Opinion: Future is Now for NASCAR

NASCAR

NASCAR is willing to make changes to maintain its popularity. (Photo: Getty Images)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - The saying goes life’s one constant is change. Perhaps no other professional sport has changed more than NASCAR racing over the last decade.

Championship formats, the introduction of new cars and trucks, schedule modifications, policies and rules just are just the beginning of the list of things that have changed in the sport in recent years.

And from the sound of NASCAR officials there’s more to come in the not too distant future.

In the last few days both NASCAR CEO Brian France and President Mike Helton alluded to the possibility of more changes to come.

NASCAR has already acknowledged shaking up qualifying is on the table and the single car/truck format in place since the sport’s inception may be eradicated for more of a group-style concept.

Helton addressed potential modifications to both the overall Sprint Cup and Chase schedule, both of which could in 2015 to coincide NASCAR’s new $8.2 billion television contract with FOX and NBC.

“Certainly it takes a lot of dialogue with racetracks and the industry, the TV partner, as well, particularly in '15 since FOX is continuing but NBC is coming back, and they're very interested in what their product looks like,” Helton said. “But we're always anxious, as well as some of the promoters are anxious to mix it up, if you will, to make it work better.”

The very fabric of a NASCAR race is also under scrutiny with much speculation the sanctioning body may incorporate everything from heat races, shorter races, half-time breaks of perhaps doubleheaders to spice up the sport.

It’s becoming more apparent the prospect of a nearly four-hour event of 400 and 500 miles should be more the exception than the norm.

It’s an ongoing process of trying to find the balance between the old school, hardcore fan and a younger generation of new followers all while trying to remain relevant in a very competitive world of sports/entertainment.

NASCAR is no different than any other sport hoping to resonate with as wide an audience as possible. Baseball’s designated hitter, the NBA’s three-point shot or the NFL implementing rules to create more offense are just a handful of other examples introduced to spark more interest.

Electronic devices are more like appendages with cellphones a constant source of connectivity to the world. Sports leagues must provide a fresh and reliable second, third and even fourth screen option to accompany the competitive product or risk the danger of losing relevance.

Let’s face it; today’s youth is attracted by a more rapid-fire approach to entertainment. Multi-tasking and constant stimulation is a way of life in 2013.

NASCAR has no choice but to adapt to this ever-changing environment and should be applauded for not digging its heels into the old school sand.

While it has to be mindful of its past, the sport must bridge the gap between new and old. It's a difficult yet necessary challenge.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup

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