NASCAR popularity in decline

It’s a trend that seems to be picking up speed…NASCAR’s attendance is in the skids  — even in the heart of NASCAR country. The decline has led NASCAR to re-evalute its rules, track owners to revamp facilities and Irwindale Speedway to cancel its 2012 season.

Given this trend, one has to wonder about the economic viability of a new racetrack in Minnesota – a locale not without NASCAR fans yet far removed from sport’s southern roots.

A study (nascaruncertainty11) by the UNC Charlotte and Western Kentucky University reports NASCAR attendance and TV viewership has declined since 2005, a factor independent of the price of gasoline and unemployment. They suggest empirical evidence shows that the declining competitive balance among drivers and racing teams might have been the common factor that reduced both television audiences and race attendance.

In its conclusion, the study states: “While it is entirely possible that the economic slowdown of 2008 and 2009 might have reduced attendance to NASCAR races as suggested by many commentators, the evidence found here is that the price of gasoline and the unemployment rate did not materially impact attendance and therefore either the drop in attendance is not large enough to be detected with standard statistical techniques or the macroeconomic influences that reduced attendance were not correlated with either the price of gasoline or the level of unemployment.”

Other sources suggest that the declines can be attributed to the changes made by NASCAR to increase driver safety after the death of Dale Earnhardt have taken the thrill out of the sport. Fewer crashes = fewer fans.

Of course, it’s hard to deny the economy has had an effect as well, as stated in this story and this from Forbes: “NASCAR’s attendances crashes as economy gets worse.”

This story from National Public Radio (March 21, 2012) suggests the decline is a result of the younger generations taking greater interest in technology and flashier stuff than cars. Teenagers’ one-time love affair with souped-up cars has grown cold, affecting the sport of racing and its future.

All this does not bode well for the sport and businesses associated with it. According to, the five-year projected earnings per share (EPS) growth rate for the two major racetrack ownership interests, Speedway Motorsports Inc. and International Speedway Corporation, is -25.9% and -17.73%, respectively.

With projections such as that, those companies, and any company associated with racing would be a poor investment. I, for one, hope that any financier considers these statistics before investing in IMEDC.

Other headlines on the subject are many. Here are a few more:

“Dover has lost roughly 45% of its attendance in the past five years. Dover’s not alone in the battle either, as tracks across the nation have struggled to fill their gigantic grandstands built in the late-90s boom.” Yahoo Sports, May 17, 2011

Brickyard 400 attendance becoming a major concern, August 1, 2011

**Thanks to Township resident Vicki Heisler for her help with this post.

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5 thoughts on “NASCAR popularity in decline

  1. We all read these posts but what information are the proponents of the racetrack getting. My husband knows a gentleman who bought a bar downtown New Market because after attending city council meetings for the past 15 or so years he’s POSITVE the race track is a sure thing. Are we actually going to have a say in whether or not the racetrack comes to Elko?

    • Everyone has their opinion as to whether this development will go through. Will we, or at least the resident of the Elko New Market, have a say? I hope so. City officials promise that we will. If this moves forward, there will be mandatory public meetings throughout the process to inform residents and give them a chance to voice their opinions. The City Council has identified economic development as a top priority. One would hope that they would balance the quality of life implications against the economic development benefits. Until there’s an application, I don’t think the City Council is giving it much thought. Let’s not forget that the Mayor and the City Council are elected to represent you. The Mayor and two Council members are up for reelection in the fall. If you don’t think they will oppose the development, vote for someone who will.

  2. Hi all! Just a note from the Branson Mo area. Our proposed track is hitting the skids also. You can view several articles on liens placed on the track and the sheriff’s sale on the courthouse steps this Monday, in our local paper “Branson Tri-lakes News”. This is gonna be a family, fun filled event this Monday!

  3. ELKO? Why build a track there? Middle of Nowhere..and there already is a race e in Vegas-which is suffering from lower attendance, etc..So if the biggest city in the state can’t sell enough tickets, what fool would build a track in, as I stated, the middle of nowhere, when even VEGAS can’t sell all it’s seats. Use the money to build a new school or something. Ooops, I said a naughty word..”School”

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