Has popular retirements driven fans away from NASCAR
By JOHN MARTIN
NASCAR is known for its huge fan base. Fans are more dedicated to their favorite driver than a political candidate. With the 2017 season quickly approaching, NASCAR is without the majority of their biggest names. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and more have all retired or left the driver’s seat behind in the past two years.
When asked what drivers they think of when hearing “NASCAR,” multiple students stated names like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Rusty Wallace and Tony Stewart. Out of those drivers, only one is still racing in the sport full time. In NASCAR, when a driver leaves, the team remains. However, it is a completely different team with someone else behind the wheel. Everything changes with this new team.
The organization has to form a new bond with each member, and team items such as the truck, have to undergo a complete transformation. The teams are not the only things that have to make changes, the fans have to shift themselves, too. When Chase Elliot took over the twenty-four Chevy from Jeff Gordon, fans who once wore Gordon gear, had to make the change to Elliot.
With many cult favorite drivers leaving the sport, the question becomes will fans remain loyal to the sport? When asked if he would continue to watch the sport if his favorite team left or retired, junior math major John Sullins said “Yes, I would continue watching because if I like a sport I won’t leave because the one I’m rooting for does.” A true fan of any sport will stay due to the passion they have for the game. NASCAR racing is a sport that is rooted in passionate followers. They spend their days watching high-octane speed racers driving at 200 miles per hour.
Unlike all other sports, the level of competition is drastically larger than any other. In football, teams will only play against another organization maybe two to three times a year. However, in NASCAR, teams race each other every week. They beat and bang with their rivals over the course of 38 weeks instead of those two matches.
This is one of the main reasons fans will continue to watch, because they gain connections with the competitor. They love to watch certain teams lose. The same goes for sponsors and manufacturers. A fan that follows the Ford Motor Company likes to watch the Chevrolet teams lose a race. Also, just because a driver stops driving does not mean they leave entirely.
Jeff Gordon became an analyst for the sports coverage for FOX. It is this type of competition that allows fans to follow multiple teams and change to a different team when their favorite leaves. They get to witness every team compete around their favorite driver. Fans can even see a preview of their favorite’s replacement before they retire. For instance, in 2015, Chase Elliot raced in a handful of events before Jeff Gordon was five races into his final season. They can judge and form relationships with the replacements even before their favorite leaves.
So, to answer the question of the loyalty of the fans when their favorite driver retires or leaves, the answer is simply “no.” The majority of fans would not leave the sport entirely because the sport is filled with drivers and teams that a fan sees week in and week out. While they follow one driver passionately it is nearly impossible to not form connections with the others around the sport as well.