Should the France Family Sell Their Stake in NASCAR?
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
NASCAR has never known any primary owner other than the France Family. From the beginning, in 1948, Bill France Sr., started the organization to consolidate auto racing in America giving it one face and one name to get the best and most power they could.
The France family has been the primary stakeholder in the privately held corporation since the beginning, branching out at times and buying smaller circuits and acquiring--along with the Daytona Motor Speedway, several other tracks scattered around the company.
The set up is somewhat unique in professional sports---there are several other groups--including one held by Bruton Smith who own multiple tracks as well, but all are under NASCAR's umbrella.
The sport grew from its regional, Southeastern roots to a Nationwide conglomerate running races in most corners of the U.S and expanding in popularity. There was a time in the early 2000's when the sport may well have peaked---growing its TV audience, tracks and fanbase exponentially.
But perhaps no other professional sport was hit harder by the recession. The ever growing cost of fielding a team drove many drivers and individual owners out of the sport because they could not afford it.
Multiple sponsors fled the sport because they could not afford the cost of putting their logos on cars and couldn't justify the expense due to the slowly dwindling audience.
Which puts NASCAR today at a bit of a crossroads.
The sport still has a built in, solid audience that will never leave them. But they've also lost much of the TV and Sports Journalists that help build the sport up in the public eye.
Racing should, in theory have the ability to draw lots of TV eyeballs and fans during the summer when basketball ends, football is in hibernation and the primary competitors are Major League Baseball and Golf.
But it hasn't. The audience continues to dwindle and there are fewer sponsors and teams running in the top level of NASCAR racing than ever before.
Which leads us to the report from Reuters stating the France family is looking into options for a sale. Mind you there no fire sale going on here, the report only states they've retained Goldman Sachs to explore and identify options for a potential sale.
But that unto itself is a big deal as any potential purchaser would be a corporate conglomerate of some sorts and not an individual. The individual part is appealing to much of NASCAR's fanbase and could be a potential turn off to that audience.
In the meantime, headline sponsor Monster Energy Drink did finally sign a deal to maintain their title sponsorship for 2019 but only after some trepidation. There is a very good chance they will pass on 2020 leaving NASCAR to find another title sponsor.
It would be a sad change for the last "Individually" owned professional sport of significance and the end of an era. NASCAR has a lot of work to do in marketing, sales and just general word of mouth as multiple rules changes and team consolidation has watered down what was once a fun and unique sport.
If the France's do sell, it would be hard to blame them. But it also would make those of us who once enjoyed---but no longer watch the sport wonder how much of a future NASCAR racing has. Maybe it should go back to its roots as a regional event. Maybe auto racing should be the domain of the smaller tracks in smaller towns scattered around the U.S. It would be a chance for a "Do-Over" and start again.
Or maybe not....