Attendance and TV ratings have declined in recent years for the Brickyard 400.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its annual trip to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend for the 18th running of the Brickyard 400.
While the event is still regarded as the second biggest race of the NASCAR season behind the Daytona 500, it seems that the popularity of the race among fans has reached an all-time low.
Back in May, the Associated Press reported that ticket sales for the race were down from last year’s event where only 140,000 people, almost a 50% decrease from 2007 where an estimated 270,000 fans showed up for that year’s race.
There was also a 13 percent decrease in the television ratings from the 2009 Brickyard 400 to last year’s race, which was both telecasted on ESPN.
So, what is the reason for this precipitous decline in the interest of the Brickyard 400?
Some blame the economic downturn and high gas prices, while others have suggested Indianapolis has to fight with tracks such as Chicago, Kentucky, and Kansas to get Midwestern fans to come out to the track.
But the most likely reason for NASCAR’s problem at the Brickyard is what happened in the 2008 race.
That was the first time that NASCAR raced the Car of Tomorrow at the speedway and the results proved to be disastrous. The combination of the new car and the abrasive pavement caused the rear tires to explode after several laps of racing. Read the rest of this entry →
Few sports legends are remembered as fondly within the annals of their sport as the King of NASCAR, Richard Petty, who was born 74 years ago today.
As the first crossover superstar of the sport, Petty became a household name to people who had never seen an auto race through a variety of television commercials that began in the 1970s and continue today.
On the track, Petty had no equal as he won a record 200 races and is one of only two drivers (Dale Earnhardt being the other) to win seven NASCAR season championships.
He was the NASCAR Rookie of the Year in 1959 and won his first race the following year. He would win at least one race for 18 consecutive years and claimed his final trip to victory lane in the Firecracker 500 on July 4th 1984.
Petty won a record 27 races (races of 250 miles or less counted on the NASCAR schedule until 1972) in 1967, including 10 victories in a row. He won the Daytona 500 seven times and finished in the top 10 in races 712 times during his career.
After retiring following the 1992 season, Petty served as a team owner and has been involved in many other endeavors, including running for North Carolina Secretary of State in 1996.
He was introduced to an entirely new generation of fans thanks to the 2006 move Cars, where the number 43 car was known as “The King” and Petty served as the voice.
He was among the initial inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010. His father, Lee Petty, was inducted the following year.
Ten years after his death, Dale Earnhardt is still casting a shadow over NASCAR.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the darkest day in NASCAR history, the death of Dale Earnhardt in a crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500.
“The Intimidator” is considered by many as the greatest NASCAR driver of all time as won 76 races and seven season championships, a record he shares with “The King” (Richard Petty), in his illustrious career.
Earnhardt’s death sent shockwaves throughout the sports world as the biggest star of the nation’s fastest growing sport was suddenly gone.
While they have been numerous safety advances in the decade since his death, there has been no driver that has captured the imagination of NASCAR fans throughout the world like the way Earnhardt and his famous #3 black Goodwrench Service Chevrolet did.
With their beloved icon no longer on the race track, the many fans of the “Man in Black” had to find a new favorite driver to root for.
The most logical choice was Earnhardt’s son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who drove for his father’s racing team, Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet. Read the rest of this entry →
Jimmie Johnson's victory in the Auto Club 500 is just a reminder of his dominance.
The victory by four-time defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson in the second race of the season is an early reminder to the other drivers in NASCAR that this is Johnson’s sport and he is simply letting everyone else round out the field.
After struggling in the season opener at Daytona, you knew Johnson would be looking for a strong showing in his home state of California. His victory was his second straight at Fontana and fourth in the last six races there.
Now the drivers head to Las Vegas where Johnson won three straight times between 2005 and 2007, but has struggled with disappointing finishes the last two years (29th in 2008, 24th in 2009). Given his competitive nature, watch for Johnson to again be near the front at the end of the race on Sunday.
Johnson’s dominance of the sport has come at a time when NASCAR is struggling to maintain the growth in the fan base that has occurred over the past decade.
Because Johnson is not the typical car-loving, spend all day under the hood guy from the Southeast that has historically been your prototype for a NASCAR driver, he and fellow Californian Jeff Gordon have been given some of the credit for bringing people outside of the core fan base into racing. Read the rest of this entry →
The end of the 1979 Daytona 500 was must see television.
Sunday’s 52nd running of the Daytona 500 is sure to be full of thrills and excitement, but it will have a hard time topping the “battle” that occurred 31 years ago.
The hot-tempered drivers of today have nothing on old-time drivers Donnie Allison, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough as 31 years ago the trio came to blows on the infield after Yarborough and Donnie Allison crashed on the final lap of the 500 mile race.
With Allison clinging to the lead, the two cars tangled in the final turns and both men soon found their cars off the track and stopped in the infield. They were helpless as Richard Petty held off Darrell Waltrip and A.J. Foyt to claim the sixth of his record seven Daytona 500 titles.
As Petty celebrated, the CBS cameras quickly turned back to Donnie Allison and Yarborough, who had both gotten out of their cars and were jawing in the infield. Donnie’s brother Bobby soon joined the duo and his arrival helped escalate the war of words into an actual physical battle.
Which Are You More Likely To Watch?
Winter Olympics (60%, 9 Votes)
Daytona 500 (27%, 4 Votes)
NBA All Star Game (13%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 15
Of course the tradition of temper displays by NASCAR drivers is alive and well as recent battles between Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick as well as Kurt Busch versus Tony Stewart illustrate.
No doubt the racing on the track will be exciting on Sunday, but let’s see if tempers off the track come close to reaching those experienced 31 years ago.
In honor of women’s history month, we recognize as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month a woman who not only was the first woman to successfully swim the English Channel, but swam the channel faster than any person (man or woman) had done to that point in history.
Having proven her swimming ability while winning one gold and two bronze medals during the 1924 Summer Olympics, American Gertrude Ederle swam the challenging English Channel faster than any human previously when she swam from France to England in a time of 14 hours and 39 minutes on August 6, 1926.