The rumors have cycled for months now that the France family has been looking to sell the controlling interest of NASCAR. While many see this as the end of NASCAR and the last people getting off the ship before it sinks, I see it differently. This can be a blessing in disguise.
Since Brian France took over the reigns of NASCAR it has, undoubtedly, taken a step back. Between the constant changes to the points championship system to the unbelievably disastrous Generation 5 body, the low attendance numbers, and the alienation of the long time fans, NASCAR has miscued over and over. Television ratings are at an all time low and attendance doesn’t seem to be coming back, because NASCAR has lost its way.
Lets just start with the conflict of interests. Multiple members of the France family belong to ISC which owns 12 of the tracks NASCAR runs on. These tracks have long time contracts, so they don’t have to do anything. I mean, they are family, would you require your family to do their best if you could afford not to? Heck NO! They do not have to worry about their venues, they do not have to try to grow the sport. They have the contracts and just sit there happily, unwavering in their attempts to bring in fans. Such things as, walking around and asking why fans are not coming. believe it or not, you have to work at it a little bit.
Secondly, Brian France and NASCAR took the money away from the competition. It use to be that the television contracts were affordable enough that there were few commercial interruptions, you could watch a race on regular network television and follow the majority of the season. This meant fans had a vested interest in the season outcome. Now fans watch commercials with race interruption. A near 2 to 1 ratio of viewing time. For every two minutes spent watching the on tracks action, you can expect a minute of commercials. Networks had to pay through the nose for the television contracts so they have to cram every advertiser in. If NASCAR and the France family took less money, you would have less commercial interruption. This means the advertisers would again back the teams. There are cars on track and every one of them is a rolling billboard advertisement. Now teams can afford to race again! It is such a crazy idea, it might just work! Like it did circa 1998.
A new owner may bring fresh perspective to the sport. New ownership may realize that the world has changed and you cannot command everyone and everything under the sun. You need others, just like they need you. NASCAR just purchased ARCA and it shows how much NASCAR needs that lower series. If NASCAR had let ARCA go the way of the dinosaur, the writing was on the wall, it would signify that stock car racing in America was quickly coming to an end. NASCAR needs the little brother to push it to be better. NASCAR needs ARCA to help find new talent. rather than let ARCA fold, NASCAR in one of the few good moves, saved ARCA and bought the small series. But I wonder how long before ARCA just replaces the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck series.
One of the other benefits of possible new ownership is that maybe the new owner(s) might actually care about the sport! You see it in every industry. Someone builds a company from ground up. They love it and care for it and take care of it, nurture it so they can give it to their children. Then, the children having only seen it as work and a means to amass wealth, don’t really, truly care about it. So they run it until the company flounders and then they sell it for whatever they can get and glide away on their golden parachute. Sound familiar?
Motorsports, as a whole, need people who love it and understand it. Motorsports, especially NASCAR, are losing money and the only way to save it is to find people who want to love it, they want to live it. Make no mistake, racing is a lifestyle and not for the faint of heart. We need people who aren’t in it for the money, we need people who have dreamed of this for their entire life. From the top all the way down to the lowest team members in the shops have to love this more than they love money. Racing is a “Pay-to-Play” sport. The quickest way to make a million dollars in racing is to start with a billion dollars and hope for the best.
NASCAR has been trying to bring in a new generation of fans, to entertain millennials. Engage them. In all honesty, you never had to do this. You didn’t have to make the changes. But since you alienated your fan base, now you have to find a new one! If you maintain the fans you have and listen to them, give them what they want, they will bring others into the sport! IndyCar and F1 are great examples of this. Look at Formula E right now. It makes people curious. People are interested enough to tune in and say, “What have we got here? Sounds like remote control cars.” Maybe, hopefully, new ownership will understand that if you build a good product, people will come. They will tune in.
The worst thing NASCAR could have done is to make the Fan Council. Because they got a lot of casual fans, fans that would watch here and there. NASCAR gave more weight to them thinking that, “If we do what they want, they will watch more.” NO! That’s not how this works. Fans, for the most part, do not know what they want other than close racing that makes for a lot of crashes.
Then NASCAR wants to listen to the owners who want to save money. Then they want to listen to the drivers who want everything to be equal. None of this makes for good racing. If, as an owner, you don’t want to spend money… don’t. Drivers, you want everything to be equal, fine… the Mazda MX-5 Cup series is there for you and provides great spec racing. That is not NASCAR and should not be.
“There’s nothing stock about a stock car.” Yes, we all remember the line from, “Days of Thunder” and it is the harsh truth. This is the top form of motorsports in America, if you want to step up to this, be ready to test, be ready to spend some money, be ready to work, and you better love the sport. That is the way it was and that is what new ownership needs to say.
The France family shopping NASCAR around for a new owner is not the death of the sport, in fact, it is probably the salvation we need.
…see you in the box…