Having conquered the South, sport wants younger, international fan base
By Laura Higley
Eoin Cassin, a Flagler College freshman from Ireland, doesn’t find NASCAR to be as challenging and elite as other forms of racing and according to a recent study, that doesn’t sit well with NASCAR.
According to Business Week, NASCAR wants to try to expand its audience to reach a larger international and Hispanic population.
“European race fans don’t see NASCAR as a cutting edge, high-tech sport. It carries the image of being red neck and country, lacking the excitement of other series,” Cassin said. “I mean, most of the time, all they do is turn left. Formula One racing, for instance, demands more from your body physically and boasts some of the most skilled drivers in the world.”
NASCAR boasts 75 million fans in the United States. Even with its large following, there has always been a debate as to whether NASCAR is actually a sport, and often it gets little respect.
“Honestly, NASCAR can sometimes be boring, because most of the time it’s just cars going in circles. It doesn’t have the constant action that people find in football or basketball,” said Darrell Smith, producer for MRN Radio. “People want to be entertained and things like wrecks add spice to the sport.”
This seems to be a common complaint. NASCAR is just a bunch of cars going in circles and requires no talent.
“I don’t really like NASCAR. I enjoy cars that can turn right as well as left,” said Grant Hansen, a Flagler College sophomore. “The only part I like about races is the crashes.”
Audiences find that NASCAR races involving no caution flags or crashes are quite simply boring.
“In Formula One racing, fans don’t go for the wrecks. Unlike in America, wrecks in Formula One still scare the fans; they aren’t entertainment,” said Cassin. “In IRL and NASCAR, dying in racing almost seems acceptable. The extreme measures made in Europe to improve racing safety far exceed that of American racing.”
Since Dale Earnhardt’s death in 2001, NASCAR has made efforts to increase safety through the HANS device and safer barriers, but still lags behind European technological advances in this area.
“We as Americans love fast cars, loud noises, big engines, competition, big crashes and the social feeling of unity with other fans and our favorite drivers,” said Daniel Brady, a Flagler College junior.
Despite that, Brady said NASCAR isn’t a true sport. Fans argue that NASCAR has the same components of any other sport.
“NASCAR is a sport, because it takes skill and strategy to develop a winning team,” said Ryan Freel, a Flagler College junior. “Drivers put themselves in harm’s way to get one thing accomplished, to win the race.”
According to Business Week, NASCAR is also trying to target a younger, more hip demographic. With ESPN now on board with NASCAR, the lagging viewers in the 16-34 age demographic will hopefully increase. Through a flashy new Web site layout and fresh marketable drivers, NASCAR has shifted its focus to its most skeptical audience.
“I think young people are more inclined to watch sports related to college, like football and basketball,” said Cori Brown, a Flagler College sophomore.
“NASCAR is exciting, but I think a lot of people our age don’t realize it.”
The predominant demographic for NASCAR is middle aged, white male, but the sport has looked for ways to expand their audience. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, NASCAR has raised its number of “kiddie” fans, ages 11 to 15, by 54 percent in the past five years. Unless they have actually been to a NASCAR race, people tend to believe the stereotypes that overrun the sport.
“I had always thought NASCAR was just a bunch of cars driving around in circles; it seemed like a waste,” said Brown. “But then, I went to the Orbitz 300, and I found out how exciting it was. Being in the pits and the garages was really cool. I had a lot of fun meeting people too, everyone is so friendly.”
Barney Hall, an anchor announcer for MRN for the past 49 years, said that people don’t give NASCAR a chance.
“If the people that don’t like NASCAR would come to one race, I think that 50 percent of them would become fans,” said Hall. “It’s a whole experience.”
“Feeling the force and sounds as the cars whip around the curves is a thrill like no other,” said Brandon Collins, a Flagler College junior. “If you ever go, it’s like being at the Super Bowl every Sunday.”