Thursday, December 2, 2010

How to make NASCAR a truly national sport

It's silly season, so everyone is out with their ideas of how to "fix" NASCAR. It may or may not be "broken," but that is not going to stop those of us with crazy ideas from offering them.

There is certainly some evidence that the popularity of NASCAR, specifically Sprint Cup, is suffering when compared to other sports. That could be for a lot of reasons, and others have variously proposed changing the Chase to the Sprint Cup, implementing an elimination-style system, getting rid of the Chase, giving more points for wins, moving to an entirely different point system and dropping the top-35 rule for qualifying.

But these are all essentially tweaks, and don't address one fundamental weakness the sport has compared with other sports.

What is it that drives team loyalty in stick-and-ball sports more than anything else? I argue that it is regional affinity. Generally speaking, you root for the team that is in your town. Sure, there are exceptions, and people move around, often taking their team loyalty with them, but generally, this is major factor.

We don't have that in NASCAR. Yes, there are drivers that come from pretty much every part of the country, but once they enter the top series, they resettle near their team's shop.

With few exceptions, those shops are all in North Carolina.

That means that if you're in North Carolina, you'll see plenty of driver appearances, events, etc., and if you don't, you'll see very few.

It also means that media view the sport as a traveling road show, based in North Carolina. Which is pretty much true. The coverage, then, will take a back seat to local sports teams. This affects the sport's popularity and fan intensity. Yes, the races themselves are in different parts of the country, but who roots for a venue, rather than a team? Also, there are only one or two races at each venue each year. Teams, however, are racing every week.

I think you can see where this is going. What I am proposing...and I am under no misconception that this is not a radical a decentralization of race teams. Over the course of a decade, NASCAR should implement a program associating particular teams with particular regions of the country. Each team's main shops would be required to be located somewhere within its assigned region. Teams could perhaps request a region...I'm not sure how the mechanics of that would work.

I think this would bring several benefits. Firstly, it would drive more localized coverage of the sport, and the local team. Secondly, it would naturally lead to more driver availability, appearances and events in all parts of the country.

As a case study, look at Furniture Row Racing. They are in the Denver area, and the Denver media cover them as a local team, giving them and NASCAR more exposure than they would otherwise get.

Nationwide and Truck shops could stay clustered in North Carolina, at least for the time being.

Would it work? Well, we won't know unless we try. Would it be a burden to the teams? Yes, but I argue the potential benefits are huge, and this should at least be considered as a possible future direction of the sport.


  1. This might be a good idea. I've never thought of this angle though I've watched Nascar for 20 years and read about it since I could read.

  2. Thanks!'s not anything I've ever heard suggested, but I think it could work.

  3. If you will recall the regional team idea was the basis for TRAC a few years ago which never managed to even get to the starting line.

    There is a huge infrastructure in the Mooresville, Concord (Charlotte) area which is essential to the race teams, e.g., machine shops, wind tunnels, 7 post rigs, CFD consulting, carbon fiber technology, etc., which is why Richard Petty eventually moved to Concord, he just couldn't survive in Level Cross. The talent pool, the supporting companies were too far away (70 miles) to compete with the shops that are here.