New research suggests that people still watch NASCAR for the brutal crashes, but that number is declining. University of Iowa economist John Solow and his colleagues studied the TV ratings of more than 100 NASCAR races over 8 years, including such metrics as the driver standings, track length, and even whether there was a football game on at the same time. Interestingly, NASCAR's 2004 adoption of the Sprint Cup championship race series seemed to increase viewers' interest in the actual races and point standings. Solow published his study in the journal Sports Economics, Management, and Policy. His paper has the excellent title of "The demand for aggressive behavior in American stock car racing." And that issue of the journal has the also-excellent title of "Violence and Aggression in Sporting Contests." Sadly, the journal is behind a paywall but you can read more about the NASCAR study from the University of Iowa news service: "Study Finds Fewer Fans Watching NASCAR for the Crashes"
(CC-licensed image from Bristol Motor Speedway & Dragway's Flickr stream)