Nascar boss: The sport is ‘stronger than ever’ despite falling viewership – CNBC

Ahead of Sunday’s big Daytona 500, racing legend Roger Penske dismissed claims that his sport is faltering.

“I see the sport as stronger than ever from a competitive standpoint,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

As the Nascar season kicks off at Daytona 500, new questions have emerged about the state of stock car racing as both viewership numbers and admissions are seeing major declines.

Nascar’s television viewership is down 45 percent, and sponsors aren’t paying even half what they used to as fans simply aren’t showing up to the track, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.

“I was the chairman of the Super Bowl in 2006 in Detroit where we had 70,000 people,” Penske said. “When you think about Nascar every single weekend, we have more fans than the Super Bowl brings every single weekend 38 times. And I would say when you pack and load social media and the connection to the drivers and teams I think we’re in the best shape ever.”

Penske said that his team’s sponsorship also is strong. On Friday, Team Penske, which consists of frontrunners Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, it was extending a seven-year deal with Shell-Pennzoil to sponsor two of his racers both on and off the track (Nascar’s Joey Logano and IndyCar’s Helio Castroneves).

“Companies that scrutinize the marketing aspects of this and the returns are saying this is a great place to be,” Penske added.

However, Monster Energy may not have held that same sentiment. After 13 years as Nascar’s title sponsor, Sprint, made the decision not to renew its contract. Nascar signed a new deal with Monster Energy, but the reported $20 million deal is well short of the $100 million sought, according to the Journal.

Penske blames the mega-track sizes for being a misleading indicator for his sport.

“The problem is we built these big tracks with 160,00-170,000 seats and ability to bring fans in. I think there is a downsizing there and people are taking that the wrong way,” he said.

He said he supports Nascar’s new points system that it introduced this season, and believes it will create more excitement throughout the season. Races will be divided into three stages, with points arriving at each stage rather than at the end of the race.

“I think it will make a big difference,” he added.

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