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Published March 23, 2011
BRISTOL A CONCERN: ESPN.com's David Newton wrote the "number of empty seats" at last weekend's Sprint Cup Series Jeff Byrd 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS), which a "few years ago was the toughest ticket in NASCAR, raised huge red flags." Official attendance figures indicated 120,000 fans were in attendance at the 160,000-seat track, but the stands "appeared not much more than half full." BMS in '09 "celebrated 55 consecutive sellouts dating to August 1982." The BMS Facebook site suggests many fans are "turned off by the two- and three-wide racing we've seen since the track was repaved and reconfigured from a one-groove track in 2007." Gas prices "approaching $4 a gallon had to have an impact," and "absurd hotel prices also are a problem." Ticket prices "were a factor for some," as one fan said that he "could get seats at Martinsville Speedway for nearly half of what Bristol was asking." Then there is the "market saturation." One fan indicated that some are "opting to attend the first Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway on July 9 instead because it's a shorter drive" (ESPN.com, 3/21). YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee wrote, "There was an elephant in the room Sunday at Bristol. ... The stunning attendance woes at Bristol ... wasn't just a splash of cold water. This was a splash of cold water, followed by getting the empty bucket thrown right in your face. This is Bristol, man! Once revered as the toughest ticket in sports" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/21). In Charlotte, Jim Utter wrote Bristol's attendance was a "dose of reality." Utter: "In 14 years of covering NASCAR -- two races a season -- there were never fewer people in the stands for a Cup race than there were on Sunday. ... On top of that, overnight TV ratings were off nine percent" (THATSRACIN.com, 3/21).