By on August 24, 2015

Ed Carpenter apexes Turn 3 during the 2015 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway

On Sunday, I watched a fantastic car race. Unfortunately, based on the shots of the crowd, I might have been among very few who did.

The INDYCAR (are we still capitalizing it?) Pocono 500 had everything a race fan could want: upwards of thirty lead changes, some spectacularly competitive and aggressive racing (including one restart where the drivers went seven wide), and a tight points race where the season championship would be greatly affected by the outcome. Unfortunately, there was also a spectacular crash that has one racer battling for his life.

Meanwhile, the race had far fewer fans in attendance than the 30,000 that Indy officials said that they would need in order for Pocono to be on the race schedule in 2016.

On an August Sunday, where the TV sports calendar had no football or anything more compelling than Tiger Woods finishing tenth at a non-major tournament, the second-to-last Indy race of the season was relegated to NBC Sports Network — a network that I’m frankly surprised my rather basic cable package includes. I don’t know what the overnight viewership number was, but I’m going to guess it was comparable to a regular season baseball game; a Tuesday afternoon baseball game, that is.

The other roundy-round racing series in America isn’t faring too well, either. It’s hard to remember that NASCAR was once considered the fourth major sport in this country for a brief time at the beginning of the century. They, too, now struggle to fill the stands at most races, especially anything that takes place outside of the sport’s core demographic area of the southeastern U.S.  They can’t get a decent TV deal anymore. Perhaps the most damning evidence of NASCAR’s struggles can be seen in the continued presence of Danica Sue Patrick on the track, despite a whopping six top ten finishes in 105 starts. She was without a sponsor for roughly six minutes when GoDaddy dropped her this season. Despite her struggles on track, she’s still as powerful a marketing force as anybody else NASCAR has in 2015. And with the impending retirement of Jeff Gordon and the rapid graying of most of its stars, NASCAR is in a world of hurt unless they can find a new generation of stars quickly (and Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon ain’t cutting it so far).

You might like sports car racing (although our site statistics beg to differ), but most Americans have no idea what that even means. No, for most Americans, car racing means that thing that the racists and hillbillies like to watch. Despite our nation’s recent tendency to become less exceptional and as much like Spain as possible, we just can’t seem to embrace motorsport like the rest of the world does.

So, my question is: if INDYCAR and NASCAR folded tomorrow, would anyone notice and/or care? Outside of Charlotte and Indianapolis, I think not. At best, it’s a regional sport with limited demographic appeal and virtually none of the “diversity” that everything appears to be required to have as of late. Neither sanctioning body has figured out how to appeal to that craved 25-34 group, and I fear that will ultimately be the death of Auto Racing as a spectator sport in our great nation.

What say you, B&B?

[Photo by: Chris Owens/INDYCAR]

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91 Comments on “QOTD: Would Anyone in America Miss Professional Motorsports?...”


  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    For mainstream Americans, you may be quite right. Most wouldn’t miss auto racing. It’s a shame because after many years, I started to really pay attention to IndyCar again this season and, as the author writes about the Pocono event, the racing is quite good. Racing could continue to exist on the grass-roots level without Nascar and IndyCar. The local bullrings have their own built-in audience and probably don’t need TV (although they have MavTV).

    Part of me almost wants to see it all collapse. Big money has ruined auto racing around the world and I’d love to see all of the media and marketing smoothies leave and real racers rebuild from scratch. The only problem with that is with the state of the auto industry, societal needs and the lack of interest in almost everything on the part of young people, auto racing was probably a 20th-century phenomenon.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    It was a bubble. Motorsports are and have always been a niche sport. A period of mainstream consciousness and popularity was bought and paid for by Big Tobacco, which pumped billions of dollars into everything involved in motorsports, including giving away countless free tickets in order to get around increasingly strict tobacco advertising bans. Tobacco money funded everything, directly and indirectly, for more than two decades. Without that volume of money, motorsports are slowly contracting back down to the niche level they were at pre-tobacco. Ultimately this could be a good thing because costs should come down somewhat.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Enlightening.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Interesting. To this day, I still occasionally slip up and say “Winston Cup.” The brand name was completely integral to the series identity as I was growing up.

      • 0 avatar
        bosozoku

        I’d like to see the sales figures for Winston cigarettes in the decade before and after the NASCAR series changed sponsorship.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          The cigarette market is one of the most interesting of my adult life. From nearly universal penetration allowing cheap, quality smokes in the ’60s and ’70s to today’s bizarre fragmentation with generic “brands”, hyper-expensive name brands and the transition to vaping, tobacco products have morphed more than any other once-ubiquitous consumable I can recall.

          Any survey of pre/post-Nascar would seemingly need to factor in the price rise of the major brands causing conversion to cheaper smokes as well as alternative sources of nicotine.

          All I know is those $8.00+ packs of Camels used to be had for < $20 per carton. Gyod!

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      Yes, it was a bubble. But the crowds at tracks and TV audiences are way down – to a point well below where the audiences were organically just before the bubble. Everything Jimal wrote is correct but I submit there’s even more going on. There’s a problem with the product itself and perhaps American society in general has moved on.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        As for the product, roaring engines and screeching isn’t all that compelling to me personally anymore. I often wonder why we waste the gas/carbon/pollution.

        BTSR feels differently, I’m sure, but he’s just one guy.

        I actually do enjoy watching the competition when I catch some NASCAR with my rural relatives. But I like my ears, so I won’t be attending a race any time soon, and I don’t have cable TV anymore.

        How do you bring me in?

        1. Change the rules so that it’s an engineering competition where a variety of approaches to winning the race are encouraged.

        2. I’m never watching broadcast/cable TV again. So, it’s going to have to be an Internet experience.

        Oddly enough, the Sailplane Grand Prix is doing same good stuff in terms of presenting a race in a modern Internet-friendly way. Take the way they present the racing over the mountains and bring it to about four or five levels up.

        Or just take my money to watch sailplanes race. It’s something I could do in real life – which adds to the appeal.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        As the bubble deflated, there are so many more entertainment options than before the bubble inflated.

        At this point I’m of the opinion that The (infamous) Split in open wheel racing was ultimately little more than a distraction than the downfall of open wheel racing. The tobacco advertising ban had a much more negative effect.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    In a word, no. Not since the only time I actually watched the Indy 500 many years ago.

    I used to like drag racing, but like all other motor sports, technology rather than raw driving ability took over, or rather, the computer took over. Also, the cars have become so covered with decals representing this and that company or sponsors, you can’t see the vehicles. Money got in the way and something was lost… either that or I’m just getting old!

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    With the possible exception of a medically induced coma, I can’t imagine myself ever landing in straits so bereft of any intellectual, sexual or cultural nourishment that I’d want to actually pick up and go someplace where scads of little noisy cars are running in circles just because.

    Ponder what daily life in an earlier America must have been like for motorsports, boxing, carnivals etc. to have ever drawn crowds!

    • 0 avatar
      bosozoku

      I could see myself giving F1 another shot if Bernie Ecclestone finally kicks the bucket and FIA organizers let their top-tier division go back to its roots. And by that I mean throw out the rule book and petty nitpicking. Let the engineers’ imaginations and sponsors checkbooks run wild for a season or two and see what happens. Maybe some new tech hopelessly dominates all events, but if nothing else it should be exciting and something to look forward to, unlike the current dulling of the sport with ever more restrictive rules and smaller and smaller engines.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        It will just be a parade lap for one automaker. The real, non manipulated reason for tightening up and getting rid of turbos back then, were Honda having a 150-200hp consistent advantage over anyone else. A genuinely rule free race will just make the cars wide enough to prevent passing.

        Auto-racing around race tracks isn’t really a natural “sport” anymore, since it is a solved problem. The ideal line is known, as is traction and power levels. A cheap computer can drive that line better empty, than any driver can. The whole thing is hence about as inherently exciting as professional tic-tac-toe.

        Track, line and surface randomization, or at least less predictable like off road/desert racing, is less inherently affected.

  • avatar
    j3studio

    Judging IndyCar on Pocono attendance seems a little unfair. As a Pennsylvanian, I am keenly aware that, while the track has some technical interest, it also cleverly blends the ability to see your favorite driver from _any_ racing series get badly hurt with facilities that are embarrassing for a “first-tier” race track. I think the only reason IndyCar has continued to race there is the local presence of the Andrettis.

    Prayers for Justin Wilson.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      This was only the third year back at Pocono after being away for about 20 years.

      • 0 avatar
        j3studio

        Jimal is correct—I phrased that sentence badly. I remember Danny Sullivan winning there back in 1989. I also remember multiple drivers complaining about the condition of the track in the late eighties.

        I still don’t think IndyCar would be racing at Pocono in this day and age if Nazareth weren’t so close …

        • 0 avatar
          Jimal

          The Andretti connection is there, but the bigger issue is that IndyCar is running out of non ISC/SMI tracks, and therefore ovals, to run on. Pocono is one of the last of the independents.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Considering the use of Capitals, I already miss viewing the crowning of Miss Professional Motorsports! Sounds better than Miss USA.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    I went to my first INDY race a while ago and also noticed that the bleachers only were 1/3 filled at best. It was a great race and for reasonable $22 I had 1000 seats to chose from and could walk around as I pleased.

    I occasionally go to a small local 1/2 mile track where they have amateur races with trucks, 4-cylinders, late models and cars that look like fake NASCAR cars (I don’t really know what the classes are, go just for the fun, to smell the gasoline in the air and the noise). While the INDY race was much faster and a much better driving, I like the more approachable nature of the local race. After the race you can walk through the pits for free, talk to the team that are just normal people in their daily life.

    The INDY race was just an hour away. I sure would go to the next one if it is nearby. Would I fly or drive several hours and stay overnight? Probably not.

    So yes, count me in the ones that would miss it. but not to the ones that would make big effort to save it (like flying all over the country to watch it)

    BTW, at the INDY race I also saw 2 people in front selling hundreds of tickets for lower price. I assume INDY are forced to give tickets away for free or to low-income people or something and those “community organizers” snatch them away and sell them for cash. Sad.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      I love how every TTAC article must have at least one ridiculous comment from someone purporting to be from the conservative end of the political spectrum.

      They’re called scalpers dearie, you find them at almost every professional sports event known to man.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Alot of things could be happening but I think its best to have an idea than to just assume anything (after all what happens when one assumes?). Evidently last year one of the more prominent community criminalizers, err organizers, was actually selling VIP passes for profit.

      http://www.vladtv.com/article/202867/bow-wow-blasts-al-sharpton-for-selling-vip-passes-at-protest

  • avatar
    71charger_fan

    I used to be a huge fan of Indycar racing, but it’s devolved into a spec series and I lost interest. I miss the innovation of years gone by when there would be many different constructors on the grid running multiple power plants.

  • avatar
    j3studio

    By the way, we’ve previously discussed what TTAC sees as a lack of interest in the sports car racing posts. Somebody on the TTAC staff (I don’t remember who) stated that they had “phoned in” the coverage of the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans (only the most important sports car race of the year and a very interesting one in 2015).

    If TTAC can’t get excited about writing sports car racing coverage, how are we supposed to get excited about reading it? I end up going elsewhere for my sports car racing coverage …

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      It is a chicken vs egg problem. TTAC has access to statistics such as page views, and I bet that their motorsports coverage gets less hits than other articles. Something Bark alludes to: “You might like sports car racing (although our site statistics beg to differ), but most Americans have no idea what that even means.”

      That makes it hard to justify spending a lot of time and money covering motorsports if you get little pay off. Now is that because TTAC’s motorsports coverage is so poor that people look elsewhere, or is it because motorsports in general doesn’t generate a lot of interest? It is hard to say without seeing detailed statistics across all the top industry websites.

      Frankly there are many people who love cars and hearing about the industry but could not care less about motorsports of any kind (F1, NASCAR, Indy, autocross, karting, etc), including me. I find it all boring.

      • 0 avatar
        bosozoku

        Le Mans as winners-vs-losers competition is pretty boring. But it’s got a lot of interesting stories behind the scenes, with tons of teams ranging from $100 million factory prototypes with seasoned champion drivers down to guys racing modified 911s fulfilling their track day dreams. But the coverage on sites like this always by the numbers and centers on the Audi decade-long domination.

        • 0 avatar
          j3studio

          I agree with all of these observations. My question to the powers that be at TTAC continues to be “if you can’t differentiate with your coverage in this area, why bother?”

        • 0 avatar
          juicy sushi

          “Guys racing modified 911s fulfilling their track day dreams”?

          Have you seen the cost of a GTE car? They’re in the same ballpark as an IndyCar and the only gentleman drivers who can afford it are both very rich and quite good. It’s not an event for little guys of any kind.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      sportscar365.com …

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    The loss of local tracks, drive-in theaters, the rise of the front drive, auto trans sedans and CUVs. Motorsports might as well be on a different planet. The only remaining popular events near me is the annual tractor pull – lots of home brew and beautiful restos there – and the annual Indy circuit race, which has had diminishing attendance.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Maybe they shod start televising the LeMons races. Would make for great discovery TV fodder. The backyard engineering, I assume have never been, has to be clever due to the $ limits.

    Ditch the costumes and come up with a racing series that has a dollar figure max say 10k and the unit has to be a junkyard relic and have them go run 100 laps somewhere. That might make for an interesting could of hours of TV.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I might actually watch a televised LeMons racing.

      It’s something I could actually aspire to do, if I were to put in the work.

      Plus, there have got to be some pretty good personal stories with shades of MacGyver and Junkyard Wars. I could really get in to that.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    I stopped watching NASCAR ten years ago: the oval tracks are boring and unrepresentative.
    I stopped watching F1 two years ago: hate the turbos and cars look like insects.
    I stopped watching TUDOR USCC (ALMS) last year: scoring system is corrupt.
    I never watched the INDYCAR series; just the “500”.

    So, want to re-invigorate racing? Use the Bob Lutz solution: give everybody 100 gallons of gas for a 2-hour races and say, “Have at it!” Stop the bloody specs and rules and over-controlling race authorities.

    ======================

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I consider myself a car guy but I don’t watch motorsports. NASCAR is too ridiculously commercial for me and the cars bear no resemblance whatsoever to what I can “buy on Monday”. When they have to add taillight decals and headlight decals, I know they’re in trouble.

    And to be honest, I find it boring. I know there’s strategy but it gets pretty lame sitting there watching the cars drive in circles for 500 miles. A drive from where I live to Nashville is about the same distance, far more engaging, and I can have fun at the end.

    Indy is less obnoxious but same fundamental issues for me.

    I know I Should like WRC but I never watch it. I’ve got too many better things to do. In the end, my motorsports fix can be satisfied by a track day or two.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      So much this. I consider myself a HUGE car nut, but I find watching racing incredibly dull. Cars going driving in circles, ovals, straight lines, or squiggly lines is just boring.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        Chris, please don’t take this a flame – because I just don’t EVER do that to anyone – but I’d like to ask an honest question: Are you over or under 30 years of age? Are you over or under 40 years of age? 50? And do you like video games or do you spend a lot of time before the computer/tablet/phone screen?

        I’m asking because I have a working theory – and it could be all wrong – that computers, tablets and phones have basically made everything else seem boring to many, particularly young people who never knew things to be any other way. Again, I could be way off base here. But through anecdotal observation, it seems to me the virtual world is much more interesting than real life to many.

        Please don’t take this as any kind of suggestion that I’m telling you what to like and what not to like. I’m just trying to understand.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          I’m 33, don’t play video games, and most of my screen time is on blogs like this and other car forums. I’ve tried to watch car racing since I was maybe 10 years old, and couldn’t get into it. No problems watching football, basketball, golf, and even playoff baseball.

          I’d actually say I’m sort of the opposite of your premise; I’d much rather be outside living real life, working in the garage or yard or house, playing with my kid and dog, or whatever, than inside watching the TV or surfing the web. I generally only do passive things when I can’t do something more active (at night, poor weather, wintertime, etc).

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Boy, did Nascar ever screw-up. Back around 2000-2005, they had the most fun, irreverent and intelligent racing series around. Then they got serious: they introduced The Chase (aka: your favorite driver doesn’t matter, and the results of any given race don’t matter), sucked all the life out of their own web site, made damn sure anyone involved in the sport can’t crack a joke without getting penalized.

    Now they are a has-been series that’s lost all momentum. It’s 100% down to their arrogant and clueless management.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    I struggled to watch the IMSA race from VIR yesterday. At what is maybe the most impressive track ever, I sat there wondering why I was so bored. The cars are so stable and easy to drive that they aren’t exciting to watch move. I couldn’t for the life of me get why John Hindough was worked up, and can’t see ever trying to talk to a normal person into watching the those guys drive around the lawn. It took until the last few minutes of the race for me to physically feel any excitement or entertainment. Sad really. (I also watched the first few minutes of the F1 race from Spa via BBC, but then turned off my VPN because I know the drivers are going to just space themselves out and play 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall as they count down the laps. You’re crazy if you think I’m going to watch to NBC’s coverage, where the best they can do is ooh-and-ahh from their extra wide lazy-boys in some studio. “Come on, boys” )

    Yeah, I’m angry about what’s happened to racing.

    • 0 avatar
      j3studio

      Interesting … I was thinking that I didn’t get emotionally involved in yesterday’s race because my beloved C7.Rs were getting _pummeled_ out there. Maybe there was something else going on.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Racing IS boring to watch on TV, with a bunch of nearly identical cars just going around and around, with 5 minutes of commercials every 7 minutes. With cable TV rates as ridiculously high as they are, people like me (in the heart of the most desirable demographic) are pulling the plug.
      How to make it more interesting: New classes of cars – CUV and SUV class racing (so ordinary people can identify with the cars), a completely unlimited class, and driving-in-reverse racing.
      LeMons would make a fantastic “reality” show, and renew interest in what used to be a novelty (car races), and now has become a polished, regulated, commercialized and dying sport.

  • avatar
    Jezza819

    Mainstream America? Probably not. But to put that in proper prospective with something right out of today’s news. Would mainstream America miss the band One Direction? No. Everything is relative. Auto racing is a niche sport. Those who love it are diehards. Me included. I watch just about every form of road racing, ROAD RACING, that I can get my hands on. F1, TUDOR, WEC, V8 Supercars, etc. I car nothing at all for NASCAR or Indy when they are on ovals. I’ll stay up until 3am to watch a WEC race from Asia but wouldn’t watch a NASCAR race if I was given a free trip to watch from a luxury suite.

    Indy Car isn’t doing themselves any favors by going to these huge ovals like Pocono, Fontana, etc. because they are never EVER going to fill those stands and it just looks bad on tv like the author stated. But they have good crowds at places like Mid Ohio, Toronto, etc.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Wouldn’t miss it a lick. Despite being at least a sort of car guy since I was a kid, I’ve never paid any attention to the racing aspect (would kill for a ride in a rally car, though).

    Way to go for the low hanging fruit with this statement, Bark, which I believe to be far beneath you: “No, for most Americans, car racing means that thing that the racists and hillbillies like to watch.”

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Baseball ratings really depend on local markets. The Kansas City Royals-Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game last Sunday night drew a 19.8!!!! in Kansas City. It drew a 1.3 rating nationally though.

    Pocono drew a 1.1 overnight yesterday.

    Mainstream America doesn’t really want to watch baseball either. According to the data, people would rather watch the WWE, Love & Hip Hop, Pretty Little Liars, Naked and Afraid, and American Pickers.

    NFL preseason outdraws important baseball games in August.

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      I’m a huge believer in over the air broadcasting, so I don’t really get any regular baseball to watch during the regular season. I DO however get it on the radio, and rather enjoy consuming the game in that way. I think in some ways it’s even better on the radio. Still, with 162 games each year, it’s very much a sport that can be consumed with a little or as much frequency as you wish. I generally make it to 3-4 AA games a year, 1 MLB game a year (crazy expensive), but listen to probably 50 games a year on the radio.

      Oh yeah, back to the topic at hand: auto racing (on oval tracks) kind of sucks. Went to one Indy car race and found it boring, noisy, dirty, and the spectators actually made me fret for the human race (and I’m descended for psychotic hillbillies). Still enjoy the 500 on TV, but that’s more nostalgia from childhood. I’ve seen a few European F1 road course races and found them quite a bit more compelling.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Luckily, I live about 10 miles from Comerica Park, where the Detroit Tigers play. I have the ability to go to 15-20 games a year from tickets I buy, or my employer’s bundle of tickets. Tigers’ games aren’t that expensive compared to many other MLB teams. Of course, they are much more expensive than when I had a half season ticket package and they were atrocious. About $18 a game got me two seats, a parking pass, two hot dogs, and two pops.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          If $18 could even get me two seats, I’d go to a whole lot more Mariners games than I do. $18 will get me a bit less than half a bleacher seat, and that’s before the $9.75 Coors Light.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            This was historically bad baseball, but it was still a deal. They lost over 90 games in 2004 and 2005, the first two seasons I had tickets. This was coming off the 119 loss season in 2003. I was lucky to have the tickets for the 2006 season where they made the World Series. Even that season, I went to games with only 15000 people in attendance.

            I went to this game in 2006:

            http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/DET/DET200605170.shtml

            Only 16,000 people in attendance so I go to sit behind the plate. It only took 2 hours. Verlander v Santana.

  • avatar
    acesfull

    I already miss it, and would watch if I could. But I got tired of paying my cable company $80/month for the most basic package with garbage channels. Also, since Speed became a stick n’ ball network, televised road racing coverage is nearly non-existent. Such a difference from the “glory days” of the late 90s/early 2000s. Remember Derek Bell commentating from his Audi?

  • avatar

    NASCAR sold their soul to the corporations thinking the money faucet was ever flowing. But once they ditched a lot of the smaller local tracks for high theoretical attendance super-speedways they alienated a lot of people who had supported the sport and couldn’t afford to drive across the country to go to another race. Then they eliminated the argument over the brand purists with the whole “car of tomorrow” thing and basically making the cars identical with no relation to the actual cars sold. Add in that they have priced their biggest fans out of attending races and managed the personalities out of the drivers as best they could attendance was bound to dip. I guess they didn’t realize sponsor money would dry up if people stopped coming, or maybe they didn’t think that far ahead.

    I agree with the sentiment that racing has become too expensive. The money has also alienated a lot of people as well. Racing is and always will be a niche, but they have priced out a lot of car loving loyalists and people who made the sport great to begin with. Now it’s a rich man’s game with profit being the main driver.

  • avatar
    ScarecrowRepair

    On TV, it bores me to death. I can’t relate to the cars; they may as well be slot cars for all the resemblance they have to anything I have experience with. They all look so closely similar that the shapes mean nothing to me. They are so covered with every color under the sun and crammed with insignia and decals that there is nothing memorable about one car vs another. I can’t tell how fast they are going, whether 50 mph or 200 mph, because nothing about them gives any indication of scale, not even the barely visible drivers or their helmets.

    Friends have taken me to a couple of local dirt tracks, and they are different — real people in real cars, entirely visible throughout the entire race at speeds I can relate to. But the nearest such tracks to where I live are an hour away.

    On a visit to my sister in Bellingham, WA, the family dragged me to a NASCAR race, and the main oval events bored me as usual. But they had some figure eight racing, and now that fascinated me. I could relate to the skill involved in judging exactly how much to speed up and slow down to avoid crossing crashes, of which there were none, and once I got the hang of it and realized some drivers were purposely slowing down just enough to get through the cross themselves while leaving their followers to slow down and wait for the next gap, it suddenly got very interesting.

    Ovals? Boring as heck. Sure, some drivers are better at passing than others, but it seemed like most advanced only when someone ahead crashed out, and the numerous caution laps made the usual boring laps seem exciting by comparison.

    If everything was as interesting as the figure eights, I might go watch a race or two, but not if I have to drive an hour or two each way. And crashes, while interesting in their own, add so much more boredom in the form of caution laps that I was happier without any.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    The problem is relevance.

    Wanna play football? All you need are friends and a ball.
    Ditto basketball , baseball, soccer etc.

    Wanna race your car? You will need a lot more then a vehicle and some friends. What you’ll need, specifically,is money; lots of it. It can be difficult paying for SCCA participation and your student loan bill on the same paycheck, assuming non-Middle Eastern Sheik ancestry.

    Atop that problem, most Americans associate “car” with “Appliance”. Motorsports to the average Joe who spends a hour a day crawling in traffic during his commute makes as much sense as washing machine competitions.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      Closest to the mark, I think, though there are many good comments here.

      I find it rare for adults to care about sports that they didn’t grow up with. If you’re much younger than 30 and grew up anywhere outside say, Michigan or the Bible Belt, auto racing was for hicks, and car culture pretty much consisted of Brad Pitt’s Prius when you came of driving age.

      I also don’t know how organic rooting interest is supposed to develop. As you suggest, modern race cars are interchangeable blobs driving in circles and operated by joyless automatons just like every other class of vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Karting! Also, drag strips!

        Back when I was in college in NYC my friends and I would spend almost every summer weekend at the Flatlands street races. 50-100 cars milling around the McDonalds on Linden Blvd next to the Belt. Cops gave it a wink wink nod nod until someone threw a 40 oz through a cop car rear window. Rumble strips were out the next weekend. So there is definitely interest…. people just don’t have the means to act on them.

        I think racing cars on actual tracks is a dead end. Just too much at stake. But karts and video games can fill the void.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      All of this. Great comment.

      You have to be an absolute die-hard to get into racing as a participant at any level other than drunken trips to your local karting place. It’s super expensive (and there is financial risk even beyond the expense), extraordinarily time-consuming, and requires that you have a lot of space to store cars/parts/tools. There is no way 99% of people can relate to what they’re watching, whereas everyone in America has tried their hand at one or more of the stick/ball/puck sports.

    • 0 avatar
      trackratmk1

      I also think this is the best assessment so far. I am surrounded by car guys in work and hobbies, yet I rarely meet anyone interested in spectating unless they too drive cars on a racetrack (amateur racers, track day junkies, etc).

      It’s also an impersonal sport. When you watch baseball or football, you can see expressions of anger, joy, intensity, and grit. In Motorsports, all you’ve got is a tin can on wheels with an anonymous driver encased inside, in a full body suit and hemet. You get a sliver of radio transmission every couple minutes, usually some calm cool and collected piece if advice from crew to driver, leading the audience to think, “heh this can’t be hard.”

      So my two cents: Hard to access yourself, not very relatable to today’s car culture; these two things make it tough to appreciate it en masse.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Hell yes, I’d miss pro racing. My dad took me to Mid-Ohio when I was ten and I was hooked for life. Went to the Daytona 500 this year and Indy 500 last year. Yet the most exciting event I’ve ever attended was an amateur event: the SCCA Runoffs (when it was at Mid-Ohio). No pageantry, no bullcrap – just great racing and a LOT of it.

    After Justin Wilson and Dan Wheldon, I think it’s time for IndyCar to go to a canopy and semi-enclosed wheels, like the Red Bull X2011 prototype from Gran Turismo. Then, to placate traditionalist sticks-in-the-mud like me, bring back the 2.65-liter turbo V8s with their distinctive howl and let them turn up the boost enough to run a 250mph lap at Indy. Fans will be so thrilled with the increased speed and return of the CART-era soundtrack that they won’t mind the drastic changes to the cars – changes that will hopefully keep freak accidents like Wilson’s from happening.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do think as you age you do change your habits, along with motorsports. I used to be a religious spectator of all forms motor sports and actually participated when I could.

    I do think the manufacturers, sponsors and race officialdom are to blame. It is all about marketing and dollars now.

    Less weight is placed on brand and more on teams, hoopla, and the periphery of activities.

    I do know here in Australia the Ford vs Holden formula is less significant now than it was back in the 60s and 70s. The what wins on Sunday sells on Monday seems to have disappeared.

    There is much less involvement by the manufacturers in the influencing of racing than there used to be. This is sad. The sport is controlled by too much poltics and not enough racing.

    The control of motorsports is now in the wrong hands. FIFA was a great idea, but it was mismanaged, the same can be said by many motorsports.

    Money, money, money, is all I see and not enough emphasis placed on the sport itself.

  • avatar
    blueflame6

    I couldn’t possibly care less. I might be interested in watching racing using more-or-less stock production cars, but of course stock car racing doesn’t exist in the US.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I watch IRL and F1. I lost interest in CRASHCAR when they became a spec series and couldn’t go 10 laps without a wreck. Once the Camry became a “race car” I knew all hope was lost.

    The IRL has been great this year, some truly awesome racing but it seems they never recovered from the CART/Champ split. It appears most fans moved on or just gave up. Not sure what they need to do, if I was a promoter of their events I’d be scratching my head. They have great racing, lots of lead changes, good fan interaction (side effect of low attendance), high speeds, a wide variety of tracks, plenty of history and names (Rahal, Andretti, plus new comers), good looking cars, all kinds of excitement… yet nobody watches or shows up. Its really sad.

    Speaking of sad, really worried about Justin. This might be the kind of accident that finally causes them to enclose the cockpit. I remember when unlimited hydroplanes went to the F16 bubble for safety so maybe its time Indy did the same.

  • avatar
    thattruthguy

    To be fair, NASCAR has a really lucrative TV deal with NBC and Fox. It’s a fluke because of the demand for sports media rights to get some of ESPN’s subscriber fees, but NASCAR’s in good shape for ten years.

    At that point, most of their current audience will be watching in the day room.

  • avatar
    everybodyhatesscott

    Has Nascars downfall been inverse to Nascars rise in political correctness. Maybe all the Danica Patrick promotion is hurting the brand.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I used to watch them all as much as possible, but now at best I merely glance at the headlines to see who won. For me the cars are so ugly and unrelated to street cars that there is no longer element of Ford vs Chevy or Porsche vs. Ferrari to increase the excitement. The tracks are generally much safer, but also a lot more boring, and downforce levels and better tires keep the cars from ever getting out of shape in a controlled fashion, so if just becomes a boring procession. It also doesn’t help that the cars are so fragile, wide, and unstable in dirty air that passing in the pits has become more common than passing on the track in may of the series. I’d get more interested in stock block motors were required in Indy and F1, and stock cars were required in NASCAR and sports car racing. How about a Daytona 500 with stock Camaros, Mustangs, Challengers, BMW M4s, Lexus ISF, etc. or perhaps in keeping with the CUV craze a field made up of stock BMW X3s, Porsche Macons, Audi A5s, Acura MDXs, etc. – now that would be fun to watch.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      But that would actually be stock car racing, and we don’t do that! ;-)

      To make it relatable, but a price limit on the cars: 1.33x the average new car transaction price. That way, you can’t win by just buying a more expensive car – and the race can advertise cars that could actually be sold on Monday.

      • 0 avatar
        trackratmk1

        That’s not going to cut it, in my opinion. In the 60s and early 70’s, people cared about performance cars. It was the muscle car era. Cars were exciting, fast, and fun. Today, 99% of cars sold are fast. But they’re not exciting or fun, and that doesn’t bother anyone.

        Most people aren’t looking for the fastest car anymore, and they’re all “fast enough”. Win on Sunday sell on Monday wouldn’t happen even if you put bone stock Camrys and Fusions on the NASCAR track, would it?

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I have 3-day passes for Sonoma this weekend. Like every ticket I’ve had to an Indycar or NASCAR race over the past eight years, I’m getting them for free. Like all the passes I’ve gotten over the past three years, I expect them to be all-access, so I can watch the race with the teams instead of the fans. I know where my NASCAR hot passes come from(a tv network), but I don’t even know that much about the connection that has netted me pit access to Long Beach twice and now Sonoma. A friend of a friend does something involving a company that has a presence at a team, or a venue, or paints shop floors, or… I know he used to run shifter karts for rich kids, and that he at least interviewed for a job with Penske’s champ car team. I’m almost certain it didn’t work out. Somehow, he still is tight enough with Indycar to merit VIP passes for someone that has met him half a dozen times. I don’t anticipate there being a lot of paying customers in any of the places I will visit at the track. Lots of the people I met in the pits at Fontana this year were there through connections too.

    I’m a pretty big fan of watching auto racing on TV. I had a couple friends over yesterday to watch Spa, which I’d recorded a few hours earlier. When Spa was over we started Pocono and I fell asleep. When I awoke an hour later, frickin baseball was on the TV. My friends got bored with Pocono and found BASEBALL more interesting. I’ll admit that I fell asleep with Indycars droning around Pocono, but I’ve seen infomercials I’d rather watch than game 7 of the World Series. I don’t know if I can be bothered going to Sonoma this weekend. Even with the best free tickets, it seems like a lot of effort to watch drivers like Sage Karam and Trystan Vaultier compete in a series with officials that only exist to make Brian France look like Charles Evans Hughes.

  • avatar
    Opus

    I was driving west on I-80 Saturday morning and was passed by two different Boss 302s. One was a reddish-orange color, the other was a ‘school-bus yellow’ Laguna Seca. I’ve never seen a Boss LS in the wild and that one made me think of you. Is that your car, Bark? Was that you??

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    I agree with most of what has been written above. I also find it hard to get into car racing today. I have attended the Indy 500 twice, I’ve been part of an autocross club, and have done a couple of track days at the local road race course.

    For racing enjoyment on TV, I like the rock-hoppers or the mud-boggers (there is something compelling about driving through 4′ deep muddy water and getting mud on EVERYTHING). Or free-style monster trucks (where the driver’s skill is really displayed).

    For in-person racing, nothing beats the local track where they have figure-8 three-car “chain” races (three cars chained together, with driver+engine in front and rear cars), “boat” races (with drivers towing first boats on trailers, then just the trailers), school bus figure-8, school bus demo derby, bomber class racing, midget racing, rollover competition, and of course the demo derby at the end of the night. Local guys, spending a doable amount of money, with sponsorship from local businesses, and having a heckuva lot of fun doing it (and it’s a lot of fun to watch as well).

  • avatar
    415s30

    It’s basically an oval, a triangle. I watched Spa, I like turns. I can’t understand watching the left turning, it’s just not something I am interested in. I think knowing the drivers well is nice, it’s hard to get into it if you don’t know many of them. The Indy cars are hideous too, that shouldn’t matter but it does to me, I do like to watch WEC sometimes, GP2 or Aussie V8s.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I get my fixes from 2 places… MotGP and video games. I also am within 90 minutes of a road course, drag strip and outdoor kart track. I never really got into motorsports. I’m the same way with sports in general. I love to play basketball but I hate watching it. I only like sports with a good story. For me that’s MotoGP and football. NASCAR is a joke; F1 makes my eyes glaze over; everything else is irrelevant.

  • avatar
    elimgarak

    I still quite like F1 but i know they are taking a beating in worldwide fan/viewership (though US viewership has been trending up).

    I don’t pay attention or watch any other series other than f1 – never have, and most likely never will. WRC and superbike/motogp are cool but just aren’t priorities.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Can you even want it after giving cable TV the boot?

      Netflix is good enough for TV. But, can you get racing without cable? I’m just not getting cable again, because Comcast.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    IRL, CART, INDYCAR or whatever they call themselves today has no one to blame but themselves for their decline.

    I for one was a rabid Indy fan, watched every race, followed the points, followed the drivers. Then the split happened, then spec racers, then we’re going to slow it down to increase the competition, and then the cars themselves became so vanilla and perfect the races became a bore. The venues became a bore. They when both were on the brink of ruin, they formed back together.

    Back in the day Bubble Day at Indy meant something, recently there have been struggles to fill a 33 card field. It just is all so meh.

    Hoping that Justin Wilson recovers from what appears to be a devastating brain injury in the freak accident yesterday. Horrible situation.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    I used to be a massive fan and have become increasingly less of one over time. A lot of that came down to the moronic rules of the series’. The aerodynamics of open wheel cars in particular have been approached so poorly and the cars were just unable to race together. They finally started to figure that out and then unleashed several years of the ugliest cars imaginable in both F1 and IndyCar (the current Dallaras and F1 nose rules).

    Sports cars similarly have suffered from ACO and France-family induced idiocy, but the GT classes have been fun. And that’s how I’ve found myself enjoying the slower series’ more over time. They may be “lower level” but I find GT3 and the CTSCC to be much more fun. Good battles on track, lots of different sounds and the cars look good.

    If the top level of the sport died off, I wouldn’t miss it. It stopped being fun too long ago.

    • 0 avatar
      thattruthguy

      The ACO doesn’t have anything to do with problems in US sports car racing. They’re doing their own thing for their own needs.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        Actually, they did, and still do. Their continual mucking about with LMP rules led to many expensive single-year changes that hurt the ability of non-factory teams to keep running, onboth sides of the Atlantic. Their recent changes to LMP2 rules also nearly killed the class.

  • avatar
    tnk479

    I am in that craved 25-34 group but I will speak only for myself: I want something real, not a marketing machine to sell me household products.

    Looking at motorsports today, it’s all spec motors, spec chassis, and it is more than apparent that the entire purpose of the enterprise is selling me more M&M’s, getting me to join the National Guard, and selling more Tide Laundry Detergent — all things I couldn’t care less about.

    Every time a racing driver is interviewed he has to name his sponsors and team name. “Yeah, this Dilly-Dally Motorsports, Tide, Chevrolet Lumina was just incredible today”. It sounds ridiculous. I’m embarrassed for him.

    Screw all that.

    If it’s a contest of driving skill we’re after, then the cars and team resources should all be identical, like randomly issued 911 Cup cars that the teams have a half a day to set up, followed immediately by qualifying for the standing start, and then finally they race for the win. That’s a drivers race.

    If it’s an engineering contest we are after, then we need a rules book that says something like, “whatever you can design that fits into this cube and uses this much energy”. Keep it open. Allow creativity. That’s an engineers race and given the technology available today it is not at all necessary that we even need a racing driver.

    What we have is a contrived, fake hybrid of these two separate goals. We have spec cars with automaker logo stickers and model headlight decals. We have teams that really can only out-rulebook each other (look for ways of not yet ruled upon or checked for cheating). We have drivers that seem more interested in performing in a soap opera than with being serious men who risk their lives chasing the thrill of cheating death and pushing the limits of engineering.

    It’s all a waste and so no, I could not care less and would not miss much of America’s professional motorsports.

  • avatar
    IAhawkeye

    I’m there’s someone out there who’d miss them, me personally tho? No way. I just can’t find interest anymore to watch, I was a huge NASCAR fan until about 7 or 8 years old(so 2000-2001ish). But, as soon as I started playing baseball, I lost all interest.
    Between friends, family, my girlfriend, school, and work it only leaves so much free time. And I just imagine that time being used to watch people go around a track. If I ever have any interest in racing, I just play a racing game on my PS3, and even then considering I’ve turned on my PS3 like 3 times the entire summer(to play games that is, I’ve turned it on 100x for Netflix, lol), so my interest for even that isn’t very high.

  • avatar
    j3studio

    Justin Wilson passed away today (Monday). RIP.

    It’s getting tough to watch IndyCar on oval or oval-like tracks.

  • avatar

    Sailplane racing is much different. While the rulemaking bodies intervened, they generally were content with tinkering with rules, which are admittedly somewhat baroque, but no more than of, say, baseball or soccer. The big difference is that the nature continues to be unpredictable and the pilot is obviously a major factor.

    Another thing, although airplanes in general are not cheap, you can go far on reasonable means. I know a guy, living in Kansas, who’s a world class pilot, and keeps a day job as a teacher. Of course, he croudfunds, but he does not have to get anywhere near the sponsorship a Le Mans team needs (in any class).

    Oh, and finally, someone made a point about familiarity, and about not picking sports late in life. Although everyone drives, very few people fly. But on the upside, many start flying late in life. Gliders, in particular, attract empty-nesters, because they are not useful as basic transportation.

  • avatar

    Nope wouldn’t really miss it. But then again i get bored watching any sport.

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