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NASCAR is great. It's been kind of niche for a good while, but its fanbase is still there and still dedicated. Despite that, NASCAR is determined to get a new fanbase that probably isn't there, existing fans be damned. It has turned away so many actual fans you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for Major League Baseball. But NASCAR isn't a lost cause. At least, it isn't a lost cause yet. It can be fixed, and here's how.
Market your stars
For the love of everything this sport used to represent, please NASCAR, if you do nothing else on this list, market your superstars. Every other era of NASCAR has had a national superstar even non-racing fans knew, be it Richard Petty in the 70’s, Bill Elliott in the 80’s, Dale Earnhardt in the 90’s, or Dale Earnhardt Jr in the 2000’s. The 2010’s haven't really had that guy to be the face of NASCAR. Sure, guys like Dale Jr, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson tried to really fill that role, but by now, they're all retired or at least washed up. As we enter the 2020’s, find a star and market the hell out of him. Don't choose one of the old guys like Johnson, Kyle Busch, or Martin Truex Jr. Pick someone who will could define a decade. Basically, what I'm trying to say is this: market Chase Elliott. Please.
Like most other sports, NASCAR has a de facto “minor league” system, namely, the Truck Series and the Grand National Series. Now, unlike those other sports, NASCAR not only lets the drivers in the big leagues compete in the minors, up until 2011, they actually encouraged it, allowing full-time Cup Series drivers to win championships in the lower series. Even now, NASCAR still allows Cup Series drivers to race in the lower series. End this as soon as possible. I've said this before, but if the MLB allowed Mike Trout to play a season in Triple-A while he was in the majors or if the NFL allowed Tom Brady to play a full season in college while he was still with the Patriots, every fan of every team would have a problem with it. So, why is it okay for someone like Kyle Busch to race in all three series? Not only does it hurt the development of younger drivers in these series, it makes the races less entertaining to watch. For example, this weekend's Xfinity Series race at Bristol was awesome because the only Cup Series regular in that race, Ross Chastain, wrecked out early.
End the Dash for Cash
Let's stick with the minor leagues. The Dash for Cash is at best confusing and at worst is absolutely terrible. Basically, NASCAR has four races where four drivers compete for a cash bonus, with said bonus going to the top finisher among those four. That isn't so bad. Don't get me wrong, it's pointless, unnecessary, and changing something just to say you've changed something, but ultimately it's relatively harmless. The problem is that beginning in 2016, it also decided which of those four would make the playoffs. So, in theory, a driver could fail to qualify for 32 races but finish better than three other drivers in the last four races and make the playoffs. That's just wrong.
Stop messing with the schedule
In 2020, NASCAR has decided to shake up the schedule for… no reason in particular. Now, being fair to NASCAR, there are some changes they made that are actually positive. Martinsville getting a night race will be considered fun until it's proven otherwise. Pocono getting Cup races on back to back days was something I personally wasn't a fan of, but I'll admit that the novelty of it has grown on me and I'm excited to see how it turns out. My biggest problem with the whole schedule change is changing the location of the championship race for no reason. Nobody really had any problem with the season ending at Homestead. I will gladly admit that ISM Raceway will make a good racetrack to end the season at if it's a good racetrack to end the season at. Some, most notably reigning Cup Series champion Joey Logano, thought it would be cool if the Championship race was at a different racetrack every season, like how the NFL plays the Super Bowl at a different stadium every season. I just think it's a pointless change and is trying to appeal to a fanbase who couldn't care about racing.
Bring back Dodge as a manufacturer
When Toyota joined NASCAR in 2007, some old school fans left, as a foreign manufacturer had invaded a distinctly American sport. However, due to the successes of drivers like Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone still vehemently anti-Toyota. However, when Team Penske made the move to switch back to Ford in 2012, it marked the first time since the late 1940’s that Dodge was not represented in the NASCAR Cup Series. As recently as late 2018, NASCAR has shown interest in adding a fourth manufacturer for the 2021 Cup Series season. And there have been multiple manufacturers that have expressed interest in being said fourth manufacturer, most notably Nissan and, you guessed it, Dodge. Re-adding Dodge, an American manufacturer, to the Cup Series would definitely bring back some of those fans who left when Toyota joined twelve years ago.
NASCAR is a long way away from coming back, and these are nowhere close to the sport's only problems. But these are a good start to bring back some of its former fans. I love NASCAR. I grew up watching it, and I've spent all of my life watching this sport. I don't want to see it die a slow, painful death. Unfortunately, given how the France family and NASCAR itself is handling things recently, it’s looking like we're much closer to the final race in the history of NASCAR than the first.