Attendance has to be on the minds of a lot of NASCAR executives at the moment. We have seen races this year that have featured overflow crowds, yet some tracks have looked like barren wastelands with empty seats pulling for their favorite driver to win. Today I noticed two articles floating around the Internet about races later this season that may feature vast swaths of seats missing spectators.
The first race that is going to feature low attendance figures is not really a surprise to anyone, the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Those in charge of the speedway have already admitted that ticket sales are far below expectations and are below the sales pace of last year’s race. I have attended the Brickyard 400 since 2002, and this news does not really shock me. The speedway and NASCAR are the only ones to blame for this dilemma. A couple of years ago we got to witness a disaster of a race when the tires would not rubber in the track and cautions had to be thrown every 10 to 12 laps. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Goodyear, and NASCAR thumbed their nose at the fans and said that the race went full distance and too bad. Fans have not forgotten this, and a race on the schedule that was once a crown jewel on the schedule will once again look like a quarantined area of Speedway, Indiana come late July on race day.
The second race that is also struggling to sell tickets was once the hardest ticket in NASCAR to get your hands on. The Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway is also having trouble moving tickets for the event. The leaders of Bristol noted in the article that as soon as the Spring race event was completed, they immediately began receiving complaints from the fans that the racing had become too vanilla. If you have read my posts on Bristol from the past, you know that I am in agreement with this line of thought. Bristol’s surface was repaved after the Spring 2007 race and Bristol has never been the same. Drivers no longer have to bump and run to make a pass. Slower traffic simply moves up the groove and out of the way. One of the greatest venues in the sport that was known for short fuses, wrecks, and bumps, has become a yawn and snoozer of a race. In true NASCAR and promoter form, the eyes are turned away from fan expectations. Do not be surprised if late this Summer as College Football season is approaching, that Bristol will have excellent seats available as the green flag falls.
In all of these instances that NASCAR fails to sell out a race or have huge crowds for the size of the venue, we get talk of the economy and how it keeps race fans away. I know there are people who are struggling to make ends meet, and a NASCAR race in person is just not in the cards for those folks. This is not the only reason why people are not attending races. Going to a race should be on the edge of your seat for every lap experience. You should wonder is the caution going to come out, and wow how did he/she save the car from a certain wreck. We have been lucky this year to see two first time winners in the Sprint Cup Series, but most of the time we can generally count the fingers on our hands to determine the number of drivers who realistically have a shot at winning any given race.
NASCAR must embrace its fans and own up situations that go wrong. I use to think the bountiful changes that NASCAR has made over the years were good for the sport. I can tell you now that is not the case. In speaking with a friend of mine at work this week who is a NASCAR fan, he did not even know how drivers qualified for the Chase this year. Too many change alienates fans. Fans can no longer flip on the TV during a race and understand the rules. Changing track configurations with repaving does not help NASCAR either. Keep in mind as well, this is all with television ratings generally being up this season. Time will tell if the fans ever decide to come back to the track, but I would not be surprised to see some gimmicks pulled out hats at the Brickyard this year to sell tickets, and Bristol as well.
Full on practice is now underway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500. Well, at least the practice is sort of underway. Rain has plagued the practice days so far this year, and many drivers have only turned about half the laps they should have turned at this point. In my humble opinion, I blame our contributor Dave who lives in Indianapolis for all the rain.
To get a real sense of how cars are going to qualify for the event, we need to wait until Friday’s practice session. This session is when the teams are going to almost show all of their hand and what speed they have for the cars. At this point there is no need to push up to the line and possibly wreck a front row sitting car. Saturday will be an exciting day when we see who has the fastest car, and the first qualifiers are set for the race.
Sunday will be a very exciting day as the final starting positions for the 100th anniversary of the race is set. With so many cars at the speedway this year, we could see a lot of action and surprises come the final qualifying day for the race. Once we have the field set, we can get into some real thoughts on how the race is going to play out this year.
Finally, I cannot remember a weekend that featured so many spectacular hits that drivers took at Dover. I also cannot ever recall a driver and spotter making such a huge mistake as Alex Kennedy did in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday. Kennedy should be parked in the upper series of NASCAR until he can prove that he can be safe on the track in a pristine car, and wrecked car as well. Thank goodness the safety in the cars is number one, or a number of drivers may not have left the Monster Mile on their own two feet.
Here is the schedule of events for this weekend. There is a lot coming up and we will bring as much of it as possible live on our Twitter account @troublinturntwo. Be sure to follow our good friend Dave @turn4troublmakr as well, who will be tweeting live from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pit Crew Challenge, Thursday 5/19 at 8:00 PM Eastern on Speed TV
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series N.C. Education Lottery 200, Friday 5/20 at 8:00 PM Eastern on Speed TV
IZOD IndyCar Series Indy 500 Pole Day, Saturday 5/21 at 11:00 AM Eastern to 2:30 PM Eastern on Versus
IZOD IndyCar Series Indy 500 Pole Day, Saturday 5/21 at 4:30 PM Eastern to 6:30 PM Eastern on Versus
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series All Star Events, Saturday 5/21 at 7:30 PM Eastern on Speed TV
IZOD IndyCar Series Indy 500 Bump Day, Sunday 5/22 at 12:00 PM Eastern to 6:30 PM Eastern on Versus
NASCAR Nationwide Series John Deere Dealers 250 presented by Pioneer, Sunday 5/22 at 2:00 PM on ABC
No fantasy racing pick this week for the All Star event since there are no points involved. Although I cannot play fantasy racing, I will say I have a feeling that Jimmie Johnson takes the event on Saturday night.
Wrecks of the week. Here are the hard hits from Dover: