Picture this. Sitting in your favorite chair in your living room reminiscing to your Grandchildren about the days gone by in NASCAR.
This is not Your Fathers NASCAR
You tell tales of tickets so valuable that people actually included their distribution in their wills. You tell tales of grandstands so packed that track owners couldn’t build more seats fast enough.
You tell tales of Television Networks and Cable Networks bidding huge amounts of dough for the privilege of broadcasting NASCAR races. Heck, there was a time when racing and predominantly NASCAR had its own cable channel. You tell them it was called SPEED and they look at you as if you are ready for a Senior Home.
You tell tales of days gone by of good old boys running liquor during the week and running fast cars on fast tracks on weekends. Colorful characters for sure but drivers most of us could easily relate to.
You tell tales of sponsors of major products who couldn’t wait to get their product names on the side of race cars. You tell them about Maxwell House, Tide, Alka Selzer, Kodak and a company called Winston.
Present Day NASCAR
Today the news in NASCAR is worrisome at best. Threatening at worse. Tell me how a closing of last years championship team could be described as anything other than worrisome. Martin Truex Jr. and his Furniture Row Racing team will be no more after 2018 after hoisting NASCAR’s biggest prize last season.
Look, this sport has been trending downward for several years. Some justified that trend as an adjustment period given the retirement of such huge NASCAR stars like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Some just denied the downward spiral altogether. Heck, when asked about spiralling TV ratings, NASCAR CEO Brian France, spewed crap about social media and apps that people are utilizing to get their NASCAR coverage.
No longer can NASCAR and its executives put their collective heads in the sand and just like actor Kevin Bacon in Animal House yell from the top of their lungs, “All is well. Nothing to see here.”
There, in fact, is plenty to see here. For the most part, the number of empty seats at most tracks surpass the seats which are occupied. We have television ratings which sometimes equal the number of viewers watching an infomercial in the middle of the night on a cable channel that has 3 digits.
Sponsor issues? Even the sports biggest superstar, Jimmie Johnson, finds himself losing his longtime sponsor, Lowes, after this season.
Let’s add a CEO whose behavior at times could be described as a bit odd, off, or even bizarre. His recent arrest for DWI adds to that legacy. All of this spells trouble and its been staring at us for years.
How does NASCAR Fix this?
Greater minds than I are probably hard at work trying to figure this out. Believe me, I’m rooting for them to right this ship. I love this sport and thus far the changes they’ve implemented have not made significant improvements where it counts. Ya gotta give NASCAR credit for effort, at least I do. The playoff format, stages and some of their cost-cutting measures such as pit crew over the wall reduction, were designed to improve the sport.
Clearly, with the news, this week of a Championship team folding these measures have not produced the kind of reform needed. The financial cost of running a team needs to be reeled in.
In Major League Baseball, the NFL, and all major sports there is a cost containment mechanism in place to control expenses. In many of these sports, there is even revenue sharing in an attempt to level the playing field. NASCAR is clearly behind the times in this area.
For sure, implementing some of these measures will be tremendously complicated. Failing to do so could be deadly.
Thanks for reading. Listen to WTBQ radio on Monday and Friday mornings at 8:45 as I join Frank, Taylor and the Morning Show gang to discuss all the current happenings in NASCAR. 1110AM 93.5FM or online at WTBQ.COM. You can also follow me on twitter @JimLaplante
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