Monday, July 26, 2010

NASCAR Still Having Its Problems

Yesterday's NASCAR race at Indianapolis was a pretty dismal barometer for the state of the sport in NASCAR. The Brickyard 400 is seen as the second most important race in NASCAR, following only the Daytona 500. Teams put a tremendous amount of effort into the race, and its winner is guaranteed racing immortality for having a victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Brickyard 400s in the past few years have not been the most exciting races, due to multiple issues. This years', however, was competitive, entertaining, and pretty exciting.

You sure wouldn't know it by looking at the stands ...

To the untrained eye, it looked like 40% or so of the coveted front stretch seats were empty. Taking into consideration all the seating around the 2.5 mile track, I would guess that 60% of all of the seats were empty. There is no way it could be cropped out of the TV coverage, it was so widespread. That has to be troubling to NASCAR ...

Another sign ... diecast cars. These little foot long scale metal models of NASCAR drivers' rides have been one of the most popular souveniers since their introduction back in the early '90s. Back in the heyday of NASCAR's popularity, a dozen or so years ago, production of these scale cars was incredible. Popular drivers, such as Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jr., or Jeff Gordon, would have each and every paint job they drove reproduced in diecast. It was not uncommon to see over 100,000 or so of some of the more popular paint schemes produced - and they would sell out.

Now, with the popularity dropping and the economy in the tanks, even the most popular drivers have had their production cut way back. Dale Jr.'s rides - ones you would have had to fight to get hold of a few years ago, are plentiful, even though there are far fewer of them being produced. For example, a recent special paint scheme Jr drove at Charlotte earlier this year had only 3000 diecast made - that filled the need.

Last note for now ... Junior Nation is falling apart. Fanatics by any standards, fans of Dale Jr. are rabid and insanely committed to their hero. You used to see seas of red in the stands. Now, not so much. Junior's difficulties over the past few years, his inability to succeed even when Rick Hendrick is giving him everything he needs, and his constant fights with his crew chiefs are wearing thin. There are still members of Junior Nation out there, but their numbers are far fewer these days.

Not good for fans of roundy round racing ....

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