The study, from the pro-market think tank Public Notice and Race Fans 4 Freedom, finds that the economic downturn of the last several years has directly affected how NASCAR fans watch and enjoy their sport. Since 2009, race attendance per year has fallen below 4 million people, and the number has been declining severely as the unemployment rate has skyrocketed. The cost of attending—with higher gas prices, less disposable income, and diminished financial security—has increased.
According to the study, the value of the sport, too, is threatened by the poor economy, with the stock prices of racing team companies plummeting in the last five years and sponsors pulling back on funding cars. “The days of $25 million sponsorship deals appears to be over for the time being, sending teams scrambling for support," the study reads. The result is a less competitive field with fewer racers.
“At the end of the day, these numbers really hit NASCAR fans’ quality of life," says Liz Dyar, the founder of Race Fans 4 Freedom. Dyar adds that with nearly 75 million fans across the country, the NASCAR nation is a “great snapshot" of the country as a whole—and that with plenty of those fans in swing states like Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, their views on the economy could impact the election. Dyar says her organization’s goal is to fill the stands of every racetrack for every race while making sure NASCAR fans understand how the larger economy affect the sport they all love.