Declining spectator numbers ‘don’t make a difference’ – Richard Petty

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images/NASCAR Media

Richard Petty has played down the effect of declining crowd and TV numbers in NASCAR, despite fears the motorsport discipline isn’t as healthy as it once was.

NASCAR has struggled to fill grandstands in recent years, with a number of things being blamed, including the departure of many big-name drivers, and several rule-changes.

But Petty feels that the lack of people at races and declining TV numbers don’t show the whole picture when it comes to NASCAR’s state as a whole.

“There’s so much going on now that it’s hard to get people interested in just one sport,” seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Petty told The Checkered Flag at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. “It used to be that there was football, baseball, basketball, racing – that was it. Now you’ve got, you name it, marble shooting or mountain climbing or whatever they do; everything is on TV and with the technology we have now you don’t have to watch it on TV or go to it, you can just pick it up on the internet so it’s like being there.”

“It’s the same with everything in the world, it doesn’t make any difference.”

The last few seasons has seen a number of new, younger drivers, enter NASCAR, while established names like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all retired. The departure of several household names has also had an effect on NASCAR’s popularity, but Petty insists that it won’t be long before the young guns are accepted by the fans.

“If you look at NASCAR, about every 10 or 12 years you’ve got a new crowd of people coming in and some of them develop quicker than others, some of them get in a better car or better circumstances,” Petty said. “Right now we don’t know who the next leader’s going to be.”

“It was Jeff Gordon for a while, [Dale] Earnhardt [Sr.] for a while, [Darrell] Waltrip or whoever,” he added. “Right now I guess Jimmie Johnson is the top dog and who’s going to take over, I don’t know. Junior was there for a while but we’re just going to have to wait and see. Somebody will step up, they always do.”

Rising star Bubba Wallace (R) is one of NASCAR’s new breed of drivers. He races for Petty’s team in the Cup series – Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images/NASCAR Media