NASCAR fans starting to prefer road racing? The grandstands at Watkins Glen International were almost completely filled with fans during the Sprint Cup race on Sunday afternoon. Track officials even went so far as to boast that there would be near record numbers of people for the Sprint Cup race days ahead of the event. That stands in stark contrast to the empty seats seen at oval track races like Indianapolis, Michigan and other locales where NASCAR has held races this season. So why the difference?
NASCAR officials as well as those who insist on spouting the company line for the sanctioning body insist that factors such as the economy, weather and start times have kept people away from their races. So the economy is better in upstate New York than it is in other areas? Watkins Glen is the only track that has had good weather this year?
Of course, the answer to both of those questions is no. So what was the difference?
Maybe NASCAR fans, like IndyCar fans, are getting tired watching cars drone around in circles for hours on end. Maybe NASCAR fans are starting to appreciate that it takes far more skill to drive fast on a road course than it does on 100% throttle no-talent-required ovals like Daytona and Talladega.
If the predominant ‘cookie cutter’ tracks provided that kind of action, people would fill the seats there as well.
The economy is not great. There is no denying that. But for NASCAR officials and those highly placed media members who go out of their way to echo the company line from Daytona Beach to claim that the economy is the only reason people aren’t attending races is ridiculous.
And furthermore, it’s not the weather nor the time of day that the races are run that cause there to be empty seats. People don’t plan a trip to a NASCAR track on the spur of the moment so weather on the particular day of the race has little impact on attendance. And, if Indianapolis had lights, there still would have been thousands of empty seats there.
The simple truth is that it's the racing that is the primary factor to drive attendance. Give fans good road racing and they will show up. They proved that at Watkins Glen on Sunday. Give them bad racing and they won’t bother. They proved that last month in Indy and likely will prove it again in Michigan next weekend.