Call it being delusional or overtly ambitious, but NASCAR has gone from pillar to post in order to make the sport suit the changing taste of fans and time. Being one of the Crown Jewel sports of the United States, NASCAR has always enjoyed a hallowed position in the hearts of every motorsport enthusiast since its inception.
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Although the sport has always been predominantly restricted to American soil, it has enjoyed international acclaim. However, in recent times, the growing popularity of open-wheel racing and its multifacetedness has impelled the world of stock car racing to be pushed to the sidelines and has witnessed an alarming plunge in its viewership.
Furthermore, with the constant depreciation of the value, there have been several instances where the sport has been termed as ‘dying’. However, it is not happening anytime soon, given the recent development within the sport and the constant urge to transform. One such being the entry of the 3x Supercars champion Shane Van Gisbergen.
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Nonetheless, let’s delve deeper into how NASCAR is striving to rise from its slump and tread international waters in order to make the sport gain recognition and how the Kiwi driver, amid all this, acts as a catalyst in this process.
Justin Marks’ Trackhouse Racing becomes the flagbearer for NASCAR’s international acclaim
Still, in its nascent stage, Justin Marks and his NASCAR team Trackhouse Racing, along with its co-owner and Pitbull, have assuredly come a long way. With the complete purchasing of the Chip Ganassi Racing team, Justin Marks embarked on a journey to realize his dreams and visions. Being a racer himself, Marks had always advocated the fact that the sport should be catering to the audience’s needs and reaching out to its people.
Moreover, he asserted that NASCAR needs to open its door to other international motorsports drivers and increase the global recognition of the sport. As a result, the team’s experimental Project 91 witnessed two international championship-winning drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Shane Van Gisbergen pilot its car. The project was not only a leap in the right direction but also witnessed an unprecedented amount of attention from motorsports enthusiasts across the oceans.
Moreover, the Supercars champion Shane Van Gisbergen winning the inaugural Street Race in Chicago was perhaps the cherry on the top for NASCAR and its dreams to take the sport to other parts of the globe and increase its popularity, reclaiming its old glory.
Will the 75th year of NASCAR mark the new dawn of the sport?
There is no denying the fact, that NASCAR has been able to stretch its arms outside the geographical locale of America in the recent past. This happened with a significant rise in fans after the spread of various series across the continent, including Canada’s Pinty Series, Mexico Peak Series, and Europe’s Wheelen Series.
This series provides a bit of respite to the NASCAR authorities after the sport started to record low viewerships and the rate of attendance on the tracks. Many blamed the strenuous and complex point system of the sport that propelled the viewers to shift their attention to other sports, while for motorsports lovers it was the affiliation to Formula 1 racing and its growing popularity that simmered the decrease in the viewership of the sport.
However, to juxtapose, the sport in its 75th year had committed itself to turning the tables and making the sport more dynamic in nature. Moreover, a report published by Forbes, noted that the number of fans attending their first NASCAR race grew by 11% in the last season and the television ratings increased by 4%. Moreover, this catapult from its slumping state had attracted sponsors and tried to strengthen its ties with NASCAR.
In order to capitalize on the positive situation and try to attract more partners into the sport, NASCAR’s Chief Revenue Officer, Daryl Wolfe had expressed, “We are very bullish on those ongoing conversations and upcoming conversations. The broadcast partners wanted to see growth in the sport. They want to see viewership increases; they want to see ad sales increases. They want to see share increases. They wanted us from a competition standpoint to put a compelling race product on the racetrack each and every weekend.”
Shane Van Gisbergen catapults NASCAR to its new glory
Continuing on the track of success, the 2023 Cup Series season also bore witness: the tracks bragging of completely sold-out grandstands and collecting huge revenues. However, the watershed moment of the sport came with the inaugural race at Chicago and Shane Van Gisbergen winning in his debut race. According to reports published by Racer magazine, the race was the most watched Cup Series race, since the Indianapolis race back in 2017.
With 163,500 viewers, NBC Sports recorded the highest streamed in race on their platform, which reached its peak when van Gisbergen seized the chequered. Moreover, with a rating of 9.29, the Chicago Street Race surpassed FOX’s Daytona 500 rating early in the season.
With such historic gains, the NASCAR authorities are hopeful of the fact that the trajectory will be on the rise for the upcoming season, especially after the news of the SVG signing a contract with Trackhouse Racing, beginning from the 2024 season. Moreover, NASCAR is optimistic about the fact that it would also attract other international motorsports racers to the uncharted lands of NASCAR, repeating the same feat of the Indianapolis road course race in the 2023 season.
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The race was a melting point for a gamut of drivers from various formats, including F1 champion Jenson Button, Supercars driver Brodie Kostecki, endurance racing star Mike Rockenfeller, and World Endurance Championship winner Kamui Kobayashi. While it was van Gisbergen who delivered an impeccable finish, the other drivers were able to finish in a respectable fashion.
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Being the ‘talking point’ of the sport, after his right-toe footing and gauging the corners of Chicago, Shane Van Gisbergen is just months away from traveling all across the Atlantic and basking on the tracks of NASCAR, and putting his Supercars racing experience and navigating Panorama mountains put to use in dominating the ovals.
Will the driver be able to surf on the Chicago winning momentum or have a daunting learning curve ahead of him will be a unique spectacle to witness?
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