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NASCAR Execs Preach Patience, Contest Dwindling Ratings & Attendance

By Michael Guzman, Contributing Writer

Homestead, FL – NASCAR’s annual state of the sport featured Chairman and CEO Brian France alongside President Brent Dewar preached patience and offered optimism, but suggested there will not be drastic changes to the sport as the sanctioning body fights stagnation in regards to attendance and TV ratings.

“Attendance is up at many, many events, I think its 20 something events, 22 or 23,” France said, objecting to ESPN’s Bob Pockrass and his assessment of the season thus far. “And consumption has changed for everybody, so that’s not accurate either…”

Revenues from ISC’s and SMI’s publicly available third quarter financial data contradicted the NASCAR Chairman.

France also objected to those saying that Matt Kenseth’s withdrawal from the sport next season was emblematic of bigger sponsorship issues currently plaguing the sport and its teams.

“Matt has had a long 20-year plus career. That’s unthinkable in most sports, and he’s performed at a high level. We’ll wish him well, but he may be back, too. He’ll have to get the right opportunity for him. And the rest of it is a performance sport. If it’s difficult for anybody — this is not picking on any one driver, but if you’re not performing at a high level, it will be difficult for any driver to stay in this sport.”

Kenseth, 45, has won 15 of his career 39 races since moving to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013. He has posted no less than eight top-five finishes during that stretch, and finished outside the top-10 in points just once (2015). His average finish over the last five years entering the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway is 13.6, better than his career average overall.

Regarding race lengths, Dewar stated that NASCAR has conducted extensive research and determined that there is a nearly even split between fans regarding how long races should be. Any changes, he added, would need time to be implemented due to agreements with tracks and broadcast partners.

“One third of them like (race distances) exactly the length they are, one third want them to be longer, and one third want them to be shorter.”

Nearly one year into a title sponsorship agreement with Monster Energy, France and company continue to stress that the past few seasons have been about stabilizing the sport so that ideally in a few years the perception of NASCAR can be skewed toward a younger demographic.

This includes not only the on-track product, but what goes on behind the scenes to ensure drivers can secure sponsorship money in order to bring both eyeballs and revenue back to the sport. The open secret that the business end of the sanctioning body has pointed potential sponsors toward certain tracks or teams became more prevalent earlier this season as Bubba Wallace worked his way into Richard Petty’s no. 43 car.

Dewar, for his part, is not concerned with the free market implications of NASCAR funneling potential sponsorship dollars toward its teams, saying the relationships built between potential sponsors and the sanctioning body benefits all parties equally.

“When we go to market looking for official partners, in many cases when we get to know them better, we realize the best delivery might be a track asset and we may direct them to the track. In some cases it’s for the team and we’ll try to direct them to the team. We don’t try to guide it to one specific team, but there are things that deliver, and try to find that right match and execution…

“Revenue cannot sit on one side, it’s got to be disbursed with the teams on the track. So we do, we help on that.”

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