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Auto racing and kids

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by rpmmutant, Nov 26, 2010.

  1. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    I cover a tiny race track in Irwindale on a regular basis. Standard Saturday night late model stock car stuff. On occasion, the track hosts a USAC event or a Formula Drift race. Tonight was the Turkey Night Grand Prix, a USAC tradition for 70 years in Southern California. Decent crowd for a cold Thanksgiving night, but Turkey Night has always drawn well.
    The Formula Drift races at by far the most popular events at the track, pretty much double the attendance of NASCAR races or USAC races.
    I was asked about the attendance and how to attract the type of crowd to NASCAR and USAC races that Formula Drift attracts.
    I think, NASCAR in particular, has the same problem as baseball, albeit on a much smaller scale. How does a sport attract a younger audience. I love hearing stories and talking about how Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne got their starts in USAC. I am not sure 10 year old kids have that same interest.
    It was an interesting question. How does NASCAR and baseball start appealing to kids again?
  2. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    I am not an auto racing fan, so I can't answer with any sort of educated guess, but I do have an anecdote:

    My friend hailed from an upper-middle-class family and married a doctor. The whole country-club-and-private-school set. Their son was a preschooler right about the time the Disney movie "Cars" came out. He fell in love. By age 4 he could rattle off names and numbers of all the NASCAR drivers. Every toy he played with was a car. By age 5 he was talking about when he was going to race.

    My friend and her husband were mortified. It struck a strong class nerve with them, since they firmly bought into the stereotype of auto racing as a redneck sport. They pretty much did everything they could to discourage the obsession, and slowly the interest faded.

    No telling if junior's interest would have waned on its own, but it was fascinating to watch his parents' reaction.
  3. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Dads work on cars. Kids watch dads work on cars. NASCAR has the coolest cars around.

    It's easy to keep this fan base.
  4. CRR13

    CRR13 Member

    In areas with strong NASCAR ties, the sport will definitely catch on with younger audiences. I doubt that'll happen with other areas, however. It's similar to golf and baseball: unless you can see beyond the basic concept (cars driving around a track), it can be a really boring sport.
  5. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    NASCAR is pretty cultural. If you're from the Deep South or from rural areas where country culture dominates, you'll follow NASCAR. If not, it's probably not going to resonate with you.

    Brian France doesn't quite understand that his sport is, and always will be, a niche sport that managed to become popular right at the time when country culture became -- briefly -- a mainstream phenomenon. Now that country culture isn't quite so cool and the economy has really hit NASCAR's middle class fanbase pretty hard, NASCAR is falling off the table.

    Auto racing's interest has always been niche. The biggest thing that has happened is the intense interest in NASCAR -- and all three of its national divisions -- has really killed Saturday-night short-track racing.
  6. murphyc

    murphyc Well-Known Member

    And NASCAR hasn't helped that one bit by moving so many of its races to Saturday night, thus keeping much of the traditional Saturday night short-track crowd at home, not in the local stands. NASCAR fans, in my experience, have been NASCAR fans more than racing fans.
    One thing that hurts racing general in terms of reaching youth is it's harder to get kids started in racing. Most any area has Little League, Pop Warner type programs for stick-and-ball sports. And they are usually much cheaper than getting junior going in racing. When kids get older, they have teams at school for baseball, football etc. Not many schools have similar racing teams.
  7. Oggiedoggie

    Oggiedoggie Well-Known Member

    Dad runs moonshine. Kid watches dad run moonshine. NASCAR has a fan for life.
  8. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Hey, it's how this sport got its start.

    NASCAR will always have the coolest gameday experience. You park for free, party for free, bring you beer in for free and nothing beats the raw power of the first lap when they are running wide open.

    And I don't even like the sport and I can appreciate what happens on race day.

    But it is a niche sport, and the niche is getting pissed at all the rules they are seeing (lucky dog, car of tomorrow, chase for the cup...).
  9. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Disagree -- the coolest cars are 8,000-horsepower nitro dragsters. And NHRA drag racing, imo, is the easiest motorsport to get a kid into. Races take seconds and in between heats the garage is open to all ticketholders, with the most accessible drivers anywhere. (If a kid doesn't get at least a half-dozen autographs in a day at the drags, he/she isn't trying.) It's louder than all hell when they fire 'em up, but if you've got proper ear care (especially for the kids) you'll be fine.

    Sadly, the NHRA has never gone gangbusters nationally because it's a niche within the niche of motorsports, and doesn't translate well to TV. But a kid isn't going to care about that; and it helps as far as keeping ticket prices down and accessibility up.
  10. exmediahack

    exmediahack Well-Known Member

    My son is 8 now but, when he was 2 or 3, he had this little book. Kevin Harvick was on the cover of it, explaining all of the parts of a car and the roles of the pit crew.

    My little boy demanded I read him the 24-page book to him every night for about a year.

    Then "Cars" came out.

    By age 5, he knew all of the tracks and top drivers. For him, it was the bright colors of the cars and, later, the numbers all over -- numbers on the laps left, the numbers of the cars, the times of each lap. He was really into it...

    and then, at age 6...it just stopped. He moved to other things -- college football and the NBA.
  11. exmediahack

    exmediahack Well-Known Member

    I will somewhat agree on the 'class' thing.

    I can't tell you the last time I watched a NASCAR race and felt smarter at the end of it, especially if it's on FOX.

    The segments from the announcers are for the mind-set of a 10-year-old, the commercials - while effective - are just goofy (but not funny).

    I've tried SO many times to get into NASCAR - and not bring any stereotypes to my viewing - for the past dozen years...but finally gave up for good 2 years ago.

    The stereotypes are just too... "true".
  12. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    I love racing, but I can't stand NASCAR.

    I'll watch cars with wings & open wheels any day of the week, though. My 3-year-old digs watching fast cars, but just like anything -- it's exposure. If a kid gets exposed to something by his parents, he/she is more likely to be interested in it.

    It's a big reason why there are a ton of racing fans in Central Indiana, where I live, and practically nobody watches hockey. The former is a big part of the culture, the latter is barely a blip on the radar.
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