Growing up, Kasey Kahne can still recall waking up early on Sunday mornings, making breakfast, and then sitting down to watch the NASCAR race that day, dreaming of one day being a racecar driver.
“I feel like today there have to be kids out there still doing that same type of tying and just wanting to be part of the sport because it’s a great form of auto racing,” he said. “There is so much it offers to so many different people. I love every break that I’ve had in this sport and the opportunities that I’ve had to be part of it for so long. And again this year, it’s the same thing. I have a great opportunity. Yeah, I think NASCAR is awesome, and I’m glad that I’m part of it.”
With history on the mind, but yet having a focus on the future, the 2018 season will mark the 70th year of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing – as it has become known, NASCAR.
Over the course of time, there have some great historical moments that fans can still recount every detail of until this day, from wins and celebration to fights and controversy. On the flip side, it has not gone all smooth, with backlash and negativity amidst conversation at times. But while some things have come and gone, NASCAR has stuck around through it all.
With the 2018 season on the horizon, there are a lot of positives. The influx of young drivers brings hope for the future, along with tracks showing stability and attendance. The playoffs have also created a lot of discussion and drama, as evident by a crisp afternoon at Martinsville Speedway last October. The sanctioning body’s decisions have shown great strides, including stage racing in 2017.
Although a lot of people were skeptical about the mandated caution and breaking the event into three parts, it grew on fans and drivers alike over the year with the excitement generated, and strategy in hoping to score the additional points.
“I kind of like knowing that the caution is coming out in 10 more laps and that there’s going to be a pit stop and that there’s going to be another restart,” Jamie McMurray said. “I enjoy that as a fan. So, I hope people like that on Sunday. I think they’ve done a really good job with the double-file restarts. I think they’ve done a lot to keep somebody in-tuned longer.”
Overall, things are not looking too bad if you take a step back, and realize how fortunate everybody is.
“I think we have made a lot of good changes to the sport,” Kevin Harvick said. “As we create and keep creating a better model for the teams to hopefully achieve some financial stability with the things that they need to get the coast of everything into something that is sustainable, I think that is a good thing. It isn’t as big as it was in 2006, but it is also still really big. You are going to go to the Daytona 500 and still have 100,000 fans in the grandstands, and when they talk about attendance being down, there are still 80,000 people sitting up there.”
Of course, room for improvement is always there.
The television numbers could use some work in being lower than warranted, along with attendance at the tracks as some have cut down seats due to being empty multiple times. Sponsorship and cost have become a big question throughout the sport, as you don’t see a corporate company stepping up as often anymore to sponsor a full schedule, and other teams have been forced to shut their doors.
The schedule could always use some tweaking, as some races could be placed at a different time of year to help all the variables, and some tracks don’t necessarily need to have two dates either. There’s also the theory of possibly shortening some races, as four and a half hours can be too long to ask for someone’s attention with everything people can do nowadays.
“I wish there were more people at the race that were involved and intrigued by it and wanted to be part of it,” Kahne said. “I wish we could get back to that for the excitement level, but I still think the racing is very good. It’s super competitive. As a driver, every week I’m thinking how can I get better, how can I help my team, and how can we be more competitive? That’s because of the sport. That brings you back. You want to win. You want to win at this level, and it’s because of the previous 70 years is why you want it so badly. I think there’s a lot of good things about it, but I’d love to see more people in the stands.”
If you want to see the improvement, moving forward though, one change needs to happen at the head of the room.
“If I could make one change it would be that the leader of the sport (Brian France) is at the race track every weekend. That would be my change,” Brad Keselowski said. “It is important for any company that relies so heavily on outside partners to have a direct interface. This is such a big ship with so much going on week to week.”
To be able to make the best decisions necessary, knowing every single nick and cranny should be a requirement, so you understand how it will affect every level, from the fans and drivers to the teams and marketing partners. Also being there each week, it would allow those financially looking from the outside to understand that you have a hands-on approach, and they can trust you with their dollars.
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