All that, together with the Great Recession – and the rise of cord cutting – has taken its toll on NASCAR. Spectators and more worryingly – sponsors – have jumped ship. Target ended 16 years of NASCAR sponsorship in 2017.
Sponsorships have always been the lifeblood of NASCAR and a prominent part of its image – as seen in its cars and driver racing jackets.
Jerry Freeze, the General Manager for Front Row Motors, says the "overwhelming majority" of its income comes from sponsors. Though the breakdown varies from team to team, Freeze says it can comprise as much of 75 percent of its revenue.
At one point, it attracted more money from more Fortune 500 companies than any other sports or entertainment property in America.
AP reports that at its peak, a top team might spend $30 million to run a race car – with sponsorship money funding most of that.
But now, some owners say they're now getting half of what they used to 15 years ago.
Freeze says it's become more challenging over the years to land sponsorships. "The beginning of my time in NASCAR, we would have one sponsor that would sponsor the car for the whole year. And now the car has a different look each week, depending on who the partners are. So you're left scrambling to get decals produced and putting them on the car before the next race."
And NASCAR teams aren't just losing sponsors, they're also slashing the going-rate to advertise.