Jun 19, 2013, 12:48 PM EST
On the surface, Tuesday’s announcement by International Speedway Corp., promising a palatial $400 million makeover of Daytona International Speedway sounded great.
But the fact the track will have 46,000 less seats once the project is completed in 2016 — a decrease of more than 30,000 from its current capacity of 147,000 — has caused at least one writer to ponder the future of NASCAR and other forms of motorsports.
In Wednesday’s AutoWeek.com column titled “Daytona International Speedway cutting 45,000 seats; is this a sign motorsports is doomed?”, respected veteran automotive writer Steven Cole Smith suggests while some of the luster and popularity of auto racing has waned in recent years, Tuesday’s news out of Daytona does not mean Tony Stewart or Dale Earnhardt Jr. will soon be working changing oil at Jiffy Lube.
“Is motorsports doomed? No. Has it peaked? Probably. Has Has baseball peaked? Golf? Football? Basketball? Tennis? Probably. Because any live, pay-to-attend sport faces the same challenge racing does: There are other things to spend your money on, and when you can buy a 46-inch HDTV at Walmart for $358, there’s an overwhelming temptation to sit at home and watch the increasingly high-tech TV coverage.”
Smith asked DIS president Joie Chitwood III whether the elimination of the track’s “Superstretch” — the 45,000-seat grandstand on Daytona’s backstretch — and the precipitous drop in overall capacity is a bad sign about the future for NASCAR and motorsports as a whole.
To his credit, Chitwood answered honestly and fairly. He understands that it’s a different world today than when DIS opened in 1959. While Chitwood used the example of how things have changed in Central Florida over the last half-century, his take can be applied to the country, if not the world, as a whole.
“People can decide this afternoon that they want to go to an Orlando Magic game tonight,” Chitwood said. “They don’t have to make plans, book rooms, arrange transportation.”
Chitwood’s message is simple: There are so many forms of entertainment out there fighting for the average consumer’s wallet, that facilities such as Daytona need to change with the times, even if it means substantially cutting back on capacity. After all, even drawing 100,000 fans to the season-opening Daytona 500 is a success in most any sports marketer’s playbook.
“No question the motorsports business must begin to think outside the box, and focus on what IS working, such as the fact that Tony Stewart’s NASCAR Camping World Truck race at his Eldora Speedway has been sold out for months,” Smith wrote.
When the leaner and more efficient DIS pulls back the tarp off the completed makeover in 2016, fans can’t help but wonder if as seating capacity goes down, will ticket prices markedly go up to compensate for revenue lost from the eliminated seats?
Not so, Chitwood told Smith, saying only that ticket prices will be “adjusted” — whatever that means.
“We are not transferring this downstream to our fans,” he said.
Feb 27, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
How well does Josef Newgarden dunk? Find out in video he does with Indiana Pacers “Power Pack.”
Feb 27, 2015, 4:30 PM EST
French driver set for a fourth season in GP2 this year with Lazarus.
Feb 27, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
One of California’s more prestigious racing awards has its nominees revealed.
Feb 27, 2015, 3:00 PM EST
Indy Honor Flight event to be held at CGR shop in Indianapolis on Saturday.
Feb 27, 2015, 2:30 PM EST
Massa says that the main thing is that Alonso is okay and unhurt following his hefty crash in testing last week.
Feb 27, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
17-year-old has just one day of testing left before making his F1 debut in Australia.
Feb 27, 2015, 1:30 PM EST
Champions emerge on in a cold finale to 2015 Cooper Tires Winterfest.
Feb 27, 2015, 1:15 PM EST
First run for the VJM08 was “remarkable”, but there is still plenty to be caught up with at Force India.
Feb 27, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
German driver not happy with the setup on his W06 Hybrid despite posting the fastest time of winter testing so far in Barcelona.
Feb 27, 2015, 12:01 PM EST
The German team finally goes quickest in testing, sending a statement of intent out to the rest of the field.
Feb 27, 2015, 11:00 AM EST
F1 Commission agrees on changes for 2016 season in a bid to help aid investigations into accidents.
Feb 27, 2015, 9:32 AM EST
American driver secures a seat in GP2 after a turbulent 2014 campaign.
Feb 27, 2015, 9:17 AM EST
FIA confirms that Manor Marussia does have a place on the grid in 2015, relying it complies with the new technical regulations.
Feb 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
26 days after the rest of the F1 field, Force India gets its 2015 car out on track for the first time.
Feb 27, 2015, 7:41 AM EST
Spaniard posts a video on YouTube giving an update on his condition.
Feb 26, 2015, 3:00 PM EST
Brazilian driver still believes that Mercedes has the best car in F1 this year.
Feb 26, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Briton still manages to finish third on Thursday, but is limited to just 48 laps following the power unit issue.
Feb 26, 2015, 1:45 PM EST
F1 rookie happy with the final raft of updates on the STR10 ahead of the first race of the year in Australia.
- Barcelona F1 2nd Test Paddock Notebook – Friday 0
- Rosberg quickest as Mercedes shows its hand on day two 0
- Alexander Rossi confirms return to GP2 in 2015 with Racing Engineering 2
- FIA issues updated F1 entry list including “Manor Marussia” 0
- Fernando Alonso thanks fans for support following crash 0
- Barcelona F1 2nd Test Paddock Notebook – Thursday 0
- Massa fastest for Williams as final F1 pre-season test begins 5