Dwindling attendance puts pressure on race promoters ESPN announcer Marty Reid pointed out the obvious early in Sunday's telecast of the Brickyard 400.
Reid mentioned the abundance of empty seats at one of NASCAR's marquee events but said the broadcast wasn't going to dwell on it. Reid was right on both counts. There were plenty of empties, and it wasn't his place to talk about it.
But dwindling attendance numbers have become an every-track story in the Sprint Cup Series. Numbers have been falling in the last couple of years, and maybe it's time for everyone to just accept attendance isn't what it used to be, and there's not a lot that can be done about it.
Empty seats in California and Atlanta are nothing new. But there were seats that could be had at Bristol Motor Speedway. The only way a fan used to be able to get seats at Bristol was in someone's will. The Coke Zero 400 at Daytona had plenty of great seats available, too. And then there was the Brickyard 400, which is supposed to be the second-biggest race of the season.
You couldn't tell that by the stands. "I knew it was going to be bad early," said Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage about Sunday's crowd, which was estimated at 140,000.
Not surprisingly, Gossage, who is one of the sport's best promoters, doesn't see the problem limited to NASCAR. Attendance is down in Major League Baseball and the NBA , too. Only the NFL has avoided the letdown.
"No other sport talks about crowds," he said. "It's a mixed thing. On one hand, it's always frustrating when attendance or TV ratings decline. But every other sport other than the NFL would like to have an average crowd of 100,000. If we use the same tape measure as all other sports, it wouldn't be an issue. Racing's always been treated differently."
Gossage knows the sport has work to do if it's going to get fans back to the track. No track works harder than TMS, but it is not alone.
Fans who buy Daytona 500 tickets next week get a piece of the track's asphalt. That's like the Super Bowl handing out turf to those who buy tickets. But that's all that matters if it draws big crowds.
Gossage said his team has been working overtime to bring people to the track for the 2011 season. "We're getting really creative for 2011."
Ever the promoter, Gossage found a silver lining in Sunday's attendance at Indianapolis. Since the Brickyard 400 began, it has been touted as the second-biggest race on the Sprint Cup schedule. It started in 1994, with more than 200,000 people.
That number dropped to 180,000 last year and then lost another 40,000. If the April Samsung Mobile 500 hadn't been postponed and rerun later because of rain, it would have easily passed the Brickyard in attendance. The November AAA Texas 500 should beat it, too.
"I think we moved past them Sunday," Gossage said. "That's a big deal. We're proud of that." AP Article
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