Welcome back to Onlydales, NASCAR content created by Dale for Dales. I’m Dale Tanhardt.
I love Jeff Gordon. He is one of my favorite people in the history of forever. But his recent comments regarding the direction of NASCAR fans are puzzling to me.
Jeff stated at the Racers Forum (basically) that he wants teams in the sport of NASCAR to rally fanbases around the teams no matter what driver is occupying a spot on their roster. This seems like an obvious idea on paper when you compare NASCAR to the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc., which is what Gordon did in comparing his fandom of the San Fransisco 49ers to the topic at hand.
And that’s exactly the problem.
We need to stop comparing NASCAR to other sports. We need to get rid of this concept that NASCAR needs to take ideas from more popular stick-and-ball sports and apply them to NASCAR. Over the years the sport has taken very kindly to this ideology, and it seems to have no positive indication of growth within the sport.
The Playoffs are a great example of this. Since its inception in 2014, I don’t believe we’ve seen much uptick in viewership in the final ten races of the season. Any uptick in 2021 or 2022 I think resulted from a bubble created by Covid and/or the debut of the Gen 7 racecar. I don’t hate the format, but it’s undoubtedly the best way NASCAR can mimic a playoff format of the “NFL” or “NBA”.
Stages were created partially to allow “half-time” type of intermissions in every race (I love stages, but I doubt they have had much impact on capturing new fans).
These implemented structural changes all started as ideas. And I’m convinced they were ideas based on the premise of, “How can we be like the NFL?” because of its nonstop growing popularity and dominance in ratings.
The more we adopt this ideology in several aspects of the sport, the worse off the sport is. NASCAR has a much better chance of thriving and reliving its “glory days” if it is as unique as possible. I highly doubt very many people fell in love with the sport because of characteristics that mimic stick-and-ball sports.
All in all, I’m just sick of anybody comparing NASCAR to other sports when determining ideologies for its future. It’s nonsense and will prove to be toxic to the sport’s long-term growth and survival. NASCAR needs to be NASCAR. Period.
In the video, I dive much more into the specifics of Jeff’s comments; the idea of fans gravitating towards teams over drivers.