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DATE News (chronologically)
04/24/08
nascar
NASCAR fans brake for economy
A soft economy and record gas prices have NASCAR fans weighing the wisdom of fueling their cars and campers to watch other vehicles race. TV ratings for the Sprint Cup Series, down the last two years, are up 2% this season while attendance at the tracks has dropped or remained flat. Many who attend seem to decide at the last minute, unable or unwilling to shell out for rising gas prices and average hotel room rates of $200 with three- or four-night minimums.

That might also explain a spike in demand for camp sites at places such as Talladega Superspeedway, site of Sunday's Aaron's 499 Cup race. Operators of the Alabama track, mindful fans travel an average of 300 miles to the race, have opened more space for campers and expanded free parking.

NASCAR certainly is more susceptible to being impacted given the cost of traveling to races," says David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California. However, "Had NASCAR not remained vigilant when it comes to customer service and the fan experience, any softening of the economy would have been more pronounced."

Efforts to offset costs for fans have begun at such tracks as Lowe's  Motor Speedway outside Charlotte, promoting its $39 tickets for the 165,000-seat Coca-Cola  600 on May 25 as part of affordable packages.

"We don't want to leave money on the table, but tickets (left) on the day after a race are absolutely useless. It's like yesterday's news," Lowe's track president and general manager H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler says. "We're on the edge of something that will be with us for a while, because I don't think the economy will turn around real quick." AOL Money
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