Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker said that a "bigger crowd will be in the grandstand than in years past" for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400, according to Tim Dutton of the Riverside PRESS-ENTERPRISE. This is the "first year since 2003 that the speedway will host just one race," and Zucker said, "We've seen a huge lift in sales. We're significantly ahead of last year; it's going to be a great crowd." She added, "I think the fans really understand that this single-race schedule isn't what we want for this community. We've really challenged the fans that if they really like NASCAR, here's a chance to come out here and show their support" (Riverside PRESS-ENTERPRISE, 3/24). Zucker: "I think there's resentment in general among people in the industry toward our track. I don't know if it's the distance they have to travel, or the time change, but it's a great place to see a race. And when people point out the empty seats, they don't realize how big our grandstand is" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/24). In California, Ryan Hagen notes ticket sale numbers "were not available" yesterday. But nearby businesses, "which lean heavily on race-related revenue," said that their sales are "as strong as ever" (SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SUN, 3/24).
IS NASCAR THE PROBLEM? In San Diego, Bill Center writes, "It is time for NASCAR to take a long hard look in the mirror. Perhaps the problem is the sport. Case in point -- Bristol, Tenn." There "wasn't much of a crowd" in attendance for last week's Jeff Byrd 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. NASCAR "put the crowd estimate at 120,000, which would mean the stands were a third empty," but some observers "put the attendance at around" 50% of capacity. Center: "If NASCAR isn't concerned, it should be. ... It's one thing when fans don't show up at Fontana on Labor Day when the [temperature's] stuck in triple digits. It is quite another when they say 'no thank you' to a race at Bristol" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/24).
MARKET WATCH: In California, Jim Steinberg reports "for the first time in the last seven years, the 10,000 people camping at Auto Club Speedway for this weekend's races will not be supported by a Stater Bros. outlet in a large climate-controlled tent." Stater Bros. late last year "ended its marketing partnership and race sponsorship and will no longer have its temporary market." Auto Club Speedway Dir of Communications David Talley said that there is "strong interest from several large grocery store groups, but nothing could be finalized before this weekend." Talley added that there "will be an infield grocery store next year" (SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SUN, 3/24).