Talladega Superspeedway officials estimated that a crowd of 88,000 attended yesterday's NASCAR's Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500, the "smallest crowd for a Sprint Cup race at Talladega since figures have been provided," according to Joe Medley of the ANNISTON STAR. The crowd "was 20,000 less than the previous low of 108,000 announced" for the Aaron's 499 in early May. The track "drew a combined 315,000 fans for its two annual Cup races as recently as 2007." Driver Jeff Gordon said, “From an entertainment standpoint, they should be lined up out to the highway out there. That I don’t get at all. That makes no sense to me.” Medley notes Talladega’s "trend of falling attendance matches" NASCAR’s. A USA Today report shows that attendance for Sprint Cup races is down 2.4% "from a year ago" and 8.5% from '09. NASCAR and Talladega officials have said that the "main culprit" is the economic downturn. Talladega Superspeedway Chair Grant Lynch "seemed at a loss about how to reverse the trend without an economic resurgence." Lynch said, “All we can do is to continue to try to improve our facility and put on the best show we can for the fans and hope that they think the values we’re offering out there and the products that we’re presenting to them make good sense to them as a way to spend their hard-earned dollars and come and have a weekend of great entertainment." He added that "the fall race, in particular, could be suffering from going head to head with college football at a time when Alabama and Auburn have won the past three national championships" (ANNISTON STAR, 10/8).
WHY ASK WHY: In Alabama, Mark McCarter writes when attendance at Talladega "rivals that of an Auburn spring football game ... you have to worry about what else is keeping the masses away." The elements "were in place for a healthy day at the box office," as there was no Univ. of Alabama football conflict and the race "had plenty of media and marketing buzz." NASCAR "ambitiously and blindly overbuilt its stadiums in its boom years, trying to squeeze in everyone instead of putting tickets at a premium." When the "inevitable plateau arrived that has hit all pro sports, empty seats are glaring." Talladega's problem is that "it's so subjective on whether it's good racing or not" (HUNTSVILLE NEWS, 10/8).
The NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA 200 at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve "is dead in the wake of failed negotiations" for a Sprint Cup race at the venue by race promoter Octane Group, according to Dean McNulty of the TORONTO SUN. NASCAR's announcement on Friday that it would not return "comes on the heels of one of Octane’s subsidiaries filing for bankruptcy protection late last month, leaving dozens of creditors across Canada on the hook for more than [C]$5 million." Octane Motorsports President & CEO Francois Dumontier Friday in a release "blamed NASCAR for the race’s demise, saying that his company had lost money on the NNS race in the past two seasons and could only continue with the promise of a Cup race down the road." The Nationwide event "annually drew about 60,000 to the Ile de Notre Dame road course." Meanwhile, NASCAR "will be looking to keep its Canadian fans happy and that is good news for Toronto’s Canadian Tire Motorsports Park." NASCAR Senior Dir of Communications for Competition Kerry Tharp said that the series was "very much hopeful it could find another venue" for a Nationwide event in '14. Tharp: "I don't think it will be long before we are back in Canada" (TORONTO SUN, 10/6). In Montreal, Dave Stubbs wrote NASCAR "left town as loudly as a car coasting out of gas, the race promoter surrendering his rights to an event when it became clear to him that he'd forever take a financial bath on it." NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell said, "I can tell you it's a bit of a surprise to us. We certainly feel like we've had a great run in Montreal and anticipated being back next year, if not many years beyond that. That was our intention" (Montreal GAZETTE, 10/5).
The Nov. 9 “Battle on the Midway” basketball game between San Diego State Univ. and Syracuse Univ. on the flight deck of the Midway Museum is “no longer headed to a watery grave” after “frantic bailing from Fox Sports San Diego and the two schools,” according to Mark Zeigler of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. FS San Diego went from “mere vendor to major stakeholder,” and the two schools will “take on a more active role than just showing up and playing.” FS San Diego President & GM Henry Ford said the RSN is assuming a “substantial” financial liability. Ford: “The promoter had some issues securing some sponsorships, which created some hardships for him. We kind of stepped up to make it happen. Producing a game of this magnitude is far more than a typical game would cost.” Zeigler reported several local businessmen were “also instrumental.” SDSU AD Jim Sterk said Co-Chair of UC-San Diego Athletic Board Jim Morris, former NFLer Phil McConkey, Pat Kilkenny and Padres Owner Ron Fowler each "stepped up financially." He added that SDSU “did not commit additional university funds but will handle ticket sales and assist in other areas.” Zeigler noted tickets so far have been available “only in private sales through the schools for upwards of $1,000 each.” Sterk said that the temporary stadium on the Midway will now “seat about 5,000 instead of 4,000, and that 2,900 would go on sale to the general public beginning next week.” He added that he “expected prices to be $500 for sidelines and $150-$175 for ends.” Sterk: “We’re, no pun intended, full steam ahead. We just needed to figure out how to get it all done” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/6).