DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – On Thursday, ISC held a conference call to go over their second quarter results. While it’s not too surprising with the state of NASCAR, but their results once again dropped. What was shocking, was to hear was ISC president John Saunders said about it. While, it’s not shocking his reasoning, as I’ve speculated since the announcement that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was retiring that NASCAR was at a crossroads and an identity crisis, it was a little crazy to hear them actually blame attendance issues on that.
Saunders said that attendance was down more than they expected but said that the “lack of star power” was one of the biggest reasons.
He’s right in that sense too. Just look at some of the names that have walked away from the sport on a full time basis over the last few years. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth just to name a few. Those are arguably the biggest names in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since the 21st century came around. So, for the attendance to be what it is, that’s a very valid statement out of Mr. Saunders.
But, the young drivers, well his reasoning isn’t resonating well with them.
Saunders says that NASCAR is looking for that next young crop of drivers to perform. Just look at all the marketing that was done heading into February’s Daytona 500. It was all about the new “young guns.” Kyle Busch to exception and said that NASCAR needs to focus on their veterans in their prime.
Well, he, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have won all but four races this season. Throw in Clint Bowyer and they’ve won 15 of 17. All four are at least 32 years old.
The only two other winners were both 27 at the time of their victories (Austin Dillon – Daytona, Joey Logano – Talladega). When asked about this topic, 24 year old Ryan Blaney fired back at Saunders.
“Honestly, this whole ‘young guys need to win now’ thing is getting old,” said the Team Penske driver. “We’re trying. We’re trying our hardest. It’s not like I go out there and I’m happy for fifth every single week. Any other guy under the age of 25, I’ll just say is the same way. It’s not competition here between young guys and old guys, it’s competition between 39 other cars and yourself. No matter what your age is or your experience level, everyone is trying to accomplish the same goal.”
Blaney’s friend and current Richard Petty Motorsports driver Darrell Wallace Jr. had some harsher things to say back and while takes some credit also puts some on the current ISC tracks.
“There’s a lot of boring stuff that we still have that has been the same thing at ISC tracks that we could update to get more fans out,” Wallace said. “It kind of goes hand in hand from us behind the wheel to people that are hosting us. It’s a group effort.”
One driver though wasn’t that bothered and that’s Austin Dillon. Where Dillon wasn’t bothered, he has a question in return back to Saunders.
“I don’t think it bothers me that he said that,” said the 2018 Daytona 500 champion. “I just want to know what we do about it? How do you move forward with that? Because the guys that are in the sport are talented enough to win, and we haven’t made many changes this year to the packages that we’re running. Each and every week you probably can guess who the top three guys are probably going to be. I bet if everybody had to bet their house on it they’d probably pick between three guys right now. Maybe four. So, I don’t know. I bet he would, too.”
One of the ISC tracks did see a bump in attendance and that was the April race at Richmond. Saunders cites the move from a day race to a night race was the reasoning. He blamed the weather in Chicago, Martinsville and Michigan as the reasons for drops. Martinsville had snow, Michigan had rain and Chicagoland had temperatures well into the 90s with heat indexes over 100.