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If California has empty seats should it lose its remaining date?

By admin | March 24, 2011

By Richard Allen


Enquiring minds in places such as North Wilkesboro and Rockingham would like to know whether or not the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California should be allowed to keep its date on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule if there are scores of empty seats this weekend.

The tracks in the two locales mentioned above lost their place on the NASCAR schedule in 1996 and 2004 respectively. The two primary reasons given for those tracks losing their dates were that they did not attract enough fans and the market in North Carolina and the southeast was oversaturated.

Well, the Auto Club Speedway often seems to have more empty chairs than filled whenever it hosts a Sprint Cup race and its ‘crowds’ for Nationwide Series events would barely rival that of a high school football game.

The argument will often be made that even with the empty seats the Los Angeles area track still hosts more than the two displaced facilities. While that may well be true, I wonder with all the giveaways conducted prior to a Fontana race just how many of those in attendance actually paid to be there?

There may not have been as many fans at North Wilkesboro and Rockingham but they were truly fans of the sport. They did not regard NASCAR as a passing fancy that would quickly fade when the next ‘thing to do’ came along. Those tracks built NASCAR from the ground up and those fans paid for that building process. While the Fontana track proved to be a popular fad for a brief time in trendy Southern California, the interest waned after a relatively short honeymoon.

Interest has waned so much that last year NASCAR finally stripped one of the track’s two dates, leaving it with only this one race. That said, the excuse of two dates are too difficult to sell is now gone. But be prepared to hear, like last week in Bristol, that weather concerns diverted potential walkup customers, as if people just on a whim walkup and pay the amount of a Sprint Cup ticket price.

As for the argument that the Carolinas and the southeast were overly represented on the NASCAR schedule, Southern California resident Charlie Sheen might well some it up like this, “Duh, that’s where the fans are.” Actually, the more appropriate statement would be, “Duh, that’s where the fans were.”

Another side effect of North Wilkesboro and Rockingham being deemed ineligible to host even one NASCAR race was that tracks remaining in the area, particularly Charlotte and Bristol, attempted to take advantage of their status as survivors and have, along with their surrounding merchants, priced themselves out of the reach of the so-called common man.

Not only did NASCAR not win the fans they so dearly coveted in glitzy California, but attendance and television ratings in a region in which stock car racing was once the unquestioned sporting leader has seen a dramatic drop off.

Of course, the answer to the question posed in the title of this piece is that NASCAR will not abandon the Auto Club Speedway, no matter how feeble attendance appears to be on Sunday. The leadership of the sanctioning body seems to believe their form of racing is a viable national sport and must be represented in the lucrative L.A. market. And in regard to Wilkesboro and Rockingham, those tracks will never host another event at the highest level.

Agree with it or not, that is the course NASCAR has taken.

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16 Responses to “If California has empty seats should it lose its remaining date?”

  1. tyler west Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 6:18 am

    I HATE the California Speedway!! It sucks!! The racing is God-awful and I don’t give a flip about all the “fake” celebrities showing up to plug their next crap film. The 2 mile and 1.5 mile cookie cutter tracks are one of the main reasons the racing has some luster. Nascar sold out trying to suck up to L.A. and Chicago, and Kansas. These tracks are absolutely terrible. There is no skill involved in these “BS” tracks. They should all be destroyed. Rockingham and Wilkesboro are still 1000 times better than these boring tracks. They dropped good tracks in favor of trying to please “new fans”. It is really amusing to me that these “better” places are not what the sanctioning body envisioned. They are fools chasing fools gold. There was nothing wrong with the product, now they keep messing with it until great tracks are off the schedule and have been replaced by garbage. Oh, and let’s not forget somehow they have even managed to screw up Bristol. Way to go!

  2. Joe from Pittsburgh Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 7:12 am

    It appears that fans would at one time pay whatever price to see the (former) excitement a NASCAR race offered up. Now that the action is shall we say….lacking,it seems the investment is no longer warranted. Exhibit A is Bristol. If they cut the tickey prices maybe in half,then possibly fans could justify less than stellar excitement for cheap admission. As for California—I predict the track will be shuttered in 10 years or less.

  3. John Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 7:41 am

    I have to agree with all of the above for all of the above reasons. California (and Chicago) have become automatic NFWs for me. I will watch the first five minutes of Wind Tunnel on Sunday night and see everything I need to see without having to endure the non-stop Fox blather, the endles commercial train, and the sleep inducing follow the leader conga line.

  4. Charles Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Richard the real question should be if the Atlanta race doesnt sell out, shouldnt Darlington go back to its rightful place to Labor Day!!!!

    Removing the tradition of Nascars oldest race from Labor Day then moving to California, was a big blunder, then even worse was when they could have gotten it right they give Atlanta the date!!!!They dont realize how many grassroot fans this alienated!!

    I think California needs one race, but Nascar would have a more positive image especially to ‘former fans’ to bring the Southern 500 back to Labor Day! I be willing to bet having a race back at Rockingham and Southern 500 on Labor will do more for Nascar than the new simplier points system!!!

  5. Mike Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Since we all agree that california, michigan, chicago & the other cookie cutters suck, we must put our money where our mouth is and support the smaller travelling series that do go to Wilkesboro & Rockingham. They’re still great tracks that produce great racing…and do so without the jackboots from Daytona.

  6. Scott Brown Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 11:00 am

    This is what NASCAR gets for abandoning their loyal fans in pursuit of the ‘trendy’ folks.

    I’ve been a Talladega and North Wilkesboro season ticket holder through out the 80s & 90s. Every year, NASCAR raised ticket prices $5. They allowed the North Wilksboro races to be stolen by greedy track owners.

    IMHO…they are now reaping what they have sewn!!!

    It is time to cut ticket prices and focus on the real fans!

  7. Tank Whalen Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I have been attending races at California Speedway since the 1st weekend in 1997. I am a native of SoCal and have traveled the US to see Nascar races. Frankly the racing here at ACS does suck. After the few re-starts it becomes a single file parade, every year. Let’s see what happens if we put a restrictor plate on the cars. Tight packs, lap after lap. Nascar would be the hot ticket it used to be. Think of it as Daytona west. Nascar could improve the racing, fill the stands and save the track every one east of Fontana is ready to dump.

  8. Kevin Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    The trouble is that many of the old school fans that attended the North Wilkesboro & Rockingham races were of the baby boomer generation and older. With NASCAR having difficulty appealing to the young male demographic, the ‘true’ fans of NASCAR are getting older, and older, no longer have families to take to the track because their families are older. With no one replacing this generation of fan, the crowd is getting thinner.
    So many wonder why there are so many changes to NASCAR. It is because they need to replace the fans that are dissappearing. Unfortunately large amounts of the people NASCAR is attempting to attract to the sport live in NY & California and highly populated areas such as those. Ultimately NASCAR’s original fanbase is shrinking because they are getting older. Those that are replacing them aren’t in high enough numbers in the areas that the traditional fans came from. Hence racing in California, & the chase for the cup & a simpler points system. All of these are attempts to appeal to a yonger generation of fans, because the older fans won’t be around forever.

  9. Steve Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Nascar will never remove a race from Fontana because they own it. If they do move the race, it will be to another one of their tracks. Can you say 2 races at Chicago? God help us!!!

  10. The Mad Man Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Obviously the current generation of Frances didn’t learn their history lessons very well and are suffering the consequences. Riverside was a fantastic track and hosted some very exciting racing but it eventually went the way of the buffalo. Just up the road was Ontario Speedway. Once again, some great racing but it went the way of the buffalo. In both cases, the finicky fans of southern California didn’t support them. Now, we’re seeing the same thing with Fontana. Fans in the south and southeast aren’t going to travel all the way to LaLaLand to see a race at a track that’s as exciting as watching paint dry. Even fans in the southwest aren’t going to. This turkey is done, put a fork in it, and build a unqiue track in the manner of Darlington, Martinsville, Rockingham, or the old Bristol. Maybe then folks might show up if there’s something that actually resembles excitement.

  11. CJ Flay Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Come out and see “The Race” at Historic North Wilkesboro Speedway April 9, 2011. $100,000 to win

  12. Mike S. Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    The NFL seems to be doing quite well without a team in the L.A. area. NASCAR can survive without a race there, too.

  13. Mïk Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    As I’ve said in numerous forums, the races at California are (now is) another facet of the NASCAR world. It is as much a marathon as it is a race. There is STILL something to watch in this arena. As Kid Jeffy has said, “It is performing flawlessly for 4 hrs”.

    Another point is: Don’t take a west coast race away. Not when Kansas gets two and Michigan remains. We deserve our NASCAR too. If they get a Washington track, THEN the California can go.

    North Wilksboro and Rockingham are in the mold of Bristol and Martinsville. Ain’t there enuf of those? If short tracks are needed, what about Iowa? doesn’t it need one more than Kansas?

  14. midasmicah Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    The flat out refusal by nas$car to return to Rockingham or North Wilkesboro speaks for itself. The barfing heads at Daytona are delusional. They will not listen to any of their fans. They would rather go kicking and screaming to their demise then admit they makes any mistakes. I’ve goten to the point where I rarely watch a truck race anymore because a cup driver will dominate and take the top prize money. The cup lite races are not better. I refuse to watch them. And Autosleep speedway is just as bad in person as it is on tv. I know because I’ve been there. I still watch cup races, but that’s not as high on my priority list as it used to be. nas$car needs to wake up and smell the stink they’re emitting.

  15. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    March 27th, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Did Riverside disappear for THIS? I feel Fontana is a bad joke, they should run Irwindale instead and Atlanta has flagged to irreverancy. I get sick and tired of a lot of big markets acting to come to Cup but are uneducated about other motorsports, and Short Track Racing is not “Something to Do” but a Way of Life.

  16. bp Says:
    March 28th, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Been to Louden, Richmond, Dover…this was my first race at Fontana since I moved to LA…boy what a sleeper yesterday…I tried to get my new wife into it..her first race…we had scanners, etc…she friggen fell asleep….for real…5 wide my butt…it was single file spread out 170 mph (200?) sleeper except for the last lap…where my driver (KH) won…I won’t be going back…and crowd was nothing like the east coast…although nice people…feelin sorry for Fontana…