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Watkins Glen shows it’s the action, not the economy, that drives attendance

By admin | August 11, 2013

By Richard Allen

The grandstands at Watkins Glen International were almost completely filled with fans during the Sprint Cup race on Sunday afternoon. Track officials even went so far as to boast that there would be near record numbers of people for the Sprint Cup race days ahead of the event. That stands in stark contrast to the empty seats seen in places like Indianapolis, Michigan and other locales where NASCAR has held races this season. So why the difference?

NASCAR officials as well as those who insist on spouting the company line for the sanctioning body insist that factors such as the economy, weather and start times have kept people away from their races. So the economy is better in upstate New York than it is in other areas? Watkins Glen is the only track that has had good weather this year?

Of course, the answer to both of those questions is no. So what was the difference?

Quite simply, the difference was last year’s racing. The 2012 Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen featured one of the best last lap shootouts in recent NASCAR history as Marcos Ambrose, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch banged, slid and slammed their way to the checkered flag. Fans remembered that and bought tickets accordingly.

If the predominant ‘cookie cutter’ tracks provided that kind of action, people would fill the seats there as well.

The economy is not great. There is no denying that. But for NASCAR officials and those highly placed media members who go out of their way to echo the company line from Daytona Beach to claim that the economy is the only reason people aren’t attending races is ridiculous.

And furthermore, it’s not the weather nor the time of day that the races are run that cause there to be empty seats. People don’t plan a trip to a NASCAR track on the spur of the moment so weather on the particular day of the race has little impact on attendance. And, if Indianapolis had lights, there still would have been thousands of empty seats there.

The simple truth is that it’s the racing that is the primary factor to drive attendance. Give fans good racing and they will show up. They proved that at Watkins Glen on Sunday. Give them bad racing and they won’t bother. They proved that last month in Indy and likely will prove it again in Michigan next weekend.

Topics: Articles |

12 Responses to “Watkins Glen shows it’s the action, not the economy, that drives attendance”

  1. Benjamin P. Glaser Says:
    August 11th, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    It ain’t rocket science. Give someone a reason to watch and they will.

  2. Ann Says:
    August 12th, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Could not agree more, we have been saying for years ITS IS THE ACTION and other Nascar stupidity..i.e. turning into the WWF…oh we could go on. But we never once brought the “economy” as the MAIN REASON as the paid shills of Nascar tell us week. King Brian and the paid shills continue to insult the real race fan.

  3. richie Says:
    August 12th, 2013 at 3:07 am

    I agree partially. Just have a couple of things to add: The economy in upstate NY is actually pretty bad, so that sort of throws the theory out the window nascar loves to use. Also a couple times in the past few years watkins glen has had terrible weather. Often there is severe rain at some point during the week and the race in 2011 had rain for almost two straight days.

    It should be noted though that watkins glen grandstand capacity is only 41,000 but that doesn’t matter as the key point is they came close to or broke ticket sales record, something most tracks can’t claim in recent years.

    Last point for what it is worth glen officials did say that about 27% of ticket sales are 11th hour. (article below)

  4. Tony Geinzer Says:
    August 12th, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Richard, could the Glen return to the stipulation of “At The Glen” for its future Sponsors like Indy always need to always say “The Brickyard 400 Not Presented By Any Bidders” or Just “The Brickyard 400″. I feel stronger the Glen needs to be a Fall Race.

  5. GinaV24 Says:
    August 12th, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Yes, no matter how much NASCAR would like to believe or convince the fans otherwise, it is the racing that drives attendance.

    The economic side of the equation comes in with where do I want to spend my money? On a race that will be fun to watch? That would be a yes. Going to a track where I’m going to see a follow the leader race with little passing? That would be no.

  6. Ken Says:
    August 12th, 2013 at 9:13 am

    OK, I read the article and some of the responses posted as of 10:00. Obviously, I watched a different race. The one I saw only had five lead changes among five drivers. And for 90-laps, it looked like a typical follow-the-leader parade. And unless someone made a dumb mistake (Matt Kenseth), or got burned by a pit stop (Marcus Ambrose), there was very little action to get excited about! Oh yes, there was the typical fender rubbing on restarts, but, other than that, there wa0s so little to get excited about. As far as I could tell from yesterday, California, Pocono, and Michigan, the tracks everyone hates with a passion, have provided better racing this year than what was shown yesterday.

    Sorry, but that is what I saw on TV, and it made me think that road courses have no business in NASCAR. Sorry if my opinion upsets you, but, that is how I have been left feeling after yesterday.

  7. Michael Says:
    August 12th, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    We need North Wilkesboro back

  8. bob Says:
    August 12th, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    I was surprised the stands were as full as they were. Then again, they don’t have a lot of seats, and they’ve taken some out. Used to have stands on the inside and outside of the bus stop and the red white and blue stands look like they’ve been changed, and look smaller.

    I went to the Glen from ‘96 to ‘05. I’ll tell you why I stopped going. Cost was a little bit of it, but there just
    wasn’t as much happening, the entertainment value per
    dollar just kept dropping. The big race was always a let down, it was all the stuff leading up to the big race that was fun, and a lot of that is now gone.

    Late 90’s, we’d go up Thursday, and the 3rd series that USED to race on the weekend would probably be practicing. Friday, 5 hours of cup practice and then the other series would practice, and then you’d have some qualifying. It was a full day.

    Saturday would be a cup practice, maybe a lower series practice, or qualifying, 2ND ROUND CUP qualifying, remember that?? Then you’d get 2 races, then more cup practice. It was a 10-12 hour day of racing and cars making noise.

    Now, 2 races only, and you’re in and out of there on Saturday in like 4 hours. Same on Friday. 12-15 hours
    less entertainment over the weekend, for the same price.

    Same at other tracks too, took my dad to the 600 for his birthday. That was 4 straight solid days of racing, or at least practice (which I find fun, with a scanner). They don’t even open the big track on Friday down there anymore, only one WOO race now , and when we went
    if they weren’t using the big track, they had bandelaros and legend cars on that little 1/4 miler on the front stretch.

    My mom wanted me to bring him a few years ago for his 60th. There was no point, it was only going to be a few hours of entertainment each day. Then we’d have to go find something else to do, or find a good bar, or sit in a hotel room.

    Tried Texas a few years ago, just to get away for the weekend. The actual time at the track was so short, my little lady didn’t even get bored. We got a lot of shopping and site seeing in though.

    Which isn’t what I want, I’m spending a buttload on a hotel, maybe a rental car, or at least the gas to drive there, plus tickets. I want to be entertained all weekend, its a race weekend, I don’t want to have to find other stuff to do.

  9. midasmicah Says:
    August 12th, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Great race. I didn’t here the words “aero push” once. And boy, how about those five mile and a half tracks in the chase. That’ll bring the fans in. Good article, Rich.

  10. Bill B Says:
    August 12th, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    What is really amazing about a spike in attendance at a road course is that you really can only see the cars as they pass by your section. I love the road courses but I wouldn’t want to attend one unless it was less than an hour away.

    I get your point and all I can say is that a road course race with no passing for the lead is still more interesting and nail-biting than a 1.5-2 mile oval with no passes for the lead. And I agree with you, by some strange act of God the California race and the second Pocono race were two of the best this year (can’t say I remember the Michigan race being that exciting). But the first Pocono race sucked and had the 48 not wrecked at the second Pocono race, it too would have sucked.

  11. Chris Fiegler Says:
    August 12th, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    I Thought the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen is one of the Best Races that i have seen.

  12. Sam Says:
    August 12th, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    Good article over all, and I agree on most things, but I will contend weather makes a difference.

    I myself made a trip to Michigan with friends earlier this year from my home (3 hours away), but we waited until 10am the morning before the race before deciding the weather looked good enough (The weather that day looked iffy).

    Now, here we are, a few days away from the next Michigan race, and we’re doing it all again, 8 of us this time. No decision will be made until we can see the weather for the area of the track on Sunday morning. Monday races don’t work for us, so we need to be sure the race will happen on Sunday. And we’re all poor university students (right in the demographic NASCAR is lacking), we want to see a show if we’re gonna pay for a show.