Many empty seats in Atlanta Sunday
Big patches of empty seats under the Atlanta Motor Speedway press box on Sunday prompted Jeff Gordon to say he was "a little baffled.'' "I know there's a lot of race fans around here,'' Gordon said. "I've been hearing that they were going to have some empty seats. It's hard to say. It's really hard to say. ... This place should be packed.''
Observers estimated the stands were no more than two-thirds filled for the NASCAR event, and total capacity is about 125,000. The listed attendance was 94,400.
There were hopes attendance would be boosted by great weather, but one week after a snowstorm, not even temperatures in the high 70s could fill the seats.
It was more proof of the economic downturn's impact on sports.
"We are far from immune from what's going on in our economy,'' said Carl Edwards, who finished third.
"It's too bad there aren't more fans in the grandstands, but I feel like my responsibility ... is to go out there and race as hard as we can, deliver for our marketing partners and deliver for our fans, and do the best we can and hope the economy comes back up and those stands get more full. But there's nothing we can do about it. I'm just glad for the fans that are here.''
The least expensive ticket for the race was $39.
Atlanta Motor Speedway has two races on the NASCAR schedule, including a fall race that has moved to Labor Day weekend.
"Atlanta has had a tough time,'' said Dale Earnhardt Jr. "You'd think that this place would do really well. I love it. I love coming here. ... I would hate to see them lose a race, which I ain't saying they will. ... It is a great race track with a lot of history.'' SI.com