Home > Analysis, NASCAR > Just how popular is NASCAR?

Just how popular is NASCAR?


It may surprise some to hear that NASCAR racing is the highest attended sport in the United States. I didn’t believe it when I first heard it, but it is true. People who do not watch NASCAR find it to be one of the most boring sports in the world, providing a close race  with Curling for the single most boring. I have never watched NASCAR racing but I switched it on today to catch the end of the Spring race in Texas. I saw the last 13 laps and it was actually more interesting than I had anticipated. Getting close to the end of the race provides for strategic moves with regards to deciding when to pit, drafting behind other racers, and making moves to pass. The end is exciting and Denny Hamlin took the race in Texas today (just a week and a half after having knee surgery).


What is it that draws people to automobile racing? Some would initially suggest that the crashes are the most attractive aspect. This can’t be the case because spectacular crashes don’t happen all that often. In my opinion, it is the competition and ability to relate to the sport that attracts people. People feel that auto racing is a sport they can personally do, since all you do is drive a car. There is much more that goes into auto racing than just this, such as knowing the car, understanding when to pit and deciding when to make passes (to name a few).

According to an article in USA today, written by Christine Brennan called “Forward-thinking NASCAR continues to surprise outsiders to the sport” (2007), in 2006, “seventeen of the 20 highest attended sporting events in the nation were NASCAR events.” ChaCha answers, as of 2009, says that NASCAR racing is the fourth most popular sport. The reasoning for this could be that less people watch it on television than watch other sports. People are constantly watching other sports on television, yet the rarity of NASCAR events could be a reason why they are so highly attended. Look at professional football games. Teams like the New England Patriots sell out most home games, yet teams like the Celtics, despite being equally competitive in their respective league, do not. The reason could be that less events mean more interest in attending one. It makes each game or event that much more special to attend. The Super Bowl only happens once a year and is very highly attended and watched. Each NASCAR race is almost like a championship game for another league, as they happen so rarely.

Lets take a look at something incredible. The Indianapolis 500 is the largest event in the world that takes place in a single day. The stadium capacity for seating is 257,000 people. There is additional infield seating which can bring the total capacity to around 400,000 people. That is unbelievable. The large sizes of the tracks is what leads to the spikes in attendance. For an organization with an arena that fits 40,000 people, it will take ten events to meet the attendance of a single Indianapolis 500. They sell out every race as well, for the most part, which is what drives up the attendance rates.

Another attractive factor of NASCAR racing is the idea of the pure competition. The ends of races are very cut and dry. Either you won, you placed, or you lost. Granted, the standings and finishing position do take a part in the rankings of drivers (with regards to points standings), yet the majority of points are taken from the top three finishers. In a basketball or a football game, either you win or you lose, but there are many games to choose from. With racing, every race is treated like a championship, which is what makes the competition that much more exciting.

No matter what the reason for popularity, NASCAR is one of the most popular sports in the United States and the single highest attended. It’s popularity greatly varies depending on region, as there is not much of a following in the NorthEast (only one track is present in New England- New Hampshire Motor Speedway). Out west and in the south, NASCAR has huge fan bases, yet its popularity is directly correlated to region. What are you feelings on why NASCAR is so popular?

  1. April 20, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Some interesting points in this article, but NASCAR may be the worst sport in America. It is the most boring and it is a complete waste of resources. I understand that professional sports all consume a great deal of resources to provide entertainment, but NASCAR uses hundreds of gallons of gas to power a single event. Good article but terrible ‘sport’.

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