Academic journal article The Sport Journal

The Role of Driver Experience in Predicting the Outcome of NASCAR Races: An Empirical Analysis

Academic journal article The Sport Journal

The Role of Driver Experience in Predicting the Outcome of NASCAR Races: An Empirical Analysis

Article excerpt


NASCAR is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. It generates 3 billion dollars a year in GDP and adds new fans to its loyal fan base each year. The academic study of NASCAR is in its infancy, and this paper seeks to add to that small but growing body of literature. The origins of NASCAR reach back to the days of prohibition, when the cars used by bootleggers needed speed while making delivery runs to avoid the authorities in pursuit. More horsepower was needed, and so began the quest to modify cars for more horsepower and reliability. Simultaneously, auto racing became a sport. The inaugural auto race at Daytona Beach took place on March 8, 1936 (Felden, 2005).

These early races, however, were not officially organized, and so races were haphazard and drivers tended to show up randomly. The original tracks often consisted of dirt or sand. Fans were few in numbers, thus driving stock cars remained a hobby, since it didn't generate enough income to qualify as a job.

Over the next ten years, fan interest increased considerably, and stock car racing evolved from an occasional, hastily organized race on sand and dirt tracks to the stadiums and paved tracks we know today. In December 1947, Bill France Sr., both a driver and race promoter, developed the idea of NASCAR as organized stock car racing subject to specific rules. On February 15, 1948, NASCAR ran its first race at the Daytona Beach road course. The Daytona 500 remains the premier NASCAR race today. This paper proceeds in section II to discuss current research. Section III discusses data and methodology, while section IV discusses our empirical models and estimation methods. Section V discusses the findings of our analysis, and section VI offers concluding remarks.

Current Research

Scholarly research on NASCAR as a sport is relatively new and has taken many different directions. One avenue of research focuses on the reliability of NASCAR vehicles and explores the reasons behind part failure and the extent to which these critical part failures can be reduced. Majety, Dawande, and Rajgopal (1999) show that in general, the typical reliability allocation problem maximizes system reliability subject to a budget constraint. They note that cost is an increasing function of reliability and hence the tradeoff between dollars spent and system reliability. Although the media would have us believe that NASCAR owners are willing to spend virtually unlimited amounts of money to earn a spot in Victory Lane (New York Times, 2/13/06; CBS News, 10/6/05), NASCAR teams themselves acknowledge that in fact, a budget constraint does exist both in the form of willingness to spend money and the rules imposed on the construction of the vehicles themselves; although budgets in NASCAR racing are far more substantial than those common to commercially produced vehicles (Wachtel, 2006. Allender (2007), there continues with the reliability question, asking whether or not critical part failures in NASCAR vehicles are higher than what are expected and exploring some reasons as to why in fact they are.

Other lines of research focus on the type of tournament NASCAR represents and the most efficient type of reward structure for rank order tournaments (ROT), where finish position is all that matters to getting a prize. Becker and Harold (1992), Lynch and Zax (2000), and Maloney and McCormick (2000) use ROT theory to investigate the effect of different types of payment structures on the performance of contestants. Along similar lines, Lazear and Rosen (1981), Nabeluff and Stiglitz (1983), and O'Keefe, Viscusi, and Zeckhauser (1984) began to look seriously at a payoff structure that was preferable for the contest organizer. In fact, it was this line of research that began to take the field of sports economics into the realm of serious economic literature Fizel (2006).

Fans of NASCAR are ultimately interested in the outcome of each contest or race. …

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