Welcome to our blog. We are professors of management (and NASCAR fans) who teach a course on the business of NASCAR at Virginia Commonwealth University. We will post regularly on the business issues of NASCAR during the season and will include posts from our students. We invite comments. Dr. Jon Ackley and Dr. Michael Pitts
Have officials in NASCAR become too tough on drivers and car specifications? If you were to ask Clint Bowyer, I’m sure he would say absolutely. After his win in New Hampshire, Clint Bowyer thought he was one step closer to his first Sprint Cup championship, but during a post race inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center, officials found that the backend of the car did not meet regulations. Instead of being second in points after the win, Bowyer was docked 150 points and wound up in twelfth. Bowyer and owner Richard Childress had been warned about issues with the rear of the car after the Richmond race, but no further action was taken until his win at New Hampshire. Bowyer was certain that the car was legal before the race and thinks it must have been damaged when the car was pushed into the winner’s circle or during the cool down lap after the race, according to ESPN.
It seems that the officials should consider the damage that happens to the cars during a race. With bump drafting rules being lightened, cars are receiving more damage than the past few years. I think that if NASCAR wants to add more excitement by allowing more bumping and banging around, it should adjust the rules and templates to match. I think that if NASCAR is worried about car tolerances and specifications, it should do more pre-race inspections. While this may not be feasible, it would add more to the fairness of the current rules. It would also alleviate the issue of cars not meeting specifications after receiving damage during or after a race. TL
NASCAR doesn’t seem like it would be a very popular sport to many people, but it is. The NFL and MLB have not been lacking in viewership and attendance but recently NASCAR has seen a drop in viewership and attendance. Why is this? What is the cause for people not wanting to see the second most popular sport in America? Is NASCAR really losing fans or are the fans just not caring as much?
I think NASCAR TV viewership has decreased for two main reasons. The first reason is due to the fact that more popular drivers are not racing as well as they did in the past. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, and Jeff Gordon are some of the drivers I grew up watching and who always seemed to win. Although these drivers are still winning, they are not exactly at the top of the list as they were in the past. Drivers such as Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick are beginning to climb the ladder. This change has actually caused me to stop watching the races. The second reason, which I believe is the more important, is due to the economy. The economy is down, people are losing jobs, people are trying to find jobs, and no one wants to spend a lot of money. One would think people would sit down and watch TV since they are not working, but it seems like they are doing the opposite. Even though people may not have a heavy budget, they seem to spend time doing things they didn’t have the time to do when they were working. Instead of watching TV, like a NASCAR race, people are out cleaning up the yard or straightening out the garage. They still may be huge fans, but the significance of watching the race has been overturned by something of greater importance. BW
The much-anticipated NASCAR Hall of Fame is set to open in May 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition to bestowing honor upon those featured in the Hall of Fame, the 130,000 square foot hall will house a museum and entertainment attractions. It will serve as a tribute to the drivers, crew members, team owners, and other contributors to the sport.
The complex will also include a new ballroom and the NASCAR Plaza Office Tower.
Perhaps most exciting for the fans, however, are the multitude of attractions being considered for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Among those are a racing simulator and “A Week in the Life” (a behind the scenes look at a NASCAR team and race day preparation), and about ten other interactive activities! For more on those, visit www.nascarhall.com.
So what kind of impact will a facility of this magnitude have on the city of Charlotte?
According to John Connaughton, University of North Carolina–Charlotte economist, the economic impact will be roughly $62 million annually! In light of the recent economic downturn, the NASCAR Hall of Fame also may be just the thing to boost revenues for NASCAR in terms of admissions sales and souvenirs. Regardless, it will surely boost Charlotte’s economy, bringing jobs and tourists alike to the city.
I, for one, look forward to learning the exciting new plans still in the making for NASCAR’s first Hall of Fame and Charlotte’s own “Crown Jewel”, as coined by Charlotte’s mayor Pat McRory.
We all know that NASCAR fans are 75% more likely to purchase items that are endorsed by NASCAR or a favorite driver, and 40% of all fans are females with the majority of the purchasing power. So, with numbers as high as these, I don’t see why more sponsors aren’t focusing more on women. A discussion today made me think about what makes a “loyal” fan. A loyal fan is someone who will not substitute another brand based on price or availability. That means that I am not a loyal fan. I don’t feel compelled to always buy something simply because it is endorsed by NASCAR if there is a cheaper substitute. I don’t think NASCAR has any female-only products. I could care less which home improvement store or energy drink is advertised. But I would purchase something that was specifically geared towards women. And not just the stereotypical sponsors like Tide or Target; women aren’t the only people who have laundry needs. I’m talking about brands such as Tampax, Maybelline, Herbal Essences, or Victoria’s Secret.
I think the entry of Danica Patrick would be a great opportunity for sponsors to jump in and target the female fans. I don’t think the men in the sport would jump at the idea of driving the Tampax car, but Mark Martin drove the Viagra car with no shame. I would become a “loyal” fan if a driver, male or female, would seek out a sponsor that supported the primary needs of women.
NASCAR is said to be one of the most viewed professional sports on television. The only sport that beats it is the NFL. NASCAR is broadcast to over 150 countries around the world. It is a multimillion dollar business with millions of fans attending and watching around the world. If all this holds true, then why is NASCAR facing struggles with attendance at events and a drop in TV?
The cause of this drop-off in viewership and attendance is unknown to many. It can be a variety of things. The sport’s best drivers are not competing at the same level and some may think they’re running low on the tank. The new drivers that NASCAR brings in, or will bring in, may not have the same racing vibe as the previous drivers. I can somewhat compare this situation with WWE Wrestling.
At first it grew at a ridiculous rate because it was fairly new and everyone wanted to watch their favorite old school wrestlers duke it out. After a couple years, the attitude of the show, the story lines and the wrestlers themselves were getting old. With new wrestlers coming into the business, fans of the old generation were left hanging and not attracted to something they watched growing up and loved. It just wasn’t the same anymore.
I believe that NASCAR is somewhat going the same way. I may be wrong or I may be right. It is just an idea to provide. Something new may have to be provided in order to remain the big business that NASCAR is. I think something needs to happen to spice things up a bit to give it an edge of entertainment and drama. As some may say, Danica Patrick may be coming to NASCAR. That can tip NASCAR fans good or bad; it all depends on how the fans take it. We may just have to see what the business of NASCAR can provide to its loyal viewers and see if a renewed interest in the sport can begin again.
Just before race weekend in Richmond, Nate Ryan (USA Today) and Dustin Long (Virginian-Pilot) spoke to our Business of NASCAR class. One of the topics was whether Danica might make a switch to NASCAR from Indy Racing. Both Nate and Dustin indicated that all signs point to such a switch–but at a much slower pace than other open-wheel drivers. One scenario has Danica driving a few races (Camping World and/or Nationwide) before the Indy season begins and a few after the season ends. One of the problems with that scenario is finding a sponsor willing to put up bucks for such an approach.
Now it’s announced that Mark Martin has extended his contract with Hendrick Motorsport through 2011, with GoDaddy.com as a sponsor for 20 races each season. Is it a coincidence that GoDaddy.com is also Danica’s sponsor? Is this a prelude to Danica dabbling in NASCAR for a few races each of the next two seasons before moving over full-time (with Hendrick after Martin’s departure)? Let’s wait to see how this plays out at this season’s end but I have even money that this scenario is not out of the question.
In the Superman comics, the Man of Steel occasionally came up against the Bizarro world – a world in which it is a crime to make anything perfect. As I watch today, I wonder if we are seeing the COT’s Bizarro doppelgänger, the COBF2&BP (Car of Broken Fuel Lines, Burning Foam and Brake Problems)?
To me, the big news today wasn’t the race – it was OK (alright I am writing this during the rain delay – so penalize me 25 points already) – rather the continuing ‘shake out ” towards perfecting the COT. Learning curves happen and it does take time to figure problems out but this is getting old – quickly. Frankly, I was bored by the race and more interested in what problems would next be manifested (re: flaming interior foam anyone? Note: Supposedly this cannot happen).
While truly loyal fans will root for little E or Tony etc. even if they were racing donkeys (or cockroaches – see last week’s blog) they shouldn’t have cars that drive like donkeys. So I say give the teams some room and let them advance some solutions or ….
Well, the rain is done and the race resumes …
OK, OK. The last 10 or so laps were pretty good but still how about five or six cars banging for the checker instead of two? Let’s see if the COT/COBF2&BP can do that!
Bring on “Htrae”!! “This am part of genius Bizarro self-improvement plan”*
Let’s just hope Superman arrives before it is too late.
That’s the (somewhat rainy) view from here…
*Thanks for Wikipedia note on Bizarro.
Everyone who follows NASCAR knows that fan loyalty to NASCAR sponsors is the highest for any major sport. We shop at The Home Depot, drink Coca Cola and drive Chevys.
So what about the drivers? How much loyalty do they have for their sponsors? I would suppose a great deal.
So let’s look at a situation where a driver chooses to NOT race in support of his sponsor. Everyone likes Mark Martin, the current “dean” of drivers. After announcing his retirement last year, he turned around and signed a deal to drive for Ginn Racing — although on a limited basis. Well, as luck would have it, Mark sits in first place in the standings after the first four races. Yet, rather than continue to drive his 01 U.S. Army car, he has chosen to sit out the next two races and allow a rookie to take over.
I wonder if Joe Gibbs would allow Tony Stewart to continue driving if Tony decided to take a couple of weeks off?
Although not driving full time was part of the agreement with Ginn Racing, Martin seems not to recognize the responsibility to his sponsor and team owner that others would deem required, especially given his place in the standings. It appears Martin has placed himself as “01” instead of the U.S. Army and Ginn Racing. As a result, upon returning to the 01 car for the Texas race in April, he’ll be no better than 36th place.