Can Nascar be “fixed?”

A giant topic of discussion for the last several months has been the declining attendance and television audience for Nascar.

Attendance could be a direct correlation to the economy but the television ratings is the mystery.

Some point to the struggles of live television taking an event that has no time outs such as other sports do and trying to fit in those pesky but necessary commercials.  You will miss action on the track.

Others say it’s the pictures that television is putting on the screen.  That they focus too much on one car going round-and-round or maybe two cars thus not showing the real racing that is going on.

There is the lament that only a few drivers become the focus of the television broadcasts leaving over half the field with no mention what so ever unless they crash or retire from the race.

My Techie friends point to the lack of online video streaming, integration more of Twitter and Facebook during the race along with other technological enhancements.

Many have pointed to the Nascar Chase format in the Sprint Cup Series.

All play a role but I think the bigger problem is who really wants to watch a four hour race on TV?

Wait, you say a NFL game or a college football game runs at least three hours.  True but there is a new play every 30 seconds.  In Nascar, such as at Daytona and Talladega, they can play follow-the-leader for 30 laps or more.  Exciting stuff huh!

Danica Patrick brought some new fans to Nascar but how long are they going to stay as she continues to run at the back of the field?

Extreme motorsports star Travis Pastrana is about to make the jump to Nascar and even he admits that his fans probably won’t stay if he doesn’t do well.

Attention spans of the public are short. (140 characters on Twitter need I say more?) Nascar can be boring.  I many times watch the first 50 laps, go do something else, and catch the last 30. It is the nature of the beast.

So what is the answer on how to fix Nascar?  I don’t have a clue. Maybe, just maybe, the “newness” has worn off on the American sports fan and Nascar is reverting back to its original fan base and is that really a bad thing?

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Anyone seen Danica lately?

P2040032 We may have to put out an Amber Alert on Danica Patrick soon.  Somehow she has disappeared from the media horde that was following her every movement when she ran three Nascar Nationwide races at the beginning of the year.

Since that time, Danica has been involved in her “fulltime” job of racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series for Andretti Autosport.

In the four races she has run, all on street or road circuits which are suppose to be her strength, her best finish is 7th.  The other three, 16th,19th, and 15th.

It’s amazing how no one is reporting that but as soon as she comes back to Nascar after the Indianapolis 500 for a short stint, watch out!  The media will be acting as if she’s the next superstar of the sport even though her success on the track is very limited and has been for quite awhile..IF anyone would check.

Danica is a marketing phenomenon.  I think her description on the GoDaddy home page sums it up best– “Racing Star and Go Daddy Girl.”

You notice it didn’t say “race car driver” it says “racing star.”  There is a difference and right now Danica epitomizes that difference.

Oh, by the way, it’s been reported that Danica will be spotted this weekend at Kansas Speedway where the IZOD IndyCar series will be racing just in case you need your Danica fix.

Nascar’s Diversity Program? Take a look at open wheel!

Nascar has been touting it’s “Diversity Program” for several years now.  Has anyone seen an influx of women, African Americans or Hispanics into the sport?  Not me.

Now, look at open wheel racing, especially IndyCar and its little sister the Firestone Indy Lights Series.

DaytonaDanicaPatrick-1.jpg We all know Danica Patrick of course.  She however was just one of FOUR women that started the IndyCar season opener just over a week ago in Brazil. 

 

 

Milka Duno

There was Milka Duno.

 

 

 

Simona photo

Simona De Silvestro 

 

 

Ana Photo

and Ana Beatriz Figueredo who happened to finish 13th. (Danica finished 15th)

 

 

 

Sarah Fisher-photo

Sarah Fisher will  race in the IndyCar Series this year on the ovals but she is also a team owner.

 

That’s five women in IndyCar!

Pippa Mann Photo

Now in the Firestone Indy Lights, Pippa Mann is in her second year. 

 

Carmen Jorda photo

And add in Carmen Jorda.

 

 

7 women in the top two open wheel series in the United States.  Nascar has only Billy Jo Cobb trying to race fulltime in the Nascar Camping World Truck Series.

I haven’t even got into all the nationalities and ethnic backgrounds of the drivers in open wheel both female and male.

Maybe it’s time for Nascar to give more than just lip service to its diversity program and put its money and weight where it’s mouth is.

A sad day in auto racing

logo You may or may not know this, but the Atlantic Racing Series has gone dark.  Yes, the economy has stopped cold one of the great developmental racing series of the last 30 years or so.  You can read more here.

I got to know the Atlantic Series very well during my days with CART Radio.  I saw many of the young drivers that were on their way up the ladder such as Indianapolis 500 winner and Atlantics champion Buddy Rice, Patrick Carpentier, A.J. Allmedinger, Alex Barron, Scott Goodyear, Jimmy Vasser, Jacques Villeneuve and Danica Patrick to just name a few.

The Atlantic Series was very rich in its history and diversity of drivers.  It was a proving ground that gave many young racers the skills they needed to be at the top of their craft.  Now, that series is in mothballs.

I’m very saddened by this but it is just a sign of the times.  With the economy the way it is worldwide, I’m afraid more and more of the secondary series will disappear just like the old Trans-Am Series did and who can forget Can-Am which was an unbelievably great series.

Hopefully the Atlantics will return.  I know there are many like me that are wishing the same thing.  Until then, we have our memories.

(NOTE-Longtime Atlantics Communications Director Anne Roy will be a guest on Pit Pass USA Tuesday 3-16 at 8P ET Listen here )

Preparing for Danica Mania at Daytona

patrickdanicamediacenter09 Tomorrow it begins.  “Danica Mania” will be unleashed at Daytona International Speedway as Danica Patrick takes to the 2..5 mile high banks in ARCA practice. 

Normally the Thursday ARCA practice might bring a few journalists out to the track early to watch and do a few interviews.  Not this time.  A media horde is about to be unleashed the likes of which is usually reserved for Rock stars.

I’m torn by all this attention.  On one hand it’s good for ARCA to get the publicity as a series but on the other hand if all the stories are about Danica it doesn’t help the ARCA regulars who scratch for every penny to keep racing to get the pub they need to stay alive and on the track.

I consider ARCA President Ron Drager to be a friend and I know he understands the pluses and minuses of the situation.  Daytona is only one race on the ARCA 2010 schedule. His concern is for the entire season and series.  However, Danica Patrick’s presence means for at least a few days ARCA is front and center in the racing media world and even beyond.

I have no doubt that Saturday’s ARCA race on Speed (4:30PM ET Live) will be the highest rated ever for the series even eclipsing when Juan Pablo Montoya ran some races in it as did Dario Franchitti.  I just hope that the TV guys don’t make it a Danica all the time broadcast.  I’ve seen that in IndyCar broadcasts where there is a Danica update about every two laps.

Let’s all remember when the green flag drops there are 43 drivers on the track, not just one.  They all are taking the same chances and all have the same dream of winning at Daytona.  Danica is a big story but don’t forget to those that are family, friends and supporters of the others in the field their story is just as big and important.  All I ask for on Saturday is some balance.