Why Did Kentucky Speedway Lose Nascar? [Expert Review!]

It’s become a tradition for NASCAR to come to Kentucky every year for the Derby, but this year’s race was the first since 2004 that the sport didn’t visit the Bluegrass State. What happened?

Economic Factors

The simple answer is money. Plain and simple. The sport is extremely popular in the South and East Coast, but it struggles to find an audience in smaller towns and rural areas. In 2019 alone, there were 1.1 million fewer spectators at NASCAR races than there were in 2018. That’s a lot of people who aren’t showing up to watch. In addition, viewership is also down across the board, with the Chase for the Cup being the least-watched TV show in 2019.

Simply put, the cost of putting on a good show in Kentucky is too high. The track itself is expensive to maintain, and there’s also the issue of feeding the millions of dollars’ worth of race cars. A lot of small businesses and families in the area have to sacrifice just to have good seats at the track. That’s a problem.

Location

Another factor is location. While tourism is always an issue in America due to our extreme differences, it’s amplified in sports. People don’t just want to travel across the country to go to a race in a different state, they want to go to a specific race track that’s near where they live. In 2019 there were 17 tracks across the country that saw a rise in attendance, with most of them being in or near New York City. For fans who can’t get to one of those tracks, it’s hard to justify the drive when there are so many other options closer to them.

Stereotypes

Another factor is stereotypes. People living in certain areas of the country have certain expectations of what a race track looks like and how it operates. Sadly, many people in small towns and rural areas have been stereotyped by the press and others as being unintelligent and uneducated, which is far from true. Unfortunately, many people in these communities have also been victims of race-related crimes, which adds a whole other level of anxiety to an already complex issue. This is another area where the lack of diversity is really hurting NASCAR, as many fans believe that the sport should stay away from these areas since they aren’t considered “full white males.”

Audience

Last but not least, the audience. While we usually think of sports fans when it comes to driving race-viewing audiences, the reality is the people who go to live events like these are usually family and friends. These are the people who have helped you grow up, who have known you your entire life, and who want to spend some time with you while you’re at the track. They want to be a part of your experience as a whole, so it’s important that the people who help build your identity understand what you’re going through. For some, it might be their first time at a racetrack, while for others it could be their fifth. There are a lot of people who want to support you, but they might not know the first thing about auto racing and might not have even seen a race before. It’s important to keep these people in mind when planning your visit to Kentucky. Create a detailed itinerary well in advance so that you don’t forget a thing.

What Now?

Now that you understand the dynamics at play, it’s time to figure out how to move forward. What does this mean for Kentucky Speedway? First and foremost, the track has to decide if it’s willing to continue with the sport in the face of these challenges. It’s expensive and it’s definitely not easy to put on a good show every week when crowds are low and the travel costs are high. I imagine this is a difficult decision, but it’s one that needs to be made. Do they stick with racing, or do they pull the plug and become a concert venue or a horse racing track?

Unfortunately, there aren’t very good options for smaller towns in the middle of nowhere once the NASCAR dream dies. If it continues to lose money, I imagine more tracks will disappear, and that’s not a good thing for fans of the sport who want to continue visiting these venues.

For those who love racing, there are a lot of options. IndyCar and Formula 1 both carry a smaller audience than NASCAR, but that’s mainly because there are so many more options for people in smaller cities and townships. There are also a lot more car and sport enthusiasts, which leads to better crowds at these types of venues. If you can’t go to a real race track, there are many other options for you, like the Kentucky Cup Turf Series or the Indy Louisville Slugger Series.

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