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Follywood: How long can NASCAR justify two dates for LA area track?

By admin | February 21, 2010


By Richard Allen

Not even the best political spin doctors in Washington, D.C. could find a way to put Sunday’s attendance, or lack there of, at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California in a positive light.

Ever since this track was given a second date on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule the attendance has been disappointing, or rather embarrassing. Sunday’s Auto Club 500 was perhaps the most pathetic showing of all in Southern California.

Less than an hour before the green flag was to fall on the event Fox Network television cameras showed driver Kevin Harvick signing autographs on pit road. In the background the vacant grandstands were visible which caused me to think the footage of Harvick must have been shot earlier. Turns out it was live. The stands were really that empty so close to start time.

Entire sections of seats were obviously empty or nearly so despite Fox’s best efforts to use close up camera angles as cars raced on the front stretch. Pictures posted on twitter and Facebook by various media members further revealed just how poor attendance was.

Of course, track president Gillian Zucker was at the ready with the typical excuses. The economy and potential rain were cited as reasons for the lack of fan patronage. Both, and any other excuses, are ridiculous. This track has what should be a perfect date. It is only one week removed from the Daytona 500, the sport’s marquee event. Coming after that race allows for tremendous publicity as almost every major sports media outlet in the country covers the ‘Great American Race’. The Daytona race is almost always exciting, and pothole withstanding, this year was no different.

When asked if the track would fare better with one date instead of two, Zucker replied, “I really don’t know if selling out one race is better than having two races.”

Seriously, Ms. Zucker?

And to make matters worse, the racing on this facility is awful. 500 miles of eventless parading followed by a contrived finish is all those in markets who actually care about the sport have to look forward to from this two-mile facility.

The bottom line is this track was given a second date which it never deserved. This is a region which is only casually interested in NASCAR at best. Having one race here is plausible because of the sheer size of the market and the fact that having only one race might attract enough people who want to see what racing is all about to make the place not look so empty. Two dates is a joke, or better a folly.

“We’re going to fight tooth and nail to keep our events,” Zucker declared in a mid-race press conference.

Frankly, Ms. Zucker, this is a fight I hope you lose. Last week I wrote that if any track was to lose a date so that Kansas might add another it should be this one. I saw absolutely nothing on Sunday that would cause me to change my mind. One Follywood 500 is plenty for the Los Angeles area.

If you would like to be added to the RacingWithRich.com mailing list so that you can be updated whenever a new addition is made to the site please let me know by e-mailing RacingWithRich@aol.com. (Please note that no spam or advertising will be sent from my e-mail list, only updated material from the site.)

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

16 Responses to “Follywood: How long can NASCAR justify two dates for LA area track?”

  1. SAB Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Perhaps they need to build a casino at the track, since that seems to be all you need to guarantee 2 race dates. As long as ISC is involved in it, of course. Obviously, ‘demographics’ and accessibility to gambling are more important to Nascar than the quality of the product they are trying to sell.

  2. Todd Crane Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Even Danica-mania couldn’t bring many to the Nationwide race. What ISC need is to revive Riverside LOL. Let’s face it, big boring track, boring racing= lack of fans! My wife and I watched olympic curling, and I’be been a fan since before I did the PA at Daytona in 1968.

  3. Mike73 Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Quite frankly, the track s@cks. It is boring to watch. If they had a dover,richmond, or bristol there, it’d probably sell alot more.
    Watching cars go around that track is like watching paint dry. If I was within 100 miles of the place, I would NOT go. Give LA an aggressive track, and they might attend. Maybe not….
    I feel the same way about Pocono. Another boring place.
    Mike73

  4. dawg Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 8:47 am

    This track was built as a multi-use facility. Back in the day when their were multiple series capable of drawing a decent crowd. Today an IRL event would probably draw less than the Nationwide event sans Danica.
    This track is famous for boring parades. I’ll bet the Captain smiles every time he goes there.

  5. Gina Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 9:13 am

    This track should absolutely lose 1 race. If NASCAR/ISC are determined that Kansas gets a 2nd date because it has a CASINO, not because of the RACING, then take one from here rather than from a track like Martinsville that actually has action on the track.

    What a waste of my day watching it on TV. The only good thing was it didn’t start until 3:15 EST, so I had most of the day to get stuff done when the sun was out since I skipped the pre-race garbage.

  6. Richard Allen Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Gina, since you mentioned the pre-race ‘garbage’ the Fox Network seemed to reach a new low with this Pizzi character they put on display.

    The point of the skit he did was lost on me and an embarrassment to Jeff Gordon, who was good enough to play along.

  7. midasmicah Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I’ve attended one race at Fontana and it’s just as boring in person as it is on television. Yesterday’s race was actually better then most of the races there, but it was still on the boring side. If nas$car adds another race at Kansas, it needs to take one away from California, not Martinville.

  8. Bob Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 10:05 am

    I live an hour from Fontana, but would rather go to Vegas & Phoenix to see ‘good racing’ (which I do). I attended races at Ontario and Riverside in the past, so I have a pretty good perspective and comparison on the ‘local tracks’.
    Change the banking, remake the track in the image of Charlotte or Richmond. Heck, I think we would be overjoyed to even have something differrent - a copy of Darlington!

  9. jim laws Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 11:06 am

    move it to Laguna seca,it would be standing room only

  10. The Old Guy Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    There was a race in California yesterday?

    Shame that they can’t figure out that the TV viewing audience was small as well.

  11. Poecat69 Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Okay if nascar is determined to listen to the fans then they better start now! Boring track, boring race, the problem is you go from the most exciting racing nascar has to offer at Daytona to one of the most boring! One ACS race is enough, that will open a date up for a 2nd Kansas race, but someone explain to me why Kansas deserves a 2nd date just because there opening 1 casino, when Vegas only has one date and has 100 casino’s not to mention better racing and lights, oh wait I know why, Nascar owns Kansas!

  12. The Mad Man Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    As long as Brian France owns houses in California and Zucker has Lesa France Kennedy protecting her, nothing is going to change.

  13. Christian Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Rich, I agree with you a lot of the time, but I do find it strange that we are seeing this article on the heels of a good, if not the best, California race since the introduction of the COT.

    The new tire combination helped out quite a bit, and the racing between Harvick and Johnson in the middle stages was spectacular.

  14. mkrcr Says:
    February 22nd, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    For Sale: Race track seating. Approx 30,000, barely used. Perfect for upgrades to your local short track. Possibly more available after Oct. 10th. If interested, PLEASE call 1-800-FON-YAWN.

  15. Hambone Says:
    February 23rd, 2010 at 10:25 am

    I didn’t know there was a race on Sunday… I thought they were at California…

  16. Lee Says:
    February 24th, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Look as though ALL the tracks lake in attendence….I have been a NASCAR fan since the early 70’s and last year was the fiest time in a lot of them that Bristol was not sold out, I have seen sell outs there several years in advance……………Give a race back to Darlington!!!!!!!!!!!!

    l
    ee