Should NASCAR races be shortened?
It’s been a recent topic of debate among NASCAR fans. Some are for shorter races while others are totally fine with the length as is and some are in the middle where they support shorter distances in some races but not others. Specifically, the Crown Jewel events. This weekend’s Martinsville Cup race, which was typically 500 laps, was shortened by 100 laps and the race ended in under three hours.
Hailie Deegan, who is currently racing in the Camping World Truck Series, weighed in on the topic of shorter races. Posting on Twitter, Deegan supported having shorter races in order to keep up with people’s attention spans and create a sense of urgency for drivers to not ride around as much during Cup races.
Also in my opinion a lot of people don’t have 4 hours 36x a year to spend watching a race on tv.
— Hailie Deegan (@HailieDeegan) April 10, 2022
Deegan makes a great argument. No doubt a three or four hour race, each week, for nine months out of the year is a tough ask for many, much less younger people. I mean, my dad is approaching 70 and he takes a nap during the middle of most Cup races.
There is also something to be said about the strategy where in many longer races, most of the race is about riding along and staying out of trouble until the final portion of the race. That was a reason why stage racing was implemented, to incentivize drivers to fight for the lead in the early portions of a race.
That being said, the two big reasons why races aren’t being shortened are fan attendance and TV content. If you factor in travel and lodging, along with the cost of the race ticket, it costs a lot of money to attend a race. If a race distance is cut in half compared to what it used to be, fans are going to feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth if they attend a race in person.
Also, even though ratings have been higher in years past, a Cup race still gets at least a few million viewers and it’s a very lucrative part of a network’s programming schedule. If races are cut in half, that means Fox and NBC won’t have as many programming hours where they’re getting millions of viewers. That has a lasting effect that might mean less prize money for drivers like Deegan because Fox and NBC aren’t going to want pay as much if the races wind up being shorter.
It’s certainly a delicate balance that NASCAR has to weigh. It probably would make the quality of the racing better if races were shortened but at the same time, there are consequences to shortening races and that could have lasting effects that wind up making things worse.