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Season Review after 8 Races

Posted by chadmusselman on April 22, 2008

Gripes about the Schedule
We’re only 8 races into the season, and the Sprint Cup Series has already taken 2 weeks off. They only have three more races before their next non-points weekend (May 17th), and then they have eight straight races without a week off (May 25th – July 12th). After their week off on July 20th they don’t take a break the rest of the season, meaning they race every weekend from July 27th until November 16th.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to space out the weeks off? At a minimum there should be a week off between the 26th and 27th race to give the teams a chance to catch their breath and prepare for the “Chase”. This is definitely something NASCAR should look into more closely and get smarter with.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Well, so far this season Dale Jr. is looking pretty good. If there were a Most Improved Driver award, I’d have to give it to Jr. for his performance so far this season. Last year at this time he was 15th in points. He now finds himself in 3rd, with 6 top-10 and 3 top-5 finishes.

In the season preview I said he needs to perform like an elite driver and show he’s ready to race like a champion. He’s done a good job of that so far. He hasn’t won a race yet, but he should break his two year drought soon. He’s been close, but hasn’t been able to get a W. If he wants to stay atop the list of serious contenders he’ll need to get more than one win this season, which he could easily do after the first one comes. If it doesn’t happen this season and/or next season he’ll be in danger of becoming “Dale Earnhardt’s son”. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not what a champion would be called.

Attendance
Attendance has been a mixed bag so far this year. The races held in “destination” towns, like Las Vegas, have fared pretty good and have either sold out, or came close to it. Other races, like Martinsville, struggled to fill the seats. The race promoters are learning that they just can’t say they have NASCAR and sell $100 tickets anymore. They need to offer more to the fans. People want more reasons to visit a town. Gas prices no doubt have an effect on attendance. NASCAR fans like to have fun, and bring their big, gas guzzling, RVs to the races and party for 3 days and nights before the races. Now that gas is up to $3.60 or more per gallon it’s costing people hundreds of dollars to get to their favorite tracks, which few can afford. Hopefully some better promotions and add-on attractions to compliment the race will be more of the norm in the future to help bring fans back to the tracks. And of course, hopefully the economy gets better so more people can afford the race experience. I know from first hand experience that it’s a blast. It’s hard to beat the atmosphere of NASCAR weekend at a track.

Ratings
Ratings for NASCAR started out great for the first 4 races.
· Daytona drew slightly more viewers (175,000 more) than last year, although not as many as 2006.
· The rain delay coverage of California on Sunday night drew 10.9 Million viewers. That either says NASCAR could be real popular in Sunday night prime time or that there is absolutely nothing on Sunday nights. I’ll let you decide.
· The viewership of Las Vegas was way up. 12.4 Million people watched the race, which is 1.4 Million more than last year.
· Atlanta drew a 5.6 rating, which equates to 9.8 Million viewers; 700,000 more than last year.
· After that, the ratings dropped. Bristol, Martinsville, and Texas all had worse rating than last year. Phoenix matched its ratings from last year.
Why the drop off? My guess is boring races. In the first four races there was an average of 30 lead changes, meaning there was quite a bit of side-by-side racing. In the last four races there was an average of only 15.8 lead changes. Not much side-by-side racing, and one driver dominated most of those races, making them almost unwatchable.

Let’s hope the teams figure out this new car soon so we can get back to watching some good racing.

More notes and observations are on the way, so keep an eye out. Until then, leave a comment and give everyone your opinion.

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