Time for Nascar to look to small track America!

 

We all know that for roughly the last 8 years, Nascar has been the 2-gazillion pound gorilla of auto racing in the United States. There is no denying the dominance of the series on television, radio, newspaper/magazine coverage, and fan support.  However, the times they are a changin’.  (Apologies to Bob Dylan.)

 

Attendance started slipping at Nascar venues in 2007.  2008 saw empty seats on a regular basis every weekend.  Most pointed to the price of gasoline, which was over $4 a gallon.  Some pointed to the economy.  Some (and possibly rightly so) at the prevalence of HD plasma screens across America with surround sound that allowed fans to sit in their favorite chair and enjoy the same experience (minus the cost) to stay at home.

 

All of that probably contributed to the attendance decline.  One should also add in that the racing, especially on the Nascar Sprint Cup side, didn’t seem to be as exciting as it once was. (Can you say Brickyard 400?)

 

So what’s the answer “Mr. Know-it-all??  Simple, just look at short track America!

 

Why do I say that?  It’s because local small track promoters have had to fight Nascar for years.  If that wasn’t enough, the Big Kahuna of American auto racing decided racing on Saturday night under the lights would be a great thing.  (Especially to grab more television viewers.)  Of course Saturday night is the money night for many small tracks across this great land.

 

Instead of crying foul, which they had every right to do, small track promoters got creative.

Already as fan-friendly as a racetrack will ever be, small track promoters realized they were not in the racing business per se, but the entertainment business.  Racing was the big draw, but people expected more, they expected an experience.

 

This brought about more and more giveaways tied in with sponsors.  They came up with school bus figure 8 races, “Faster Pastor,” “Toilet races,” (nothing like seeing a motorized “throne” being raced!) and much more.  They also keep ticket prices low along with concessions.  Drivers come into the stands between races and talk with the people.

 

Most importantly, local track promoters try and get their programs over at a decent hour 10PM local time if possible, but no later than 11PM.  Parents, and those with a long drive appreciate that.  (Does a Nascar night race ever end before midnight local time or start before 3PM in the afternoon?)

 

Nascar also should take s look at teams in the NBA, NHL, and MLB to see what they are doing to bring in fans that want to hang onto their hard earned dollars.  I’m prejudiced, but Nascar could learn a lot from my friends at the Palace of Auburn Hills and the Detroit Pistons. (I’ve worked with the Palace and the Pistons in the past.)

 

With Big 3 layoffs rising, the Palace continues to sell out for the Detroit Pistons.  The reason?  Value and entertainment.  (www.DetroitPistons.com)

 

Nascar needs to get back to its roots both on and off the track.  They need to get off their private jets and helicopters going to and from the track and get stuck in traffic with the “regular” folks.  They need to sit in the stands with fans and talk to them with their ears wide open. They need to make their drivers do mandatory autograph sessions.  They need to end 8-dollar beer and 5 dollar hot dogs.  They need to think short track America!

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1 Comment

  1. Actually it seems like NASCAR wants to disassociate itself with its past. The number of tracks in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series has dropped tremendously in the last 10 years. They also did away with their only dirt track tour-the O’Reiilley All Star Series.

    I write about racing for Dirt Late Model and Dirt Modified magazines, and have my own website and blog @ http://www.therestofthedirt.com. I think you would enjoy it as a lot of what I say is similar to what you are saying.

    Oh, as far as learning from other sports, I wish our grass roots promoters would look to minor league baseball for how to promote a night of entertainment at the track.


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