Skip to content

Writer asks: Is NASCAR, other forms of motorsports doomed?

Jun 19, 2013, 12:48 PM EDT

Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III. Reuters

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.

Smith writes:

“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.

Latest Posts
  1. NHRA: ‘Fast Jack’ Beckman earns 5th Funny Car win of 2015; Brown (TF), McGaha (PS), Krawiec (PSM) also win

    Aug 3, 2015, 12:24 AM EDT

    (Photo courtesy NHRA) (Photo courtesy NHRA)

    NHRA Funny Car driver “Fast Jack” Beckman may want to consider changing his nickname to “Faster Jack” because it doesn’t appear he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

  2. After dream-fulfilling day, Graham Rahal isn’t worried anymore

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:47 PM EDT

    Graham Rahal Graham Rahal

    Sunday’s win fulfilled a lifelong dream for Ohio-native Graham Rahal.

  3. Graham Rahal now trails Montoya by nine points in IndyCar standings

    Aug 2, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT

    Juan Pablo Montoya Juan Pablo Montoya

    Montoyas 42-point lead over Rahal all but disappears in one race.

  4. Karam’s Mid-Ohio spin triggers frustration, skepticism from IndyCar paddock

    Aug 2, 2015, 5:56 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    Sage Karam in the crosshairs again after controversial Lap 66 spin at Mid-Ohio.

  5. Justin Wilson finishes second at Mid-Ohio, best result in two years

    Aug 2, 2015, 4:53 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    Wilson earns first podium finish since Houston in 2013.

  6. Rahal scores dream win on home soil in Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio

    Aug 2, 2015, 4:02 PM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    Quick thinking from Rahal’s strategists allows the Ohio native to storm to his second win of the 2015 season and slice the gap to Montoya in the championship race.

  7. Helio Castroneves leads halfway through the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

    Aug 2, 2015, 3:12 PM EDT

    Castroneves

    Castroneves led at halfway due to off-setting pit strategy.

  8. Lynn hopes GP2 win has put him in running for F1 seat

    Aug 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    © GP2 Series © GP2 Series

    Alex Lynn has made an impression during his rookie GP2 season, but can he make the step up to F1 in 2016?

  9. Dennis frustrated by lack of in-season testing in F1

    Aug 2, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 06:  Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Group Ron Dennis is seen during qualifying for the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 6, 2015 in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) Getty Images

    McLaren’s CEO feels the reasons behind limiting in-season testing offer a “false economy”.

  10. WATCH LIVE: Honda Indy 200 at 1:30 p.m. ET on CNBC, Live Extra

    Aug 2, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Ryan Hunter-Reay AP

    Watch live from Mid-Ohio ahead of the 14th round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

  11. WRC: Latvala claims record-breaking win at Rally Finland

    Aug 2, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Finnish Volkswagen Polo R WRC driver Jari-Matti Latvala and co-pilot Miikka Anttila drive during the Ouninpohja special stage of the  2015 FIA World Rally Championship WRC Rally Finland in Jyvaeskylae, Finland on July 31, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / LEHTIKUVA / Vesa Moilanen +++ FINLAND OUT        (Photo credit should read VESA MOILANEN/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Latvala wins on home soil for the second time in the WRC with a record-breaking display.

  12. What to watch for: IndyCar at Mid-Ohio (1:30 p.m. ET, CNBC and Live Extra)

    Aug 2, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio - Day 3 Getty Images

    What to watch for ahead of Round 14 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, the Honda Indy 200 from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

  13. Hunter-Reay fastest in final Mid-Ohio warm up despite spinning out

    Aug 2, 2015, 10:24 AM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    Hunter-Reay finishes on top ahead of Helio Castroneves and Jack Hawksworth despite crashing his car.

  14. Reports: Monza closing in on new F1 contract

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT

    MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 07:  Fan leave the circuit following the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 7, 2014 in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Italian Grand Prix looks set to remain at Monza beyond 2016 thanks to a tax-free investment from the Italian government.

  15. MRTI, PWC at Mid-Ohio: Several different winners emerge

    Aug 1, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    Photo: @ Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography Photo: @ Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

    Mazda Road to Indy and Pirelli World Challenge race updates from Mid-Ohio as they happen on one of the busiest road racing days of the year.

  16. Wehrlein takes lead of DTM championship in Austria

    Aug 1, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - MAY 03:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Mercedes HWA looks on prior to the second race of the DTM 2015 German Touring Car Championship at Hockenheimring on May 3, 2015 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Mercedes F1 reserve driver finishes second at the Red Bull Ring to move into the lead of the DTM championship.

  17. Cole Custer sails to first career ARCA win at Pocono, 9th first-time winner in series in 2015

    Aug 1, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT

    cole custer Getty Images

    In his third career start in the ARCA Racing Series, Cole Custer breezed to victory in Saturday’s ModSpace 125 at Pocono Raceway.

  18. Dixon crushes lap record to score pole in Mid-Ohio (VIDEO)

    Aug 1, 2015, 4:21 PM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    Dixon blisters previous mark for the track record at Mid-Ohio.