Hot 20 – Keeping most NASCAR fans interested most of the time will take some work

I have an admission to make. I am not all that excited about Pocono this weekend. I thought maybe it had something to do with just getting out of the wrong side of the bed, or that my transformation into a cantankerous old fart had finally reached its conclusion. Sadly, maybe it had something to do with the World 600, a marquee event that was so dominated by one car that it became the Monaco Grand Prix but without all the cool scenery.

Martin Truex, Jr. won that race by leading 392 of 400 laps, with nary an on-track pass for the lead from start to finish. Great for Truex, horrid for NASCAR. To be honest, the action behind him was not exactly nail biting, either. Even NASCAR sees it, and they are not terribly thrilled, either.

The wave of a magic wand to fix it would be nice, but there are a number of factors they have to consider to keep us from wandering off to find excitement elsewhere. Configuring the rear chassis set-up takes away downforce and side force, which seemed to work for All-Star weekend. Then there is tire wear, how different it is between afternoon and evening races. In order to keep you and me interested, it seems there is more to ponder than just who has the best driver, the best car, and the best team on any given day.

Truex’s team hit on the setup and ran away with things last week. That happens. However, not much was happening behind him to generate much heat either, and that should not happen. At least, that is not what a majority of today’s fans want, not what they will long put up with. There is a problem when NASCAR tracks are pulling down grandstands, refusing to release attendance figures, and seeing television ratings plummet. Since 2007, the combined capacity of Charlotte, Daytona, and Talladega has been reduced by 43 percent, by an astounding 205,000 seats.

So, you would think the problem might lie with the fact that NASCAR just is not presenting an exciting product any longer. Maybe the problem is that, in this day and age, what worked yesterday just does not cut it in today’s instant gratification world. I mean, the Indianapolis 500 drew a live crowd of 350,000, had huge local ratings after it was broadcast in Indianapolis for the first time in 66 years, and still the national ratings slipped even further south. This is despite seeing in 2015, for the first time in a decade, the Indianapolis event drawing a bigger television audience than the one in Charlotte.

Is it the racing, or is it us? I mean, not every contest in ever sport is a work of art, so maybe our demands are too high. Sure, 94 percent of NASCAR’s fans are considered white compared to less than 2 percent black, and while half of the fans are 55 years of age and over, less than 9 percent are under the age of 34. Those are demographics that should have them concerned. That said, what is it that draws some to the sport and not others? What keeps them interested and what drives them off? Having an attention span greater than that of a gnat would help.

We want to be entertained and are less likely to sit through what does not. We no longer have to watch anything live so we do not have the patience we once had. We can always seek out more entertainment via a 30 second jump ahead by using the PVR button, the click of the channel to watch something else, the taking of a phone call, a check of text messages, a visit to Twitter, a video game, and you can always discover how things are going in the contest just about any time you want if you are interested enough. That is what NASCAR, auto sports, and just about anything else seeking an audience must face. Keep us interested, or we have something at our fingertips that might.

This cantankerous old fart is about as guilty as the next guy. We have become very much like a seven-year-old playing any sport, all set on chasing that ball until a butterfly comes around and grabs our attention. NASCAR’s task is to present a four-hour escape that we look forward to experiencing each and every week. To date, they appear to be falling short. They simply cannot afford to just mail it in and expect that we will be there. Here are our Hot 20 heading to Pocono Sunday afternoon…

1. KYLE BUSCH – 3 WINS – 405 PTS
If all drivers were like Rowdy, things would be more interesting.

2. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 2 WINS – 409 PTS
We are living in the era of a 6-time champion. If that does not excite you, have you tried soccer?

3. CARL EDWARDS – 2 WINS – 404 PTS
Had a need for speed last week, but doing so twice on pit road ruined his day.

4. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 2 WINS – 404 PTS
Next Thursday, Jackson, Michigan is the place to share a cool one with Brad at the Chase.

5. KEVIN HARVICK – 1 WIN – 457 PTS
Others may have more wins, but averaging more than 35 points per race gets the job done.

6. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 1 WIN – 381 PTS
If only it was always as easy as it was last week.

7. MATT KENSETH – 1 WIN – 347 PTS
Won the last time he visited Pennsylvania.

8. DENNY HAMLIN – 1 WIN – 345 PTS
There is a reason Lewis Hamilton no longer runs Formula 3 races.

9. KURT BUSCH – 421 PTS
No wins but sits second only to Harvick in points.

10. CHASE ELLIOTT – 374 PTS
Elected to the All-Star event, and continues to show why he was a worthy selection.

11. JOEY LOGANO – 373 PTS
All-Star package was good for Joey…the World 600 version was good only for Truex.

12. AUSTIN DILLON – 344 PTS
Special number, special driver.

13. DALE EARNHARDT JR. – 341 PTS
Even he would agree.

14. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 318 PTS
Without a win, every race is meaningful.

15. RYAN BLANEY – 309 PTS
Ditto.

16. RYAN NEWMAN – 309 PTS
Could his paint scheme be termed as Kalahari Resorts blue?

17. A.J. ALLMENDINGER – 308 PTS
Just to point out, his Pocono adventure might be worth watching out for.

18. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – 299 PTS
Sponsor Fastenal likes what they see, extending their deal.

19. TREVOR BAYNE – 291 PTS
Meanwhile, AdvoCare is not just a sponsor as Bayne was already a client.

20. KASEY KAHNE – 290 PTS
Harvick was not after his job, after all, but he will need to dig deeper to retain it.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.

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