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« This is probably not the best time for the Busch brothers to pick a fight with Ryan Newman | Main | What will be the ultimate impact of NASCAR sanctioning a dirt race? »

Empty Seats at the Nationwide Race in Chicago Look Bad for the Sport

By admin | July 21, 2013

By Richard Allen

No matter how good or bad the racing in Sunday’s STP 300 Nationwide Series event at the Chicagoland Speedway might have been(and it was pretty good overall), the overpowering image left in the minds of many is that of vastly empty grandstands shown by ESPN’s television cameras. This “stand alone” race on a track that also hosts a Sprint Cup event and is not located within NASCAR’s traditional market place provides a setup for an embarrassingly low turnout, and that’s exactly what the race provided.

On many occasions, I have used this website to profess my belief that the Nationwide Series should indeed have more stand alone events. However, this type of situation is not what I mean at all.

Tracks not on the Sprint Cup schedule in which a Nationwide race would be the highlight of their season should be the type of facilities this series would be better served to run. The Iowa Speedway provides an excellent example of this idea. The Kentucky Speedway used to have great crowds for its stand alone Nationwide races before it received a Sprint Cup date.

Granted, even with scores of empty seats, there may have been more folks in attendance at the Joliet, Illinois track on Sunday than might have been in a packed facility such as Hickory, North Wilkesboro or the Nashville Fairgrounds. But even if that is true, full grandstands simply look better than empty ones.

And it isn’t just the stand alone races on Sprint Cup tracks that create a bad image for the sport’s “second series”. Next weekend in Indianapolis will again illustrate the problem of seats not being filled with spectators for the Nationwide Series.

On the weekend of the Sprint Cup Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Nationwide Series used to compete at the nearby Indianapolis Raceway Park(now known as Lucas Oil Raceway). Last year’s inaugural run for the second series at IMS played out in front of vast numbers of empty seats in the storied track’s massive grandstand where LOR Nationwide races ran in front of packed bleachers.

There’s a reason why restaurants have small parking lots and waiting areas. They want people to drive by and see an overflow crowd and wonder what all the fuss is about. NASCAR should seek to create the same mindset for the Nationwide Series for stand alone events.

But the venues chosen have to be the right locales. People in Tennessee never bonded with the Nashville Super Speedway nor the Memphis Motorsports Park. The same could be said of the track located just outside of St. Louis. Those tracks were built when NASCAR was at its height of popularity and the builders believed they could buy cheap land in bad locations and still ride the wave, which proved not to be the case.

Stand alone Nationwide races need to be placed in areas where racing is part of the fabric of the community. Then NASCAR would be an event, not just a race.

And all of this does not even address the issue of Sprint Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series. By the way, the only Sprint Cup driver(Joey Logano) entered in the field on Sunday in Chicago won the race.

A race such as the one held on Sunday had no real electricity, no energy. The venue and the winner just helped to add to the image of “Sprint Cup Lite” that the series has taken on in recent years. The less-than-enthusiastic victory lane “celebration” proved testament to that.

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35 Responses to “Empty Seats at the Nationwide Race in Chicago Look Bad for the Sport”

  1. Gregory D. Howe Says:
    July 21st, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    It’s often said that first impressions are of the utmost importance. Chicagoland Speedway did not give fans a great first impression because of the pernicious requirement that fans purchase a ticket package for all on track events instead of just a single event. This alienated many and might be one of the reasons that attendance is low.

    I follow what goes on in the city of my birth with some regularity, and this weekend there was a lot going on. Pearl Jam played at Wrigley Field, The PitchFork music festival was in full swing to name two, neither of these two happenings were anywhere near Joliet.

    Nobody in Chicago gives a hoot about NASCAR. Of course this is an overstatement, but in 40 years of living there I can count on one hand the number of folks I met that ever spoke about racing. The local television news affiliates would show the wrecks and the broadcasters would be shown shaking their heads. Both major Chicagoland newspaper website landing pages had NOTHING about the STP 300 this morning. There is more of a car culture in the south suburbs and perhaps those folks were in attendance today.

  2. Danny Smith Says:
    July 21st, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    “the only Sprint Cup driver(Joey Logano)” I guess you’re not considering Trevor Bayne a Sprint Cup driver because he only has a limited Sprint Cup schedule?

  3. KB Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 1:14 am

    I agree with the above poster…time and time again the bologna to purchase tickets is maddening and at some point one says…screw it. I went thru these hoops before and will not anymore..I blame Nascar and track owners..greedy and assuming.

  4. Tony Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Well you got to love those clowns that always say “we need the Cup drivers in these races to get people in the seats”. Yea well how’s that working out for you? That is one of the most bogus statements they can come up with. The race was pretty decent and did not have a cup driver dominate eeven though Logano came to boost his ego and won. However, racing at this track usually stinks but na$car doesn’t care about the quality of racing just the size of their bank accounts. There are plenty of great tracks that could host a busch or truck race, but ISC and the France mafia have a stranglehold on the schedule and charge ridiculous sanctioning fees.

  5. Kurt Fan Forever Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 3:11 am

    I really think most Nascar fans are just sick of the cup drivers in the nationwide series. It generates zero excitement for the nationwide drivers winning the races. There is plenty of star power in that series that is overshadowed by Cuppers! Their races should also be at venues with low seating capacities too!

  6. zhills fan Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 5:23 am

    I’ve always said that the truck series is the most exciting of all of NASCAR.

  7. Bill B Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 6:23 am

    The cup race will have lots of empty seats at Indianapolis so what’s so suprising about the NW race having even more empty seats?
    I did watch some of the NW race yesterday but was very disappointed that the one full-time cup driver in the field ended up winning it. Glad I didn’t devote the whole afternoon to the race.

  8. Tony Geinzer Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 6:53 am

    I have said this before and again (and oh yes,again) Rich, but see more IRPs,Nashville Fairs, Knoxvilles, and Eldoras in Nationwide because I would like to see more races done right on TV (Vs. Off ESPNNews), and not this Super Summer Grinder in the Series

  9. GinaV24 Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 8:01 am

    I watched some of the Nationwide race on TV and as you said, it seemed to be a pretty decent race. The racing itself was actually better than what I saw for the last cup race.

    I agree that it would make more sense to put these “stand alone” Nationwide races at tracks where the Cup series doesn’t go, which would give those tracks a chance to build a reputation AND offer something other than the usual Cup stuff. I’m not a fan of Cup drivers in the truck or Nationwide series - it may have once drawn fans in, but then again, that was when NASCAR racing in general was more exciting to watch overall.

    I have never been to Indy for a race and based on what I’ve seen the past few years, I wouldn’t waste my time, money or vacation to go now. The race at IRP (which I watched on TV) always looked like it was a lot more fun and as you said, played to packed grandstands, but NASCAR in their infinite stupidity, killed that, too.

    Greed and bad business decisions have led NASCAR to this point. Ove rthe past several years, my family and I have gradually reduced the number of races and tracks where we are willing to go and see a race. This is not so much an economic decision, although that does play a role, but more because it isn’t worth it. Dover just fell off the list because of the annoying mess they made out of getting through the gates in June. That’s OK, the racing has been boring there, too, for the past 5 yrs.

  10. Tyler West Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 8:15 am

    The Nationwide series needs to have their own schedule. By that I mean, racing at tracks they used to go to all the time ( Hickory, South Boston, IRP and etc….) but quit going because for some reason the sanctioning body thinks they should run the cup schedule. My opinion tracks in areas like Chicago need to go anyway, that whole place sucks! The sport does not need to be around yankees who don’t care about it. It’s not something that they are used to having and it’s no big deal to them. The areas Nascar is trying to go makes no sense, the “big markets” could care less. Stop trying to force something that will not work. Schedule races where it is a part of the local fabric and has meaning to those who attend. Also, I like cup guys running the events but really they should only be allowed to run 4 or 5 a season, the lower series are the feeder system for cup, allow it to do just that. Really, Lagano should still be in the Nationwide series, he can’t win in the cup series. Let the Nationwide guys do their thing.

  11. Greg Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 8:51 am

    “It’s not something that they are used to having and it’s no big deal to them ”

    LOL thats a good one , too bad its a DUMB comment , stock car racing is ALL OVER North America not just the Southern States.

    Reason that NASCAR is suffering in ATTENDANCE is that NASCAR got GREEDY and tried to cater to the BIG $ 1 time look it over FANS and rescheduled everything to suit their NEW type of fan ( California for example ) and forgot the fans that supported it week in week out.

  12. Shane O Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 9:03 am

    They were a lot of NSCS drivers in the field Sunday, Lagono, Bayne, R. Smith, E. Saddler, Vickers who won the last cup race, Lagona just happens to have a full time ride in cup, and is younger than all the other drivers I mentioned.

  13. Dave B Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I think the racing here at Colorado both at pikes peak and CNS was spectacular and sold out before the frances bought it and shut it down. We have a rabid fan base and no shot at building a track in Denver. Bring it back here and you will see sold out stands and enthusiastic crowds.

  14. NASCARJeff Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Because Chicago is NOT a NASCAR town, it isn’t even an Indy Car town for that matter.

    I think there was another track that Target and Chip Ganassi built that ran for a couple of years and shut down. Because nobody give a crap about racing in Chicago, it is a stick and ball sports town.

    If NASCAR did there homework they would know that and saturating tracks in Michigan, Chicago, Pennsylvania and Indianapolis does not make much sense. I think the excuse for shuttering Rockingham was we don’t need all these track next door to each other.

    Since I am at it…the racing stinks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway too because the track isn’t meant for stock cars to be running around it.

  15. Bruce Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Don’t agree with the “Yankee” remark above. Seems to me the guy running NASCAR is from the south and he’s doing a fairly crappy job by all accounts! I’m from PA and there are plenty of race fans here. Myself, I’ve been a fan since the 70’s when I was a kid watching on Wild World of Sports. That said, I agree that NSACAR is ruining the Nationwide series by running it on 1.5 mi or greater tracks most of the time and by the poliferation of cup drivers. Limit the # of races a cup driver can enter. The move from IRP to Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a sick joke and one of the most glaring examples of how the people running NASCAR don’t have a clue.

  16. Charles Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 10:03 am

    You guys are missing the point about IRP (that’s what I’ll always refer to it as). IRP is simply not up to standard any more. For instance, the seating capacity there is only about 20,000 tops, the walls are too low, and if I remember right, there are no SAFER barriers at IRP. And the facilities are also well below standard. As far as running the Nationwide Series at Indy, they had two options. Either move the race to IMS or not run the series in Indianapolis at all, so NASCAR made the right choice. In fact, the Truck Series also no longer races at IRP for the reasons mentioned above, and the NHRA, which actually owns IRP, has no intention of making the facilities better at the oval at IRP, or making the necessary safety changes to even allow NASCAR to use that facility again, so moving he race to IRP was really their only option if they wanted to keep the Nationwide Series in Indianapolis.

  17. Charles Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 10:04 am

    That should have said moving the race to IMS was NASCAR’s only option if they wanted to keep the Nationwide Series in Indianapolis, where there’s been a stop since the modern series was created in 1982.

  18. midasmicah Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Well, let’s see. One cup driver (Logano) comes to a rare stand alone nationwide race and gets the win AND the biggest check. That is the reason I rarely watch a nationwide race. I realize cup drivers have always raced in this series, but the disparity in equipment these days is a joke. And Bayne is a nationwide regular who occasionally runs a cup race. Logano has one cup series win and it was a rain shortened race too boot. Good grief!!!

  19. Michael in SoCal Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I can only hope someone at Nascar’s home office reads this page and the comments and learns something.

  20. Jules Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 11:13 am

    This is probably not a very helpful reply but….

    I honestly enjoyed the “off” week from NASCAR as I get tired of the nonsense.

    Getting old but I used LOVE watching the races, not any more.

    Drivers with ‘Marketing Appeal’ are more important that ‘Driving Skill’ and more and more races appear to be choreographed.

    In Nationwide you have the announcers praising a Cup driver (who has vastly superior equipment) for his driving skill when he pounces the competition.

    You have brothers whom don’t miss a chance to ‘plug’ their sponsors when they are announcing. Not to mention when their cars fail inspection its ‘minor’ but if it is the competitions its ‘major’…

    And the Dodge bashing has become Ford bashing… “they are behind, don’t get the mileage, having issues” When the reality is that their teams don’t bring to the plate $$$$ what the teams driving the other makes do.

    I heard Kenseth’s name mentioned more times at the Daytona 500 than all last year combined. Humm why is that?

    It is “Two tires or Four”, “Toyota vs Hendrick” (not Chevrolet. and Hendrick always cheats), “The Fords are struggling” and “She is doing good!”

    It gets on your nerves.

    And to the question “why so many empty seats?” Maybe run the race in North Wilkesboro next year!

  21. George Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I would like to see Nationwide,run tracks like Rockingham,
    North Wilksboro,& Myrtle Beach like they used to.

  22. midasmicah Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    That nas$car moved the truck race from Lucas Oil Raceway spoke volumes to me. They took one of my favorite truck races away from there and moved it to INDY to make money off of race packages. (3 in 1)? That’s just another example of how much nas$car cares about their fan base. They couldn’t care less what the fans want. This is a horrible track for the trucks.

  23. RickP Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    The race should have been at IRP on Satrday night and then the NNS could race this upcoming weekend at Indy. Enough of the cup guys in the NNS. NASCAR need to go further by limiting the aount of races the cup divers can run. Maybe 5, 8, 10 or 12 a year and an the from the stand alone NNS races.

  24. Charles Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Midasmicah, if I remember right, Joey Logano won last year’s spring race at Pocono going the distance, and beat Mark Martin, one of the 5-7 greatest drivers in the last 25 years head-to-head to do it. Granted his first win, at Loudon in 2009, was one of the flukiest in the history of the sport (like that year’s Coca-Cola 600 weeks earlier), but last year, at one of the sport’s toughest tracks, he won going the distance, and beat one of the best ever head-to-head to do it.

    Joey might be in Chase contention right now if it weren’t for back-to-back tire failures at Daytona and Loudon (he was 10th in points before that happened), the latter coming just four laps into that race. The truth is, he’s been outrunning the champion most of this year and both he and Brad Keselowski drive for Penske. I think he’ll probably get back in victory lane in the Cup Series later this year, possibly more than once the way he’s been running.

  25. Bill Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Only speaking for myself, I don’t care about the N’wide series. I’m tired of seeing Cup drivers winning most of the races each and every season. But there seems to still be too strong a belief that Cup drivers in the N’wide series puts people in the stands. I think yesterday’s race proves that is no longer the case.

    As for the venue, N’wide stand alone races are a perfect opportunity for the series to go back to Rockingham.

  26. Aj Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Moving the NW race to IMS had nothing to to with IRP having sub-standard facilities, and everything with boosting the image of the NW series. If IRP needed imporvements, they could have easily been done between the NHRA & Nascar, but that was never an option. Nascar, along with the majority of the NW owners wanted the NW series at IMS to raise the image, bring in bigger sponserships, pursed, etc. They are not stupid, they knew racing the series at massive IMS was going to look bad on TV, with the fans, and the media. But it was a gamble they were willing to take. Funny thing is one of the more out spoken advocated owners of movinf the race from IRP to IMS was NW owner Kevin Harvick. Who ended up announcing the shutdown of his NW and truck series teams soon after Nascar said they were moving the races.

  27. Christopher Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    So many people just do not get it…….high def. TV…….drinking and driving and the cost of gas…..tickets and a hotel room are the downfall of all major American sports……..why go anywhere when you have a 55″ TV in your man cave……a fridge full of cheap cold beer……no BS searches at the gate( not like muslims go to races…..no track officials get this)…….not promoting drunk driving……but 3 beers these days and oops…..you’re done!

    I have attended over 50 races in my life……the last one was 10 years ago…….even if I got free tickets…..I will never walk into another NASCAR track again……….it is just too much work……..

    Other added reasons are the superiority of Hendrick, Gibbs, Roush and RCR……..hey….I am not against in being successful…….but I think real Nascar Fans miss the likes of Rick Mast, Dick Trickle (RIP)…….Bobby Hillin Jr. , Ken Ragan, Stanley Smith, Joe Ruttman……Ward Burton……Loy Allen……and so many more that drove for smaller teams that had a chance…….

    You can watch a race these days…….the first 15 laps and go away for the next 350…….come back and watch the last few and you have not missed much…..for the most part…….

  28. Overra88ted Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Were there even 10,000 people in attendance? Doubt it.

  29. Kurt Fan Forever Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    I’m from north west Indiana and we are just 35 minutes away from Joliet track and let me tell you we are big Nascar fans here and we have several tracks in area. People have no clue what we like here so don’t make assumptions. This isn’t a Joliet track problem, this is an everywhere problem. Brian France is clueless and needs to be fired from his position.

  30. Rob Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    An observation about Chicagoland and Kansas Speedways. Both were built the same year in the outskirts (middle of no-where) of large cities.

    A few years later the area around Kansas Speedway began to grow and is now virtually a city of it’s own. Meanwhile, Chicagoland is still out in the middle of cornfields and pastures - not a THING around it for miles.

    So why the drastic differences in these two facilities?

  31. Jeff Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    We had 8 tickets for the race at Chicagoland on Sunday and only two of us attended. To be honest it is kind of nice
    having the place to ourselves now. No traffic issues getting in and out. The racing was great. Logano and Vickers went at it for half of the race. It does not get any better. But in the end I am just sad with what I saw on Sunday. Illinois
    is full of jock sniffing fantasy football and baseball nerds and Nascar needs to cut its loses and move on.

  32. Leto Says:
    July 23rd, 2013 at 12:06 am

    NASCAR is all about money. Just like ever other major sports league. You don’t see teams stay in minor markets when larger ones offer them more $.

    Lucas Oil Raceway only seated like 35,000 people. So even if the Brickyard NNS race last year had 40,000 in attendance, it still sold more tickets than LOR- which in essence means that the race was a success.

    What I will never understand about NASCAR fans- I’m guilty of this too- is that we will whine and moan about there needing to be more standalone races, and then we don’t attend those standalone races. Gateway, Memphis, Nashville, among others simply didn’t draw the crowds needed for them to break even.

    Hell, even the best attended standalone races struggle to break even- Montreal continually had more than 60,000 people in attendance but the promoters rarely ever broke even.

    The first step to getting more standalone races will be NASCAR suddenly becoming less greedy, and charging tracks significantly less to host races… And that’ll happen around the time that pigs fly.

    midasmicah- Actually, NASCAR only took the Nationwide race from LOR. After LOR lost the NNS race, they told NASCAR they couldn’t financially survive with just a Truck race. It was LOR’s decision to drop the Truck race, NOT NASCAR’s.

  33. Northwest Indiana NASCAR FAN Says:
    July 23rd, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Reply to Robs comments: “Rob Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 9:07 pm
    An observation about Chicagoland and Kansas Speedways. Both were built the same year in the outskirts (middle of no-where) of large cities.
    A few years later the area around Kansas Speedway began to grow and is now virtually a city of it’s own. Meanwhile, Chicagoland is still out in the middle of cornfields and pastures - not a THING around it for miles.
    So why the drastic differences in these two facilities?”
    When the NHRA is there, the place is PACKED to the ceiling with racing fans! The problem is NASCAR is a greedy corporate machine now! NASCAR fans are sick of it! The cookie cutter tracks are also a death nail for stock car racing!

  34. Kelz Says:
    July 24th, 2013 at 2:08 am

    Tired of the lame excuses hating Cup drivers, and the bandwagon jumpers to any old lame cause. Cuppers have been racing in NW for a long time, with good reason..it measures skill and draws folks in, a economic fact. Bashing Logano for playing in his age group sandbox is comical at best, in fact most of the people he is racing with are old than him. What?..because Vickers, Sadler and anybody else you can think of is considered “full time Nationwide” its o.k. to you? Laughable. All of the JGR group are Cuppers, or ex full time Cuppers, some young talent in underfunded teams no doubt, but you got old timers, start and parks and other old timers racing for their paycheck. Get over it already!

  35. Earner Says:
    July 24th, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Lets see ..In a market that isn’t Nascar at one of the most Boring tracks ever (can’t believe they kicked off the “chase” there) …Yeah I think most you folks are right Nascar has just lost all common sense & understanding about who overall pays the freight…Yes ultimitly it is the fans ..When they/we are all gone then they’ll react..It’s really simple First the Racing has to be better..Then loose about 6-8 Dull-D events …We travel to some race’s & while the Hotel rates aren’t going to be effected in Chicago by a Nascar event I would Never go to see a race at what has replaced Fontana as the dullest of the dull