What is Leading to the Demise of NASCAR?

After a nearly five-month absence, I’m back. In case you didn’t hear, the little town I live in suffered a flood for all ages. Five feet of water throughout the town, 50-60 houses destroyed, and 35 businesses shuttered, including mine. Picking up the pieces is tough, and to be honest, without power and cable for quite an extended time. I didn’t get to see much of the season and didn’t travel as I usually do. I somehow got to Bristol, Charlotte, and Martinsville, though. I thought about NASCAR a lot, and though I went through withdrawal, it dawned on me what just could be why attendance is down and television ratings are in the dumpster.

For a long time, the sanctioning body has used gimmicks to attract fans and it is apparently not working. When it first came out, I railed on the “Lucky Dog.” It was designed so that the “average fan” could understand who was leading. Never mind that so many fans use a scanner and listen to the radio broadcast while at the track. Watching on the tube, it’s no problem to know who’s leading and there is that scoreboard thing that keeps getting bigger and bigger. Get a lap down? No worries, just get the “Lucky Dog,” and you’re back in business. It’s the NASCAR equivalent of the participation trophy. Yes, drivers race others to get the bonus of getting back on the lead lap, but it favors the mega teams and makes a penalty for say speeding on pit road not so tough. I’d do away with the “Lucky Dog.”

The wave around is another gimmick being used. Using the same logic as the LD, it allowed the leader to start at the head of the field, “so the average fan could see who was leading.” It makes it easier for the “haves” to remain the “haves” and not fight through traffic on their way to the checkered flag. Some of the best racing I’ve ever seen was watching the lead cars fight through traffic. That coupled with the shotgun restart has left many drivers with better cars not get a victory after leading large numbers of laps. It’s happened numerous times this season.

NASCAR continued to feed us the economy and gas prices as the reason why attendance at the track was so poor. With gasoline prices hovering around $2 per gallon mark, that’s not an excuse anymore. People are tuning out. I had a conversation with a noted media pioneer today, and he reminded me of one other thing that is hurting the sport we love. For crying out loud, quit changing the format. As much as the effort has been to make the sport easier to understand, it’s been taken away with the constant changes to the All-Star race, the opening race of the season for pole winners (or should I say anyone still breathing?), and the Chase itself.

Yes, we’ve had exciting racing this year, but the numbers don’t lie. People are staying home and not watching on television. The money rolls in from the TV contract, but how long until that dries up, too? I hope it doesn’t happen, but someone needs to get to fixing this before many more folks won’t care.

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


  1. I quit because they want everything to be the same, but isn’t the way it was in the sixties. The cars looked different and motors were what came in the cars with modifications.

  2. Way too many cautions for no reason. You watch Indycar or ARCA and they wait as long as they can safely wait to throw a caution. In NASCAR if there’s any possibility of throwing a caution they do it immediately, they’ve thrown them for napkins on the track. Anything they can to bunch up the field, unless of course one of the “chosen ones” is leading then there’s no caution. Carl Edwards should be the 2016 Champion if NASCAR only threw cautions when it’s necessary.

  3. Your media pioneer has likely hit on the most important one. The example you stated are all part of it. I do not mind the wave around rule as that is one of the few rules in the past 10-14 years that seemed to have been best thought out.
    The free pass rule needs to be eliminated or overhauled. If memory serves Robby Gordon was down like 5 laps but due to so many cautions before anyone else was put a lap down he got back on the lead lap and got a top 15. It was not earned but given. If the rule stays make it more stringent, if lap is lost due to penalty cannot earn free pass. If HMS driver gets lapped and a debris caution comes out within two laps no free pass

    NASCAR also has a significant perception issue as well. Too many cautions for no truly valid reason. A car scraping the wall should not be a caution unless obvious debris happens, no caution for a spin to the bottom of the track when the car does not actually stop moving. Now if in the racing lines or on track yes, but if out of harms way and car keeps going then no. Also if there is a spins and the car stops then caution is warranted but have there be a penalty if the car moves shortly after the caution waves. It is likely driver stopped the car to get the caution should not be rewarded.

  4. You hit the nail on the head. They are the exact reasons I stopped going to and watching races on tv. I would also add the mysterious cautions that seem to pop up occasionally. And now they announce penalties after every race but dive phony punishments . Loss of practice time and written warnings. What a joke. It’s just not racing anymore. They fixed something that wasn’t broken.

    Floods are devastating. Sorry to see you were affected by one. We had one this past summer in Elliott City, Md. that destroyed many businesses in about 4 hours.

  5. I think one of the biggest misuses of the “Lucky Dog” was during Kyle Busch’s second year in Cup at Hendrick Motorsports. At one of the road races, he had problems and went five laps down. He was the only car not on the lead lap. He got the “Lucky Dog” four times over the next four cautions to end up back on the lead lap (after being FIVE LAPS DOWN ON A ROAD COURSE) and ended the race fairly high in the finishing order. A real racer would do it the way that Bill Elliott did where he made up two laps UNDER GREEN at Talladega with no help from a Lucky Dog participation trophy. Get rid of the Lucky Dog and make drivers earn their laps back and bring back restarts with the lap down cars lined up on the inside of the lead lap cars. Much better racing.


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