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.
Jul 27, 2014, 7:52 PM EDT
A world of differences make it impossible to weigh Jeff Gordon’s accomplishments at Indy against those of A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Al Unser Sr., and Michael Schumacher.
Jul 27, 2014, 6:52 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Gordon gave himself an early 43rd birthday present with Sunday’s Brickyard 400 win. Kyle Larson also gave himself an early birthday present – his 22nd will be Thursday – with a solid seventh-place finish in his first Brickyard.
Jul 27, 2014, 6:13 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS – It wasn’t quite the 1-2-3 finish they might have hoped for, but it was almost just as good for Joe Gibbs Racing’s three drivers in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch finished second to winner Jeff Gordon, followed by Denny Hamlin in third and Matt Kenseth was fourth.
Jul 27, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT
Rowdy continues his strong performance as of late with another P2 at Indianapolis.
Jul 27, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Kasey Kahne led a race-high 70 laps, but lost the Brickyard 400 lead to Jeff Gordon on a restart with 16 laps to go and faded to sixth.
Jul 27, 2014, 4:17 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS – It was an oldie but goodie performance as Jeff Gordon – seven days short of his 43rd birthday – rallied late to win Sunday’s 21st Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Jul 27, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
One final round-up from the Hungaroring following Daniel Ricciardo’s supreme victory.
Jul 27, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT
A broken rear axle ended Danica Patrick’s day prematurely in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Jul 27, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT
Strategy plays have been plentiful in the first half of today’s race at Indianapolis.
Jul 27, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Defending world champion has a quiet race at the Hungaroring; now 43 points behind Ricciardo in the drivers’ championship.
Jul 27, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Briton was asked twice to let Rosberg past, but he defied team orders on both occasions.
Jul 27, 2014, 1:03 PM EDT
“I have a deal moving forward. I can’t announce it yet. When all those pieces come together, it’ll be announced and we’ll talk about it.” – Edwards
Jul 27, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Big crashes for both Perez and Ericsson, but luckily neither suffered any injuries.
Jul 27, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Best result of the season for Ferrari with Alonso second and Kimi Raikkonen P6.
Jul 27, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT
By making announcement hours before Brickyard 400, team owner Jack Roush didn’t seem to do Edwards any favors.
Jul 27, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
Championship lead shrinks by three points after finishing half a second behind Hamilton at the flag.
Jul 27, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Cuts the gap to Nico Rosberg by three points, leaving the gap at just eleven for the summer break.
Jul 27, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT
Red Bull driver won a sensational grand prix ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.
Jul 27, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT
Roush Fenway Racing announces that its 2015 Sprint Cup driver lineup will feature Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Trevor Bayne.
Jul 27, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT
Australian driver claims a sensational win for Red Bull, the second of his F1 career.