Could Pro UTV Racing Be The Next NASCAR?

EmptySpeedwayCrowd_1It can almost be easy to forget how incredibly popular NASCAR has always been. Despite not usually being mentioned among America’s “major” professional sports, it has frequently performed just as well if not better than those sports in terms of viewership. That said, the last year or two have brought about a skid. Attendance has been declining, there are questions about how the organization is run, and perhaps most problematic of all, Americans just don’t seem to be into it. NASCAR isn’t about to disappear anytime soon – it just might take more of a backseat to other sports than usual.

It should also be mentioned that NASCAR may be feeling some indirect competition from another popular form of racing sport in Formula 1. Though it’s more popular in Europe and around the world than in the U.S., F1 has one of the largest numbers of followers worldwide of any sport, and may actually be growing. Where pop culture has come to mock NASCAR somewhat (such as via the film Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, starring Will Ferrell), it tends to glorify F1 (as seen in the Ron Howard film Rush or even the popular documentary Senna). Put simply, F1 is cool; NASCAR is old.

It may just be that there’s only room for so much in the way of racing sports. However, it could also be true that with NASCAR struggling and F1 chipping away at any international popularity it may have had, there’s room for a new competitor to ease into the category. And though it’s a long shot, professional UTV racing might be growing at the perfect time.

pitstopeeutvrllrdFor starters, we’ve actually seen quite a bit of growth in UTV racing over the years. That won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s already a fan, but if you really think about the history of the sport, you can see clear progress. It has basically transitioned from the somewhat bizarre and untested new kid on the block in off-road competition to being a mainstream event with its own distinct classifications and fan support.

Additionally, and perhaps even more importantly, UTV is accessible to fans in a way that NASCAR simply can’t be. There are very few ways for fans to actually experience what it’s like to ride in or drive a NASCAR vehicle (though there is such a thing as the “NASCAR Experience” that does just that). Alternatively, learning how to go UTV racing or simply off-roading in a rented UTV vehicle is actually perfectly possible. You might not be in a professional grade vehicle, or a serious competition, but it’s something you can try – which, in a way, is a prerequisite to a lot of major sports. It may even explain why hockey struggles in the U.S. compared to other major sports. People can try playing football, basketball, or baseball, or even soccer; they can’t necessarily just strap on skates and experience hockey as easily. Yes, UTV racing is far more expensive than the traditional stick and ball sports, but cost is nowhere near what it costs to build a career in NASCAR racing.

UTV racers don't race in front of as many people as NASCAR drivers, but go to any GNCC event and most will tell you that they don't dare miss the exciting UTV race.

UTV racers don’t race in front of as many people as NASCAR drivers, but go to any GNCC event and most will tell you that they don’t dare miss the exciting UTV race.

littleonboarddlta17This is in no way a prediction that UTV racing will be on par with what NASCAR used to be or still is today anytime soon. However, the sport’s growing prominence, accessibility and the fact that UTVs don’t just turn left in a circle make the booming sport of UTV racing interesting to watch in the long-term. Also with our ability to transfer high definition video from onboard cameras and drones even in the most remote off road wilderness means none of the action is missed.

If NASCAR continues to decline and UTV racing continues to expand, there could actually be a niche to be filled. All it would take is a major network executive to witness how exciting UTV racing truly is and before you know it UTV racing could become a fairly major spectator sport.

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