The Fan Experience
Note: My articles are based solely on my thoughts and observations. Normally I do not offer statistics, although at times I may reference what different broadcasters, among others, have said or alluded to.
The past few years there have been a lot of changes at some of the tracks where NASCAR runs their Cup, Xfinity and truck races. We see more and more seats being torn down or removed. We also see areas revamped and updated in manners which they say will "enhance the fan experience". I keep trying to understand what that really means. I think they feel it will bring more fans to the track if they can offer the fans other activities while there. To this fan, that just means they think people are not just going to the track to see the racing.
Many of us have been discussing our thoughts on what being a fan means and the experience we want, or wanted, when we go or have gone to a track to enjoy a race. Several years ago, I wrote an article about fans and would like to offer this link to it, in case you missed it and have not read it. I think it will explain a lot about what a fan is and what the "fan experience" is to different people.
For those of us who watch the race on television, some of us feel that the in car, bumper and visor cams (cameras) do not enhance the race experience for us. They are just an annoyance that takes away from the actual ability to see the competition on and around the track. Try as I might, no matter how many times they tell me I can see exactly what the driver sees and get the feeling the drivers have when they show shots from these cameras, I do not see it nor do I get that feeling. All I see is part of the steering wheel, the driver’s window, part of the dash and the windshield with maybe an empty track, or maybe one or several race cars in the distance, but I see more of their dash than anything else. That does not excite me as I do not see the real competition around the track. . I have heard many fans express that same sentiment. I realize the broadcast team and producers feel they need these "bells and whistles", and I also realize a lot of fans do like them. They always tell us they are trying to enhance the "fan experience" for us. As fans, we go to the track to see all the competition, and a lot of fans who watch the racing on television want to see actual competition and their bells and whistles don't allow us to do this. It also interrupts the flow of the racing we were watching on the track before they rudely interrupted it. This is possibly one reason the television ratings are down, from what I understand. No, I do not have any statistics on whether that is actually the case.
Recently, we were discussing how we felt about NASCAR's desire to "enhance the fan experience" at the track by having other activities available. One of our regulars posted the following on our fan forum. I thought it explained very well how so many of us feel and think. I felt it would be good to include it here.
"If one has observed closely through the years, one will see some fans sit through all kinds of weather, long delays and many other inconveniences just to watch auto racing. They are the ones who watch for many reasons from love of speed, competition, beautiful cars, real racers, drivers, and just for the sheer joy of satisfaction at what is happening. This is also a hard core fan like the ones I mentioned above."
I could not have stated it better. To many, myself included, that is what a hard core race fan is and how that fan feels about racing.
The following was also written on our forum about the fan experience. I think PattyKay stated it well also.
"The whole weekend was the "Experience." We would go on Thursday... and back then, there was practice on Thursday and 2 days for qualifying, Friday and Saturday. There was always a companion race run on Saturday. Used to be Modifieds, then Goody's Dash came in for a bit. Then Trucks. After all that, the star attraction was that 500-lap race on Sunday. That needs no Enhancement to be somehow more enjoyable. Just wave that green and turn 'em loose! Anyone thinking that lacks anything as an Experience is not a race fan and shouldn't even be there."
I remember the same type of fan experience she described when I was attending the races at Daytona. I was there for the racing and camaraderie with other race fans. We were there due to the common interest we had in competitive racing and learning more about the sport. All of us had our favorite racers and one of our main wishes was that our driver would win the race and when that did happen, it made the experience complete. We celebrated the win and bragged to others about how our driver pulled it off and showed all the other drivers he had what it took. We talked about this experience for weeks, and sometimes even years, afterwards. That was what we needed to enjoy a complete racing weekend, or in some cases, a single race. Sometimes we fans laughed together, booed together, cried together, drank together and ate together. Through it all though, we watched the racing and enjoyed just being there. After the race was over, a lot of us would hang around and visit with each other and talk about the next upcoming race and how we wished we could attend it. Some of us could, and some of us couldn't. How could there be a better fan experience than that?
As I was watching the race at Texas, I tried to make a comparison as to how I would feel if I were actually at the race and how I would be reacting or behaving. I took into consideration that a lot of cars were damaged to the extent that they had to go to the garage. That meant that maybe the competition was not as exciting as it was before these cars were out of the race. Included in the ones no longer on the track were quite a few of the most popular drivers. However, there were still cars on the track and racing to be seen.
If I had been there in person, I could not imagine what it would have been like to be anywhere but in my seat watching everything I could to see as to what was happening all the way around the track. There would be no time to go shopping at one of their stands or tents. There would be no time to go get food or drink. Heck, there would not even have been time to go to the bathroom, until I could no longer put it off. I would be absorbing everything I could about the competition on the track and possibly at times discussing what was happening with people who were seated near me about the race.
I would be watching for all the following things I have listed below and much, much more. I would be noticing cool moves, stupid moves, great passing, asking why did he do that, saying that caution was definitely needed or unnecessary, why is he slowing down, why is that car smoking, what's on that grill, he just bumped him, he's a bit upset, uh oh - penalty, and many other things that would be happening on the track. I cannot list them all or this article would be much too long. While there, my mind and eyes would be so full of the race that I would not need anything other than the smells, sounds and cars competing on the track to make my experience the most memorable it could be. That is the fan experience that would make me most happy.
I was shocked to see so few fans in the stands at Bristol for the first Cup practice. I would have been in my seat prior to practice and anticipating the sounds, smells and excitement. That is my fan experience and I just don't understand the fans who may be camping there not being in the stands. There was a time when one could not purchase a ticket of any kind at Bristol because they always sold out. The stands were also rather bare during the Xfinity race on Saturday.
What do you think the "fan experience" is, whether you are at the track or watching on television? Please share your thoughts on this subject in the comments space below. I ask that you keep them clean and no bashing, please. You may also email me with your thoughts and comments, if you wish. Thank you.