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Why so many empty seats in Talladega?

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.

Topics: Articles |

15 Responses to “Why so many empty seats in Talladega?”

  1. ed larrivee Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 6:56 am

    nascar makes to many rules on the run . the cot cars all look alike. i still go to dover twice a year from new hampshire because of everything going on in the area. but i don;t watch on t. v. like i use to . it is not like years ago when i became a fan . then it was a race.

  2. Dan Maston Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 7:01 am

    I am a 52 year old Canadian NASCAR fan. Up until the last couple of years I never (and I mean never) missed a race on TV.

    But now I find myself switching channels or working on the house while the race is on. I have even missed a couple of races to go golfing.

    I have finally realized that NASCAR racing is more entertainment than a sport. Real sports have consistent rules and do not break away from the action to explain how some piece of equipment works.

    All ’sports’ evolve and things are going to change, but not always for the better. NASCAR is a business and I am sure greed is part of the problem. Perhaps NASCAR has reached the end of its growth and will contract/evolve into something better? I can only hope.

  3. Ken in VA Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 8:21 am

    My enthusiasm is at the lowest point it has been in my 45 years of following NA$CAR. I enjoyed the sport when the cars were modified versions of what you could buy and the drivers were like the guy down at the local garage. With special cars, celebrity drivers and NA$CAR rules tweaked to benefit “chosen” drivers, I don’t care if I see a race or not. The last race I attended was the night race at Bristol. I was given a free ticket with a hospitality tent and I only had to pay for half of the parking. I felt I was cheated and will not attend again. Around me, the “sold out” race had a bunch of empty seats that TV conveniently overlooked (I DVR’d the race to see how TV compared with reality). The race in person was not the same race that was shown on TV.

  4. grumpyoldman Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 8:35 am

    The races have been exciting to watch…(notwithstanding the horrible ESPN coverage). It’s just too expensive for fans to drive to races.

  5. Knowledge Is Power Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 9:18 am

    I have been a Nascar fan for 15 years, Have had season tickets to Bristol the last 10 years.
    Gave up my season tickets for the “casual fan”.
    I do not watch a race live anymore, DVR makes it possible to watch a 3 1/2 hr race/commercial fest in 45 min. I watch it when I have time & sometimes not at all.
    I thought I would miss it, but I don’t.
    Done with Nascar

  6. Jason Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 10:12 am

    I had gone to talladega for ten years straight,both races,but after what has transpired the last few years I decided not to renew my tix. NA$CAR has statred to become a WWE type event . I am glad that I was not there sunday. Have you ever noticed that in the WWE when something illleagal happens that the Ref is distracted ? Some one must have tried to give Mike Hilter a Subway when Tony forced Smith below thr yellow line. I have reviewed that frame by frame and it is so obvious that Tony blocked , He even admitted it . I think that along with the economy , price of fuel and NA$CARS questionable calls are some of the reasons that people are staying away . Most people dont drive hundreds of miles to go to a WWE event but when on comes to my town sometimes I go. I feel like the NA$CAR fans are starting to do the same thing . I will be at the Nationwide race in Memphis in a few weeks cause its an hour from home , but I wont spend $2000 a race at Talladega anymore till NA$CAR decides to become a legit sport again not an event or ” sports Enertainment “.

  7. Larry Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 10:49 am

    I watched the race Sunday at the end of it I made this comment to the wife “another Sunday wasted”. I too find myself thinking I’m wasting time sitting in front of the tube watching a “commercial fest” as already noted above. I have been a NASCAR fan for over 25 years, the introduction of COT was about the only thing NASCAR could have done. The iron coming out of Detroit just doesn’t make for good race cars NASCAR style. The COT hasn’t made the racing any better, the good days of the eighties are behind us.

  8. yankeegranny Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 11:39 am

    I’ve been a fan for 3 years. finally retired and have started going to live races. Went to Darlington, Richmond, and am looking foreward to Martinsville and Homestead. I love the chase format and think it is a big improvement over the previous one. Yes, I think the price of gas is a big reason for the empty seats, but I honestly don’t think the price of tickets is that bad. If you have been to a big concert or live theater, you would see Nascar tickets are on a par. Food is food, you can spend a lot or a little. The price of hotels is insane. We are staying in Mt Airy NC for the Martinsville race for $59 a night. Anything near Martinsville was $100 and up. You need to used the internet to find accommodations in your price range and book early. I agree it is different if you are trying to take a family rather than just the two of us, but it is doable. my biggest expense for the weekends is the scanner and I am getting one for Christmas.( eat your hearts out guys, wouldn’t you love to have a wife who wants a scanner for Christmas?)

  9. dawg Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    #1 NA$CAR, has become IROC.

    #2 They’ve lost their soul, & won’t find it at the bank.

    #3 They’ve moved so far from their roots. That the roots have begun to wither, & die.

    Pick any one, or a combination, you might have part of your answer.

  10. Joe Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    C.O.T.(Iroc cars), The Chase, Lucky-Dog rule(what a joke!), TV coverage, too many tv commercials, subdued drivers, cookie-cutter boring tracks, debris cautions(???), rule changes, restrictor-plates, lower compression engines, qualifying rain-outs(should never happen), out-of-bounds lines(another joke!), out-of-control ticket, food, collectibles & parking prices!!!

  11. Joe Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Cheeseburger, fries and drink at Atlanta was $13.00, that’s armed robbery!!! How can fast-food sell the same combo for $4-5.00 and it’s $13.00 at the track? It cost about $1.10 in food cost, I know, I’m in the fast-food business. That is nothing but GREED!!!

  12. Fan From Texas Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    I am a 10 year season ticket holder at Texas. Several of the people around me are not renewing their tickets. The primary reason is expense. Just not enough money to go around anymore. Something has to go. I may be a couple of years away from doing the same thing. Overall expense is the primary reason for us.

  13. Michael Brack Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    I have followed the same driver since the mid nineties. I’ve been a loyal nascar fan. That is changing. Once my favoriote retires (he’s 41 now) I don’t think I’ll be around much longer. And if I doe I’ll skip the first 26 races because they don’t seem to mean anything any more. Are you listening, na$car? I didn’t think so. midasmicahone

  14. D Jones Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    The real test for empty grandstands will be next year. You have to buy your race tix months before the current season is even over. 2008 has been one of the worst years to buy anything, let alone race tix. I don’t understand the gas price argument this year as tix were bought in 2007. Why would someone shell out a couple of hundred of dollars and then not go? I’m sure people had to go without their creature comforts to make sure they had gas money.

    As for the TV numbers being down, we can blame Emperor Brian and NASCAR. The new rules they come up with leave alot to be desired. Let’s see who tunes into the new Bud Shootout next year as an example. What a rip off for this years’ pole winners. Race start times are another issue that needs to be addressed. Especially on the east coast.

    October 9th, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    I am a 54 yr old male. was always an Earnhardt sr. fan and now avid Jr. fan. I try to go at least to 1 live race a year, not this year. I never miss a cup or nationwide race on tv. With this new car I am feeling that it is taking it to much out of the hand of my driver and putting it in the hands of engineers. I feel Jr is as good as if not better than any driver in cup but, if his car is 1/10thh off it takes it out of his hand—this is not racing(if I wanted that style racing I would be an indy style fan). For the first time in years I will miss Saturday night race to go to the Apple Festival. Maybe next year I’ll get re-involved with my local dirt track instead of Nascar. Also I think all restarts should be by racing order(not making a 10th place car restart 20th), now that we have the “”lucky dog”"