Young Viewers Depart, and Fewer Young Drivers Enter
When the green flag waved to start the Daytona 500 in February, marking the beginning of the Nascar Sprint Cup season, not a single rookie driver was in the 43-car field. The last time that happened?
The Nascar rookie class of 2010 is virtually nonexistent, except for the unheralded, unrookie-like Kevin Conway, 31. Heading into Sunday’s race in Indianapolis, he is 35th in points driving for a small team that struggles to keep up with the multicar juggernauts of the sport.
Conway has no competition for the rookie of the year title. That is in part because Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski, the most prominent first-year driver, is ineligible for rookie honors because he raced a partial schedule in 2009. But it is also part of a trend, with fewer competitive young drivers making an impact in recent years. The last time a high-profile team failed to produce a rookie of the year candidate was before the rise of megateams in the mid- to late 1990s.
It is perhaps a troubling precedent for Nascar, because it coincides with a decline in ratings in the all-important young male demographic. David Hill, the Fox Sports chairman and chief executive, recently said ratings among men 18 to 34 were down 29 percent from last year on Fox.
“The biggest problem facing Nascar is that the young males have left the sport,” Hill told The SportsBusiness Journal in May after Fox’s 13-race schedule had been completed.