Through Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
A successful one Experiment at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and have a relatively successful debut of the next-gen car NASCAR Brass upbeat for the rest of 2022 and beyond.
NASCAR entered 2022 hopeful but with many unknowns, beginning with the Clash exhibition on a temporary track being built at LA’s iconic stadium. The car, whose parts and components are now mainly supplied by dealers and no longer made by teams, needed some significant tweaks (air ducts in the windscreens, more horsepower on many tracks) before it was accepted by the drivers as race-ready.
But after 16 points races and two exhibitions in the season, NASCAR executives can smile. Following the conclusion of the FOX/FS1 portion of the Cup season (FOX/FS1 has the first 18 events and NBC/USA has the last 20), viewership increased by 6% over last season, with an average of 3.696 million viewers watching during a race .
While NASCAR tracks are no longer owned by public companies and therefore do not publish audited financial results, the “eye test” and race day traffic showed higher attendance at several tracks than in the few years prior to COVID-19.
NASCAR’s Ben Kennedy speaks about the future of the sport
NASCAR Senior Vice President Ben Kennedy speaks about the future of the sport and announces that the Clash will return to the LA Memorial Coliseum in 2023.
Of course, there are still some issues: wheels are coming off cars at an alarming rate, NASCAR’s safety and race control operations are in question (as they usually are), and NASCAR continues to wrestle with its place when it comes to social issues .
“[The] Next generation car…I couldn’t have dreamed it would do this well,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said June 9 at a news conference celebrating NASCAR’s diversity efforts in San Francisco. “The races were simply extraordinary.
“It was a journey. Our ratings have gone up. Our visitor numbers have increased. We have a whole new group of race fans coming to the track, watching TV, engaging in digital and social activities. It works.”
NASCAR believes it’s not just attracting new fans thanks to the new car. It has new owners, including basketball star Michael Jordan and world-renowned musician Pitbull.
Jordan’s team also has Bubba Wallace, the only black full-time driver in the Cup Series, at the wheel. While Wallace’s advocacy of social justice polarized some of the NASCAR fan base, he has played a critical role in creating a welcoming environment in the sport.
Also of note is that Daniel Suárez became the first Mexican rider to win a cup race with his win earlier this month in Sonoma.
Quick Thoughts: Historic day for Daniel Suárez and NASCAR
Bob Pockrass breaks down a historic Cup Series win for Daniel Suárez at Sonoma Raceway.
In addition to the increase in overall ratings, NASCAR has seen growth in both Black and Hispanic demographics over the past four years and expects fan bases to be at their highest levels since at least 2015, said Brian Herbst, NASCAR senior vice president of broadcasting.
“We were higher in 2020 than 2019, higher again in 2021, higher again in 2022,” Herbst said in an interview with FOX Sports last week.
And NASCAR continues to go to new venues. The LA Coliseum and Gateway (near St. Louis) were new to the Cup schedule this year, and the Cup Series is entering its second year at Nashville Superspeedway, Austin’s Circuit of the Americas and Wisconsin’s Road America .
Also, this year was the second time that Cup drivers have competed on soil laid on Bristol’s concrete surface. This time, however, it was held on Easter Sunday during prime time, a controversial move to race on a bank holiday weekend but one that garnered increased television ratings.
NASCAR will likely finalize its 2023 schedule in August. But it has already been announced that the Clash will return to the LA Coliseum on February 5th, with the Daytona 500 two weeks later on February 19th and the championship race set for a return to Phoenix on November 5th.
“As we think about 2023 and beyond, ideally we’d like to add another big venue, another new venue to the schedule in 2023,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR’s senior vice president in charge of planning, in an interview at NASCAR RaceDay before the Sonoma race. “And what that looks like, whether street course, street course or short track, not exactly sure.
“But hopefully we can share a little bit more in the next month or two. And then continue development into ’24 and beyond. We’re already starting to think about five to ten years later, where do we want the timeline to be? And then how do we create a roadmap to get there?
NASCAR has been looking for potential temporary street courses in Chicago and the Meadowlands. New Orleans was also mentioned as a possibility.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps on the 2023 schedule
At a press event in San Francisco, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said the plan is to stay bold with the 2023 schedule, which he hopes will be released in August.
The only big question is whether a street circuit would replace one of the street circuits.
“We’re getting to a point where we might have some saturation on the road course side,” Phelps told FOX Sports after the San Francisco news conference. “We will continue to listen to the fans and see what the fans want to see.
“They told us they want more street courses and short circuits. The thing with the short distances was difficult. We were able to do the stretch of road really well. It’s a good mix for us at the moment.”
Phelps also addressed several issues that have come up at NASCAR over the past month:
— It took about seven minutes to get Chris Buescher’s overturned car back on its wheels at Charlotte’s, which Brad Keselowski, co-owner of the Buescher team, felt was too long. Buescher said he understood it was the first time NASCAR’s safety team had to return a next-generation car to four wheels and thought it did a good job, although he wished it could have gone faster.
“What happened to the Buescher situation, that [safety response] The group did exactly what they were trained to do,” Phelps said. “There are other actions we could have taken if Chris had been injured that we would have done differently.
“We understand that standing on your head is uncomfortable for a driver. We understand it’s not ideal, but it’s the safest way for us to get the driver out and the group did a flawless job.”
— NASCAR has opted not to intervene in the Denny Hamlin-Ross Chastain feud and has so far treated any payback as self-regulation.
“We talked about self-control,” Phelps said. “The drivers are self-policing. … As long as this car is not used as a weapon, we will review it, and if we thought it crossed the line, we would have [more].”
– NASCAR recently released a Pride Month tweet stating, “We recognize that recent actions are not consistent with NASCAR’s mission of being a welcoming sport for all.”
Phelps didn’t go into specifics but reiterated the message.
“Generally, as a sport, we haven’t been as welcoming and inclusive to the LBGTQ community — and we want to be,” he said. “…This is another important group that we want to reach out to.
“We want our sport to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible. And that’s what our existing fans want – primarily, not all – [do is] share their sport with others, whether it’s about sexual orientation or skin color or whatever, it doesn’t matter. It’s a love of racing that they want to celebrate together.”
Steve Phelps on diversity in NASCAR
Part of NASCAR’s San Francisco press event was to promote their diversity and inclusion policies.
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think out loud
Last weekend was the only weekend on the NASCAR Cup Series regular season schedule. Traditionally, NASCAR had two weekends off, and that increased to three in a few years when NBC didn’t want any conflict with the Olympics.
Few will feel sorry for the teams and the drivers; You work in professional sports. And the larger teams have scheduled extra weekends off for mechanics and engineers to prevent burnout. Due to the shortage of parts for next generation cars, those who work in the workshops have been working long hours to keep up as they often have to pick up parts and parts from cars that have recently raced and they are in for a race Cars need to bring next week or two.
Based on what we know about next year’s schedule, it looks like there will only be one weekend in 2023 in terms of the announced dates for the Daytona 500 and the season finale in Phoenix. It’s tough for the competitors and their families.
For those who work in sports, not having more breaks can be frustrating. The key will be for teams to monitor and adjust their staffing, especially teams that know they will be in the postseason and need full energy for that 10-race playoff run.
Statistics of the day
Daniel Suárez became the second Cup driver to earn his first career Cup victory at Sonoma Raceway. The other? Juan Pablo Montoya in 2007.
You said so
“We screw it up every week.” — Kevin Harvick after a slow pit stop at Sonoma proved costly
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsport, including the past 30 Daytona 500. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after working at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene Magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal . Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpock breed. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR newsletter with Bob Pockrass!
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