For die-hard NASCAR fans, it seems that the legends of our time are slowly leaving. Though losing Jeff Gordon is the biggest loss in recent time, the last few years has also seen he departure of Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, and Dale Jarrett. Along with losing drivers NASCAR seems to be on the decline, not from lack of effort but by simply not targeting a younger demographic. Now, yes NASCAR does have things for kids like toys, TV cartoons, and games online, but that just isn't enough. I could be wrong, but I feel like NASCAR has lost a huge part of their fan base. I know NASCAR still has plenty of fans but races don't sell out, stock car racing has lost it's respect, and now a days it's a rarity to find a young racing fan these days. On this blog post I want to state that for one I will always respect the decisions NASCAR makes. I may not always agree, but at the end of the day NASCAR does everything for a reason. With that being said I do feel as though there are things NASCAR needs to do to gain it's old fan base back, but also target the next generation of race fans.
Some may ask why does this matter, because without fans there is no sport. The next generation of fans is the key to NASCAR's future success. With a new generation of drivers comes a new generation of fans, as long as NASCAR does their job in recruiting this new class of race fans. Now, one last thing I do know that each of these tasks will take time, but then again I think all are doable. Now, without waiting any longer... let's get started!
1) Get Back To It's Roots: Though racing is definitely a business, and money is probably the biggest role player in professional racing, NASCAR needs to take a step back. The cars are finally safe, drivers have given good reviews for the 2016 package, and the Chase format provides some crazy excitement. NASCAR is at a time where they can focus on the future and not just today. I think one of the major issues in NASCAR today is that the vibe of 'the good ole boys' has been lost. No one looks at drivers as the dare devil outlaws they used to, and no one feels that NASCAR is the middle class sport that anyone could enjoy anymore. The biggest thing I think needs to happen is that NASCAR needs to remember where it came from. NASCAR use to be bare knuckle drivers racing on the local dirt and asphalt tracks on a Saturday night. I think the sport needs to add a few more races in the South and add a new short track on the schedule. Bring some of the old bumpin' and bangin' back. I fully approve NASCAR moving nationwide and they should, but at the same time NASCAR needs to embrace the culture it came from. NASCAR is like a country boy that caught fame and wants to forget it's roots. Just remember you can take NASCAR out of the south, but you can't take the South out of NASCAR.
2) Find What Works, Stick With It: It seems that almost every year NASCAR has had a major rule change. I understand that officials want better racing, but it honestly get's confusing to even the most die-hard fans. I myself don't even try to keep up with the changes, because they happen so quickly. To this point, I think NASCAR needs to find a final rules package and racing/ qualifying format that fans enjoy and STICK WITH IT. Everyone is tired of all the changes. One key of adding a new generation of fans is assuring they understand the sport. With changes every year it is hard for someone new to come and understand what is happening. Almost anyone should be able to admit that sometime in their life they got tired of figuring something out because it was just too difficult to learn. If NASCAR can finally find some consistency over the next few years younger fans can learn the sport and feel comfortable and knowledgeable about what is taking place. This is very simple to me, and honestly I think all the changes is one thing that has pushed some many fans, plain and simple I think NASCAR needs to learn the phrase 'if it ain't broke don't fix it.'
3) Bring Drivers Closer To Fans: I have been a fan of the sport the last 14-years, and it seems that drivers have gotten more exclusive every year. These days drivers are treated like celebrities, and separated from their fans. Again, to point number one, NASCAR has lost the 'good ole boy' feeling. Driver's use to be neighbors, family members, and local names, but now drivers are treated as someone above everyone else. Don't get my wrong I respect all drivers as anyone should, but fans have to go through so many barriers to see these drivers and teams who preach to be all about the fans. NASCAR who assures that the fans are the most important thing, have made it harder and harder to relate to these asphalt gladiators each season. Simply put drivers have become celebrities not that down to earth good ole boy that they used to be. My solution for this is to provide more opportunities for fans to relate to their favorite drivers. One tactic used by the K&N Pro Series is that all of the drivers park their car on the front stretch and sign autographs for fans before the race begins. Yes, NASCAR would have to address a security issue, but this is a perfect way to get up close and personal with each driver. I am not saying drivers should be readily accessible to fans at every moment, but providing more organized opportunities is just one way NASCAR can at least try and let fans of today and the future gravitate to a driver and become a fan for a lifetime. To some people an autograph or a picture is all that is needed to become a fan for the rest of their lives.
4) Provide More Opportunities In The Sport: Back in the day young people that wanted in the sport simply walked up to a race team, worked their butts off and learned the craft. These day making it in the sport is about money not passion. Face it not everyone has the money to afford racecars, an education that can propel them to the top of the engineering world. I don't want to jump the gun and say everyone should be given an opportunity to work with these multi-million dollar teams, but getting a foot into the door of NASCAR is harder than it has ever been. For the next generation kids need to know that there are job opportunities out there. NASCAR seems almost impossible to get in to, and honestly the sport doesn't help that theory. NASCAR needs to open the mind of young fans and teach them that with hard work and the right career path they can end up with a position in the sport in almost any field. Basically NASCAR needs to offer more opportunities for kids to learn, for fans to really dig deeper and learn and understand the technology of the sport. I myself have the dream of one day working with NASCAR, but it almost seems like a lost cause. Point. Blank. Period... NASCAR needs to open the doors to the sport and push fans to not only watch and enjoy the sport, but to also become one with the sport and to help continue the growth of the sport we love.
5) Push The Lower Racing Series: The last thing I have on my list is something that has been on a lot of people's mind. For those that do not know NASCAR has three primary racing series, the Sprint Cup Series, Xfinity Series (formerly Busch & Nationwide), and the Camping World Truck Series. The lower divisions (Xfinity & Trucks) need to be pushed more in the media spotlight. These series are where the future lies. Drivers like Chase Elliot, Ty Dillon, Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones, and Cole Custer, can be found racing on Friday and Saturday nights. These lower division's are the building blocks for the future stars of our sport. NASCAR needs to make fans more aware of these series and spice them up so that fans can get to know the next generation of drivers before they even land in the Cup series full-time. Whether adding a Chase format to the lower divisions or just drawing more attention through prime-time events & social media, more needs to be done. There are still a lot of fans that don't know about the talent in the lower divisions which is sad. For those under the impression that there is not a young crop of drivers ready to take our sport to the next level, you are wrong. NASCAR needs to navigate some of the attention to the lower divisions, which make the drivers, fans, and teams appreciate success even more, especially when it results in a Cup level ride.
Well thanks for reading!!! I hope everything makes sense!! Let me know what else you think NASCAR needs to attract the next generation of fans!!!