Saturday, July 16, 2005

Is Mexico part of NASCAR Nation? How about Manhattan?

The Diecast Dude had an interesting post about how during his vacation he couldn't find any evidence that anyone in Mexico is interested in NASCAR, despite the Busch Series race that was run there earlier in the year and despite NASCAR's desire to expand their fanbase outside the borders of the U.S. This got me thinking about something a little closer to home: the problems that NASCAR is facing trying to build a new track in Staten Island. Staten Island Live has a page full of pretty good coverage, here (thanks to Full Throttle for the link).

Now, Manhattan is definitely a NASCAR-free zone. But there's a few of us NASCAR fans in the outer-boroughs and more than a few as you leave the city in just about any direction, in Long Island (where there's still a NASCAR Modified race), upstate New York, Connecticut, and, especially, New Jersey.

Part of me thinks it would make more sense to try to build a NASCAR track in New Jersey rather than to plunk one down on a heavily populated island just off the Jersey coast. A NASCAR track down by the Jersey shore would be pretty cool. For one thing, it would probably be closer to more actual NASCAR fans. For another, if the races ran off-season, either in the very early spring or in fall, you'd be able to make use of the already existing tourism infrastructure. And traffic probably wouldn't be all that much worse than it is during a normal summer weekend.

But NASCAR is not interested in a track in New Jersey. For one thing, a track in New York City--even one in the least New York City-ish of all the boroughs--is simply a much bigger deal than a track in New Jersey. A NYC track would be prestigious--it would be sexy. It would also be in the media capital of the country, which would translate into publicity the likes of which no NASCAR track opening has ever seen. For another, NASCAR wants its fanbase to keep growing and growing, which means they have to build tracks in places that aren't already full of fans.

(I'm not sure that this is a great plan: at some point, the fanbase growth is going to level off. NASCAR could even--theoretically--start to lose fans as the novelty wears off or people discover the IRL or whatever.)

In general, I'm not opposed to this kind of expansion. I'm definitely in favor of the New York City track, if only for the selfish reason that I'll most likely still be living in NYC by the time it opens in 2010 and it would be nice to be able to take the subway to the races.

However, the problem with all this expansion is:

(1) There's already a lot of good tracks.

(2) There's already too many races.

And (3) there might not be enough good drivers.

These things are related, in the sense that Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin might be less willing to retire if the schedule were a little less grueling.

NASCAR has never in its history been completely static: it's always been changing to keep up with the times. But the last decade has seen lots of changes without much in the way of downtime and periods of relative stability. NASCAR seems to think it can keep expanding forever, but that's just not how the real world works. Eventually, the NASCAR bubble will burst. It might be a good time to reign in on some of this expansion, at least for long enough to get a realistic picture of where it's heading.


Steve Sailer said...

My impression is that Texas doesn't have as much of a NASCAR presence as outsiders would think. That would seem like the #1 priority. After conquering Texas, NASCAR could work on Mexico, but it doesn't make much sense to leapfrog Texas for Mexico.

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