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. Danica Patrick finishes career-best 6th after G-W-C craziness in Atlanta

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:25 AM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    The result beats her previous high water mark of seventh this past May at Kansas.

  2. Kevin Harvick far from being happy after Paul Menard wrecks him, costing a chance for win

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:10 AM EDT

    (Photo: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images) Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. — It was a rough night for a number of drivers in Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta, including Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose.

  3. Kenseth clinches Chase berth; Bowyer falls out of Grid with one race to go

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:43 AM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Matt Kenseth enters the post-season with a second place result, while Clint Bowyer finds himself outside the Chase Grid going into next Saturday’s regular season finale.

  4. Kasey Kahne rallies in last 2 laps to win at Atlanta, makes Chase

    Sep 1, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT

    Kahne wins at Atl 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. – Kasey Kahne’s 17th career Sprint Cup win couldn’t have been any larger.

  5. Tony Stewart’s comeback hopes end with rough 41st-place finish at Atlanta

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:07 PM EDT

    stewart atlanta 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. – It was not the comeback that Tony Stewart had hoped for.

  6. NASCAR Atlanta Update: Stewart falls back after contact with Kyle Busch; Kenseth leads

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Oral-B USA 500 Getty Images

    Tony Stewart’s return to competition tonight at Atlanta Motor Speedway has encountered some trouble after a restart run-in with “Rowdy.”

  7. Schumacher (TF), Hagan (FC), Line (PS), Krawiec (PSM) ones to beat in Monday’s NHRA U.S. Nationals finals

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:08 PM EDT

    2014 NHRA U.S. Nationals LOGO

    Following Sunday’s final round of qualifying, Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will lead their respective classes as No. 1 qualifiers for Monday’s final eliminations of the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

  8. Tony Stewart the obvious fan favorite during pre-race introductions at Atlanta

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:28 PM EDT

    ATL fans pre-race 2014 Getty Images

    HAMPTON, Ga. — There was no question which driver received the most applause and cheers during driver introductions prior to the start of Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

  9. Another major sponsor reaffirms backing of Tony Stewart

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts - Practice Getty Images

    Rush Truck Centers’ CEO: “We stand with Tony.”

  10. How many Chase spots will still be in play after Atlanta?

    Aug 31, 2014, 5:34 PM EDT

    Pure Michigan 400 - Practice Getty Images

    Matt Kenseth can clinch a spot in the post-season with a finish of seventh or better in tonight’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

  11. Atlanta Motor Speedway honors longtime motorsports reporter ‘Capt. Herb’ Emory

    Aug 31, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT

    herb emory AMS media center

    HAMPTON, Ga. — Atlanta Motor Speedway will honor longtime Atlanta-area broadcaster and motorsports reporter “Capt. Herb” Emory, who passed away in April at the age of 61, prior to Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

  12. Ryan Blaney takes last-lap duel, wins NASCAR Trucks at CTMP (VIDEO)

    Aug 31, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

    14th Annual Michigan National Guard 200 - Practice Getty Images

    Ryan Blaney uses a cross-over move on German Quiroga in the final corner and then beats him to the stripe, winning the Chevrolet Silverado 250.

  13. NHRA: Tony Schumacher claims $100K Top Fuel bonus at U.S. Nationals

    Aug 31, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    NHRA Auto Racing AP

    The 9-time U.S. Nationals champion dispatches Richie Crampton in the final of the Traxxas Shootout with a track-record speed of 328.54 mph.

  14. Former Caterham staff begin legal action against team

    Aug 31, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Practice Getty Images

    The legal wranglings following the sale of the team look set to continue.

  15. Mosley: Mercedes shouldn’t publicly chastise Rosberg

    Aug 31, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    BRITAIN-MEDIA-POLITICS-LEVESON Getty Images

    Former FIA president believes Mercedes made a mistake hanging its dirty laundry out for all to see.

  16. VIDEO: Max Verstappen crashes during Rotterdam show run

    Aug 31, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Previews Getty Images

    Not the best start to life with Red Bull for the young Dutchman.

  17. Moto GP: Marquez a winner again, beating Lorenzo at Silverstone

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    MotoGp Of Great Britain - Qualifying Getty Images

    Marquez claims win number 11 of his remarkable sophomore year in Moto GP.

  18. COTA and V8 Supercars mutually terminate contract

    Aug 31, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT

    V8 Supercars - Austin 400: Qualifying And Race Getty Images

    Australian touring car series will not be returning to Austin in 2015 as originally planned.

  19. Will Power’s brother Damien live tweets Will’s IndyCar title run; hilarity ensues

    Aug 31, 2014, 4:00 AM EDT

    WillChamp2 Getty Images

    Will Power’s brother Damien provides raucous, hilarious commentary as Will drove towards the Verizon IndyCar Series title.

Video from NASCAR America

Inside Tony Stewart's return to racing
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (2131)
  2. K. Harvick (1977)
  3. T. Stewart (1536)
  4. K. Busch (1342)
  5. J. Logano (1335)