Why Did Nascar Stop Racing At Kentucky Speedway? [Expert Guide!]

For decades, the racing world was enamored with the Kentucky Speedway. The track’s rich history included a World Championship, an NFL team, a US Open, and even an alien invasion. It seemed that nothing could stop this track from becoming famous.

But after years of hosting major sporting events, the track’s star has somewhat faded. Sure, it still hosts the occasional race these days and has an all-time great dining experience at Beldon’s Grocery and Restaurant, but it hasn’t regained the fame it once had. What happened?

The Numbers Don’t Lie

According to a study by the Sports Analytics Society, in 2017 the average length of a NASCAR race was 3 hours and 42 minutes. That’s nearly two hours longer than the 2 hour and 48 minute average for all sports in the U.S. In comparison, the average length of an NFL game was 2 hours and 55 minutes. The study also noted that “television audience members grew more engaged as the race went on, with a notable uptick in viewership occurring after the two-hour point.”

It’s clear that Nascar didn’t stop racing at Kentucky just because it’s become more popular on television. The track’s unique topography and history have made it a fan favorite, and it helped that Nascar gave the track a face-lift in the 1970s, bringing more modern amenities like food trucks and souvenir stands. However, when it comes to the average length of a race, it’s clear that the sport has shifted to being more interested in grabbing an audience rather than providing an entertaining show.

The Evolution Of Spectatorship

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to come at Kentucky since the track opened in 1948 was the evolution of spectatorship. Back then, cars were mostly driven by their respective owners, who typically had family and friends sitting in the stands. As the sport has become more commercial, the stands have become more populated by fans who not only attend races but also tune in to follow the action from home. This has shifted the focus of NASCAR from driver performance to audience engagement.

The arrival of the Varsity Jacket in the early ‘90s helped solidify the acceptance of spectators at the track. It was designed by college football coach, Howard Schnellenberger, and was initially sponsored by the Jim Beam distillery. Thanks to this and other similar fashion accessories, fans can now feel like part of the action even when they’re not in attendance. This has helped make NASCAR one of the most popular spectator sports in the U.S.

Attendance Is Down

While the numbers don’t lie, it’s fair to say that in a lot of ways, they might not fully represent the current state of affairs at the Kentucky Speedway. For years, the speedway attracted upwards of 300,000 fans per race day, which made it the largest sports and entertainment venue in the region. But these days, capacity crowds are a thing of the past. In fact, in 2017 the track only attracted 157,097 fans – the lowest number of attendees in over 60 years. Even in comparison to other prominent auto racing tracks, like California Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, the turnout at the Kentucky Speedway is relatively low.

The Age Of The Drivers

These days, NASCAR is a driver’s sport – at least, as far as the fans are concerned. With the rise of popularity of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the sport has become more focused on high-profile drivers and building their own brand. This has made the younger generation of drivers the faces of the sport, helping to drive interest as the professional drivers of today grow their own families and attend events like this one in person.

One of the biggest draws at a NASCAR race is undoubtedly the drivers themselves. This is a sport that was initially dominated by men, and it has kept that tradition. In 2017, only 12% of NASCAR’s top earners were women, and that’s despite the fact that 41% of the cars on the track were driven by women. So it would appear that even in its current state, NASCAR isn’t ready to fully allow women to be involved in the sport.

No Room In The Jungle

Not only has the nature of NASCAR changed, but so has the layout of the track itself. In recent years, the speedway has re-aligned several of its turns, moving them to create room for more seating. This has helped create more space in the infield for sponsors and made room for more luxury boxes. But while these measures have provided a better viewing experience for fans, they’ve also made the sport less accessible to some. Specifically, the new turns mean that there’s no longer a short straightaway leading up to them, which used to be home to one of the most exciting portions of a race. For fans, it’s like removing a part of the track that made it interesting and replacing it with something less exciting, if more predictable.


Another major draw for fans of the Kentucky Speedway is the family-friendly nature of the event, which often makes it a destination for children and teens. It’s not just the food trucks and other on-site activities that draw kids. The track offers families a chance to sit together, watch a race, and have some fun. It isn’t uncommon for kids to create their own racing competitions or beg their parents for a pit pass so they can follow the cars around.

It used to be that kids were relegated to the grandstands, but with the evolution of technology and the decline of television adverts, it’s become much easier for families to follow the action from home. The result is that more people are finding enjoyment in attending events like the Kentucky Speedway than they have in years – which might explain why the attendance figures are so low.

Declining Attendance

It’s clear that in recent years, things have changed at the Kentucky Speedway. While the track still offers a unique racing experience, it doesn’t have the mass appeal necessary to support the level of interest among fans that it used to draw. Perhaps the biggest change to come at the speedway is the evolution of spectatorship, with more fans interested in being a part of the action rather than watching from the sidelines. These days, the stands aren’t just for show. They’re filled with people who are there to have fun and follow the racing.

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