Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? A Quick Downhill Slide. Why?

Did You Notice? It took just four races for NASCAR’s television audience to decline? It’s a concern, considering healthy Daytona TV ratings gave the sport its expected bounce to start 2015. After the “12 Hours of Daytona” last year, no rain delay meant a stronger audience for NASCAR’s season opener; Nielsen numbers were up over 30% from their 2014 all-time low.

With that type of head start, the sport should have been able to ride momentum throughout most of the early spring. Instead? The Cup Series dropped to a six percent increase for the season’s second race, then 2.2 percent for the third and now we’re on the decline after Phoenix. The new Xfinity Series, its second-tier division, has also suffered through a smaller audience in recent weeks.

How did it all peter out so quickly? Simple: the new rules package isn’t leading to better racing up front. Lead changes are down 16% to an average of just over 20 per race, and most of those have occurred during green- or yellow-flag pit stops. Each of the last three races has also suffered from a driver a step above the rest of the field (Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, twice). A driver-adjusted track bar, among other changes, hasn’t done enough to spark action after the first few laps of a green-flag restart. Pit-road violations, while unique under the new system of video replay, haven’t been so radically different it’s handicapped the entire field. Long story short… there’s been a lack of compelling competition up front.

It’s also important to note we’re in year two of the new Chase format. Nearly half the competitive field of drivers will wind up making the postseason; almost all of them sit inside the comfy top 30 in points. That means all it takes is for a fan’s favorite to win just one race and then their season turns into one giant test session. There’s a plus side to that, green-lighting aggression for drivers like Harvick and Johnson who have already won. But the negatives? It can cause fans to tune out if they know their driver is already “in” to the 10-race season that actually matters.

Fontana looms large on the schedule, the series’ best intermediate in recent years popping up this weekend. Then you’ve got Martinsville, a competitive short track, so you’d hope sparks would start flying real soon. Otherwise… if not now, when?

Did You Notice? Just eight of 20 top-five finishes have been collected by Xfinity Series regulars? It’s an old story getting old for fans, who as I’ve mentioned above, have been turning off the television this season. Three of those eight top fives were collected at Daytona, the season’s first race where restrictor plates bunch up the field and play a larger role.

Phoenix was the low point for regulars, as the top-five positions were swept by Sprint Cup regulars and Kyle Busch fill-in, full-time Truck Series driver Erik Jones. How “bleh” was Saturday’s race? The top-12 qualifiers all finished inside the top 12 in some way, shape or form. The top-five finishers consisted of, guess what? The weekend’s top-five qualifiers.

That’s because the speed difference between the best Xfinity Series cars and the back half of its field is far too great. It’s hard for the 25th-place qualifier to move up when they’re running a three-year-old jalopy compared to its other competition. Some NXS sponsorships have reached upwards of $10 million. $10 million?! For a series that, in some ways resembles NASCAR’s version of AAA baseball? The sport has to find a way to cut down costs so new faces, fresh owners and more parity comes into play here.

Did You Notice? Quick hits before taking off….

  • Being able to choose what series you run for points is helping drivers who missed races, like Brian Vickers and Kurt Busch immensely this season. With Landon Cassill, JJ Yeley, Regan Smith, Brendan Gaughan and several others running for the Xfinity Series title, they’ve scored exactly zero Cup points all season. That leaves 38 drivers, Vickers and Busch included running full-time and collecting points toward the championship, minimizing the number they have to pass to enter the Sprint Cup top 30. Why is that important? Once there, all each driver has to do is win a race and they’ll be included in this year’s Chase. At the rate each driver is going, expect them to have climbed that mountain as soon as the end of April; Busch is just 17 points behind 30th-place Brett Moffitt while Vickers sits just 24 back.
  • This weekend is big for Carl Edwards. His career average finish at Fontana (8.5) is his best on an oval, a place where he has 14 top-10 finishes in 17 starts. So far, his new team has struggled to keep up as the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has run no better than 12th during the season’s first four events. JGR as a whole has struggled, but Edwards was the reason for its expansion. He knows it’s time to get on track.
  • Kurt Busch will officially appeal Delaware’s family protective order against him after the court Wednesday refused to reopen the case involving ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. I understand Busch’s desire to clear his name; but since this weekend, he’s been on the offensive, a fiery FOX Sports interview combined with brazen statements about how he was falsely accused. At what point, though do you calm down and let sleeping dogs lie? Right now, Busch has his ride back, his livelihood and an opportunity to rebuild a reputation. He also has no desire to contact or be near his ex-girlfriend. So how much does overturning this order matter? Just food for thought.

About the author

The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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Maybe the TV numbers are down because of the way the race is broadcast and the “expert” analysts in the booth. There’s the Hollywood Hotel which says all you need to know about how they treat the broadcast.


Thats not the reason. If you want to watch what other option do you have? Simply put, either you want to watch or you don’t. The evidence is that more and more people don’t.

BTW: To say that Busch has the opportunity to rebuild is reputation is almost LOL funny. The fuse is slowly burning as we speak.

Bill B

Too many commercials, too many “features” (i.e., the half way race report, etc.) occurring during green flag racing, not enough passing and the realization that nothing really matters until Sept.

We all know what NASCAR’s answer to this will be. More fake cautions to bunch up the field and manufacture passing opportunities (for 5 laps) thanks to the double file restarts.


I think the ratings were high for the first few races only because the weather was bad in most of the country and there was nothing else to do. The first good weather weekend showed a dramatic drop and I think we can look forward to that for the rest of the year. Why watch a race when the same drivers run far ahead of the others and dominate the races? Watching grass grow is more exciting.


Tom, you hit on the issues in your article.

– not much passing for the lead
– a couple of dominant drivers
– racing that is NOT particularly compelling to watch

I agree with DoninAjax, too, the tv broadcasts do not help NASCAR’s case. Fox has gotten stale in its presentation. I may have the tv on, but I have the sound muted and have to multi-task using twitter, raceview and the radio broadcast to actually KNOW what is going on with the race. How many people are going to do that? Certainly not the casual fans.

Xfinity series? Ha, well as long as it is dominated by the Cup drivers moonlighting, I won’t even bother to turn that broadcast on.

Every year since the COT was introduced, NASCAR has said “the racing will be better this year”. Last year was the closest they came to it – Goodyear brought a softer tire for at least a few races which made drivers have to manage their tires instead of being able to just drive the same way thru the whole fuel run. This year, it seems that the rules package isn’t producing very good racing. Harvick is having a great season and that’s great for him and his fans, but the people who aren’t fans of Harvick or Johnson may not be that interested and if Fox continues to do their usual – just show the single car racing from the front, well, people won’t tune in. Why bother?

Plus we have the “chase” scenario, we have 3 drivers with wins already and I’d bet that Knaus and Johnson are in testing mode already – they can afford to be. It doesn’t make for compelling reasons to pay attention early in the season.

Tim S.

It’s the same people up front, the same gimmicks and “storylines” instead of just telling us what happens on-track. And if the same handful isn’t up front, we must hear why they aren’t up front, repeatedly. At times the broadcasters even seem uncomfortable talking about those who aren’t the chosen few. We know every race won’t be a classic, but if each race was treated like it’s own event instead of the Road to the Chase or whatnot, then I think more people might care.


Tim, yes and the reason why the broadcasters don’t want to talk about the “others” is because they didn’t PAY for the airtime. So instead of covering the actual race, the tv broadcast is just one long commercial, interspersed with more commercials. That is why we got the replay at the end of the race of action that had happened in the beginning because it was a scheduled advertising segment.

Yes, I went to the race to see the race, now each race is just a seeding event.


We all know, including the author, why NASCAR steadily declines in popularity. The sanctioning body (France family) and their broadcast partners are both arrogant and incompetent. One need look no further than the truck series, dead, and the Xfinity series, probably legally dead by season’s end, to see the future of the Cup series. People go to steak houses for steak. Open a steak house with a vegetarian menu and tell your customers what they really want is salad. Pretty soon you have no customers. Lettuce, steak the NASCAR way!


I don’t get why the people in charge of NASCAR messed with the rules package after the racing we saw last season. The spacers have created a restrictor plate type driving engine, as Jamie McMurray mentioned in post race comments. Has anyone else grown tired of the DW nonsense in the booth, he obviously doesn’t do any prep work. Some don’t care for McReynolds but I will give him credit for putting in some time off camera. The boogity remarks at the green flag have always bothered me, the waving of the green flag to start the race is one of the most anticipated moments in sports and to hear some idiot shout boogity at that time is beyond me how the powers at be let that happen. Can you image John Madden saying boogity boogity boogity lets play some football at the kickoff of the Super Bowl? I think not. Once Jeff Gordon steps down my interest with dramatically be reduced, might follow Jr a bit but other than that not much. And while I’m ranting, the whole lucky dog, waive around, and chase format are all used to create or manufacture interest. Harvick will make the Hall of Fame with his title but his string of top two finishes is a bit misleading in historical terms with the lucky dog and waive around rules. That being said he is still the class of the current field and his recent run is impressive non the less. I hope he has 30 top two finishes and some team with 3 top fives wins the title because of a flat tire or pit road issue.


Because the manufacturers couldn’t agree on how to reduce the power of the engines. Some supposedly wanted to at long last go to an engine that more resembled what they sell, while others didn’t. We can only speculate as to their motives or agenda. But evidently the compromise was to use the tapered spacer. Maybe because it was the least expensive option.

Capt Spaulding

The “Tapered Spacer” a a great speed restriction device……it makes it easier for the parade to maintain a more uniform speed so fans can enjoy the pageantry on the straight- aways, same as those in corners…….oh wait, I forgot, the seats in the corners are tarped, never mind.


I’m tired of hearing columnists write about how Kurt should just let this all go and move on. If he is innocent, why should he not go on the offensive. Busch may have a temper, and you can bet Driscoll’s team exploited that hoping the general public and the courts would buy into it, but Kurt has never shown to be violent and there is a big difference. I think something is really fishy with this woman. I think she is scorned and has it in for Kurt… and I”m far from a Kurt fan. He has actually won sympathy points from me the way he has handled it. And, he has the money to go after her if he feels any wrongdoing from her, so why should he just let things be? Wouldn’t clearing his name rebuild his reputation?


Why do I torture myself reading all the negative goat berry complaints about NASCAR? I suppose it is because I enjoy and devour anything NASCAR and have a hard time limiting my consumption. Could it be I’m a real life Mr. Gluttony yelling MORE!!!??? And those with a perceived insult are the ones most likely to pick up the pen and expound negatively because it feels good. I feel FOX has done a much better job this season showing a lot more racing battles deeper in the field. Take heart, I don’t recall Danica mentioned even once, I only knew she was participating by the position scrole and an occasional glimps of her car in the background. Parity means everyone is equal. So everybody lines up as their lot falls and follows the leader because they are not more equal. If you want David Gilliland or Josh Wise or Timmy Hill or BK Racing up there kicking the snot outa Happy or Hendrick cars, drop them a few words of encouragement or a few coins or both. Look how well that kid did that got spontaneous help from the Web last year, how excited he and a lot of other people were. And I’ll bet most of those annomous sponsors felt really good and even excited themselves to see that car team and kid compete as best they could with the big kids. For those of you who keep spreading your goat berries about because you in particular didn’t get what you wanted when you tuned into a NASCAR race, I am sad for you. However please keep it up because I love devouring anything NASCAR. MORE!!! (For those of you who don’t know, goat berries are those little squishy egg shaped black things goats leave around after eating tin cans and stuff for me to squish between my toes )

Bill B

” If you want David Gilliland or Josh Wise or Timmy Hill or BK Racing up there kicking the snot outa Happy or Hendrick cars, drop them a few words of encouragement or a few coins or both. ”

Yeah, that sounds like one hell of plan to create parity. You should take Brian’s job.


Yeah Bill, because we all know words of encouragement and a few coins will make these guys competitive with the likes of Harvick, Johnson and Logano. My word, where do they find these guys. This guy is either really new to the sport and doesn’t remember anything about how great Nascar was when it was an actual sport, or he is Brian’s drinking buddy. Either way he is pretty blind to the fact that grandstands are empty on Sunday’s now and Nascar is now turning back into a niche sport thanks to the wonderful ideas of ole Brian trying to get the ADHD crowd to like Nascar. And FOX does nothing to bring fans in either. Redneck chants like “Boogity” and grid runs with idiots like Mikey do nothing to help the cause either.


Yes Attendance issues are still here(course 42deg in Atlanta might be a cause) & the racing hasn’t been all that competitive at the front as well as Fox not spending any time on large field shots.(but they have shown a little bit more pack racing/passing) But when people like messengerfm make all their ridiculous statements I have to question how the person would know this without ever watching…If your just taking your “stated facts” from other(I suspect much like yourself) negative complainers then that is all your going to read & believe but if you say you haven’t even watched then please go away from the sport & find some other thing to complain about. I think brians a dufus to but am a fan of Nascar & do watch.(how long not sure)The deducted downforce did not go far enough & they keep trying to get these machines to look better at places like(DULL) Fontana rather then getting more 3/4-1 mile tracks..Guarantee the plan is to remove Atlanta it looks just like how they did Rockingham & notice the last few years how Martinville & Bristol have gone down hill(but better at fontana)..Chase is entertaining & the fallout is the season means very little & I believe the viewership will prove that if Harv & JJ just keep running away with it…Many a race by the way had Cale/Alison’s/Petty & Waltrip running away with a few to(but the overall product was better then) & speaking of waltrips..YYeeccchhh please no more of that cornball shctick..Earner


Forbes, the financial site, has a very recent article concerning the steady decline in fan interest. While we all have our opinions about the quality of the product the numbers do not lie. More people lose interest every year, tens of thousands more. ****** If anyone knows where there is an advertising banner that can cover 50,0000 seats please contact Brian France. Price negotiable.


The really amazing thing is that they are still making a LOT of money as the decline continues. Not just them, but the mega team owners seem to be doing ok as well.
Guess I need to start doing whatever they are doing.


Hey Bill. Parity means equal. Everybody equal means everybody drops in line according to their luck of the draw and follows for a few hours. I do not like that. Remember when you was the littlest kid pissing yur pants hoping to get picked to play with the big dogs? Nothing wrong with a little encouragement for the little guys. And a few more coins always help in that insatiable quest for speed. Naw I’m not new to racin. I’m just new to pushing back at the scowlly faces and trying to do my part in appreciating the opportunity NASCAR and the broadcasters and all the sponsors have offered me to indulge in my favorite occupation when I can’t physically be there in person. And it’s their right to ask for a little bit from me in payment for their efforts. I’m just hoping to tilt people complaining to try to become a little more constructive. And if the complainers threaten to take their wad of bazooka bubble gum home if they don’t get their way, I expect them to do just that now instead of whining some more. Remember those kids, how you just wanted to squish them like a bug they were so irritating? Maybe there’s a better chance with them gone for someone new to come along that might enjoy NASCAR racing as it is now. I knew long before Jim Jones or Brian France showed up not to drink the kool-aid. Come on Bill! Remember the good times! I promise more will come with a little help from you and me. Besides, hope is ALWAYS answered, just sometimes not the way we’d like.

Bill B

I think most of your reply was meant for some of the other comments. Even though I agree with them all I said is that a few coins aren’t going to make an underfunded team competitive. Even a million dollars is chump change in this sport now.

As for offering constructive ideas, most of the commenters here have been through that phase years ago. They still offer constructive ideas but it seems no one is listening. NASCAR has their own vision and that vision is to do whatever it takes to maximize profits. Understandable for any business but when you are talking about a sport, there is fine line that you must be careful not to cross (we’ll call that, the “wrestlin’ line”). To each person that line is different. So congratulations that all the changes haven’t reached that line for you personally, yet.

Tim S.

There are plenty of places for you to go where you hear and see things from your chosen perspective all the time. Camp out in front of Race Day/Race Hub/pre-race. Listen to the PRN/MRN shows. Read any number of lock-step media articles that preach things exactly the way you want to see them. Jayski’s article/column links page is a wonderful place to start. In recent years it’s little more than links to talking points with some accidental reality thrown in from the occasional outlier.
I come here to read the opinions of multiple regular commenters just as often as I do the works of the site’s writers. Some writers I look forward to and others I just skip right to the comments section to see what what the “gang” has to say.

In short, with so many places to hear how wrong the dissenters are, I certainly wouldn’t bother coming here if I didn’t like the opinions.


“Accidental reality”. Ha!


Well said, Tim S. Watch out for those goat berries though – I understand they squish between your toes.

Accidental reality is a good way to describe so many things related to NASCAR coverage. Funny how that isn’t the case with any other major league sport, but then again, NASCAR is no longer major league.


NASCAR has achieved what few enterprises are able to do: Provide a boring product at the same time they try to spice it up with gimmicks. Boring races, the top 3 for Homestead already in the book. What’s the point of the next 8 months? No point. I said after last season’s bogus finish that I would not watch this year. I am 4 for 4, didn’t watch Daytona for the first time in decades! Haven’t even bothered to check what time and channel the other 3 were on. This weekend we have the start of March Madness and the most fun will be sitting in a sports bar cheering for teams I don’t know or really care about, because they put on a helluva show. NASCAR could cease to exist tomorrow and the vast majority of sports fans would not even notice.

And the fools have gone past the point of no return. NASCAR will never regain credibility and I doubt they are capable of even putting on an interesting race anywhere, any time, ever again. Turn the lights out on your way out, David.

P.S. If Tony kills somebody again or Kurt beats somebody up, you have a SLIGHT chance of a week’s worth of interest. The fact those two thugs are racing is certainly no advantage over the long term.

And Gina, this must be so sad for you. PLEASE say you are leaving with your lover boy and this is the last we will hear from you also.


You know you actually made some sense until you brought up Stewart and Kurt and then went to female bashing. Then you lost all credibility with anything else you stated. What ignorant comments.


LOL, messengerfm, I’m not sure if you mean that as a compliment or if you’re trying to get rid of me!

Unless something changes radically in the next 8 months, I plan to become a casual fan, which means I can pay only a small amount of attention, I won’t care what idiot gimmick Brainless comes up with next and I won’t have to “care” one bit.

I do, however, still have an opinion about NASCAR so you may still have to put up with me, even after my loverboy retires from full time driving.

Bill B

Good answer G24!


Michael Waltrip. His baby talk butter up chatter drives my group away from the television. He is on almost every show, even when he is driving. He is at least a three time cheater (Daytona/ Roush Parts / Fixing the finishes) & even ran from the police when he wrecked his personal car. Take him off, and some folks just may come back.


John Q, the only place you might find 50,000 NASCAR track seats is at a landfill near one of the many tracks that have gutted said seats in recent years.


Why can’t they just broadcast the race? Why can’t we be shown more panned back shots that show were people are in relation to each other? Why can’t we be shown the 2 and 3 wide racing where it’s occuring instead of tight shots of one or two cars?

There are are two big parts to this mess. Cars that can hardly pass each other and a race broadcast that rarely shows you much racing.

How the current product is supposed to attract and retain many new fans is a mystery to me.

Fed Up

I heard an article on TV this morning about the National Legal and Policy Center writing, requesting cancellation of support of Al Sharpton’s organization from NA$CAR. Check out http://www.nlpc.org for an interesting read.
We watch in spite of not because of.


wow. a clever thought starter article.
the commenters did not rise to the occasion
a few intelligent comments aside all i read was the same old bla bla bla.

it’s no secret that the racing is well below sub par.
the coverage (tv and media) is pretty bad….um really bad
the car is ugly and um.. ugly
the competition is skewed for what ever reason.
the france family continues for the time being to rake in gigantic money.
and there’s nothing that we true race fans can do about it except either complain which doesn’t matter or stop watching which the bulk of us just can’t seem to do.
we’re as doomed as our beloved “sport”


And what else is there to say but the same old blah blah? Perhaps thats part of the problem.


well, as Russ said, I’m not sure what we commenters can add other than the same old blah, blah, blah. NASCAR created its own problems, they’ve allowed TV to do their own thing which is not beneficial to the sport or to the fans. They dug the hole and I think that they’ve gotten in so deep, they can’t even figure out they should stop digging.

the one smart decision, which came years later than it should have, was to put Darlington’s date back to Labor Day. However without good racing and by that I mean cars that can race side by side (w/o spinning around because of the aero issue) and pass for the lead, well, that’s a case of too little, too late.


i’m not sure…
do i hear singing?
is it a fat lady…
golly i hope not.

Carl D.

I miss one day of Frontstretch and the whole gang gets into a goat berry fight…

I’d like to thank Uverse for not carrying the Xfinity races this season. No watching Cup drivers feed their egos and their pockets. I’ve been liberated, and my Saturdays are mine again.


Did You Notice. . . .that the comments section is often more entertaining and informative than the articles ?

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