NASCAR: Throwback Week Is Turning Into A Huge Success

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports /

Last year at Darlington, NASCAR enjoyed a blast from the past. This year, they’re setting up for another round of throwbacks and even more hype for the weekend.

There were a lot of issues with the 2015 NASCAR season. It was obvious that the sport had some major problems to look at with the fan reply to the new green-white-checkered finishes that were put in place for Chase races like Talladega and the disappointing package tests that went on at select tracks.

However, one thing they did get right was celebrating throwback weekend at Darlington. In a race where Carl Edwards captured his second win of the season, we got to see throwback paint schemes for past drivers like Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Mark Martin.

The event was capped off with an appearance from Ken Squier and Ned Jarrett in the broadcast booth as they called a small part of the race. It ended up being a huge success, and with all of the throwback cars racing around a historic track in one of the most prestigious races of the season, the setting couldn’t have been more perfect.

This season, Darlington has introduced the slogan “The Tradition Continues,” in an effort to get drivers and fans involved in what could turn out to be another awesome throwback weekend.

There is surely going to be more throwback schemes for the race as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick, among others, have already had their cars revealed via Twitter. Alan Kulwicki, Darrell Waltrip and Buddy Baker are among the names that are already set to be honored and many more will be announced as we get closer and closer to Sep. 4.

Just from the response we saw last season, I believe throwback weekend at Darlington needs to become an annual tradition. It’s giving current fans something to look forward to, as Twitter has allowed them to question crew chiefs and drivers about what their schemes will be or what driver they will be honoring.

For older fans who don’t like the direction the sport is trending in at the moment, they get a chance to relive the glory days of NASCAR, by seeing legendary numbers reunited with their legendary paint schemes.

I think right now is the time for NASCAR to milk something like this that is turning into a big event. They are already having trouble pleasing their fans with certain actions, like changing the G-W-C rules, or with how they are treating drivers, like Tony Stewart’s fine almost immediately after he announced he would be back on the track again.

The sport is continuing to lose popularity and views as each week goes by. Martin Feigen, a writer for Beyond The Flag, broke down the ratings for the Bristol race a couple of weekends ago. They were terrible. Even with the normal 1:00 E.T. start time, the race was beat by the NBA Playoffs among other sporting events. Martin’s piece, which you can read here, goes more into detail about just how bad the ratings were for a race that usually attracts many viewers.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /

Another thing to take into consideration is the attendance at races lately. It certainly has not looked promising. Take a look back on races this year and you’ll find empty seats all over the place. Bristol has been the most notable so far, in terms of attendance.

It looked like maybe half of the seats were full for a Sunday afternoon race. That’s a problem considering the fact that Bristol is one of NASCAR’s most iconic tracks.

The same could’ve been said during the second race of the season at Atlanta, where attendance was also poor. Bob Pockrass of ESPN estimated the crowd being roughly 30,000 fans lower than normal.

With that in mind, it’s important for NASCAR to make sure they get the most out of Darlington. Hype it up. Keep pushing the throwback theme. It was a success last season and it can be this season too. Fans enjoy unique events like that, and it’s important for the sport to try to gain as much attention as possible during a time when they are struggling to attract new viewers.

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The bottom line is that Darlington is another opportunity to inject new life into a sport that is struggling to keep up with the others. A strong September weekend is could go a long way in setting the tone for the Chase.