Yesterday, we asked the fans on social media how they would rank NASCAR’s “Crown Jewel” races. What we found was that there is a myriad of opinions out there on what the true “Crown Jewels” of NASCAR are.
Everyone seems to agree that the Daytona 500, Southern 500, and Coca-Cola 600 are on that list, but, beyond that, it gets a bit murky. This leads us to ask a deeper question, why can’t NASCAR just declare what these races are?
- Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, NASCAR and Winston declared 4 races to be the “Crown Jewel” events throughout the season as a part of the Winston Million program. These races were the Daytona 500 (The richest race), the Southern 500 (the oldest race), the Winston 500 at Talladega (the fastest race), and the Coca-Cola 600 (the longest race).
- However, since that program has died out, a debate has raged on which races are considered “Crown Jewels”. Races like the Brickyard 400 and the Bristol Night Race rose to prominence with races like the Southern 500 losing some luster in the 2000s before a recent resurgence.
- Fans and even a driver gave plenty of different answers on what the “Crown Jewels” are. Some included races that others excluded, and others brought up some…interesting suggestions.
The Debate Amongst Fans
While we won’t give a comprehensive list of every opinion that fans gave, we will look at a few of the most interesting and prominent. Jefferson Stealflex went with the somewhat 1990s or 2000s-esque traditionalist route with his four suggestions.
Brad Keselowski expanded the list to 6 races, including the Bristol Night Race and the spring Talladega race. The spring race was the original Winston 500, which was a Crown Jewel.
Mark Scherphorn said that he would not include the Brickyard 400 in any Crown Jewel list. In fairness, the race saw a massive downturn in fan attendance throughout the 2010s, and it had been off the schedule between 2021 and 2023.
Damine Barker argues that Martinsville should be on the list. It is the oldest race track in NASCAR.
Bob Nemec suggested adding Michigan to the list. The logic here is the track’s proximity to the Motor City, and the importance of this race to the manufacturers.
We could go on and on and on, but, the point is, there are multiple opinions on this topic. There is merit behind many of these different suggestions that fans gave, so, why doesn’t NASCAR just declare what the biggest races are like they did in the past?
The Benefit of NASCAR Declaring What the Crown Jewel Events Are
Many other sports build brands around their marquee events. There are the 4 Majors in golf, the Triple Crown in horse racing, and even the old “Triple Crown of 500-mile races” in IndyCar. There are a couple of benefits to this happening.
Branding for Casual Audiences
Many people, such as myself, do not tune into the average golf tournament or horse race, but, I pay attention to events like “The Masters”, “The Kentucky Derby”, and so on. Obviously, just slapping the title “Triple Crown” or the “Majors” on random events doesn’t make events any more special, but putting that title on the biggest and best events is great for causal audiences.
Putting all of these big events together under one title gives casual fans the skinny on the must-see events throughout the season. If you want to see the best of that sport throughout the season, these are the events to pay attention to.
Imagine if NASCAR did that with their biggest races, and the marketing push that TV networks could put into these events. It would give even more prestige to NASCAR’s most prestigious events, while also giving casual fans the events that they must tune into. Maybe those fans will stick around for a few more weeks.
Attractive Races for Open and New Entrants
If NASCAR wants more teams to enter races, it must make the events more appealing for “Open” entrants. NASCAR tried that with the “Winston Million” campaign, but, that only benefitted race winners.
Maybe NASCAR could look at increasing the purses for these races. If they do so, that would encourage “Open” entries to join the race. Look at events like the Indy 500, The Masters, and even the Daytona 500, because these events are big and pay well, more people show up to compete.
Even the TV promotion and potential exposure, as a result, could make it easier for certain race teams to sell sponsorship for this race. Again, putting together some sort of an official brand around “Crown Jewel” events opens the potential for more eyeballs on the sport, which makes the race more attractive to race teams.
The Conundrum: Which Races Does NASCAR Declare the “Crown Jewels”
The biggest issue that NASCAR has to solve is which races they declare the “Crown Jewels.” The Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600, and the Southern 500 are all considered a part of that list by pretty much everyone in the fanbase. Beyond that, it gets a bit murky.
The Bristol Night Race still routinely pulls in over 100,000 people, but the 2023 race saw less than 2 million viewers, which is low for a NASCAR race. The Brickyard 400 is contested at one of the most famous race tracks in the world, but, if the track is half dull, that doesn’t look like a crown jewel. Talladega was considered a “Crown Jewel” in the past, but, that status did not have the staying power of Daytona, Charlotte, or Darlington.
There are benefits to NASCAR declaring what the Crown Jewels are, but, there are also some tough decisions that must be made as a result. Should NASCAR step in and officially declare what these races are like other sports do?