By admin | July 1, 2012
By Richard Allen
Due to the fact that I was covering a dirt late model race at the Smoky Mountain Speedway on Saturday night, I was unable to watch the NASCAR race from Kentucky live. But when I played the event back on my DVR the next day I couldnâ€™t help but notice large expanses of empty seats at the track that was hosting only its second Sprint Cup event.
So what happened to those fans who didnâ€™t come back? The obvious answer would be to say that the traffic nightmares of last year along with the not-so-good racing on the 1.5 mile â€˜cookie cutterâ€™ track were reasons for the number of empty chairs. Even Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon admitted after last yearâ€™s race that the on-track action was less than exciting. However, the obvious answers are often scoffed at by NASCAR, its tracks and certain media members.
With that in mind, I decided to help out by suggesting some possible reasons for lower attendance this past Saturday night. Some of these suggestion might actually be used and some are obviously made in jest. So take that for what itâ€™s worth.
1. Hotel prices were too high- Even though hotel prices seemed to be no factor at all for Bristol Motor Speedway prior to the changes made to the track in 2007, this is often thrown out as the reason people donâ€™t come to that track in such great numbers anymore. So why not use it here as well?
2. Gas prices are too high- Although this doesnâ€™t seem to be keeping people away from the Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area where I live, it is keeping fans away from auto races.
3. Heat kept the walk-up crowd down- This is a particular favorite of mine. Even though it may seem unlikely that someone would make a spur-of-the-moment decision to attend a NASCAR race, weather is often blamed for keeping the walk-up crowd away. So weâ€™ll say that high temperatures kept thousands away.
4. Kyle Busch won last year and fans donâ€™t like him- This driver isnâ€™t very popular so when fans didnâ€™t show it up it was clearly his fault.
5. My favorite driver has never won there- I love when announcers point out that â€œThere are only two tracks where Driver X hasnâ€™t wonâ€ and they name Kentucky, which had only hosted one Sprint Cup race prior to Saturday. So letâ€™s say some fans didnâ€™t show because their favorite had never won there before.
6. The track is making room to sell more of those large sponsor banners- One industry that has really benefited from NASCARâ€™s drop-off in attendance is that which makes those big banners emblazoned with company logos often used to cover empty seats. So maybe the track intentionally sold fewer tickets to make room for said banners.
7. People stayed home to study the new health care laws- After the Supreme Court decision on the Obama health care plan, obviously people had to spend their weekend studying the new policy instead of attending a stock car race.
8. The parking service the track hired sent people to the wrong place- Without Bruton Smith on the scene with the funny hat he wore last year to assist the parking attendants, they were confused. No doubt, many who intended to go to the race were sent to Churchill Downs in Louisville or the Cincinnati Reds ball park instead.
9. TV coverage is so good there is no need to go- No, thereâ€™s no one who would buy that.
10. Days of Thunder fans were too distraught over hearing of Tom Cruiseâ€™s divorce- How could anyone focus on a race when the star of such a powerfully emotional NASCAR-based film is in the midst of personal crisis?
11. Fans were under the grandstand to get out of heat and buy souvenirs- This is an all time favorite as well. Remember when this one was used during the first Labor Day weekend race in California? Yeah, we gotta bring that one back. Itâ€™s a classic.
12. Or, just fall back on last yearâ€™s excuse and blame the interstate system- Heck, it worked last year so letâ€™s blame the road even though fans coming off of that road had no where to park last year.
Again, take those suggested excuses for what they are worth. By the way, the stated 2011 attendance was 107,000 while this yearâ€™s estimate was 105,000. Funny, but those 2,000 who didnâ€™t make it back this year must have been some big folks because they sure took up a lot of seats.
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