“They just drive around in circles.” I've heard this so many times from people when I explain how much I love to watch Racing. It is inevitable. The fact of the matter is that they do indeed drive around circles, to an extent...
Motorsports are in a decline. There was a day when it was cool to like racing. Now it seems as if I have to defend my love of racing any time the topic is brought up.
As a child, my Dad took me to the pinnacle of motor-sports every year; the Indianapolis 500. The crowds were awe inspiring, the atmosphere was intoxicating, the sights and smells were magic to a small kid like myself. In 1994, NASCAR began racing at Indy and I was able to experience that for the first time as well. I was instantly hooked to those big V8 beasts for many years following. In 2000, Formula One came to Indy, although this was completely foreign to myself and many people in attendance I still enjoyed the sights and sounds from the infield but had no clue who any of the drivers were. For some reason, my love for Racing only strengthened after that.
I was born in '86. The 70's, 80's and early 90's were the years of peak interest for racing in the United States. Some may argue that NASCAR was the most popular in the early 2000s and I really couldn't argue with that given the massive television coverage and advertising at that time.
So what's the point of this article? Racing is dying and here are a few reasons why.
1. HD TV.
High definition television came out around 2005ish. This is when I started to notice slightly smaller crowds at these massive races. My dad would record races on VHS and we would watch them occasionally in glorious standard definition. Quality of course was poor, the cars were often a little colored blob on screen. Now you can see almost everything with HD broadcast on a big screen 4k tv so why go to a race? I have it on screen...with my pants off.
There is so much out there in the internet to watch....like literally a million lifetimes of material to just binge through. There are weekends when I don't have any plans and don't have to work where I find myself so busy just vegetating watching YouTube. 30 years ago a racing event would be the only thing happening for hundreds of miles, people with nothing going on literally had nothing better to do than drive to a nearby Indycar or NASCAR event. Attention spans are also at an all time low thanks to Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook. (Oh hey Football is on!)
3. Competition Yellows
I'm calling out NASCAR here but Indycar has recently been guilty of this as well. People who like competition yellows are not real racing fans, if they were a real racing fan they would understand that a competition yellow negates the actual “racing” from the race. If you aren't sure what a competition yellow is, let me explain. When the cars separate from each other over the course of several laps this produces slightly less exciting material (less passes, etc) so NASCAR will throw a caution flag to bunch everyone back up so that the fans can watch more re-starts...and re-starts breed crashes. People love crashes, but this is not real racing.
Holy Crap the ads! Of course ads have been around since the dawn of television but it's just so over the top today. Drivers can't get a ride without a sponsor anymore. Many years ago you would see cars on track without any decals, racing in a major event...no sponsors, just a small team with local mechanics who built their own car. Look at Danica Patrick, one of the most popular names in the US racing scene is struggling to receive any sponsorship deals and runs the risk of losing out on next season entirely. Is it all her fault? Maybe, she hasn't won a race in NASCAR yet and consistently churns out mediocre performances but there are many other drivers who are just as mediocre and still have sponsorship deals. *Cough Dave Blaney Cough* Also, watching a race is almost like watching a 4 hour commercial. (I know Dave Blaney no longer drives but the dude drove over 15 years without a win, over 400 races bro!)
I love racing. I obviously want it to succeed. Unfortunately, motor sport in America needs these four things that I have mentioned to survive. Racing needs HD TV, it needs the Internet and advertisements even stinking competition yellows. The money is no longer coming from attendance. Indycar, NASCAR, NHRA and Formula One make most of their money from TV deals. They don't have to put butts in the seats anymore, that much is clear but just how empty do the stands have to become before they start letting people in for free.
So that's it for my rambling on what I love the most slowly crumbling away into a sea of obscurity. At least I still have the Bengals to cheer for...damn it.