Here's what a 21 year-old with a keyboard and a vivid imagination came up with when he decided to set out a plan to rectify NASCAR's attendance issues and TV ratings decline. My name is Nick DeGroot, and this is Part One of 'Bringing them back.'
I got an idea. No, I got a bunch of ideas. NASCAR's TV ratings and track attendance numbers seem to be in a comatose state at the moment. They are no longer plummeting, but they aren't increasing at any kind of notable rate either.
We all know why the fans aren't flocking to the races in droves anymore, but how about we talk some more about how we can make them come back? Everyone wants to play the blame game. Very few have actually come up with a viable and ingenious proposal to drive the fans out of their living rooms and back to the track.
I tip my hat to Dover for trying to rectify their attendance issues, but telling drivers to take more selfies with fans isn't going to change anything. It's a nice thought though and drivers, you should still do it.
Anyway, NASCAR is by no means in a dire situation. I'm not trying to imply that doomsday is near and NASCAR will soon go the way of CART/Champ Car. They are far from any catastrophe like that as a matter of fact.
They aren't alone in terms of sports that have seen a decline in ratings. In fact, Formula One's TV views have dropped a staggering 20% this year. I'm hearing a whole lot of talk about what's causing it, but I'm not hearing nearly enough regarding how we can fix it.
I'm not trying to say that I know all the answers or that I have the panacea to cure all problems in NASCAR, that's not it at all. I'm just a 21 year-old journalist who's always been interested in business marketing and also possesses a vivid (somewhat outlandish/optimistic imagination), here's Part One of my three-part plan.
1.) The product
Before anything else, you need to address the product. Namely, the racing itself. I've really enjoyed the 2014 season so far and I only expect it to get better with the reduction of horsepower coming in 2015. Unfortunately, we still face those lulls during the race where everything gets strung out and a lot of casual fans tune out, getting the vibe that this is what the entire race is like.
Throw in there this too...we'd also hand out some bonus points for the top ten runners at the halfway point. Not a lot, but just enough to entice the competitors to go for it. You'd suddenly see some hectic racing towards the middle portion of the event (similar to what you see when rain is imminent), and you'd also see some funky strategies as teams try to steal those invaluable points, which would only further help to pump some more excitement into it.
We don't actually have to touch the cars to improve the race
There's another way to make better racing without even touching the cars, or the format of the races. First of all, we need more road courses, as my colleague Covy Moore suggested in this piece earlier in the week. They are guaranteed to be captivating and it also gives NASCAR drivers more credence in the global aspect with many fans disillusioned by the thought of left turn after left turn.
There's a major obstacle in the way of such an idea however...the Speedway Motorsports (SMI) and the International Speedway Corporation (ISC), who own most of the tracks currently on the schedule.
With that in mind, I have another idea to counter this. This compromise isn't ideal for me but it's a realistic solution that will allow us to augment the number of road courses on the schedule without actually going out and finding some new road courses to race at. Homestead, Indianapolis, Kansas, Daytona, Las Vegas, Auto Club, Texas, Charlotte and Chicagoland are all fully functional rovals.
It would be a great way to shake things up without even altering the locations on the schedule, which would save NASCAR a major headache. Obviously, running the infield course at a place like Kansas is no Sebring or Road America, but it's a better option than the current setup we have.
If you don't like that, then we could always take a page out of V8 Supercar's book ... we already have in case you didn't notice the uncanny similarity between NASCAR's Chevy SS and the V8's Holden Commodore.
We could employ different formats for different races. It's a way to spice up the calendar without, once again, altering the calendar. I'd propose that they keep historic events like Daytona, Charlotte, Darlington, Bristol, and Indy intact. However, they could take tracks like Pocono and Michigan and chop them up (not literally of course).
Instead of enduring through one 400 or 500 marathon that will be void of excitement for 90% of the event, opt for two or even three fast-paced, tension-filled, action-packed sprint races. Heck, throw the roval idea into this too and you've suddenly added a lot more flavor and appeal to the Sprint Cup schedule.
Take a look at the current Chase....
Chicagoland - 400 mile oval race
Loudon - 300 mile oval race
Dover - 400 mile oval race
Kansas - 400 mile oval race
Charlotte - 500 mile oval race
Talladega - 500 mile oval race
Martinsville - 500 mile oval race
Texas - 500 mile oval race
Phoenix - 312 mile oval race
Homestead - 400 mile oval race
Pretty, um, repetitive, huh? Now take a look at it, without altering a single race (even though I'd like to). All of these races would also include by halfway bonus points idea that I mentioned earlier.
Chicagoland - Two 200 mile sprint races
Loudon - Three 100 mile super sprint races
Dover - 400 mile race with halfway break
Kansas - One 200 mile roval race, utilizing 75% of the oval, and a road course that winds through the infield
Charlotte - Two 200 mile sprint races and one 100 mile super sprint race
Talladega - 500 mile race with halfway break
Martinsville - 500 mile race with halfway break
Texas - Two sprint races and one super sprint race
Phoenix - One 200 mile roval race, utilizing 75% of the oval, and a road course that winds through the infield
Homestead - 400 mile race with halfway break as we decide the championship
Now that looks much more appetizing than the previous schedule. The promoters could have a lot of fun with things like 'roval races' and 'super sprint events." But we won't get too much into that, because that's what Part II will be more about.
Part II of my three-part series is coming within the next few days....Bringing them back: My plan for NASCAR (Promotion)
Above is an example of why I love NASCAR, and with some prudent initiatives taken by the powers that be (and I know you guys are trying hard as it is), this could go from a rarity to an expected results.