Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, crosses the finish line ahead of Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 31 Wheaties Chevrolet, to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday in Daytona Beach, Fla.

After the Coke 400 at Daytona the other week, I noticed a couple of articles hammering away at NASCAR ticket sales because the entire super stretch was devoid of fans. We need to take a step back and think about why there were no fans sitting on the backstretch on that Saturday night of the race. Here is a very old article from Jayski.com referencing the backstretch:

DIS ‘superstretch’ to be closed for 400 next year: The 57,000-seat “superstretch” grandstand, which begins just off Turn 2 and runs about halfway down the back straightaway, will be closed for next July’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The only grandstand tickets sold will be for the 110,000-seat stands that run the length of the front “dog-leg” from Turn 4 to Turn 1. “We did the math,” DIS track president Robin Braig said Wednesday. The two large Jumbotron television monitors, which face the backstretch seats during race events, reportedly cost about $200,000 to rent. When Speedway officials included the costs of additional shuttle buses and manpower needed to manage a race-day event, closing those seats became a viable option. “We’re trying to keep the costs down on tickets,” Braig said. “When we open the superstretch, there’s everything from concession stands, cleanup crews, parking lots with buses and trams, the two huge Jumbotrons . . . Add up all that for the amount of people who are sitting back there, we just said, ‘Hey, let’s try to get everybody in the best seats we have, and try to hold costs down, especially since the demand for that area is lower than in past years.’ ” In an effort to soften the blow for those fans who actually prefer the backstretch to the front, DIS officials are highlighting the virtues of the main grandstands.(Daytona Beach News Journal)(8-22-2008)

Make sure to note the date of when the backstretch was closed for seating for the Coke 400 at Daytona. The first season it was closed for this particular race was 2009.

Do not believe everything you read in the papers and how some journalists out there like to cast a shadow over the sport we love. I am sure all of us would love to see all those seats filled at Daytona over the Fourth of July weekend, but the fact is that it has been a number of seasons since Daytona offered tickets in that grandstand for the July race. We know our sport is different and has attendance issues, but do not be led falsely by others on those issues.

Now for the truth, or at least how I see it. A.J. Allmendinger was suspended just before the Coke 400 for having a drug test sample A coming back with a banned substance. That is the fact that we have been told. I accept it for what it is at this point. Allmendinger tested positive for a substance that he should not have had in his body. The truth is that NASCAR did exactly what it should have done. They suspended him immediately.

Racing is not like any other sport out there. If a basketball player tests for a banned substance, really take any stick or ball sport out there, he or she may get a competitive advantage. The fact is in other sports that generally you do not hold your competitors’ lives in your hands. We saw how quickly a driver’s life can be taken last year at Las Vegas when we lost Dan Wheldon. NASCAR has an obligation to all the other competitors out there to park a driver if something comes back.

We all hope the B sample for A.J. comes back negative and it was a testing error. I know it would suck for him to miss races and be wrongly accused. The truth is that the other competitors on the track deserve to be protected as soon as any sign of a banned substance is detected in a drug test.

I do wish A.J. the best of luck and hope that the A sample was a mistake. If it is not, I hope A.J. gets help for whatever he may have consumed that is not allowed, assuming it is a dependency. We hope to see him on the track again as quickly as possible. 

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