More is changing than rides in 2019. Frankly, it has to. The path that NASCAR has been on the last several years has needed changing, in no small part due to economics. Auto racing, as presented by this governing body, can go on, but not like it did before.
Not only are fans not fighting for tickets at Bristol like they did at one time, corporations are nowhere near as willing to put up the kind of money they once were for their slice of NASCAR pie. Old Ben Franklin’s adage has proven true, that “necessity is the mother of invention.” When value exceeds cost, fans will come to watch races, and sponsors will want to see their logos on hoods.
NASCAR president Steve Phelps says developments are past the talking stage. In a recent phone interview, he says a tiered sponsorship model is rolling out. It has the sound of what I used to do in my advertising days as an offering of “gold, silver or bronze” options. Quite simply, the more you spend, the more you get. Instead of looking to one to foot the bill, many shoulder the load. If you think about it, it’s not a bad idea. The loss of one sponsor is not as painful as it used to be. Change is inevitable; just ask Hendrick Motorsports about Lowe’s. At least now where NASCAR is concerned, you’re not having to go out and ask one huge company for one huge investment.
There are also rumblings that Boston Red Sox owner John Henry has an interest in a share of NASCAR. As many long time fans know, he put the “Fenway” in Roush Fenway Racing. If this comes to fruition, it will be good for NASCAR. For too long, there’s been that feeling that too much of the sport is tied up in one family. Now, if someone in said family is not up to the task of leading the sport alone, there’s someone else with skin in the game; hopefully someone with enough smarts to help steer clear of bad ideas and bring good ones to the table. If a guy is worth $2.5 billion, and got there via commodities trading, and then he owns not one, but two legendary sports franchises (Henry also owns Liverpool FC in the Premier League), you’ve got to think the man has a good head on his shoulders.
What the fans really want to know is if the racing is going to get better. When speaking of value, the racing, the reason for being there at the track has to deliver. In the aforementioned interview, Phelps says the new racing package is based loosely on that used at last year’s all-star race. We’re talking a larger rear spoiler and air ducts in the front bumper that create more turbulence. I’ve never pretended to be an automotive engineer, but my take on the car has always been that NASCAR hasn’t failed, they’ve just found a thousand ways that don’t work.
We can sit and pine for the days of yore until the cows come home. Newflash: those days are gone. Like many of you, I don’t have that same evangelistic fervor with NASCAR as I once did. I still follow. I am hopeful the love can be rekindled.