TV ratings are down for Nextel Cup races, International Speedway Corp., pulled the plug on its proposed track in Washington state and empty seats have been visible at some race this season. Has NASCAR fallen off? "All sports have growth spurts and reach plateaus at various times," said John Saunders, ISC's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "NASCAR is not unique. What is unique is that this is NASCAR's first time." Saunders spoke on a conference call Tuesday with investor analysts as company officials discussed first-quarter earnings. ISC, run by the France family that also runs NASCAR, operates 12 tracks that host 19 Cup races, including at Daytona, Martinsville, Richmond, California and Phoenix. Monday night, ISC announced it dropped plans to build a $368 million race track near Bremerton, Wash., after legislators planned changes to a financing package. Saunders called the changes, which he did not reveal, "unacceptable to ISC" and that those changes would have "a significant negative impact on the project's financial model." Said ISC President Lesa France Kennedy in a statement: "Any decision to execute on growth opportunities is guided by the fundamental principal of building long-term value for our shareholders." ISC officials say they remain interested in building a track in the Northwest and would still consider Washington. ISC officials also are studying the feasibility of a race track in Denver but that track, if ever developed, wouldn't be ready until 2012. ISC ended its attempts to build a track on Staten Island in December, although it remains interested in that area. With no new track ready to be built soon, ISC officials said on the conference call they had no plans to move a Cup race from one track to another. Saunders also said TV ratings for Cup races are down about 14% from this time last year. He said Busch TV ratings are down about 9% and truck ratings are up about 3%. Saunders said most of the drop in Cup ratings came with the Daytona 500. Last year's Daytona ratings were artificially boosted, Saunders said, by the Winter Olympics, which preceded the race. Ratings also were down for the California and Bristol races. Despite these examples, Saunders said, "we think the industry outlook is bright,'' noting this is the first year of the eight-year TV package that pays NASCAR about $4.5 billion, the return of ESPN to broadcasting races and diversity initiatives to attract new fans, particularly the Hispanic audience. Roanoke Times
04/03/07 The Seattle failure is the second major blow to ISC in the last few months. It also gave up on plans to build a New York City track on Staten Island. Most people will view this as NASCAR's getting rejected in the biggest city of the East Coast and one of the biggest cities on the West Coast.
Where's the love?
Maybe NASCAR isn't as popular in the blue states as it thought. Or maybe it's a different kind of politics, one to do with begging for public money in major markets when in fact ISC has so much cash and is making so much profit they can afford to build the entire thing themselves. The Washington State politicians are smart enough to see the greed and have sent NASCAR/ISC packing…..just like NY City did.
Rejection in major markets. TV Ratings down. Attendance flat or down. Seems the shine has come off NASCAR's luster a bit.