Why Does NASCAR Cake Taste Bad?

Why Does NASCAR Cake Taste Bad?

Tuesday, 09 May 2017
Mike Harper - SOZ

It happens all of the time to bakeries and restaurants – they start off small and the baked goods or food taste out of this world. As they grow in popularity they are forced to make changes to meet the demand and somewhere down the road a decision is made to change the business model or hire new management. Sadly their focus gets shifted away from the product and that once out of this world tasting cake is no longer a must have. I’m sure you’ve seen this happen with businesses in your area.

This has also happened to NASCAR.

I tend look at the world of NASCAR beyond the race each Sunday – because in reality the race is simply a piece of cake. In the past it tasted great and everyone wanted a piece. Today, because we are such fans of cake, even a bad piece of cake beats no cake at all. But for me, I want to know how the darn cake is made…the ingredients are important to me especially if some corporate stiff has come in and changed grandma’s recipe.

As members of the media it is our job to look at the ingredients, the baker or the kitchen used to make the cake – to verify the baker is qualified and to ensure slime isn’t in the kitchen. I remember a time when the NASCAR media not only reported on the good things, but worked hard to keep NASCAR honest and protected the integrity of the sport. NASCAR, in their current version, is a controlled sport with little oversight – and when someone comes across a bad tasting piece of cake, NASCAR or their media simply provides us with a tall glass of milk and forces us to drink it, ultimately washing the bad taste away.

The only problem with that is…I’m lactose intolerant.

We sometimes forget NASCAR is a business with millions of dollars at stake. They do a very good job staying under the radar – away from nosy sports journalists (from outside of NASCAR) who are interested in deeper stories. It is also a sport very political and calculated. Sadly, I believe several management decisions on competition and political actions have completely overhauled the sport’s landscape. These miscalculations have caused fan abandonment and the sport is still suffering the consequences.

The proof is in the cake batter (or pudding) – just look at the television ratings and the number of fans in the stands. Many NASCAR insiders want you and me to continue to drink the milk…and want us to ignore the ratings. They insist the sport is doing just fine because fans are watching over multiple platforms. I truly want to believe them, but this is the same group of insiders who told us Juan Pablo Montoya would bring to NASCAR a large international fan base, Travis Pastrana would bring the action sports crowd, Ricky Carmichael would bring his fan base and Danica Patrick would attract IndyCar fans, youth and female fans. If all of this were true NASCAR would be extremely popular and not having challenges attracting new fans…or fan retention issues.

If you have been interested in NASCAR’s decline in popularity then I am sure you have seen the theories on why it is happening. Over the past several weeks I have thrown my hat into the ring with how I believe NASCAR and their paid media have chased traditional fans away. I stand by my opinions and I have been emboldened over the past few weeks from several media members outside of the sport. From FS1’s Jason Whitlock speaking about the degrading of sports society to ESPN’s Linda Cohn, detailing her thoughts on why ESPN is facing ratings challenges, it’s obvious the sports community is dealing with issues and NASCAR is one of the hardest hit. And until a popular NASCAR personality within the sport shines the light on the problems, NASCAR will continue to get smaller.

We recently saw big changes at ESPN. They announced the laying off 100 people including NASCAR favorites Alan Bestwick and Dr. Jerry Punch. According to a recent column published by the Sporting News, possible factors for ESPN’s move to reduce employees were expensive rights fees, subscriber losses and recent programming changes.

Linda Cohn, a popular ESPN ‘SportsCenter’ anchor believes the reasoning is much deeper than rights fees and programming changes. In the same column Cohn said, “I felt that the old-school viewers were put in a corner. And not appreciated with all these other changes. They [ESPN] forgot their core. You should never forget your core. And be grateful for your core group.”

Cohn also said, “But if anyone wants to ignore that fact, they’re blind.”

The same can be said about NASCAR. For anyone wanting to ignore that the core viewership in NASCAR are gone, they too are blind.

Who are the core viewers in NASCAR?

Based on many past reports NASCAR fans have been older, Republican (conservative) and male. No – not all fans fall into these demographics. But reports have shown NASCAR fans were over 50% conservative and recently we’ve seen reports stating NASCAR has lost 45% of their viewers. If this is the case, which I believe it is – the answer to NASCAR’s problems are solved. Like with ESPN, NASCAR has lost their core conservative old-school viewers.

I do not like speaking for others, but in general, I believe conservatives despise political correctness…and if you have been following NASCAR over the past 10 to 14 years, since Brian France has taken the reins of NASCAR, fans have been given a buffet of political correctness. The NASCAR media will not tell you this and the reason why is simple…they are the sellers of political correctness.

In sports, what would drive conservative viewers absolutely crazy?

The answer is…liberal America’s belief in participation trophies – basically getting a trophy for simply competing. Well, welcome to Brian France’s liberal NASCAR:

  • The adoption of the Chase and the introduction of the current playoff system has been a pain point for core viewers. NASCAR is the only professional sport where winners can lose the championship to someone who never won during the season or playoffs.
  • The top 35 rule was a guarantee for the top 35 teams in the standings to race every weekend. This NASCAR policy killed an important value to NASCAR’s core audience…that you should earn what you get and under free market principles everyone is able to compete. The top 35 rule changed the game by locking teams and drivers out of the sport and destroyed racing development as driver turnover was greatly decreased. Robin Pemberton, former NASCAR vice president of competition didn’t like the change. He said, “People want to see it go back to where speed gets you in. Performance and speed is what people want to see it takes to get you in a race.” Pemberton eventually left the sport – or was he pushed out?
  • The lucky dog rule or a free pass is where a race leader can work their rear end off and lap a top competitor, but then NASCAR can throw out a caution, which allows someone to “win” a lap back. Talk about a free give-a-way from the government.
  • The dreaded competition caution, which halts top performers to give non-performers a better chance to win. It’s a caution thrown when NASCAR wants to tighten the field. This has upset core fans and it has upset drivers – like Dale Earnhardt Jr., who calls them dishrag cautions. “It’s so crazy, man. You work you’re a** off, work you’re a** and those dumb yellows come out and it pisses you off. It makes busting you’re a** out there not worth, not any fun,” said Dale Jr.
  • Some believe removing the Confederate Flag from NASCAR events was simply a political correctness play by the NASCAR brass – to attract what seemed like a larger audience opportunity. Not sure it worked.
  • Al Gore had global warming and NASCAR had collectables. Thousands of NASCAR fans were caught up in the NASCAR memorabilia and souvenir market and ending up losing big dollars. How much is that $129 Dale Earnhardt Jr., die cast today? If you are lucky – 20 bucks. According to NASCAR media veteran John Close, “NASCAR memorabilia collectors have taken a direct financial hit. Thanks to an overproduced, massive glut of inventory, overinflated prices and now a soft economy, the NASCAR collectible market is a bust,” as Close documented in a 2010 column.
  • Many hardcore US manufacturer fans did not like the welcoming of Toyota into the sport – especially team owner, Jack Roush. Back in 2007 Roush said, “They will try to outspend everyone and place the rest of us in a catch-up scenario. They will upset the established equilibrium.” And Roush may have been correct since his team has struggled to win races. He also lost Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards to Toyota – or as Roush described, lost them to the “dark side.”
  • NASCAR Dads were greatly offended that Brian France voted for Barack Obama in 2008. France said, “I supported Obama. I went to his rallies. I parted with my hard-earned money. There was a movement going on, and I was really thrilled with the idea of the first African-American president.” France’s vote happened after an Obama supporter and a leading Democrat (chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson) attacked NASCAR fans by telling Democrats to get “immunized” before attending a race at Talladega. According to CNN, the politician advised to “get immunized against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria, and influenza before heading to the NASCAR event.” France did not defend his core viewers.
  • NASCAR’s desire to embrace Hollywood celebrities and the non-family friendly culture. Do I really need to explain?
  • While some policies and format aspects introduced to the fans were widely accepted and appreciated, other recent announcements have not moved the needle like the termination of driver merchandise haulers, team Charters, the 2017 playoff format, fan and driver counsels and giving the top 10 finishers points at the end of each stage.

Other critical circumstances and policies not related to political correctness did play a factor in the downward spiral in popularity – including the Car of Tomorrow. It was loved by NASCAR but hated by drivers and fans. Remember the wing? NASCAR bragged about the driver’s seats moving toward the center of the car, how much wider and longer the car was and how safe it would be. None of it mattered because the fans rejected the car – it looked nothing like a regular car on the street. Also drivers criticized the car and were ultimately fined.

Today’s NASCAR is addicted to chasing what is popular in society. Popular isn’t what the core viewership wanted – they wanted a simple race. They respected hard work and wanted to be respected. NASCAR forgot about respecting their core fans. They would rather force the fans to like what NASCAR insiders like and have their media feed a narrative that everything is great even though your eyes and the facts tell you differently.

The core group of NASCAR fans are gone. They have spoken with their pocket books and remote controls.  As stated above, I do not believe it’s 100% because of the product on the race track – NASCAR has thrown just about everything at the racing product and the ratings are still suffering. Rivalries, a bad guy and hard racing are some of the ingredients to get the sport back on the map with the previous core fans.

It’s time for NASCAR to pivot – and I believe they know it. Brian France standing beside Donald Trump may not have been popular within the NASCAR media circles, but I believe France realized the power of the action. It was a marketing move and an attempt to win back fans. We’re also hearing NASCAR may close down the big souvenir tent at the track and bring back the souvenir haulers, which was popular with the core fans.

Going back to an old recipe sometimes works for businesses trying to recapture success. And NASCAR may be able to bake that cake again, but to do so Brian France will need to put on his father’s apron and whip up a miracle. If he won’t then NASCAR should bring in a new baker.


Follow SOZ (nascarSOZ), get NO FOO FOO Opinions and WIN NASCAR STUFF at the new @TheThunderCrew

Want more SOZ? Check out his last column–> ARE NASCAR DRIVERS GOOD ROLE MODELS?

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author (SOZ) and does not necessarily reflect RaceTalkRadio.com or our advertisers.   


  1. Bill B says:

    Excellent article. I’m sure that list could have been doubled but you made your point.

    The root cause of both NASCAR’s issues (and the hypothetical bakery as well) is greed and money. Bad decisions are often made when a business’s focus is on maximizing money because at that point, your customers become rubes to herd to the trough instead of valued partners necessary for mutual success and satisfaction. Sure, we all hear the lip service from NASCAR but their actions tell a different story. They have sold their soul to television and corporate America both of which have no tolerance for political incorrectness. So naturally, NASCAR has become a reflection of those they serve.

    • Mike Harper says:

      Thanks Bill. Greed and money is true – and this is where we may see them pivot because I believe they are losing money. They would be in big trouble without that NBC money. Good comments – thanks again!

  2. Richard says:

    I wonder how much politics plays into the problems. I do not fall into any political category as I refused to stop thinking for myself and be labeled. That said, all I want on Sunday and from NASCAR is a race without bells and whistles. Everyone gets their points. At the end of the season the one with the most points wins. I completely quit watching NHRA after they went to playoffs. Why invest my time into something that becomes work to keep up with.

    Good article

    • Mike Harper says:

      HI Richard – thank you for reading. You are right! As I mentioned, all fans wanted was a simple race.

  3. jeffrey thomas says:

    Don’t forget kyle championship after missing 1/4 of the season.

  4. Phil says:

    Might be the dumbest article I’ll read all year. Go crawl back under your rock and let actual journalists do the work.

    • Mike Harper says:

      Hi Phil. I’m not a journalist. I get paid big bucks to give opinions. But thanks for reading.

  5. Russ says:

    While I agree that, in retrospect, these moves have had a negative effect what do you propose? Would you simply wipe away all of these changes and go back to say 1993(or whatever year is appropriate)? And if you did do you think it would reverse the decline? IMHO it won’t but its your idea.

    • Mike Harper says:

      Hi Russ – thanks for reading and for your questions. I don’t want to go back to 1993 and I’m not opposed to some of the format changes NASCAR made. I’m a believer in rewarding winners. I don’t mind the stage racing – but I feel they should only give the winner points. This is encourage hard racing – not 1 point to 10th. For playoffs – only winners advance. In the playoffs – only winners race for the championship in Miami. Pretty simple – but it would force them to win to move on. Just my opinion. Thanks again!

  6. Sander R.Taylor says:

    You’re right. But IMHO the principal problem is the race product:
    – Cars are horribly ugly, with no similarity with the cars that we see in the streets. Furthermore, Nascar cars are all the same, with stupid decals fooling people with showing the difference between a Ford with a Chevy and a Toyota.
    – Parallel to this, in search of an alleged parity, Nascar has become in a “spec” category…nothing farthest with “stock cars racing”… and the roots of the sport.
    – The damn Chase, stage racing, an untelligible point system that allows a driver to win the championship having lost 1/3 of the season.
    – “Debris” cautions, competition cautions, lucky dogs, wave arounds…all that are crap. Let the fricking cars race from the start to the finish. First in come is the winner. Period!
    – Too many 1,5 mile tracks in detriment of short tracks. All people hate that “cookie-cutter” and love lost places like Mansfield, North Wilkesboro, The Rock, Hickory and many more
    Best regards from Tigre, Argentina

  7. Gabby says:

    Yes Mike, mostly… The rest of the story includes older, hardcore NASCAR fans rejecting the non-stock, non-cars which replaced the modified production cars of the glory days.
    Some of us remember 6 or more U.S. brands competing on Sundays.

    This former fan checks NASCAR news not for race results but to learn which TV or sponsor CFO first demands a new contract at lower rates…or cancels for failure to perform. The collapse of the business provides way more drama than track lapping.

    The core fans have moved on. New folks with lower expectations will have to power any restart for NASCAR.

    • Mike Harper says:

      I agree Gabby, the core fans have moved on…and it’s sad. Hopefully we’ll see some good old fashion racing again. Thank you for your comments.

  8. George R Plock says:

    I’m 67 years old. Had been watching for many years. I started to lose interest when I saw the article about Brian France crashing his Jap car. Then the turncoats on TV Jimmy Spencer bashing NASCAR on Pit Bull then a couple of years later on another program, sucking up to them. Darell Waltrip and his brother bought by the Japs. The POS! The Misdebree! And every thing else they changed. Roush was correct. My brother and I use to spend a lot of money for tickets at Pocono every year to sit at victory lane tower. I really don’t follow the sport anymore. I was just sitting here waiting for a package to arrive and clicked on Jayski when I came across your article. Gordon Left. Jr leaving. Edwards chickened out! Yes I am a vet consertive. I am no longer a Fan.

  9. don says:

    only thing is that they were not forced to make changes. they took it upon themselves to change it and then tried telling us this is what we wanted when i dont remember asking for any of it.

  10. Rick Johnson says:

    I am always watching with interest the grand national series. Oh yeah, the cup, Winston, Sprint, etc etc. It was a blue collar sport, and still is except for one thing , no good paying blue collar jobs are around anymore. There in lies the problem. Turn the economy around, watch the pricing ratios, people will be back in the stands, except at New Hampshire.

  11. Jonathan Brosilo says:

    I disagree…. Nascar is fine…. All sports are down.. Lets look at this past weekend. NASCAR Cup Series racing from Talladega (Ala.) earned 5.9 million viewers on FOX Sunday afternoon… Cubs Yankees pulled 2.4 million… NHL Playoffs Penguins Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 6 earned 1.9 million viewers… hmmm how about the PGA…Final round coverage of the PGA Tour Quail Hollow Championship earned a 1.4 final rating and 2.1 million viewers on CBS last Sunday afternoon, down 26% in ratings and 27% in viewership from last year (1.9, 2.9M) and the lowest final round rating in the history of the event (dates back to 2003). Nascar is still the 2nd most watched sport in America.. I mean hell INDY CAR had like 225,000 views for Phoenix. Talladega was 90% full over 100,000 including infield. My goodness for 2017 that’s amazing….. Stick and ball leagues would die for Nascars fan base.. Its 2017 life is different I don’t think we will ever get to the popularity of the early 2000’s. Even if we went back to everything pre 2004. Come on be real Nascar is changing with the times. We will weather the storm just fine

  12. racefangurl says:

    I’m conservative, but that’s it. Not registered in a party, but I lean right on certain issues. My dad is all those things you say are NASCAR’s demographic and that’s why I watch. My old dad got me into watching.

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