Overnight ratings are in for Vegas, and they are off 7% from last year, a very similar number to the amount that the California race was off 2 weeks ago.
Why? Two of the dullest races, back to back with a week off in between. It is hard to maintain interest when you have a week off so early in the season, and the two races themselves were total snoozefest that not even the most dedicated fan could find much fun in. You could have watched the first 10 laps and the last 10 laps of Vegas and gotten about 99% of the excitement and joy that came in about 3.5 hours of broadcasting.
The week off thing really confuses me as well. Drivers bitch and moan and complain about no time off after July… but there we are, 3rd week of the season, already taking a break. Most of the off weekends are piled up in the first half of the season, and that really hurts. Changing the schedule to have two western races with a week off in between really takes away from the whole deal as well. On top of which, the weather in Vegas was really quite poor this year, and it often is questionable in the winter / early spring period.
I know there are only a few tracks on the circuit that could handle a race after Daytona, but that is more an issue of economics than anything. Rockingham use to be the traditional “after daytona” race. It is a smaller and more entertaining track, but had suffered occassional issues because of bad weather. I looked at the 2000 and 2001 schedules, and it was bang bang bang sex races in a row to start the season, on a variety of tracks (Daytona, The Rock, Vegas, and Atlanta… then Darlington and Bristol). Now the first four races are all on tracks 1.5 mile or greater, and it isn’t until race #5 that we get something other than aero and drafting.
At the end od the day, I don’t know the answer, I don’t have a clear idea how to fix it. With so many cookie cutter tracks on the schedule, it is pretty much impossible to make it as interesting as it once was. Trading out race dates at places like Winston-Salem, North Wilkesboro, Rockingham, and such, and replacing them with 1.5mile D shaped ovals sprinkled all over the US has taken away much of the character and nature of the series, and replaced it with a sort of generic “race of the week” look that to me just looks like the same track with a different name painted on the wall and a different background on the wide shots. Otherwise, it is the same old same old, playing into the hands of the teams with the most money for development of downforce and plate race cars, and less reward for the good drivers that tend to flourish on the slightly tighter or more skill oriented tracks.
A 7% haircut on viewership isn’t going to be enough to make things change, but I think that NASCAR will see as the season goes on that certain races (like, say Bristol) will bring in the crowd AND the viewers, and snoozefest 1.5 mile tracks will continue to sell decent tickets (as the only NASCAR race in a region for a whole year) but the fans will turn the noses and remotes up at this somonex on wheels, and they will find better things to do.
Wake up NASCAR… The “new” fans out west are not turning up like you wanted (California race wasn’t even near a sell out again), meanwhile Interesting, fun, and challenging tracks from the history of the sport sit idle, spoiling in the sun.
Free North Wilkesboro 🙂