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Volume 24 No. 156

Events and Attractions

Roger Federer's defeat of John Isner yesterday in the men's final of the BNP Paribas Open drew a crowd of 16,668 at Indian Wells Tennis Garden to cap off a "record tournament," according to Leighton Ginn of the Palm Springs DESERT SUN. The 12-day combined ATP/WTA event drew 370,406 spectators, breaking last year's record of 350,086 (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 3/19). In N.Y., Ben Rothenberg noted Oracle Founder & CEO Larry Ellison, who purchased the event and the venue in '10, is "considered something of a savior." Ellison is "conversant on a long roster of players, up and down the rankings." Rothenberg noted the "emphasis on technology at Ellison's event is unmatched at any other tournament." All eight courts used for the BNP Paribas Open are "equipped with the Hawk-Eye system that is used by players to challenge calls." Ellison said, "You can imagine how frustrating it would be to think you lost the match, or the match turned on a bad call. So I think the players really like playing here for a lot of reasons, and that’s one of the reasons -- that it’s going to be a fairly judged match because Hawk-Eye is everywhere." Talking about future improvements to the tournament, Ellison said, "I think you always see little things where you can make improvements, and I think that’s just having an eye for that. And you know, the other thing is talking with players. What do they like? What can we do to make it easier for them?" He added, "The tournament makes money, and we take that money and put it back in the form of investments. Buying additional land for parking, putting in Hawk-Eye, upping the prize money -- doing all those things just trying to make our tournament better" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/18).

Sellout crowds "were once common" at Bristol Motor Speedway's 160,000-seat track, but there have been four straight NASCAR Sprint Cup races at the venue "without at sellout," according to Allen Gregory of the BRISTOL HERALD COURIER. The estimate for yesterday's Food City 500 was 102,000, which is "18,000 less than last year's official estimate." The wide-ranging reputation of BMS "was built on chaotic moments that serve as fodder for endless campfire arguments and factory floor discussions." The wider and smoother version "is perfect for drivers, who can select between multiple lanes to make passes without having to worry about getting mired in a wreck." Thanks to the "progressive banking that was introduced in 2007, drivers now work to set up textbook passes on the inside, middle and outside grooves." Gregory writes, "But let’s remember, Bristol once represented the ultimate NASCAR survival test of man and machine. There are still doses of chaos here, but it’s controlled now" (BRISTOL HERALD COURIER, 3/19). In North Carolina, Monte Dutton notes that five years ago, BMS' 160,000 seats "didn’t seem like enough." Dutton writes he "thought this year’s estimate was roughly last year’s crowd, and this year’s crowd was probably, oh, 80,000 or so." The fans in the area and the "pilgrims from afar grouse a lot about how management here 'ruined' the track by making it easier for NASCAR’s finest to pass one another" (Shelby STAR, 3/19). The AP's Jenna Fryer noted there are "differing opinions on why Bristol has fallen off, most notably the economic difficulties of the Tri-City area, limited hotel options and exorbitant rates for lodging within an hour-drive on race weekend." But fans have also "complained that the track isn't the same since a 2007 re-configuration." BMS races in the past "resembled demolition derbies, but the change to the track made passing easier and limited the wrecks" (AP, 3/18). In Charlotte, Jim Utter writes it seems clear that "more fans are making the decision to attend one Bristol race per season -- and for most, the August race wins out" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/19).