While watching the race yesterday I did a lot of thinking as to why ratings and attendance for this fantastic sport have dropped in recent times. While there are a multitude of factors I thought of including all the usual ones, I settled on what I felt was the most responsible. I will get to that in a minute.
We have all heard of the reasons: The Jimmie Johnson factor, the Car of Tomorrow, the Generation 6 car, “aero-push”, races that are too long and strung out, too many 1.5 mile cookie cutter tracks, “vanilla” drivers, predetermined outcomes of races, poor economy, and finally television coverage that is poor. These are but a few of a never ending laundry list from the typical fan as to why they have lost interest. While all valid reasons, I do not subscribe to the majority of this thinking. I think the biggest sole factor in the decline is due to the similar decline in win totals for Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon.
“Your sport is as good as your stars play” is a phrase heard quite often. For as many of you who hate the New York Yankees, baseball is better when they are winning. The same can be said for the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics in the NBA, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers in the NFL. While Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon have been competitive most of the time since 2005, their win totals are almost non-existent. Earnhardt Jr. has exactly five wins from 2005 to today while Gordon has sixteen. To break it down further, combined they have been in victory lane in five percent of the 340 races run since 2005. That’s a staggeringly low number.
Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon have the biggest fan bases of anyone else. While there is no statistic available, I would bet that Earnhardt Jr’s fan base is bigger than all the other’s combined. When your two biggest fan bases feel their driver does not have a realistic chance of taking the checkered flag on a perennial basis, said fans tune out and watch from a distance. They may just check the results online, watch a few snippets of the race to see where their driver is or have been lost forever. Whatever they have done it is markedly noticed with empty seats all around the NASCAR circuit.
For the betterment of NASCAR as a whole it needs the 88 and 24 to win more.