NASCAR, we have a problem
When the green flag waved to start the Daytona 500 in February, marking the beginning of the Nascar Sprint Cup season, not a single rookie driver was in the 43-car field. The last time that happened?
The Nascar rookie class of 2010 is virtually nonexistent, except for the unheralded, unrookie-like Kevin Conway, 31. Heading into Sunday’s race in Indianapolis, he is 35th in points driving for a small team that struggles to keep up with the multicar juggernauts of the sport.
Conway has no competition for the rookie of the year title. That is in part because Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski, the most prominent first-year driver, is ineligible for rookie honors because he raced a partial schedule in 2009. But it is also part of a trend, with fewer competitive young drivers making an impact in recent years. The last time a high-profile team failed to produce a rookie of the year candidate was before the rise of megateams in the mid- to late 1990s.
It is perhaps a troubling precedent for Nascar, because it coincides with a decline in ratings in the all-important young male demographic. David Hill, the Fox Sports chairman and chief executive, recently said ratings among men 18 to 34 were down 29 percent from last year on Fox.
“The biggest problem facing Nascar is that the young males have left the sport,” Hill told The SportsBusiness Journal in May after Fox’s 13-race schedule had been completed.
The timing of that exodus may not be a coincidence.
“Cultivating the next generation of fans is something that every league has to be worried about all the time, and to do that is to obviously have younger drivers that young fans can relate to,” said David Carter, the executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California. “In a sport that’s dominated by so many standard bearers, maybe it’s difficult to get young fans excited about anybody, especially some of these drivers that are twice their age.”
There are only three drivers under 30 in the Cup series top 20 in points and one of those, Denny Hamlin, will be 30 in November. That will make Kyle Busch, 25, and Joey Logano, 20, the lone top 20-somethings. More at NY Times
[Editor's Note: NASCAR has only themselves to blame. They keep the feeble Truck and Nationwide Series alive by allowing Cup drivers to win every race. There is no chance for a young driver to make it to the top today when each week they are made to look like wankers. It's a bit of a catch 22 really. If NASCAR banned Cup drivers from both series they would simply wilt away and die and there would be no place for the upcoming drivers to race. This is also an example of what the IRL is facing when trying to stay alive - Voodoo Economics - when NASCAR sucks the advertising market dry with its four series grabbing all the money on the backs of its popular Cup Series.]