Kyle Busch held off a charging Brad Keselowski in the final turn of the 90-lap Cheez-It 355 at The Glen before a crowd that WGI president Michael Printup said was about 94,000, an increase of 3,000 over last year and one of the largest crowds in the 28-year modern history of the Sprint Cup event at Watkins Glen.
“We beat the heck out of that number last year," Printup said. “The weekend was fantastic. The fans were happy and the drivers were happy."
Larry Podoluk of Binghamton, who has attended the past seven Sprint Cup events at Watkins Glen said “There were more people around and it felt crowded. I definitely had fun up here. It was nice."
Jeff Kelsey of Halstead, Pa was one of the thousands of satisfied fans, saying, “It was a great weekend."
Printup’s crowd statement gives an accurate gauge on NASCAR attendance at Watkins Glen for the first time.
It has been a policy of the Glen’s parent owner, International Speedway Corporation, Inc., not to give out attendance figures because it is a publicly-held company. Instead, the media had to rely on NASCAR to provide crowd estimates at their race events, a policy that was dropped this year.
NASCAR’s estimates were not always accurate. Last year, they estimated 90,000 attended the Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen; Printup said it was actually 91,000.
“We own our own ticketing system, so it’s really easy to determine," he said.
This year’s attendance boost was helped in part by an aggressive marketing campaign with first-year sponsor Cheez-It and coming off one of the most memorable final lap finishes in NASCAR history in the 2012 race, when Marcus Ambrose bumped and banged his way past Keselowski in a wild final lap on an oil-slickened track.
With Cheez-It, a Kellogg company, signing a two-year contract in January, Watkins Glen management used some effective promotional measures, including having Busch demonstrate his 900-horsepower No. 18 Toyota Camry Sprint Cup in the streets of Rochester last month.
Printup had hoped to beat the attendance record, which he said was 94,300 in 2002. Rain and road closings on Thursday and Friday had a slight negative impact on an otherwise near-perfect weekend. The only issue Printup cited was some traffic snarls entering the track due to some signage mix-ups.
The positive news for the Glen comes at a time when many tracks are lagging in attendance from their historical highs. Press and Sun Bulletin