May 28, 2012
By Matthew Pizzolato
It wasn't that long ago that tickets to a NASCAR race were very difficult to acquire.
Anyone that wanted to go to Bristol Motor Speedway had to either know someone with tickets that couldn't attend that weekend or else wait several years. NASCAR used to sell out at just about every track on the schedule.
Now, grandstands everywhere on the circuit are full of empty seats. Of course, the poor economy is largely to blame. People can no longer afford the expense of traveling to the racetracks. But on the other hand, has NASCAR oversaturated its market with a 36 race schedule that consumes 11 months of the year?
With the plethora of empty seats, it's obvious there is a larger supply of tickets than there is a demand. The logical answer to fix the problem is to decrease the supply of tickets by eliminating some events.
NASCAR's season is by far the longest of any major sport. Even open wheel racing doesn't not have as lengthy a season or run as many races as NASCAR. The Formula 1 season stretches from March to November yet only consists of 20 races because they don't race every single weekend and they don't race but once at each track they go to.
The easiest way to shorten NASCAR's schedule would be to race at each track on the circuit once a season. Since the Sprint Cup Series visits 23 different tracks during the year, doing so would shorten the season by one-third.
Is that likely to happen anytime soon? Probably not, at least Dale Earnhardt Jr., doesn't think so.
"I would think that shortening up the schedule is probably the last thing I would expect to happen. I can imagine a lot of crazy things happening before that would. There’s just too much money involved," Earnhardt was quoted as saying in a press conference this weekend at Dover International Speedway.
"There’s too much money moving around and changing hands for a half of dozen dates to be cut from the schedule. The impact on the economy in those areas per race that would be removed, the politics are too thick for anything like that to ever occur."
Of course, some tracks like Daytona warrant racing at twice a year. Bristol used to be one of those tracks, but why should the circuit continue going there twice a year if the track can't sell out one event?
There's just not as much demand for a NASCAR ticket as there used to be. There's no doubt the season is entirely too long and the only logical solution is to remove a few races. Perhaps NASCAR officials should look at the NFL season.
"I do know that there isn’t enough demand at the current time, and the model that the NFL uses is a pretty productive model. They seem to have it about right," Dale Earnhardt Jr., was quoted as saying. "When you’re a football fan you can’t wait for the season to start and it seems like an eternity before it does, and when it’s here it’s gone just as fast and you can’t wait for the next one."
NASCAR will never be able to pare the season down to the length of an NFL season, but they should look at the football season as proof that shorter is better.
"I think that shortening the season would be a good thing, and would definitely sort of change some things for the better," Earnhardt said. "But, I just don’t think that is even a possibility, more of a daydream than anything else. It will never be a reality I don’t believe."
If you would like to learn more about Matthew, please check out his web site at matthew-pizzolato.com.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.