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.
Aug 19, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
Last year, reliability was the problem for Toyota’s engines, not power. This year, the situation has been reversed, and Toyota Racing Development’s president says they’re hunting for more performance ahead of the Chase.
Aug 19, 2014, 8:07 PM EDT
Alan Gustafson may not be as well-known as other crew chiefs, but it’s clear that he’s played a big role in Jeff Gordon’s success this season. The NASCAR AMERICA crew breaks down what’s made them such a good pair together.
Aug 19, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT
NASCAR AMERICA talks about Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez’s move to Joe Gibbs Racing – and the impact of their new sponsor, telecommunications equipment company ARRIS.
Aug 19, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Coming up today: Reaction from 2015 JGR drivers Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez, and current JGR Cup drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch; No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson on the team’s win at Michigan; the Michigan edition of “Scan All 43.”
Aug 19, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Four days after racing in Michigan, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series faces the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway in Wednesday night’s UNOH 200.
Aug 19, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
This weekend, Red Bull GRC drivers will compete on a .924-mile layout at Daytona International Speedway that’s the longest they’ve faced so far this year. Catch Saturday’s final at 2:30 p.m. on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra.
Aug 19, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT
Gibbs, who won two Sprint Cup titles with Stewart in 2002 and 2005, believes that his former driver has the courage to overcome his grief and eventually come back to racing.
Aug 19, 2014, 2:16 PM EDT
e.dams-Renault’s Sebastien Buemi puts up a lap of 1 minute, 31.792 seconds to lead the final day of testing at the UK’s Donington Park.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Eight years ago, the son of Michael and grandson of Mario broke through on the Northern California circuit.
Aug 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
A final report from MotorSportsTalk’s Tony DiZinno on how the Milwaukee IndyFest went off.
Aug 19, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
After success in Mexico and in the U.S.-based NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Suarez will take on the Nationwide Series next season with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Aug 19, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT
NASCAR’s Chase Grid Live sweepstakes open until August 29; provides fans potential VIP trip ahead of Chicagoland Chase opener.
Aug 19, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT
Carl Edwards was almost destined to move to Gibbs, and it’s time to see whether his new opportunity will yield as much success for him as other switches have for others.
Aug 19, 2014, 10:17 AM EDT
Carl Edwards confirmed at Joe Gibbs Racing for 2015 and beyond.
Aug 18, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
10 Sprint Cup squads tested various configurations today at Michigan as NASCAR looked to nail down its rules package for the 2015 Cup season. Today on NASCAR AMERICA, NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan gave a full report on the proceedings.
Aug 18, 2014, 8:48 PM EDT
Under very difficult circumstances, NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton went back behind the wheel this weekend at Michigan. Today on NASCAR AMERICA, the Sprint Cup veteran talked about his experience subbing for Tony Stewart.
Aug 18, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Coming up today: Breaking down Jeff Gordon’s win at Michigan; Jeff Burton and his weekend with Stewart-Haas Racing; Kyle Larson’s Chase hopes take a hit; teams test potential 2015 rules changes.
Aug 18, 2014, 7:05 PM EDT
Gordon and the No. 24 team have been rolling over the last four weeks. But can they continue their streak of success?
Aug 18, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
All the notes and numbers to keep in mind as the Race to the Chase heats up in Tennessee.
Aug 18, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Tripp Mickle of the SportsBusiness Journal reports that Comcast’s broadband/TV/phone service is considering a five to six year deal valued at over $100 million to take over sponsorship of what’s currently known as the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
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