Reports of the stock car racing league's demise are greatly exaggerated.
The weak economy has pummeled Nascar over the past three years, with sponsorships, merchandise sales, race winnings and subsidies from automakers falling. Fans have tuned out, sending TV ratings down 24% since 2006 and leaving more than 40,000 empty seats at some races last year. One of its longest-tenured teams, Richard Petty Motorsports, was scrambling for cash on a week-to-week basis so it could race on weekends last fall.
Is Nascar headed for a full-blown meltdown? Hardly. Yes, the value of the top 10 teams slid 5% in 2010, on average, to $136 million by our count, as prize money dropped and sponsors dialed back their commitment, but a rebound in 2011 for the sport is a strong possibility. "Nascar has hit bottom and is on its way to recovery," says Zak Brown, chief executive of Just Marketing International, a motor sports marketing company in Zionsville, Ind.
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