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More signs NASCAR is in big trouble
The continuing economic downturn has led to the shutdown of the Daytona 500 Experience, Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III said Tuesday.

"This is a challenging economic environment right now and we're seeing attendance challenges, not just at racetracks, but at our attraction as well," Chitwood said.

Chitwood said he met with all employees losing their jobs in the next three weeks. He would not say how many jobs will be lost.

"It's something you never want to do," he said of the coming layoffs. "You don't want to have those conversations. If you sit in this chair, it's something you have to do."

The attraction's closing is part of International Speedway Corp.'s plan to cut expenses at every level of business. ISC, a publicly owned company, operates 13 major auto racing facilities in North America, plus Americrown (food services, souvenirs) and MRN (sports radio network).

"This decision wasn't made on an island. This is part of the bigger corporate challenges we are facing," Chitwood said.

The announcement caught the local community flat-footed.

"Anytime there are job losses it's a terrible thing," said Daytona Beach Mayor Glenn Ritchey. "We're certainly sorry to hear about that. This is a terrible time we're all going through and we all need to get our expenses in order."

Bob Davis, president of the Hotel and Lodging Association of Volusia County, was surprised to hear the 500 Experience was closing, and said it was bad news for Daytona Beach tourism.

"It just kind of takes away another attraction that we so desperately need," Davis said.

He was quick to add that if the 500 Experience was losing revenue, "why would the Speedway keep supporting a loser?"

Tourists mingling around the attraction and Speedway on Tuesday had mixed feelings about the closing.

"If this was an NFL town, and this was an NFL Experience, and people were inside catching footballs, they wouldn't close it," said Wally Henry of Alberta, Canada. "I vote to keep it open."

Kay Beall of Mountain Home, Texas, was a Biketoberfest leftover. She was scanning the attraction but declined to go inside.

"We passed going in," she said. "It's just too expensive. We need gas money to get home." Daytona Beach News Journal

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