NASCAR has a relentless unwillingness to deal with one major issue: oversaturation. The NASCAR schedule is killing what's left of the high-flying golden goose that for a brief moment in time was NASCAR in the early to mid-2000s. The TV networks haven't helped because by signing new deals with NASCAR the powers that be in Daytona Beach think they're actually doing "just fine," as Brian France always says, when in reality they are a fair piece away from being "fine." (The TV deal was the result of one driving force: the networks insatiable desire for original content. If it wasn't for that, we might be looking at a very different media landscape for NASCAR at this juncture.)
Oversaturation is the Bad News slowly but surely weaving its tentacles in and around NASCAR, tightening its grip on everything they do. For instance oversaturation leads to the embarrassing in-person attendance at last Saturday's night's Richmond show. What's behind the lagging in-person attendance at NASCAR races? It is because the mind-numbing oversaturation has deleted the specialness about NASCAR to the fans over time. As in, if you don't feel like making the effort to attend a race, wait until next week and go to another one. Oh wait a minute, you can just watch it on TV, why bother making the effort, right?
Oversaturation is a plague for all sports leagues, hell, even the NFL is worried about it even though their in-person attendance is still right around 85 percent. But then again the NFL is by far the savviest sports entity in this country, and visionary thinking is never in short supply. NASCAR? Well, it depends on the day and it also depends on who you're talking to. Yes, some of its leadership is relentlessly clueless but there are very smart people engaged on NASCAR's behalf as well. The problem is translating the bright thinking into meaningful change for the sport, while leaving the cluelessness at the side of the road.
There is one thing that NASCAR can do to fight off oversaturation, and that is to take an axe to one of the most tedious schedules in all of sport, one easily as tedious as the NHL and the NBA. But that requires everyone – the teams, drivers, sponsors, track owners and promoters – to basically take 25 percent financial haircuts and start over. If the NASCAR schedule was compressed and reduced, maybe you wouldn't see front line teams scrambling to fill sponsorship voids at this point in the season.
The bottom line is that the NASCAR schedule is too frickin' long. Too many races and too many repeat visits to the same tracks doesn't lead to continued success, it leads to oversaturation and fan ennui. And it's the one thing that is killing NASCAR to the point that if they don't do something about it they might just find themselves falling back to becoming a regional sport again.
(For the record, here is my take – below – on a radically revamped NASCAR schedule. The new proposed schedule would have 26 total races, including the addition of two more road races.)
February – The Daytona 500 (however the Sprint Unlimited and the Twin qualifying races are deleted)
February – Phoenix (once on the schedule)
March – Las Vegas (once on the schedule)
March – California (the Bristol daytime race is deleted)
April – Martinsville
April – Texas (Kansas and Richmond spring races are deleted)
May – Darlington (Talladega spring race is deleted)
May – Charlotte (although all the support races are deleted)
June – Dover (once on the schedule)
June – Pocono (once on the schedule)
June – Michigan (once on the schedule)
June – Sears Point
July – Daytona
July – New Hampshire (once on the schedule)
July – Indianapolis
August – Watkins Glen
August – Kansas
August – Bristol (night weekend)
September – Atlanta
September – Elkhart Lake (Road America)
September – Richmond
October – Martinsville
October – Braselton (Road Atlanta)
October – Texas
November – Talladega
November – Charlotte Full story at Autoextremist