Jun 19, 2013, 12:48 PM EDT
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.
May 23, 2015, 6:04 PM EDT
Chip Ganassi Racing driver will make his 300th career start Sunday.
May 23, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT
After taking the lead at the start, Stanaway goes wire-to-wire to take his first GP2 win in Monaco.
May 23, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
Spaniard suffers another issue on his car during qualifying on Saturday, leaving him P15 on the grid before penalties.
May 23, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
The Audi Sport ABT driver delivers a crushing win in Berlin at the disused Tempelhof airport, only to then be disqualified in the hours following the race.
May 23, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
Live coverage from Glen Helen starts with the pre-race show at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra and continues with first motos at 5 p.m. ET. Second motos will be live on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET.
May 23, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Red Bull driver matches his best qualifying result of the season, but feels a top three grid slot was within reach.
May 23, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
A pink Camaro, a Justin Bieber reference and an improved maturity level: all in the second month of May for Chip Ganassi’s rising star, Sage Karam.
May 23, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
Lotus driver will start tomorrow’s race from 15th place on the grid.
May 23, 2015, 2:01 PM EDT
Townsend Bell recaps a busy week, and a particularly busy Carb Day.
May 23, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT
While the likelihood is of a veteran triumph, can one of IndyCar’s relative “next generation” break through in the Indianapolis 500?
May 23, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
Ferrari driver explains how the fall in temperature ahead of qualifying meant Ferrari could not challenge Mercedes in Monaco.
May 23, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
Toro Rosso driver dropped to the back of the grid after failing to complete a weight check during qualifying on Saturday.
Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage plans to talk with IndyCar about potential changes to cars
May 23, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT
Airborne crashes would be a concern at high-speed 1.5-mile oval.
May 23, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas limped to their worst qualifying results of the season in Monaco.
May 23, 2015, 11:09 AM EDT
Team Penske credits an oval-whelming improvement during his 2014 championship season.
May 23, 2015, 10:08 AM EDT
Hinchcliffe, in a hospital gown, up and walking, in utterly fantastic news.
May 23, 2015, 9:34 AM EDT
Despite having 42 pole positions to his name before today, Lewis Hamilton had never had one in Monaco – until now, that is.
- Bell: “Carb Day is many things to many people; mine was many jobs” 0
- Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage plans to talk with IndyCar about potential changes to cars 4
- Hamilton storms to first Monaco GP pole position 1
- Vettel fastest for Ferrari in final practice for Monaco GP 0
- Chip Ganassi lobbying for IndyCar schedule changes 0
- What to watch for: IndyCar, Indy Lights Carb Day (11 a.m. ET, NBCSN and Live Extra) 0
- IndyCar driver raises concern about design of wishbone that injured James Hinchcliffe in crash 4