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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