By David G. Firestone
Couple of things this week. Prior to the season, I was upset by the changes made to the Pro Stock category by the NHRA. I’ve been watching the series closely, and, well, I hate to admit it, but the category is much better this year. The win column has much more diversity than it did at this time last year. The point standings are much more varied too.
There is one problem that needs to be addressed. Since the new engine package was introduced in 2016, Dodge has had little success. In fact, since the beginning of the 2016 season, Dodge has ONE WIN in 54 EVENTS! That’s Cleveland Browns bad. I’m really wondering how much longer Dodge will work in Pro Stock before they give up. With a 2-year record that’s actually worse than the Cleveland Browns, I can’t imagine it’s that long.
The other news is the big news coming out of NASCAR. Multiple sources are reporting that The France Family is working with Goldman Sachs to sell NASCAR to a new owner. This is welcome news, if true. Attendance and TV ratings are at all time lows. While NASCAR does have a series sponsor for now for the Cup Series, that isn’t guaranteed for much longer.
As a fan, I’d like to offer some suggestions to NASCAR for helping out the series, and bringing fans back.
First:More access to the drivers.
Drivers aren’t easy to meet at most racing events, if you aren’t willing to purchase an extra pass. Why is this an issue? Well let’s look at ticket prices for the Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland, vs the JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals. If you want a ticket to the event, the least that The Overton’s 400 will cost you $30, as opposed to the Route 66 Nationals, which cost $55. Now while that seems like a good price, if you want a pass to meet the drivers at Chicagoland, it will cost you an extra $55, whereas at Route 66, there is no extra charge to walk around the pits and meet drivers. So, I can pay $55 for NHRA general admission, with many chances to meet drivers, or spend $85 and maybe get the chance to meet a driver. Does that make financial sense? Also, drivers should do some more appearances for fans. It’s kind of shocking that there aren’t that many appearances scheduled. I get that drivers are busy, but fans really will trek to meet drivers.
Second:Loosen up the schedule, specifically 1.5 mile tracks.
If you add up all of the races, exhibition included, 1.5 mile tracks make up 12 of 40 events! 1.5 mile tracks make up 30% of all Cup Series events. Above and beyond that, 1.5 mile tracks make up 4 of the 10 events in the Playoffs. I should note that this does NOT include the Fall Charlotte race, as that is being raced on the road course. It should also be noted that of the races on 1.5 mile tracks, 3 of them, Las Vegas, Texas, and Kansas are repeats. Cutting one of those races out of the schedule will not only shorten the season, but could bring back in fans.
Third: Ditch Fanatics and bring back in individual team stores.
Fanatics has become the Walmart of team gear. They move in, force many smaller stores out of competition, and make more money for themselves. This could also be applied to Lionel Collectibles. Lionel has started a “club” where if you want to purchase a die-cast, regardless of the cost of said die-cast, you have to spend $20 on a club membership. Since a lot of NASCAR fans aren’t rich, and might not want to spend $20 for the privilege of buying die-casts, this might not be a good thing. The exculsive seller deal doesn’t really work out well for NASCAR, as they lose sellers, nor does it help the teams, or mom and pop stores. It only works for Fanatics. That’s the reason sports fans hate Fanatics.
In short, I can only wonder if these changes will happen if NASCAR is sold. I hope they do.