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Twelve reasons for lower attendance in Kentucky

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 couldn’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 didn’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 ‘cookie cutter’ track were reasons for the number of empty chairs. Even Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon admitted after last year’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 it’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 don’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 doesn’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 we’ll say that high temperatures kept thousands away.

4. Kyle Busch won last year and fans don’t like him- This driver isn’t very popular so when fans didn’t show it up it was clearly his fault.

5. My favorite driver has never won there- I love when announcers point out that “There are only two tracks where Driver X hasn’t won” and they name Kentucky, which had only hosted one Sprint Cup race prior to Saturday. So let’s say some fans didn’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 NASCAR’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, there’s no one who would buy that.

10. Days of Thunder fans were too distraught over hearing of Tom Cruise’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. It’s a classic.

12. Or, just fall back on last year’s excuse and blame the interstate system- Heck, it worked last year so let’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 year’s estimate was 105,000. Funny, but those 2,000 who didn’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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13 Responses to “Twelve reasons for lower attendance in Kentucky”

  1. Tony Geinzer Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 7:31 am

    Rich, I feel that a lot of folks, from Atlanta’s Side, aren’t too happy that Kentucky took their date, even with Urban Gentrification. I find that Kentucky has to stick with Before July 4th or After July 4th and part of the bargain has to be shorter races. I noticed ARCA wasn’t in Kentucky for 2012, and Indy wasn’t in Kentucky, which was the tracks bread and butter.

  2. GinaV24 Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Good reasons all of them, Rich and I applaud your efforts to find ones that the all-knowing NASCAR and media will accept as reasonable. After all, we can’t let facts get in the way of things, can we?

    I particularly liked #9! Watching the races on TV used to get me excited and start talking about how we could GO to a particular track for a race. TV broadcasts in the past several years have had the opposite effect - I ask myself instead “why would anyone want to go there”?

  3. Gordon85Wins Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 9:09 am

    #9 gave me a chuckle.

    You know, I remember reading about people actually missing the race because they were stuck in traffic–and the heat–because the racetrack wasn’t prepared for the crowds after having lobbied for the Cup race. Then when asked about a refund, Bruton said “We don’t want to.”

    I can tell you if I was one of those fans, NASCAR would never see a dime from me again.

  4. ky racefan3 Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Rich, it’s probably a very simple answer - the economy..
    Other parts of the country may have recovered a little bit, but for the most part things are still pretty bad around here, especially for the everyday working man. There’s not a lot of extra money(what ever the hell that is) leftover at the end of the week for things like that. For the ones that have good jobs and extra spending money, I think they were there, did you see Millionaires Row (RV parking) looked like it was full ! I only live an hour and a half away, it was either buy groceries or go to the I watched it on TV. Like you said, #9

  5. Jim R. Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 10:53 am

    I’m afraid that there may be a #13 reason…. Knowledgeable race fans just don’t care anymore. Their “sport” has been turned into a corporate marketing platform. The sanctioning body has corrupted the “rules” to insure that we have manufactured excitement and to insure that their franchise drivers are never far from the front. It’s no longer a sport, it’s a show. Hell, Bruton wants to make it into a four act play with an intermission in the middle. For those who think that’s a good idea, please, buy his tickets and fill up his seats.

  6. Sue Rarick Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Once again the genius of Bruton was at work… By making the race so boring he kept people away so he wouldn’t have to worry about traffic tie-ups again.

  7. Wayne T. Morgan Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Nope am not going to spend what extra money I have to go to NA$CAR and the inflated prices and parking. Must rather go to sprint/late model two or three day shows and be fully intertained and at half or less the money spent. DVR the race watch later and zap the ads.

  8. Tyler West Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Jim R. you hit it on the head. They have really killed the credibility of the sport. And Bruton Smith needs to just shut up. Hell, he destroyed Bristol. So he really knows what is going on. I’m not calling for wrecks or cautions like most claim. What we want to see is racing!! Not riding for points, if that’s all that is going to happen week to week. Drivers should draw finishing positions from a hat and be done with it and just do away with races all together. Sounds stupid right? So does Bruton’s idiotic idea. Really though who would pay out their nose to watch riding. The rules, the 1.5 mile tracks and the points system is killing the sport, oh and let’s not forget the stupid television coverage and all the retards that Speed and Fox and the other tv networks put in front of the camera on a weekly basis. They have turned the sport into a joke. But if i was to pick just one out of the list my choice is #6.

  9. Dennis Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    The TV coverage is so bad it’s becoming unwatchable. I don’t mind investing 3 hrs or so watching a race if I’m shown the racing. Tight shots following a car around the track isn’t showing the racing.

    Also, Bruton’s seeming contempt for the fans and refunds viz “We don’t want to” pretty much tells you all you need to know.

    I’m feeling about as appreciated as Matt Kenseth.

    A gimicky aero-push spec series. Let me cheer for a manufacturer’s identifying decal when they interrupt the festival of commercials. Who could ask for anything more?

  10. Tyler West Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Another thought. Bruton Smith is a idiot. Most of his tracks are part of the reason Nascar is boring. Bristol will still SUCK!! I hate to say it but it was ruined by this jerk. Kentucky sucked as well.

  11. Eric Dawalga Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    The sad thing is, Brian France would actually believe reasons 7, 8 and 10.

    Here’s my reason 13…when the sport has been under piss-poor leadership for the last 8 years, and this clown of a CEO gets to keep his job amidst declining ratings and attendance, that tells you everything you need to know about the way NASCAR is run.

  12. MC Lock Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Kentucky Speedway is an embarrassment to the Sprint Cup Circuit…

    It is a minor league facility and NASCAR should be embarrassed that they allowed it to host their Premier Series…

    The track is not fan friendly and is a logistical nightmare…

    The parking police herd people into the lots like Sardines so if you want to tailgate or pop up a canopy and a grill you don’t have much of an option…plus all of the lots on the frontstretch are gravel which makes 100 degrees feel like 120…

    The entire experience is hard and somewhat dreadful especially when you compare it to a track like Atlanta, Talladega, or Charlotte…

    I would wager that within 3 years the stands will be less than half full…

    If you are thinking about going to this “Joke” of a speedway don’t, you will be wasting your hard earned money…

  13. Sue Rarick Says:
    July 5th, 2012 at 7:32 am

    What is really sad is Nascar’s answer to the problem is to hire different PR people.