With fans around NASCAR tracks cleverly disguised as empty seats, it still amazes me how they determine scheduling. As I sit in Southwestern Virginia on a cold rainy day in March waiting for the start of the Food City 500 from nearby Bristol Motor Speedway, I can tell you that it probably won’t happen today. We had snow on Wednesday this week, and are expecting possible snow again tomorrow. What happened to having this race in April when the weather improves?
Hello….stock car racing is a summertime event. Fans carry enough stuff to a race track without needing to add coats, rain gear, and snow boots as well. I have had the feeling for years that although NASCAR complains about poor attendance, they continue to let Network TV dictate the schedule for the comfort of fans sitting in their Laz-Y-Boys instead of those making the trip to the track.
Case in point: As a resident of Central Florida for nearly two decades, $28 would get you a ticket for the Budweiser Shootout. We would caravan to Daytona on a Sunday afternoon, the Green Flag would drop around noon, and be over by 2PM. You could stay for the ARCA race, or make it home to prepare for work on Monday.
When the Networks got involved and moved it to Prime Time on Saturday evening, the caravans stopped, the $28 dollar tickets stopped, and it became must watch TV. They lost an older fan base that loves to take a cooler full of beer, take off their shirt, and watch a good afternoon stock car race.
If you’ve never been to Florida in February, you probably don’t know that with the high humidity and a little wind, it can get pretty cold. You will spend 3-4 hours between the ARCA race, and the now, Sprint Unlimited trying to stay warm until it’s over. I went twice, and never went back. It became easier to sit at home, or the local watering hole to see the race.
I attended this Bristol race last March, and I can testify that there was plenty of room in the stands to spread out. The attendance was spotty at best with empty seats all around the race track. This race, along with the Night time race at Bristol later in the year was always sold out, now you can pick up a ticket anywhere.
NASCAR, the sponsors, and the TV people have all forgotten what made this sport famous, and are slowly making it insignificant. You can lay the blame on the economy, but people are paying for travel, and very expensive seats at sporting events all over the country. Just not at NASCAR races.
Although the lack of excitement on the track has hurt the sport, I think the scheduling isn’t helping. Maybe when NASCAR hits the bottom, the sponsors and TV will go away and we can all get back to what we love, and that is good racing at a time that is fun, and convenient for fans, and not TV ratings and revenue.
You can follow Les on Twitter @Spin_47