This is going to seem like piling on, to some. Last time I addressed this topic I asked if Kitsap dodged a bullet by not buying into the NASCAR track idea. Then I read this story, on American Public Media’s Marketplace and began wondering if ISC dodged one itself.
The reason to keep bringing this up is because I still hear from people who wonder if there still could come a day when Kitsap does become home to a track. The story discusses again that people did not travel to races as much, which makes complete sense. It costs money and people have less of that.
The worse part is that the television ratings are bad, too. That is a very bad sign for the sport.
For us here in Kitsap, though, you could still argue that, “OK, it won’t be 65,000 people here. It will be 45,000, who would not otherwise have come and spent money.”
Still, I wanted to know why TV ratings are bad, so I asked someone who follows the sport. Bob Pockrass is a NASCAR blogger for SceneDaily.com, a Street & Smith’s venture.
Pockrass qualified his comments, saying his opinions were only speculation. He also said it’s easier to find out why people do go to races than it is to ask them why they don’t, since the ones that do are right there in front of you.
Nonetheless, he had some ideas that seemed to make sense to me.
First, NASCAR for a long time was tough on those being aggressive on the track, penalizing them to the point that it made it less interesting for some viewers. When Chad Lewis was writing for us he got a quote from a writer who said NASCAR fans don’t necessarily want to see wrecks, but if there is one they don’t want to miss it.
Race officials got the message that in fact race fans do appreciate a little bit of nudging here and there. In 2010, Pockrass said, the races themselves were a lot better to watch. It will take time, though, for former race fans to get the word. “They didn’t lose them over one year. They’re not going to bring them back in one year,” Pockrass said.
Another issue is that during the 2000s NASCAR lost some of its legends. New rivalries exist, but they’re not the same. “Johnson, Harvick and Hamlin haven’t resonated the way Earnhardt, Wallace and Jarrett did,” Pockrass said. Johnson has dominated the sport in the last few years. In 2010 he won the year’s championship on the last race, but in previous years he clinched early.
When the sport was gaining popularity, Jeff Gordon was winning championships and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was winning a lot of races himself. The two of them got along fine, Pockrass said, but their fans hated each other, which made for a great rivalry.
There is little of that now. “It’s really a matter of having really strong personalities who can move the meter,” Pockrass said.
For those wondering if ISC or someone might venture into our woods again, there is little reason to have hope. ISC probably would still like to locate here and get the sport into a new market. But the company is not expanding anywhere for the time being. For one thing there is that attendance thing. The recession is the big one, though, and ISC still probably would not do it without some help from the public sector. Finally, Pockrass said, ISC makes more money from television than it does from race attendance, and the deal the sport will have beginning in 2015 is not likely to be as lucrative as the one now.
Finally, ISC would probably still want the state to help direct funds its way to build the track. Certainly the appetite for public involvement on the level ISC wanted the first time around is nowhere near as strong as it might have been then, and based on results the idea wasn’t tantalizing enough before.