SBD/Issue 232/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NASCAR Still Seeing Attendance Drops At Cup Races Despite Promos

NASCAR Sprint Cup Events Estimated To
Have Drawn 246,800 Fewer People Than In '08
Despite "lower ticket prices that most tracks have offered," NASCAR Sprint Cup events this season are estimated to have drawn 246,800 fewer people than in '08, a decrease of 8.7%, according to David Newton of ESPN.com. The percentage is "likely even higher," as track attendance estimates "typically are exaggerated." Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) and Richmond Int'l Raceway (RIR) had "seemed bulletproof to the economy," as they both had "long waiting lists for tickets." But RIR saw its 33-race sellout streak end last September, and BMS had to "beat the bushes for potential customers" before selling out the March 22 Food City 500. All 160,000 seats at BMS "have been sold" for Saturday's Sharpie 500, marking the track's 55th consecutive sellout, but Bristol's earlier "vulnerability ... was a wake-up call for the industry." Some tracks are now "taking extreme measures." Lowe's Motor Speedway, which hosts two Sprint Cup events and the All-Star race, "recently brought 22,000 horsepower to downtown Charlotte for a 'Parade of Power' to promote the September NHRA race and the October Cup race." Auto Club Speedway this year "started a $35 Ticket Tuesday Zucchini Patch promotion in which fans that purchase $35 tickets in July and August will receive California-grown zucchini and Krispy Kreme cheesecake-filled doughtnuts." But lowering prices "appears to be the best way to have the most immediate impact." Michigan Int'l Speedway already has cut every ticket for next year's two races from 5-63%, and many other tracks, including Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway, "also have announced cuts for next season" (ESPN.com, 8/19).

THE PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE 500: The White House honored NASCAR yesterday, with President Obama saluting '08 Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and several other current and former drivers. ESPN2's Dale Jarrett said the event "says a lot about our sport that they take the time and have the opportunity here for us to be recognized as champions." An event like the one at the White House gives NASCAR "an opportunity to get our sport out there in front of a lot of people that maybe don't pay a lot of attention at times." Obama after the ceremony said he would "love" to attend a NASCAR race. Obama: "I was supposed to do it during the campaign, but we just ended up having to travel too much and we weren’t able to devote the amount of time that I wanted to. Hopefully sometime during my presidency I’m going to get out there" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 8/19).

TURN LEFT, BUT LEAN RIGHT: POLITICO.com’s Kenneth Vogel noted the 17 drivers invited to the White House “have given a total of $113,625 in federal campaign contributions since the early 1980s, all of which went to Republican candidates and party committees” (POLITICO.com, 8/19). FOXSPORTS.com’s Lee Spencer noted driver Bill Elliott, “who was on his third trip to the White House, didn’t feel the warmth he experienced during the Bush administration” at yesterday's festivities. Elliott: “They weren’t very personable. Bush took us in the oval office. This seemed a bit rushed.” But driver Juan Pablo Montoya said of visiting the White House and meeting President Obama, “It was pretty cool” (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/19).

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