Attendance woes continue to dog Cal. Speedway
If NASCAR is to be believed, the attendance at Sunday's Auto Club 500 was 87,000. If track president Gillian Zucker is to be believed, this year's Nextel Cup race was an improvement over a year ago. If veteran track observers, notably writers who have covered stock car racing at Fontana, are to be believed, Sunday's gathering was among the smallest since NASCAR returned to Southern California in 1997.
The argument about attendance, which has cropped up only after NASCAR added a second Cup date in 2004, is hampered by the absence of real numbers. Track owner International Speedway Corp. has a policy of not releasing figures, opening the door for speculation.
Apparently, only the tax people know the true figures outside ISC corporate offices.
But Zucker wasn't buying the estimated crowd of 70,000 used by several publications, including this one.
"We thought the crowd was great, I know the numbers were up over a year ago and that was our goal for today," Zucker said at her traditional post-race meeting with the media.
"Mission accomplished. We are making progress. Today was tremendously entertaining."
Zucker fielded tough questions about the number she can't release, but was adamant in her defense.
"I can tell you it was more than last year, absolutely," said Zucker, nearing completion of the second year of her tenure at the track. "Here's the way I look at it: This is a business to me and I'm responsible to the shareholders of ISC and returning on that investment.
"We did that today, we are really proud of the job that we've done. We are up from last year, I promise you." LA Daily News