In response to an article last week, one of our writers jumped into the fray that is the comments section. Matt McLaughlin offered his FWIW using a notion that Jim Utter had stated that used a Ven diagram to dissect NASCAR fan commentary. The jist derived from McLaughlin’s comment was that, by and large, the NASCAR fans that post tend to be dissatisfied consumers of the sport, while those fans who apparently either like or tolerate the sport let their thoughts go unseen.
There may or may not be validity to all of that. To do a real sentiment analysis of NASCAR fans would require actually getting those non-posters to offer something – or to be more thorough, to get every person who clicks on an article to give some semblance of their perspective. Then to do it right, questions should address how long a person has followed the sport, age, location, yadda yadda.
All of this stuff is to say that generalizations about a fanbase can be a difficult thing to determine with any real accuracy. However, there may be some validity to the fact that fans are rather unpleased with things.
While crawling about the internet the other day, Happiness Is landed on an article at NASCAR.com that discussed Larry McReynolds and his departure from the FOX race booth. The article was what you’d expect, but the comment section was fantastic.
Aside from the fact that some readers were surprised that McReynolds was on the way out and that Jeff Gordon would be taking his place (which immediately brings into question how much these fans follow the sport), most of the comments were positive toward Larry Mac, attacked whipping boys Darrell and Michael Waltrip. Then some even questioned whether or not Gordon actually had the knowledge to be worth it in the booth. We’ll gloss over the comments about Southern pride, Toyota bashing, and some trolling.
Whether or not the posts are the vocal minority, majority or a bunch of nut-jobs, there’s one thing that seems to be about right: people aren’t so happy with NASCAR. Something better be done before there’s no argument between whose voice it really is.
Let’s get on with it.
Happiness Is… Numbers. Tom Bowles is his DYN column pointed out that the Sonoma race this past weekend garnered a 2.4 share with an estimated 3.6 million viewers. He then pointed out that the same race 10 years ago brought in a nearly 5.7 rating. The numbers, however, are a game that is played on a sliding scale which can be illustrated by the report that the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team had a 3.3 rating that equated to around 9 million viewers.
Forget for a moment that the USWNT both got to have their match against Germany televised on the big network and that it outdrew many of the races this year. Those things may be tough to ignore, but the better thing to be taken away from the numbers is that NASCAR still has an audience. It’s not like the sport has dipped below one million viewers per race. Yes, the numbers could be stronger but maybe NASCAR was never going to hold onto those lofty 6-8 million viewers a race anyway? Just as important, it’s those kinds of numbers that will surely cause someone somewhere to make some kind of adjustment – hence the reason for the new rules package at Kentucky.
Happiness Is… Yes. This week Jeff Gordon and company announced that they would be running the rainbow warriors paint scheme. About time! Why his sponsors didn’t sign up to do retro paint schemes for much of the year is the disappointing part. And where the heck was his latest Jurassic World car that would have paid homage to his T-Rex (that messed with every rule it could). Gordon has had two of the more iconic paint jobs in the sport, first with the Dupont rainbow and then with the flames. It’s great to see that at least one of them will be making an appearance.
Happiness Is… Dates. Scheduling has long been one of the mystical, mysterious and maddening aspects about motorsports. The IndyCar series may take the prize right now with how it’s done things, as one only need question what they were doing running a race in Fontana, Calif., or basically the desert at the end of June in the middle of the day. Of course, NASCAR is not immune because its put Atlanta early in the season and were rewarded with a soggy grey race that didn’t showcase how interesting the track can be.
Well, Formula 1 is joining the fray for next season by moving the Monaco Grand Prix away from the Indy 500 and Coke 600 date. That’s right, there won’t be the orgy of racing next year, which means fans will have to settle for just 1,100 miles of racing. While it is unlikely to happen, strike that, nearly improbable that it will happen, there is one positive to be taken away from F1 shifting Monaco up a week on the calendar. It would leave some F1 drivers the prospect of being able to compete in the 500.
Both Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso have made overtures toward running the Indy 500, but the logistics of making something happen have to be a nightmare. Team permissions, scheduling, insurance, etc. etc. etc would all have to be sussed out in a way that works. You could say that it might be just a tad more difficult than Kurt Busch pulling off the double last year. But how great would it be to see F1 drivers again race for the Borg-Warner trophy? Ah, to dream.
About the author
As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.
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Thanks for the article, but I am always amazed that some writers come to the party late. Fans have been mad and upset with NASCAR for some time, not just this year. Is the media now just noticing because NASCAR made a change starting with Kentucky that all might not be so rosy as they always purport? Does all these years of pointing out what is wrong with the sport, the empty seats, the driver complaints, the drop in sponsorship, the endless rule changes, “The Chase” and all it’s stupid versions, the favoritism….Not mean a thing?? NASCAR maybe too late might be figuring out most fans are not as dumb as they think they are…But wait a minute, I will backtrack on that…”A Confederate flag exchange program” at Daytona..SMH?
Why is it always when it is clear as the nose on your face, it take years for some to finally have the light bulb go off? And I am not talking about Huston, but dang. People, NASCAR HAS BEEN on slow slope to hellish obscurity (wish it was quicker,it might wake them up) and that is a damn shame, this great weekend coming up brings that message home, and it is sad indeed.
absolutely right, kb.
there “may be some validity” to the idea that fans are unhappy and upset with NASCAR? Wow, have you and Brian France and his minions been in the same dark hole for the past few years? I echo kb’s comments on this topic as well.
The issues with the racing and tv broadcasts, as well as the whatever version of deciding who gets the big trophy each year has been a hot topic for fans for many years. Just because most of the media and NASCAR itself would prefer to pretend that things are wonderful doesn’t make it so.
If things were great, the tracks would still have lots of fans in the seats, they wouldn’t be removing seats. The ratings for tv broadcast wouldn’t be down and more than likely the races would still be on the main networks not on the obscure versions like FS1, FS2 and whatever channel NBC is going to use for its broadcasts.
The paid NASCAR media has been shouting down and bullying the fans about their discontent for years. The problem with doing that, instead of doing things to make the racing better and to engage the fans, is that it has had the effect of driving more fans away.
I’m on my last year. Gordon gets out of the 24 car at the end of this season. I have been waiting for that announcement for the past 5 years and his exit will remove my last reason for paying any attention to a sport which has lost my interest through its own inability to keep the “fun” in it. I read an interesting article about the whole Tom Brady deflategate scandal and the writer made the point that suspending Brady was a mistake for the NFL. I think that the writer makes a good point. There is NO reason for a sport to do things that drive its own fans away from it. They’ve already fined him, but he still has the ring and the trophy. Suspending him is just useless posturing. Sound familiar? Yeah, NASCAR does a lot of the same sort of thing. They posture, they pose, but what they don’t do is anything useful to improve the racing. Cars going fast and being able to catch, race sideways with and pass was the reason I started watching racing. High speed parades and gimmicks – the green white checker and double file restarts are examples of that – don’t do it for me.
Heck, it got so bad that the drivers actually pulled their heads out of their highly paid butts and formed a committee to talk about the issues. Gee whiz, what the heck too so long? NASCAR is supposedly going to change the rules at KY to improve the racing. Gee how many times have I heard that? Do I believe it work? No idea. Do I really care? Well no, not that much unless it is going to make a major difference in the racing right now. For me, whatever NASCAR does is a case of too little, too late. Does that make me jaded? Probably. What I am is a dissatisfied fan who is tired of having my opinions ignored or disrespected and in 5 months, I will be a former NASCAR fan.
Yeah Gina it’s going to be tough watching Gordon ride off into the sunset on, I fear, what is going to be more like a rainy day. I lack the confidence to think that if he does make the Chase he’ll be much of a factor. I hope I’m wrong but……..I plan on going to Daytona in February to experience the new and improved venue, but don’t know if I’ll renew the tickets (4 @ $200 a seat) that have been in the family since the 1960s. I’m not really interested in seeing Knaus and Johnson win # 7 and #8. Although there’s a very good chance to see #7 this year. Much better than seeing a #5 for Gordon for sure. Yikes! So with that said, like you, I’m outta here after this season.
Dan, yes, I’m afraid that it isn’t going to be the dazzling final year that all of us Gordon fans had hoped for unless they figure it out suddenly and turn it around and that doesn’t seem likely. Ugh to watching Chad & Johnson win 7 but since IMO the “chase” is bogus anyway.
Wow, that is a long time to have those tickets in the family and it is also a lot of $! I hope you enjoy seeing the new Daytona. I’ve been to Daytona twice and the last time, as we stood in line for more than 1.5 hrs w/o moving to catch the shuttle buses back to the parking areas, my question was “can we be done with coming to this race?” Some of the tracks are so disorganized getting people back to the parking areas or out of the parking lots that it ruins things even if it was a fun experience. You obviously know something we didn’t about access to the track.
Gina, I guess they now want to wear our tinfoil hats! Seems they now notice how well it fits and how good it looks on! :) :) :)
kb, yes it is pretty amusing to read how everyone knew there was a problem all along! Right, I have the nasty twitter responses from a few “famous” people calling me some unpleasant things when NASCAR was just perfect. I’ll wear my tinfoil hat with pride, along with any other fans, who were capable of thinking for themselves.