Writing about NASCAR's attendance woes is becoming a little like the movie "Groundhog Day.".You wake up hoping things will be different but you're really just repeating the same things over. What was that definition of insanity?
When asked by USA Today what the issue seemed to be with NASCAR attendance, Denny Hamlin chalked it up to an overall declining interest in sports.
"I think that there's more to it than just people not watching NASCAR. I think sports, in general, are way, way down. Attendance is down in a lot of other sports as well," said Hamlin.
He is right in that sporting events are on average suffering some fatigue, with one notable exception. The latest figures released by FIA's commercial rights holder shows the average attendance at Formula 1 races jumped 8% in 2017. In real numbers, reuters.com reports that translates into 203,570 fans attending a three-day event, with 76,722 of those there for the Sunday race.
"An attendance of more than 200,000 per event means that for 20 weekends per year, the population of a medium-sized city visits a racetrack to watch a Formula One Grand Prix," said commercial managing director Sean Bratches.
F1 reports total attendance for 2017 was just over 4-million, and they expect that number to increase for 2018 with an added race. To be fair, NASCAR is pretty much confined to U.S. borders while Formula 1 is run on tracks around the world. Their ability to draw from a greater cross-section of potential fans is simply better. But FIA should also be given credit for listening and understanding what their fans want and creating an event to match, something that has been a bit of a struggle for NASCAR.
NASCAR stopped reporting track attendance estimates in 2012, stating that there was too much focus by the media on numbers. Without those, it's tough to have an apples to apples comparison, but the last figures we have showed an average attendance at a NASCAR race was 97,722. That's 20,000 more on average than what FIA just reported, but that was also five years ago.
The Indianapolis Star reported in July attendance at the Brickyard 400, one of NASCAR's premier events, was an estimated 35,000 out of seating for 235,000. Clearly, whether NASCAR wants to give up the numbers or not, these two racing series giants are headed in very opposite directions.