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Once Vehicles For Republican Presidents To Connect With Southern Whites, Motor Sports Are Shifting Away From Trump

Nabaparna Bhattacharya
May 04, 2024

On a Sunday afternoon at a Florida racetrack, one would expect a warm reception for Donald Trump and his backers. However, at the Miami Grand Prix this Sunday, that expectation will be challenged. 

Organizers of the event sent a cease-and-desist letter to a wealthy Trump supporter planning a $250,000 per ticket fundraiser in a suite overlooking the race, reported Bloomberg.

With dwindling viewership over the years, motor sports are aiming to expand their audience beyond traditional fans. Promoting conservatism or any politics at the track could hinder this goal, the report added.

IndyCar also refused a team’s bid to display Trump and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. promotions on its bodywork at the Indy 500. 

Similarly, a plan for Trump to give the command to start engines at a televised IndyCar race in Thermal, California, was abruptly scrapped in March, as reported by Racer, a prominent motor sports news outlet.

The shift is especially striking given that, since Richard Nixon, Republican presidents have seen motor sports as a way to connect with Southern white working-class culture, according to Bloomberg.

NASCAR has been especially appealing, with its roots in Prohibition-era bootlegging, where drivers raced modified production model cars. For many fans, NASCAR embodies a rugged, rebellious Southern heritage often symbolized by the Confederate flag at races, Bloomberg added.

Trump embraced this heritage as president, notably serving as the grand marshal of the 2020 Daytona 500, NASCAR’s premier event.

However, this enthusiasm wasn’t reflected in television viewership. In 2020, Daytona saw its lowest viewership since records were first kept in 1979, with 7.33 million viewers, a figure not aided by rain delays. A year later, viewership dropped further to 4.9 million.

The decline isn’t limited to Daytona. In 2023, NASCAR averaged 2.86 million viewers, down 5% from 2022, its lowest on record. 

Formula 1 also experienced an 8% viewership drop in 2023. IndyCar, while showing improvement, still faces challenges. Since 1993, IndyCar viewership has plummeted by 72.7%, with average broadcasts dropping from 4.1 million to 1.1 million viewers. 

Motor sports enthusiasts have various theories for the decline, but one fact remains clear: appeals to Southern heritage, conservative politics and Trump haven’t attracted new fans to the sport.

Read Next: Berkshire Hathaway’s Q1 Operating Earnings Surged 39% — Here’s Why

This content was partially produced with the help of AI tools and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

Photo: Shutterstock

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