Talladega Draws Smallest Crowd For NASCAR Sprint Cup Race In Track's History
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).