Are Motorsports In Trouble?

This is not a new topic for me, but reading this article in USA Today last week confirmed what I have been saying for a while now. For some time, I’ve been voicing my concern for motorsports for the long term. I’m not talking strictly about IndyCar, but NASCAR and Formula One and motorsports across the board. I’ve been basing my concern off of more of a gut feeling, but this article backs up my fears with data.

In a nutshell, it reports that millennials have shown a sharp decline in any interest in getting their driver’s license. How sharp? In 1983, almost 92% of Americans between the ages of 20-24 held a driver’s license. Today, it’s barely over 75% (76.7%). In 2011, it was almost 80% and in 2008 the number was 82%. The conclusion is that cars are quickly becoming unimportant to millennials.

Even more alarming is that less than 25% of all sixteen-year-olds had a driver’s license in 2014, as compared to over 46% in 1983. What’s wrong with these kids?

When I was an eager teenager with raging hormones, I counted the days and then the hours until I turned sixteen and could get my driver’s license. Nothing told me that I had successfully transferred into adulthood and independence more than that paper card with only my name and address (and no photo) that I was carrying in my wallet.

As I recall, I got my license on a Thursday. By Saturday, I had already taken my car to the longest stretch of isolated road in Madison County to open her up and see how fast she would go. After that, I sought out the windiest road in the area to see how well she cornered and quickly established a baseline of limits. Then as I got more experience behind the wheel, I would test those limits and push them. I found driving to be exhilarating. Looking back, I was lucky to have never had a serious accident from pushing those limits. My only wreck in high school was running into the back of a car at a stop light as I fiddled with my 8-Track.

This is not the rambling of a frustrated old man reminiscing about how much better things were in my day, but more of an observation of the obvious shift in the interests of young people today.

My children are both millennials. For clarification, the Pew Research center defines millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996. My kids were born in 1988 and 1989. Susan’s were born in 1990 and 1994. So our blended family consists of four millennials. I have a lot of personal observations to draw on to form some of my gut-feeling conclusions.

Those that fall into that category say they hate that term. Believe me, it’s much more flattering than the other terms I’ve heard to describe their age group. The “Stupid Generation”, the “Selfish Generation” and the “Me Generation” have all made the rounds; so I don’t think I’d balk at the term “millennials” if I were one of them. I don’t know that it’s any worse than the term to describe my age group – the “Baby-Boomers”

There are also different traits that define this group with varying degrees of kindness. Some refer to this group as Trophy Kids, because actual competition was de-emphasized while they were growing up and equal trophies were given to all participants just for showing up. They tend to be more civic minded, both locally and globally. While most of us baby-boomers tend to scoff at those trying to save the planet, it’s a way of life with the millennials.

These two traits don’t seem to have much to do with one another, unless you are looking at them from a racing standpoint. Being civic-minded and caring about the planet are not normally looked upon as bad traits. Like most, I consider myself civic-minded; but I wouldn’t say that the welfare of our planet is foremost in my mind. Does that make me a bad person? In my mind, no – but millennials may answer that question differently.

Trophy-kids that care about the planet is a bad combination if you care about the future of motorsports. Eschewing any sort of competition is becoming more of the norm in today’s society. I will hear from many in that age group that will dispute that and will say that they are as competitive as anyone. That may be true, but you are the exception for your generation, not the norm. Couple that with a disdain for anything that burns fuel and subsequently fills the air with pollutants and noise while pursuing competition – well, you’ve got a despicable product on your hands in the eyes of millennials.

I’m obviously exaggerating here a little, but by how much is up for debate. But am I really being that extreme by claiming that most millennials will never become racing fans? I don’t think so.

The article points out that automakers have taken note of this trend. They also fear that millennials are less inclined to travel to see their friends, as opposed to staying in touch through social media and smartphones. This is a separate soap box for me; the fear that our upcoming adults have no ability to interact with each other face-to-face and without a keyboard or keypad to hide behind – but I won’t get into that one here today.

For years I have been saying that our newest generation of adults see cars completely different than we did forty and fifty years ago. No matter how cheap or ratty our cars were, we saw them as extensions of ourselves and our personalities. I swear there were times when I felt my car and I were one in the same. All I had to do was think and the car would go there. Driving, to me, was an absolute thrill – and it still is.

There is a 20-mile stretch of winding road on I-40 at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. Some people I know completely dread driving on that stretch of road. They will go out of their way to avoid it. I, on the other hand, will go out of my way to drive it. Every time I finish driving that stretch, my blood is pumping and I can feel the adrenaline rush through my body. That’s the thrill I get from driving and is probably the root of my love of motorsports – lying to myself that I could do what professional drivers do. I imagine that I am not alone and that’s why many have come to love motorsports.

Today’s young adult does not share that love or passion for the automobile. They see it as strictly a way to get from Point-A to Point-B. It is a necessary evil that they no longer find necessary. Bicycles, Uber and Lyft are becoming desired options over owning and driving a car. I would imagine that it is hard to enjoy watching cars race when you have no interest in cars.

The shifting interest among millennials is not just limited to motorsports. Stick and ball sports do not have the same appeal to millennials as they had with previous generations. There are many theories for this. Is it because the majority of them grew up playing soccer instead of football or baseball, and soccer still has a limited following in the US? Is it because competition has been de-emphasized? Perhaps it’s because it now costs so much to attend these games in person that they are no longer exposed to live major sporting events, and therefore have no interests in them. Whatever the case, NFL attendance and TV viewership among this age group is down and it is even a concern to the behemoth that is the NFL.

I think motorsports will be OK for the next decade or so, but I’m most concerned about what the landscape will look like in twenty years or more, when the millennials reach middle age and represent the demographic with the most buying power.

This year we celebrate the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. The 125th running will hopefully take place in 2041, when I will be eighty-two years old. I would like to think I’ll still be around by then, but will the Indianapolis 500? It’s a scary thought, but I’m not quite sure. I’m not trying to be Mister Doom & Gloom here, but this is a legitimate concern. I also don’t want to stick my head in the sand and claim everything to be rosy.

Usually, right about now, we would chastise Mark Miles and Company for not doing anything about this. But in this case, I’m not sure what he or anyone else can do. Purposely changing the shifts in interests of a population is a daunting task. It’s a runaway train that not one single entity can stop. We can’t force millennials to suddenly like something they’ve grown to have a disdain for. Maybe we should just enjoy what we have while we have it.

George Phillips

33 Responses to “Are Motorsports In Trouble?”

  1. Yes. Interest in auto racing is declining rapidly.

  2. Let me introduce myself. I’m a 24 year old from United Kingdom. I became exposed to motorsports at 10 when a neighbour lent me his old F1 video game. My obsession with racing exploded very quickly, but coincided when British motorsports was beginning to struggle. The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) lost the backing of car manufacturers and big name foreign drivers, suffering a similar decline to what Indycar has suffered. As a school kid I was embarrassed to tell people about my hobbies, which revolved around collecting F1 memorabilia. I’ve realised that on social media that it’s very rare to see fans of my age group profess to be hardcore motorsports fans.
    Last year the GPDA (Grand Prix Driver’s Association) did a survey of what F1 fans thought would be best for the progression of Formula One. In addition they did a poll to vote the most popular driver? Guess who won it? The man who literally appears as if he has to go to a proctologist twice a week, Kimi Raikkonen. But yet he’s my favourite driver, because he provides a face for the disillusioned modern fan with his abrupt answers, mumbling and legendary lack of enthusiasm in interviews.
    The thing that winds me up so much is how fans elaborate on the “glory days”. They’ll keep on hammering on about the heroics of Senna, Mansell & Villeneuve (not the two Jacques) and the spirit of Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt. It just sends such a bad message about the quality of modern racing to non-fans, who make silly statements like “Why don’t all drive the same spec of model?”.
    More than ever my peers associate the motor industry with capitalist greed (esp. the VW emissions scandal from last year).
    I’ve seen plenty of videos of Indycar (CART) on Youtube in the past year. In the 1990’s there were chassis manufacturers like Lola, Reynard, Swift, Eagle & Penske with engines supplied by Ford, Ilmor (Chevy/Merc), Honda, Toyota & Buick. Likewise in the 2000s F1 had Ferrari, Merc (Ilmor), Honda, Toyota,Renault, Ford (Cosworth), BMW & Peugeot (briefly). Today you just don’t get such sort of variety, with the regulations causing too much standardisation in both F1 & Indy.
    And as for Tony George & the CART team owners, it’s well known the CART owners messed up the old CART series with bad business decisions such as putting the shares of CART on the stock market, whilst Tony George wasted his assets upon creating IRL (nothing more than an open wheel NASCAR with lame pack racing).
    F1 on the other hand is full of old farts who don’t understand the power of social media and the FOM waste their time removing F1 videos off Youtube.
    Above everything, motorsports is suffering an existential crisis. What do people really want F1/Indycar to actually be like? In F1, the best two teams usually win the majority of the races with little overtaking or lead changes, whilst Indycar races are decided by fuel and tyre strategy, in addition to timing your gambles of your pitstops depending upon the appearance of the pace car/safety car. Not to forget the movement towards long life engines and F1’s issues with the extraordinarily complex hybrid turbos, you really do have a deadly difficult task to market a product that appears more niche and politically-driven than ever before.
    As the marketing and recognisability of racing drivers, literally Lewis Hamilton is the only one who non-racing fans know of (outside US). But he’s not popular at all, he’s too much of a divisive character and it seems his fame has developed far more largely from smoozing with Hollywood celebs than his F1 success.
    As for pursuing racing as a career, more than ever it is seen as a rich kid’s paradise as teams continue to chase alternative sponsor incomes, which are increasingly limited. Sadly, the old tobacco money from Marlboro, Camel, West etc. has still not been replaced by a viable industry. Industries like gambling, alcohol and banks are more reluctant due to social stigmatisation.
    As for the other series, MotoGP’s popularity is limited to Spain/Italy, the World Endurance Championship (WEC) with the Le Mans 24 Hours is far more of a car manufacturer’s championship than its fans realise, Formula E is too slow and quiet (and nothing more than a FIA political environmental gimmick) & as for NASCAR, there’s too many jokes I could make about it despite the high standard of competition it has.
    So I guess I am a member of the final generation of motorsport fans. I really wish I could have had more positive things to say, but that would be plain lying.

    P.S. Indycar is my second favourite series after F1. It’s quite sad to see it in such a sorry state.

  3. As for your assertion that my generation don’t care about cars, that is actually false. Lots of people I know my age have interest in getting a car and then upgrading to a bigger faster car (in the U.K. at least). Even with the general rising price of fuel (petrol/gasoline, diesel etc.), my friends did talk about what they hope their first car would be at school. There are still many who buy car magazines and have almost encyclopaedic knowledge of today’s car market.

    It’s just the fundamental issue is that my generation associates motorsport with the “wrong” people: despots, playboy businessmen, rich kids, capitalists, bankers, criminals, CEOs of mulitnational corporations etc.

    I must admit when my favourite driver Kimi Raikkonen retires, my interest will wane with F1. It feels like the same issues within the sport never end. Same with Indycar- too many factions within the team owners, constantly losing money, poor attendance (*coughs* Fontana) and criticisms of the spec Dallara DW12 chassis and its crap aero kits.

    Since I’ve never lived in America, I do find some of the things you write about to be quite surprising. Having said that, I appreciate your dedication to Indycar.

    But above all else, motorsports’ image and reputation is declining. People see modern racing cars (not just F1) as dominated by technology and electronic devices, as well as aeronautical technology that bears little relevance to the “real world”. As a younger fan, I often do regret not being born ten years earlier, where I could have witnessed Senna etc. but I do feel as if that had been the case, my interest in motorsports might have died off by now.

  4. George, something you didn’t touch on, that you and I have discussed several times FTF, not over social media 😝, is that we were probably the last generation who worked on cars with our dads or family members. More importantly, we had cars we *could* work on with our dads.

    I remember being in the garage with my dad and uncle watching them tear down and rebuild carbs, changing drum brakes, turning down rotors, etc. I used to change my sparks, set the gaps, change out my points, find TDC, and using a timing gun to tune my engines. Nothing made me happier than when dad came home and said “Nice job” after I tuned my car myself for the first time. Now you need computers to do all that. There is no more tradition. You don’t see the neighbor kids building hot rods anymore.

    What I sadly see shaking out is that IndyCar will become an anachronism, with the 500 being the only race run as kind of a rich man’s playground, similar to the 24 Hours at LaMans. This will be in part due to poor marketing on IndyCar’s part, loss of audience due to poor market development due to poor marketing, loss of sponsorship money due to the poor marketing and loss of audience, and, eventually, loss of the series. It’s not circling the drain. Yet. But, I see the Fat Lady putting on her costume and warming up her throat.

  5. Declining rapidly. The inclusion of the machine makes motorsports less of a person v. person sport and therefore less attractive. A big factor as to who wins in basketball, baseball, football etc. isn’t who has the best ball. The ridiculous role that cash plays in success in the sport quickly diverts anyone who is interested and tries to participate in a youth version of the sport to something less expensive. Plus the races themselves are too long with not enough obvious, dynamic action for the current generation who has a billion other alternatives for use of their time.

    • I think the length of the race really matters. 4+ hr NASCAR races filled with commercials are painful to sit through. I find myself starting to less and less live TV in general. I will skip the live broadcasts and watch the replays at night, when I can fast forward. I can see a growing place for 1hr sprint races like in Pirelli World Challenge and TransAm.

  6. My kids are a bit younger so they are not considered millennials. But my son is driving and my oldest daughter has her temps. My son can’t wait to buy a car and is working while in high school right now to buy one. He wants a stick shift to really enjoy driving the car. He is very much into foreign sports cars. That sense of freedom we had when we wanted our first car is still very much alive, at least with my kids.

    The whole thing with uber and “saving the planet” is all tied up in politics and not everybody makes “saving that planet” their religion, especially as the planet is doing pretty well on its own. To me uber is nothing more than a way to get past the laws municipalities have on taxi services.

    I think the biggest change is that you can no longer work on your car. My son gets frustrated because he would like to do work on the cars. He has purchased a gadget that can communicate with the computer on the car to tell him what codes the engine is sending when there is a problem and how to interpret them. He is maintaining our cars and changing oil. But he would like to be able to do more and its limited because of all the gadgets and computer issues. My father in law and my old neighbor both used to own repair shops for autos but had to give them up as neither could afford the computer equipment needed to “talk” with the cars computers.

    Professional sports have a lot of problems, the biggest I think being the cost, as well as the ridiculous salaries being paid to the players which helps drive the cost. Auto racing will be ok if we don’t overreact. Popularity will wane and then come back, as it does with most things. But that has been my fear, that Indycar will change what has worked for 100 years in the name of change, and they have been in the process of doing just that for a while now.

  7. Speaking as a younger person, I think the decline of the automobile is rather exaggerated. The 16 year old drivers licence statistic s a bit misleading; the requirements for getting a drivers licence at 16 are more difficult now than they were in the 1980’s. There are also more restrictions on what you are allowed to do with the licence (IE: hour and # of passenger restrictions) which make it less appealing. Despite this, I think a fair number of younger people want cars and care about cars. Movies with cars as a major focus have been incredibly successful. The area where there might be an issue is that it is hard to own a car in some of the major cities people live in (RE: New York/Chicago) but that doesn’t mean that younger people don’t want a car, just that in some places they can’t afford/ don’t need one.

    Considering that the racing game Forza 5 and Forza 6 (with Indycar’s in them) ranks among the best selling Xbox One games, I don’t think young people have totally abandoned cars. In fact one could argue that difficulty in owning a car in real life could make things like games, movies, and auto racing MORE appealing rather than less. Note as well the interest in Ken Block, Travis Pastrana, and Super-cross/Motocross.

    As for the environmentalist problem, while I’m sure there are some environmentalists who hate racing and all automobiles, that is a small minority of them. Most people who care about climate change are reasonable and want technological progress to help reduce pollution and develop alternative fuel sources. I think most people can distinguish between sports and entertainment against real world political and social issues.

    The trophy-kid comments are so out of touch and stereotypical they don’t even deserve a response.

    As for kids these days not liking sports, I’m not entirely sure where you are pulling that statistic from. There is always fear for the MLB that younger people will lack the attention span for baseball, but so far things are going okay. As for the rest of stick and ball sports, they’re basically all growing, and younger people are a part of that. College Football, World Cup, Premier League/Spanish Soccer, NFL, NBA are for the most part increasing in attendance and ratings (yes I know the CFB bowl games were down in ratings, but that’s the exception, not the rule.)

    There are issues with racing and a lack of younger fans, but I don’t think you can put the blame on millennials being weird.

    The biggest problem is probably a combination of demographic and geographic. Geographically most race tracks are outside of major population centers which makes it harder to attract fans. There are exceptions (Indy) but even tracks like Chicagoland and Fontana aren’t really in the city they’re associated with. In contrast the stick and ball stadium’s are often in the center of their associated city. Demographics are complicated, but look at the makeup of America today and contrast it with the makeup of NASCAR (especially bad for this) and racing in general and you might find a reason why they’re struggling. If you’re smart you might even find a solution.

    Making sure that the racing itself is competitive and exciting is important for attracting new fans, young and old. There have been some great races in Indycar recently, but there’s also some issues which keep it from being as exciting as it could be. Continuing to improve the on track racing without resorting to crazy ideas (NASCAR’s new rules) is a good idea. As for marketing, I still
    believe that marketing racing as an extreme sport is the way to go.

    I see no reason to give up hope for better days for autoracing. I think many of the problems are fixable. What we (IE: NASCAR/Indycar/F1) need is better leadership with more vision and a better understanding of how to make real changes without resorting to crazy gimmicks (non-crazy gimmicks are cool) as well as a little more flexibility on the part of the participants (IE: Indycar team owners can’t kick out visionary leaders.)

    • If you deny the existence of Trophy Kids, which of us is more out of touch? – GP

    • What the hell is a “Trophy Kid” anyway?

    • I am a environmentalist although I dislike that term about as much as I dislike “millennial”. After all, don’t we all-folks and critters alike-need clean air and clean water to survive? Having said that…………If , and I should say when instead of if, there is only say a few thousand gallons of fuel left on the planet for our use, I say……… let’s go racin’. And everybody gets a trophy at the yard of bricks or pearly gate.

  8. Bruce Waine Says:

    The 125th running of the INDY 500 ?


    Properly titled … The 125th running of the D A Lubricants 500?

    • Only if DA Lubricants decides to pony up a bunch more than $1.6 million per year to be the “title” sponsor instead of the “presenting” sponsor, which is what they are now.

  9. Racing will evolve with the automobile, and wane in its cultural relevance but never go away. As long as there are 2 people on earth with some means of conveyance, there will be racing. It’s hard wired into our species. Hell, they’re even racing drones now.

    As for the business of racing, that’s a different story. It will always have to adapt to the more of the society around it. Just like it has for over a hundred years. Safety, spectacle, technology, and other cultural influences will carry it around like a ship on the ocean.It will end up in different places but I don’t see it disappearing

  10. The day I turned 16 one of my friends drove me down to the Driver Examination Centre to write and get my “beginner’s” license. It was a big day that would be surpassed a few weeks later when I drove with an examiner to get my permanent license.

    It was freedom, it was excitement, it was independence.

    My sister’s kids have had no such rush to drive. Their phones are a much bigger deal in their lives.

    So, what happens to Motorsports? I think it will always be around but I think we’ve already seen the crest in viewership/attendance. Some series won’t be around but I can’t see F1 or NASCAR disappearing.

  11. When I was 16 you got your license and went for a rip in dad’s monster V8 somethingorother and didn’t worry about it.

    Then the lawsuits started and the insurance companies got very much involved.

    Today, to insure a 16 year old requires massive amounts of money. This is serious enough that most families have to take a deep look at the old pocketbook and try to figure out if giving your kid a license warrants an extra thousand or so bucks every year.

    If a child doesn’t get a licence by his/her 20’s the problem doesn’t go away because the person is still considered a ‘new’ driver …. so if they’re living in a city, why bother. They’ve already established a car free lifestyle.

    • DZ-groundedeffects Says:

      This brings up a fair question – does it really make sense to hold races (in large metropolitan areas with mass-transit) where there’s actually less daily interest/concern with the auto than anywhere else? I realize these are more B-to-B connections in a city ‘event’ atmosphere, but aside from that, any real auto-racing interest generated from the public?

  12. If anyone has been paying attention, we have all heard and seen how politics has worked its way into pretty much everything especially in our schools. The supposed environmental crises that we are living in maddening. How history has been edited and turned into commentary. In a time when technology is at its best and the air and water is cleaner than it ever has been in the United States, simultaneously is the number one concern of the millennial generation. The problem is not us it is China, India and others that are the worst offenders and really have no intention of rectifying it. Why is it that the largest CO emitters (volcanoes) don’t have catalytic converters on them and why aren’t the milennials worried about this? How about jet engines? Ships? Trains? It seems that the automobile is the scapegoat. To think there is not a driving force behind this could only mean one was living under a rock. This is liberal indoctrination manifesting right in front of your eyes.

  13. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    Auto-racing has been and will ever be, a harbinger of of the passenger automotive industry.

    Cars have never been built so well, with so many features, as safe, and with the most driver comfort as now. They’re also never at as high a price in relation to the median income as ever (except maybe when first invented), and never have such a low percentage of drivers been dispassionate about them. Am I referring to passenger cars or racing cars? You decide.

    In a sense, the best cars ever built on average are affordable to the least amount of people ever. This is also true with the recent Indycar and F1 cars. Passenger cars and auto-racing machines are both perhaps less compelling than ever. Why?

    A myriad of socio-economic reasons I won’t get into (yet again), but I’d also contend that a major factor is that auto manufacturers have been mired in ultraconservative design and outdated corporate/manufacturing philosophies for decades.

    I still think auto-racing can be incredibly compelling because no other outlet provides the human+machine competition on such a scale. Robot Wars is a made-for-TV show with some interesting human+machine competition.

    Auto-racing can reflect compelling human+machine competition when the companies that make them build incredibly compelling machines.

    • billytheskink Says:

      Kudos for the Robot Wars reference. I was a big fan when I was a kid, used to build Lego models of the robots on the show (and some of my own creations) and hold my own competitions.

      Of course, I did the same with Indycars.

  14. billytheskink Says:

    George, I have to totally disagree with you here. I find “Stupid Generation”, “Selfish Generation”, and “Me Generation” all to be much, MUCH more flattering terms than “Millenials”. “Baby Boomers” isn’t great either, but that’s no reason for the Boomer-controlled media to concoct such an awful term to label us young punks. Personally, I self-identify as a member of the “Pog-Flipper” generation…

    On a more serious note (though I am serious about preferring darn near any generation name to the m-word, including George’s examples), I don’t fear for the future of auto racing in general. I think there will always be interest in competition, speed, and spectacle across generations. Things will change, though, as they always have, and these changes will be dictated by a couple of things:

    First, surviving and thriving racing series will be the ones that follow what automakers and the transportation industry does. A racing series attempting to lead transportation trends on its own makes for good copy (see Bill Nye’s suggestion of an all-electric NASCAR), but it ignores the economic realities of a sport that has almost always been driven by manufacturer money and interests or by available automaker equipment.

    Second, the socioeconomic realities of this and coming generations will likely find people with the time and money to invest in following racing at different stages of life than in years past. Young people have financial pressures that have been lengthening or altering the transition to adulthood we’ve come to know in previous generations. Racing series will have to adapt to a new understanding of who is able to invest in racing and when rather than expecting to build fans for life when they are young. This will be a major challenge.

    As I said a few years back when this topic came up, someone will figure it out, someone always has. I still believe that.

  15. I am not about to go all henny penny here. I do not care nor do I have any influence over what millennials-or any other generation-likes or does not like. I would be interested to know if Amish millennials have less interest in a horse and buggy these days. As George finally concluded above, maybe we should just enjoy what we have while we have it.

    Here in Wisconsin all the millennials will be dead before they have an opportunity to get a Green Bay Packer season ticket. I have been on the waiting list for 25 years and there are still 60,000 living folks ahead of me.

    I must admit, however, that I do have some concern about the amount of time folks of all generations spend texting and tweeting while at events, amongst family and friends, or just in the dark with their world illuminated only by the dim glow of their phone. Perhaps the newest driverless cars will be tweeting other driverless cars. “Hey dude! Wanna race?” Do we want a president who tweets?

  16. I do agree that racing is on the decline. I also believe that football will be in serious trouble as info about traumatic head injuries become more and more widespread. Not sure what can be done about it. I’d guess that radical overhauls of both sports are in order if they are to survive.
    On a side note, I couldn’t agree more about your thoughts on driving the I-40, Great Smokies corridor, or Pigeon River Gorge. That will get the ol’ blood pumping. Nothing like racing down a mountain pass at about 85mph, with semi trucks bearing down on you, and concrete walls on either side! That is one helluva rush!

  17. Outright speed is not what is driving technical development anymore. Instead, it’s endurance which does that. It is very likely that within the next 20 years, the winning car at the 24 hours of Le Mans will not have used any fossil fuel thoughout the whole race.
    Red Bull’s Global Rallycross Series which has road cars jumping around is likely to gain an increase in popularity because these road cars are something people can relate to.

    Thus, IndyCar should focus more attention on its renewable fuel aspect and the endurance character of its 500 mile events.

    The classic, long-standing events will keep attracting attention from the crowd … the Indy 500, Le Mans, the Monaco GP, Bathurst, the 24 hours of Nürburgring Nordschleife, etc.
    It’s just that the won’t be as many different racing series on this planet as there are now.
    What other long-standing event does IndyCar have besides the Indy 500?

    Milwaukee! Oh, wait …

  18. I am not sure I can lump the entire generation together or paint them with the same broad brush. I have the pleasure to work with this age group and many are interested in cars. Not all can afford what they want to drive, but then neither could I at their age (or now for that matter). My students are not privileged and come from less affluent households. Two of them that I brought to Long Beach last year even had to take the Metro and a bus to get to the venue. Will they come with me again this year? Who knows. I hope my enthusiasm is catching. Always looking for novices to bring along and introduce to IndyCar.

    So much in life has changed since I was a kid. It can’t stay the same. So, I am going to enjoy the racing we have for as long as we have it, even if it is not perfect and the way it is run frustrates the heck out of me.

  19. I am a Millennial. Ironically, I just stumbled across this piece somewhat randomly while I was browsing online for F2000 cars for sale because I am getting bored with karts. I admit I am on the older side of the Millennial spectrum having been born in 1984. That said, based on my personal feelings as well as my own admittedly anecdotal observations of my peer group, I think the decline in popularity of motorsports is a bit more… complicated.

    I took my driver’s test the day I turned 16. So did most of my high school classmates. In college, my buddies and I drooled over the cars we would have someday.

    Now I daily drive a C7 Corvette Grand Sport. One of my co-workers, a Millennial as well, bought an M3 last year. My wife, born in 1990, drives an M340i because she couldn’t stand to wait any longer for the new M3/4 to come out. She moved to that from a Mustang GT. Another Millennial buddy of mine tracks his Challenger R/T all the time and is always tinkering. Yet another co-worker of mine, Millennial, reserved a Tesla Roadster. It had nothing to do with the EV thing and everything to do with the claimed performance numbers. I could go on and on. The point is that there are Millennials everywhere who do enjoy driving and care about the driving experience. One needs look no further than the thousands of videos on YouTube hosted by Millennials that review performance cars, talk about performance mods, DIY maintenance, etc. Even the more techy types are getting in on it with programming and flashing.

    My unprofessional and unqualified (aside from being a Millennial) opinion is that there is not a generational disconnect between man and machine, but rather a multifactorial perfect storm of events that is killing the following of organized motorsport. If you’ll bear with me just a bit longer, I will elaborate.

    1. Millennials are more experiential. Rather than watch something, we prefer to do it. I track my car. I race on an amateur level for fun. I would rather do it myself than watch other people do it, even if I am not all that good at it. Many Millennials feel similarly.

    2. Staleness of the sport. I grew up watching IndyCar and NASCAR. I always preferred IndyCar because they were on the bare-knuckle ragged edge of performance. IndyCar peaked in 1996 when Arie Luyendyk broke the IMS track record. They started watering down the cars after that, reportedly for the sake of “safety” even though horrible accidents still happen and drivers continue to be maimed or killed. It’s the dark side of the sport, but it’s a risk the drivers accept. Watering down the cars and handcuffing the technology makes things less exciting, plain and simple.

    3. Complexity/unapproachability/relevance. The gimmicky rules changes NASCAR has implemented only reeks of desperation and makes the sport intimidating to newcomers. It’s racing for goodness sake. The whole fun of it is how simple it is – the winner wins, the losers lose. “Playoffs” in motorsports? Really? And these are supposed to be modified stock cars (and they were once). Get rid of the spec. Let teams field anything they want with say a base price of under $100K, with just a rule that it has to start its life bone stock and keep the original core drivetrain. Put real Camaros, Challengers, Mustangs, M-cars, Supras, etc. out there that the teams have souped up and let them go at it. The sport would become much more relevant and fun to the Millennial who has one sitting in his garage.

    As for open wheel, you have the IRL-CART split from which the sport has never fully recovered. I had to do half an hour of research recently just to figure out what the main IndyCar series is even called anymore, who runs it, and where it will be competing next year because it is constantly changing. The changes are dizzying and are a perpetual turn-off.

    I guess the whole reason I felt a need to spout a whole page of opinion here is to fully qualify what I will say now: that there is hope for motorsports. Millennials are not indifferent to performance machines. To the contrary, the vast majority love them, too. This is a golden era of performance in the sports car market. Car manufacturers have tapped into it. There wouldn’t be nearly as many new cars boasting sub-five-second 0-60 times and approaching 1G on the skidpad if car buyers didn’t care about such things. Yes, there are a lot of “mommy wagons” on the road right now, but it’s a necessity of life when you have young children at home, as many Millennials now do. But you might be surprised at the number of sports cars sitting in the garage next to that wagon. Only reason #1, therefore, offers any irreversible explanation for the decline of organized high-level motorsports – and it’s a fairly weak argument. The problem is that the sport as a whole has not evolved. IndyCars are less exciting now than they were 25 years ago, and stock cars have lost touch with the performance driving interests of younger folks. Simple as that.

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