Monday, August 9, 2010

NASCAR hits the skids

Posted By on Mon, Aug 9, 2010 at 1:54 PM

Finally! Unfortunately, it took the Great Recession to convince people the crap they buy at NASCAR events is a total waste of money. Kinda like how driving around in circles for hours — or, worse, watching other people drive around in circles for hours while waiting for them to crash and burn — is a waste of time, which is more valuable than money. Don't even get me started on how gross it is to stand around waiting for someone to wreck or how wasteful the entire industry is. I mean, aren't NASCAR people concerned, at all, about our addiction to foreign oil? Not even a little bit? They suck for that.

Sunday, The New York Times covered NASCAR's empty seats.

After years of jam-packed races, sky-high television ratings and record merchandise sales, Nascar has seen attendance at nearly every track slip this year as recession-weary fans continue to cut costs.

The Behler family could see that firsthand while sitting atop their old school bus in the infield at Pocono Raceway for last week’s race in Long Pond, Pa. From that perch, they saw empty patches of grass with untrampled dandelions that in years past were covered by other spectators’ cars, campers and trailers.

Fans like the Behlers who are showing up to races are spending less, too.

“Everybody’s still coming, but no one’s spending,” said Susan Behler, who arrived last Sunday, race day, instead of Friday night to save money. “Three years ago, I used to spend $200 or $300 every time I came here. Now, it’s a question: do I need it?”

Other sports leagues have been hurt the past two years. But Nascar — with its heavier reliance on working-class fans, low fuel prices and the beleaguered auto industry — has suffered disproportionately, racing industry executives say. Ratings on television, sales of licensed goods and sponsorships, the lifeblood of the sport, are also suffering. Several racing teams have merged in the last three years.

Nascar compounded matters, the executives say, by changing its rules in ways that made the racing safer but stripped the sport of some of the spontaneity that made it compelling. Under pressure, Nascar has reversed some of those moves, helping to rejuvenate competition on the track this season. With the economy on the mend, Nascar and its teams, sponsors, track owners and broadcasters seem confident that the worst is over.

The larger question, though, is whether in the coming years, the sport will return to its glory of the early 2000s as a money-printing juggernaut, a barometer of Middle American tastes and a political bellwether, or whether it will become a more modest, streamlined version of itself.

Read the rest of this article, by Ken Belson and Dave Caldwell, here.

I know, I know. If you live in Charlotte you're not supposed to say that NASCAR is idiotic. Thing is, I'm not from 'round these parts. Where I come from, actual sports — like football — are what get people into the stands.

Interestingly, while searching for a video for this post, the words "drunk" and "redneck" kept coming up when I typed in "NASCAR." In fact, in a couple videos, Charlotte was referred to as "the most redneck place ever." That's nice. And, it's pretty impressive to beat out Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Alabama for that honor. Really says something about our city, don't you think?

Here's one I found that I had to pass along. And, it's one more reason why you'll never find me at a race. Umm: Drunk, hairy, sweaty, shirtless rednecks — and lots of them in one place — making fun of other drunk people? Yeah. I'll pass ... but you kids have fun with the state's only moonshine-inspired sport.

Further reading from The New York Times MagazineCan Dale Earnhardt, Jr. outrace his father's influence?

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