NASCAR might need to go back to the future to boost ratings, interest
For NASCAR teams and drivers, it's summer vacation this week, but the powers that be have no such luxury. You can bet officials down in Daytona are working overtime to turn around a sport that continues to suffer a serious decline.
Chicagoland viewership decreased by over 200,000 compared to last year, with the track's estimated attendance of 67,500 fairly generous for stands that were three-quarters full. How bad has it gotten for what once was the second-largest sport in America? Among the TV programs NASCAR trailed in the ratings last week were
So how do you fix it?
Sometimes, you make so many fixes that you forget what's even broken. Will listening to the fans help? That's where we start in this latest mailbag, a look through your eyes on how to fix NASCAR's playoffs. If there's an idea I overlooked, don't get left out; firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter at
-- Ross, Star, Id.
Every week, I get one of these types of complicated plans in my inbox, a "fix-all" to a playoff system that's clearly disliked. Some piggyback on NASCAR's recent idea of using more drivers in the Chase, or an elimination format like that revealed by
And you know what? I haven't found a single one I've fully embraced. To me, change for the sake of change is never a good thing. So what about this novel concept: Admit the Chase was a bold idea that just didn't work, and go back to what actually did, the old point system, installed from 1975 to 2003 during the sport's biggest period of growth.
Blasphemy you say. How could a sport ever jumpstart itself by going backwards? The reason the championship was changed in the first place was because drivers were focused on consistency over winning.
Or would we? Kenseth's top-10-a-thon season that provoked the Chase was the first time in the modern era (1975-present) the champion had fewer than two wins. And if you're so concerned about winning being more important, then when you make the change, add another 50 points per victory. That ought to be enough to make a one-win championship virtually impossible.
My advice to Brian France would be to invoke the late, great
Let's hope Mr. France is willing to do just that.
Sheppard, how could you
Sure, Gordon's driving for the best in the business right now in
On to another NASCAR legend...
Ed, I've heard a lot of fan chatter about a Labonte-Petty reunion. What I haven't heard are any tangible talks, and I don't expect them to happen anytime soon. Keep in mind these three things:
1) Labonte stayed loyal to Petty in 2008, turning down
2) The reason he was kicked out of Petty wasn't because there was no room. Sponsors weren't willing to jump on board, part of the reason the current Gillett-Petty merger happened in the first place. Two years later, Labonte's got a barren recent resume that includes just two top-10 finishes. Connect the dots.
3) Labonte already has experience driving the RPM Fords, driving for Yates off-shoot Hall of Fame Racing in 2009 (RPM merged with Yates this season). He struggled throughout in what he thought was junky equipment. Why go back 15 months later?
In the short-term, I can see Labonte's best bet right where he is:
Trent, I think you hit it right on the head. Back in the day, Wimmer took Cup rides with single-car, underfunded teams like Bill Davis Racing and Morgan-McClure, teams that didn't have the resources to be competitive. That left him with 107 starts and only one top-5 finish. That's not what you want to showcase to potential sponsors, and now at 34 he's no longer looked at as a young gun.
Why Wimmer hasn't settled into a Nationwide Series ride ala
And while we're on that series...
Steven, the biggest thing I took from Danica's 24th-place finish Friday is she did it with half the hype. From TV to print, everyone seems to be jumping off the bandwagon and treating her like just another driver. That just adds to the pressure, as she's now put in the position of only bringing back the PR machine with impressive on-track performances. But you know what? That's how it should have been from day one.
Enjoy your Sprint Cup off week!