By admin | September 3, 2010
By Richard Allen
The 2011 Sprint Cup schedule is out and for the first time since 1960 the Atlanta Motor Speedway does not appear on that list twice. Next year, the 1.5 mile Georgia track will only host NASCARâ€™s top division on the Labor Day weekend.
Will the announcement that the facility is losing one of its prized dates have any impact on the attendance for this race?
Granted, most tickets to a major race are purchased well in advance of the race date so most folks planning to attend the Emory Healthcare 500 probably had their tickets in hand well before the announcement was made. Still, there might be at least the possibility that some may make a decision to attend or not attend this event based on that announcement.
Of course, no matter how many seats are filled on Sunday night, there is little way to know whether or not decisions were made due to the lost date.
There may be some fans who enjoy the racing on the multi-groove track who will realize they now only have one chance to see it each year. If there are some out there who typically attend one of the races here per year, they may decide to start the tradition of making the trip on Labor Day weekend.
Last year was the first time an event had been contested in Atlanta on this particular weekend. This is a track that has not been known for filling its grandstands for quite some time but the new date seemed to help boost interest. The 2009 attendance for this race was estimated at 111,300 versus the 2008 fall race in which a crowd of 80,000 was estimated.
Could this yearâ€™s number of fans exceed 111,000 since there will now only be one race at AMS?
Or, will the announcement of a lost date in 2011 have an adverse impact on this yearâ€™s race?
Might the taking of a race from this track cause some who typically attend here and have been on the fence as to whether they want to stick with NASCAR to give up entirely? Obviously, there are many around the country who have at least temporarily made the decision to do something other than attend races so it will be interesting to see the number of empty seats this weekend.
Of course, the real test for the impact of the lost date will come next year when the track actually settles into a pattern of one race date per year. However, Sunday could provide at least some indication as to whether this move will benefit or hurt racing on Labor Day weekend in Atlanta.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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