NASCAR Wins a Ratings Battle, Still Waging War

By Noah Davis 

NASCAR posted a decent showing on Saturday night, helping Fox win the weekend. The Spring Budweiser Shootout won its timeslot in all four 30-minute blocks, beating repeats of CSI, Wipeout, NCIS, and whatever else ABC, CBS, and NBC threw out there.

So that’s the good news. Now for some bad.

The sport has an identity problem. According to The New York Times, it doesn’t have a polarizing figure.


That may be at the heart of what ails Nascar today. In 10 years, no one has been able to replace what [Dale] Earnhardt brought to the sport. As Nascar enters the season-opening Daytona 500 on Sunday after another year of dipping television ratings and faltering attendance, some point to the loss of Earnhardt, even now, as the reason for the decline in interest.

But isn’t this all a little ridiculous?There are potential stars. What about Jeff Gordon? He has certainly been portrayed as a villain by some, and a hero to many others. Jimmie Johnson is kicking butt and taking names, although the fans can’t connect with him. Dale Earnhart Jr. is popular, but he’s not that good.

So the doom and gloom continues, despite considerable effort from ESPN, ABC, and Fox.

“I think we’re just beginning to feel the impact of his death,” Eddie Gossage, the president of Texas Motor Speedway and one of the top promoters in motor sports, tells the Times.

But turn that around a bit. Maybe the obsession with No. 3 is the cause of what’s holding back the sport. Just a thought.