By admin | October 7, 2008
By Richard Allen
Races held at the Talladega Superspeedway are usually among the most anticipated of the season. The 3-4 wide racing held on the giant track usually attracts even casual fans. Close competition, numerous lead changes, unpredictability, bumping, banging and even crashing provide something for just about every race fan.
To add to the attraction, the sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is typically counted as one of the favorites on the Alabama tri-oval. And, he is also one of the twelve contenders for the Chase for the Championship.
Junior’s recent runs have rarely ended with the finishes he and his fans would like on this track but he is almost a certainty to be in contention. He has won at Talladega five times over the course of his career.
So, with all of those ingredients in place there was surely a capacity crowd on hand when the green flag dropped on the Amp Energy 500, right?
Actually, the crowd was far from capacity. The grandstand at the exit of turn 4 on both the lower and upper levels seemed to have more empty seats than filled. Also, the backstretch seating was well below half full.
And more, television ratings were off slightly from last year’s showing of the same race.
What does this lack of attention say about NASCAR racing?
In recent weeks, the on track action has seemed to improve. Could it be simply the product of a failing economy and high gas prices? Or, have fans become so disenchanted with the sport that even the lure of one of the most popular tracks with the sport’s most popular driver in the thick of the championship hunt not enough to draw them back?
The economy and gas prices may explain the poor attendance but it cannot be the cause of the sagging television ratings.
Whether the reason for Talladega’s lack of attention received is indeed that simple or if it goes deeper than those reasons, NASCAR could have some tough times ahead either way.
It could be that fans are upset with the direction the sport is heading. Or worse, it could be that an attitude of apathy has settled over the sport. That would be the worst of all for NASCAR.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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