The current state of motorsports, of any type or level, is in dire straits. Facilities are either closing completely or drastically reducing their schedules. Expenses for all involved (fans, drivers and owners alike) keep rising to the point where affordability seems to be impossible for many!
There is a long-held notion that “without racers, there would be no show”. On the surface, that sounds plausible enough…but, in my view, the statement is too simplistic and selfish on the part of the competitors. What if was NO place to have the show? The aforementioned popular notion is then rendered moot.
Just as with any other successful business, there are only two ways to maintain the existence of it: cut expenses or increase income! Both have become what seems to be an insurmountable hurdle!
Nearly every major problem doesn’t happen overnight! Rather, they are the result of small problems growing into HUGE, ugly ones! “Band-Aid” fixes only address the current symptoms; they very rarely solve the underlying cause.
The specter of racing facilities closing could obviously become the death knell of the sport! Replacing tracks with newer ones is pretty much out of the question, given the huge investment required. The relatively huge area a track requires is shrinking quickly. Add the hurdles of overcoming of governmental, environmental and noise ordinances (either present or future) is monumental! Toss in the probability of “urban sprawl” over time drastically reduces the chance(s) of ROI (Return On Investment), highly expected by any investor of a major project. I suppose I could also be considered simplistic with my explanation of what I view are cold, hard facts: no matter how serious they claim to be about their involvement in the sport, for driver, it is merely a hobby (Yes, there are those rare few who can earn a decent living off of it). For dedicated, loyal fans, it’s a passionate outlet for “discretionary income”. But for the promoters/owners, their approach to racing must be applied in the cruel, unforgiving business environment!
Another problem is the so-called “graying of the sport”! The age of participants and the fan base is getting older and worse still, the void is not being filled by the younger generations; dwindling to the point of near extinction. With few exceptions, younger people no longer hold the passion or interest in cars (and therefore, racing) as did their older relatives. Gone are the days when driving or owning a car was a rite of passage! (Indeed, there are those who don’t feel the need to obtain a driver’s license). A vehicle is merely a way to get from “points A to B”. Present day vehicular designs encourage drivers to be less involved with actual operation on the road. Video game-like “paddle-shifters” have replaced manual gearboxes, clutches and stick shifts. So-called “driving aids” such as “automatic braking” and “blind spot reduction” are touted as “must have” options and increase the “cool factor”. (and don’t forget the thrill of the automatic parallel parking option, which further reduces human skills that were once deemed necessary for the actual operation of driving a vehicle on the road). “Driver-less” designs are being tested and seem to be just around the corner (pun intended!)
(ADDENDUM)–Then, there’s the recent ruling handed down by a judge in the highly publicized civil suit lodged against 3x NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, who was involved in a racing accident held at Canandaigua Speedway 8/9/2014, just outside the Greater Rochester NY area It resulted in death of a fellow competitor and it could have the potential of a permanently negative impact on not just racing but ANY “recreational activity” in New York State. Although Stewart was cleared of criminal charges in the incident, the sitting judge ruled that the civil case could move forward because it was deemed that racing is considered a “recreational activity” (The customary event “waiver” that nearly every track uses (sometimes referred to as “print-and sign”) every participant agrees to, is not legal and therefore CANNOT be enforced.) This decision now exposes any promoter/owner of any “recreational event” to legal action regarding injury or death. It is now almost certain that insurance coverage for race race tracks in New York state may now be prohibitively expensive, (if obtainable at all.) Initially, this impending action might affect only New York state but once the legal precedent is set, it could set off similarly proposed legislation in other states. Auto Racing nationwide might face yet another gigantic hurdle to overcome, which could also hasten its demise!
Maybe I’m the one who is being too simplistic in describing what I perceive to be a serious threat to my favorite pastime. So, it’s possible I could be compared similarly to the “kid crying wolf”. Maybe both are true. Electric automobile racing exists and the interest seems to be growing….But when I see “drone racing” on a TV sports channel becoming increasingly popular, I wonder how much and how soon am I stubbornly getting relegated to the nostalgic “remember when?” phase of life–at least as it applies to auto racing?