Earlier this week, we talked about the possibility of big job losses in the NASCAR industry after the season-finale weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
Sponsorship is obviously the lifeblood of the expensive sport, and without it, it's tough for teams to pay the bills. Naturally, NASCAR's most popular driver chimed in on the future of sport Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway -- site of Sunday's Dickies 500.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will be laying off some employees from his JR Motorsports operation thanks to a lack of sponsorship for 2008, feels that shoring up the season might be the best answer, cost-wise and entertainment-wise.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows there's too much money to be made in Sprint Cup racing for it to happen, but he believes a shorter schedule would actually help stock car racing.
"What's happened is we have saturated the market with race after race after race," Earnhardt Jr. said. "The NFL does such a great job. ...It gives you just enough to keep you wanting more. The season ends before you want it to. You just get just enough to get excited and then it's all over and there's such a long wait. The model works."
Earnhardt Jr. said NASCAR is more like other sports with longer seasons.
"There are lulls and inactivity between the fan and the sport itself at times," he said. "There's no way to fix that. We're driven by the ability to go make another dollar and make more money, and there's no way we would ever trim it down.
I'm certainly having a tough time faulting Earnhardt Jr.'s logic in this situation.
38 weekends a year, plus the Daytona 500 qualifying races leaves NASCAR fans with a total of 14 weekends that they don't get a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Throw in a few race weekends here and there that only the Craftsman Truck Series and the Nationwide Series race on, and NASCAR fans have less than three months of non-NASCAR weekends.
Put that side by side with the NFL, a sport with roughly 23 or 24 weeks of action, and the country's most popular sport makes it pretty obvious why people keep coming back for more -- they aren't oversaturated with football.
Has NASCAR reached that point? Would more fans tune in if they had less to choose from, and perhaps, a greater variety of tracks to watch?
I certainly think so, and while I'm no economics professor, there has to be a point where the marginal cost involved in racing more and more each season outweighs the marginal benefit involved. Shortening up the schedule to lessen the cost burden on teams may be a step NASCAR has to look at, especially with the way the economy of motorsports is heading.