NASCAR tracks: The fewer seats, well, all the better (Update)

UPDATE Talladega Superspeedway officials on Wednesday confirmed that the track "will see its seating capacity reduced to approximately 80,000 seats by next season," according to Jim Utter of the Charlotte Observer. The "largest change will come from the recent demolition of the Allison Grandstands, a large swath of seats located on the backstretch of the 2.66-mile speedway which had a seating capacity this season of 18,000." Many of the track's frontstretch seats in recent seasons have "been tarped over while the speedway still sold tickets — usually at lower price — for the backstretch."

The track's listed capacity as recently as '07 was 147,000 grandstand seats, while the listed capacity this season was 109,000. Talladega in the coming months "will make several additional improvements to the frontstretch, including better sightlines and upgrades to its Sprint Vision capabilities — the portable giant TVs which provide closeups and replays to fans in attendance." The move is the "latest by several tracks to reduce capacity while also improving the fan experience for those in attendance." CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

11/29/13 Apparently, one way to fill the grandstands at NASCAR races is to remove seats.

Talladega Superspeedway became the most recent track to eliminate entire grandstands to make it easier to sell out both of its racing weekends.

For nearly 20 years, the speedway attracted more than 125,000 for each of its Sprint Cup Series races. But the demolition of the backstretch grandstands means the seating capacity will drop from 147,000 to 109,000 next year.

After blanketing entire sections with sponsor banners — much like the upper deck at EverBank Field for Jaguars games — and creating an optical illusion by painting seats blue, red and yellow to give the appearance of fans for television, Talladega finally decided it’s easier to knock down some grandstands than trying to fill them.

The reduction comes at the same time Daytona International Speedway announced it was doing away with 45,000 seats and Phoenix International Raceway was getting rid of 20,000 seats.

NASCAR’s $8.2 billion, 10-year contract with Fox and NBC means tracks don’t have to worry about their bottom lines. Unlike years ago, when tickets were the primary source of income, there’s no real incentive to build, maintain and sell massive facilities.

So for now, the game plan is smaller is better.