are a few of the
drivers who share memories and provide insight into the growth of NASCAR, the sport’s
cornerstone organization, founded by Bill France in 1950. A half-century of advances in
racetrack design, car safety and engine technology are also examined, along with the
importance of corporate America and TV in fueling NASCAR’s mainstream acceptance.

Rating: TV-G
Category: Sports, Motor Sports & Auto info
Release Year: 2001

Show times


Saturday, 17
8:00 PM

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Sunday, 18
12:00 AM

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Saturday, 24
12:00 PM

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