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Over the past six years, NASCAR has seen countless changes, ranging from the points structure to how starting spots are awarded for each race. Fans of the sport, notoriously vocal about new ideas, have recently expressed displeasure in NASCAR’s ever-changing landscape and opting to take their time and money elsewhere.
Although some of these ideas, such as Darlington’s throwback weekend in September, have paid homage to the past, several such as the Chase and new charter system, are aimed at attracting new fans and protecting the investments owners and sponsors make into racing.
The desire by NASCAR to try new ideas is of course admirable given the ever-changing consumer demands. There does come a problem with these ever-changing ideas.
Newer fans who are attracted to the sport by the new playoff system and other new ideas may be interested in NASCAR for a short time, but with the NFL’s dominance of Sunday television during the Chase and emergence of other sports leagues, keeping the sport in the mainstream consciousness may be even more difficult and even more-so if its most loyal fans have begun to take their money and television viewing time elsewhere.
In order to get anywhere near the success of the NFL, NASCAR will have to not only make sure that on-track changes like the new low-downforce package add excitement to the racing, including adding parity. Much of the later part of the season was dominated by two teams. Football (both college and NFL) have prided themselves on the “Any Given Saturday/Sunday” mantra.
Although that has been true for NASCAR at times, making sure that the racing has a solid element of unpredictability will help NASCAR keep the new fans they so covet, as well as some of the older fans who have grown frustrated with certain drivers and teams winning the majority of races.
Implementing changes to benefits drivers, crews and owners is one thing, but fans are still the main factor in determining the sport’s long-term success.
How this changes will affect the sport from all sides will be determined over the next nine months. Regardless, NASCAR may begin to lose even more longtime fans if the headline at this time next season is again about an off-season of changes, one of only a handful of changes NASCAR must avoid at all costs.
See you soon.