NASCAR: Is ‘any publicity is good publicity’ still true?

Chase Elliott, Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

The NASCAR Cup Series dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway may have had a few unavoidable faults. But the conversation went beyond your usual places.

While the majority of NASCAR fans enjoyed the “old yet new” race on dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway this past weekend, I couldn’t help but glance at the TV with a weird and curious look. Something about it just didn’t feel right, whether that be the cars, the track, or a little bit of both. Putting dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway didn’t seem like the right move.

I heard all the NASCAR YouTubers talk about how “old Bristol is back”. Now, being a more modern fan who doesn’t know “old Bristol”, I’m curious to know from fans who do know this version and its comparisons and contrasts to the current Bristol. Because from what I saw, forgetting about the dirt, it did have a sniff of current Bristol in there. But I’m still curious what fans think about “old Bristol.”

When the race was over and done with, I headed to work Tuesday in Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canada, a place where NASCAR is not overly liked or even known much about compared to the United States.

As soon as I walked in the door, I was asked by two colleagues about what happened.

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Since I work in a radio station, one of the morning show hosts and I had a full-blown conversation about the race before he went live on air. He even said he tuned in for five minutes but tuned out due to the dust that engulfed the track. He compared it to the desert race scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

It wasn’t over. I heard that he would be talking about the race on his morning show. This is a classic rock radio station, so I get why he decided to talk about it: demographics. But let’s step back here and fully realize what is happening, all thanks to a simple dirt race.

A morning radio show in one of five Canadian cities north of the 55th parallel (In layman’s terms, very north) was talking about NASCAR and how they just ran a race on dirt and not pavement.

My mind is truly blown. Now, I’m curious; did your local radio shows mention the dirt race? How about your inner social media circles on Twitter and Facebook? Do you know any “former fans” who tuned in because, in a way, it was a return to tradition?

This race might have some lasting effects. People are starting to talk about NASCAR again. My mind could go on forever about the “what if?” scenarios if it hadn’t rained all weekend, or if the dust wasn’t such a huge issue.

Adam Stern of Sports Business Journal released the viewership numbers on Tuesday morning: a 1.8 rating and 3.114 million viewers. Is that good or bad? We really can’t tell because it was a Monday afternoon race. But of course, our minds can wander forever. If everything went to plan, would it have topped five million viewers?

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I don’t know if this is the start of something or if it’s just a one-off high because NASCAR did something different. I’m afraid to say that this is a waiting game. NASCAR continues to cross their fingers that ratings start to go up. The dirt race has been confirmed for next year. Hopefully, NASCAR will learn from this weekend and hold a near-perfect race weekend for once.