NASCAR hopes for boost after big swings
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—NASCAR has a new sponsor, a new format and welcomes back its most popular driver, all providing optimism for a series eager to halt a steady decline in attendance, ratings and sponsorship.
Money is down across the board and everyone is doing more with less to try to save a buck.
The on-track product for the stock car series officially reports for work Friday at Daytona International Speedway, which hosts the Feb. 26 season-opening "Great American Race." It will kick off a season of hold-your-breath, we-really-hope-thisworks efforts by NASCAR, the networks, tracks, teams and drivers to turn things around.
This season begins with Monster Energy roaring into its debut year as title sponsor amid promised marketing to millennials and the opportunity to lure new eyeballs to a sport with an aging audience. Part of the new razzle-dazzle approach is a wholesale redesign of the definition of a NASCAR race.
Remember how NASCAR just ran in circles for 500 miles nearly every Sunday for hours on end? Well, this year it's about "enhanced competition" in segments broken up over three periods. Think of it like innings in baseball or quarters in football or basketball. More accurately, the quick first two segments are now the appetizer to the longer main event. In the meantime, you get to go grab a beer as the television networks promise to use the breaks between segments to dump all the commercials.
Even better, you won't have to wait for Nationwide's beloved "Water Cooler Dale" commercial to see NASCAR's most popular driver. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is cleared for competition after missing the second half of last season with a concussion. Earnhardt's sidelining absolutely cut into the audience, and had to send shivers down NASCAR's spine over its dwindling cast of superstars.
n In this Aug. 26, 2016, file photo, Kurt Busch, with a Monster Energy logo on the front of his fire suit, smiles before qualifications for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. NASCAR has a new sponsor and a new format this year in its bid to rebound from declining ratings and attendance. The next 11 months will show if Monster Energy and different rules can provide the needed jolt.