Friday, March 30, 2012

It isn't ONLY the economy or ONLY the type of racing affecting attendance at Bristol

What really drives me nuts is the people who suggest that the racing at the track isn't what is keeping the fans away. They say it is the combination of the economy, the cost of fuel & the price gouging that occurs at area restaurants, hotels, motels & campgrounds. While this almost certainly has some effect, it most certainly isn't the only reason that attendance has dropped in half at the spring race in the span of 4 years. Compare Bristol to the other tracks within a 5 1/2 hour drive. I think it is safe to assume that the residents living within this area are the main supporters of NASCAR racing and are the majority of fans in the stands at the races. Attendance figures at Martinsville, Charlotte, Richmond, Darlington & Atlanta have all dropped from where they were in 2008. Martinsville's low is 16.5% less than the fall race of 2008, Richmond's is 21.5% off the spring race in 2008, Darlington is 18.5%, Atlanta is off 15 % from the spring race in 2008. Using the NASCAR estimate of attendance at the Bristol race two weeks ago, 102000 attended the race (other estimates had the crowd as low as 80000) 102000 is off 36.5% from Bristol's peak of 160000. This is a track that sold out the races for over 25 consecutive years! The only track in this geographical area that has suffered attendance figures that are off this much is the fall race at Charlotte which is off 35.5%. (Is this a result of moving the fall race weekend back a week in 2009 or a result of the 1000's of NASCAR team personell layoffs that occured and the trickle down effect on the local economy in Charlotte creating more of a depression in this immediate area than a recession?) It makes sense that attendance figures will be hurt by as much as 20% as a result of a poor economy in places such as Martinsville, Richmond, Darlington, Atlanta & Bristol. That would figure to be the trend for this economic region. I don't think it would be that much of a stretch to argue that while the economy has almost certainly had some impact on the attendance at Bristol, there is something else keeping the fans away. No one can deny that the type of racing at Bristol has changed since they reconfigured the racetrack. The reconfiguration occured in the same time frame as a severe economic recession. I think it is safe to say, the attendance at Bristol has been impacted by both events. By making changes to the track, hopefully the racing at Bristol becomes a must see event once again. If that happens, they may not get back to a sellout under the current economic conditions, but I think an improvement to be only 15% off of sellout is well within reach.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bristol - Back to "Racin the way it ought to be"?

In 2007 those in charge of Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) reconfigured the racetrack. No longer was the half mile track at Bristol a single groove racetrack, as progressive banking was introduced. Instead of running into the back of the slower driver ahead to get him loose and up out of the groove to make a pass, drivers could race side by side all the way around. Reconfiguring the track sounded like a great idea at first, after all at tracks such as Homestead-Miami Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway had been reconfigured to have progressive banking & the racing went from being a line of cars driving in circles to exciting side-by-side racing action. Imagine, side-by-side racing at Bristol - wouldn't that be something to see? Turns out, it was only something 80,000 people wanted to see at the race there two weeks ago. 80,000 people. This is a track that once had 55 consecutive sellouts. Fifty Five! 160,000 people filled this staduim twice a year for over 25 years. Season tickets rights were willed to heirs as people passed on. It was the most popular race to see. I never did manage to make it to a Bristol race prior to the reconfiguration, yet I always maintained that if I ever got an opportunity to go to a NASCAR race, Bristol would be the race I would go see. I got that opportunity in the summer of 2010. I got to go see the night race at Bristol! Whats more is that I got to go see the race with my Dad. The Father/Son trip of a lifetime! I will always cherish that trip. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the noise. It was an incredible experience to be there and a once in a lifetime opportunity to bond with my Father. The race itself? It was ok. Sadly I can remember looking up at the scoring tower and seeing there were still 300 laps to go and thinking: Wow... my butt is sore... holy cow we've been here for 2 hours and I've got to sit here for at least another 3? Better go to the concession stand to walk for a bit... Sure, they were racing side by side - but they weren't beating and banging & rooting each other up out of the way in the way they always had. There was still some good action on the track, Kasey Khane's car rode up the wall and drove along on its side through turn 1. But it wasn't the kind of racing I'd always dreamed of seeing at that track. It wasn't 'on the edge of your seat' excitement. It certainly wasn't what had come to be known as "racin the way it ought to be". I'd always kept that little bit of the story to myself - I guess I was afraid that by being upset with the race itself, it would take away from what was an otherwise amazing experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. Truth be told, I'm glad that I was able to fufil my dream of seeing a race at Bristol. However, with the track in its current configuration, I'd never go back to see a race there. I'd go to Martinsville, Richmond, Darlington or Dover. I'd tour the entire NASCAR circuit before going back to Bristol. That was my thought up until today. Today I read that Bruton Smith, owner & CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc (SMI) - the company which owns Bristol Motor Speedway - announced yesterday afternoon that he would again be changing the surface at BMS. What the changes are has not yet been announced, however Bruton did say that the fans had spoken and in the majority of the responses he recieved were in favour of changes, and therefore changes will be made. Equipment will begin work within the next two weeks to allow for the changes to be made prior to this August's night race.  I doubt that it is possible for them to make changes that will bring Bristol back to its previous configuration, but I hope that the changes made do allow for a style of racing similar to that of which we used to see. I await the details and the results with baited breath. Hoping for more "racin the way it ought to be".

Haven't blogged in a long time - this isn't even NASCAR related - For my friends who are fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs!

The Leafs are like eating at Taco Bell.
A wise man sees the indigestion coming, regardless of the good start.

What do you call a Leafs player with a Stanley Cup ring?
A theif.

Whats the difference between a cigarette vending machine & the Toronto
Maple Leafs?
A cigarette vending machine has Players.

What do the Toronto Maple Leafs & Canada Post have in common?
They both wear uniforms & don't deliver.

Does 7 years without playoffs = a plague of Biblical proportions?

What do the Toronto Raptors & the Toronto Maple Leafs have in common?
Neither one can play hockey.

Why doesn't Hamilton have an NHL hockey team yet?
Because then Toronto would want one too!

It's the first day of school and the teacher thought she'd get to know
the kids by asking them their name and what their father does for a
living. Jimmy says: My father is a loser who prefers to lay on the
couch all day and watch TV, while Mom goes off to work to support us."
The teacher gasps and quickly changes the subject, but later in the
schoolyard the teacher approaches Jimmy privately and asks if it was
really true what he had said about his father. He blushed and said,
"I'm sorry but my dad plays hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs and I
was just too embarrassed to say so."

What to the Toronto Maple Leafs & the titanic have in common?
They both look good till they hit the ice.

What do the Toronto Maple Leafs & a college dropout have in common?
They're both young, have no goals and no prospects.

What is the difference between an AirMiles collector & the Toronto Maple Leafs?
An AirMiles collector earns points.

What do the Toronto Maple Leafs & a fine wine have in common?
They both spend a lot of time in the cellar, cost too much and are
only enjoyed on select occasions.

What does a pace car at Daytona & the Toronto Maple Leafs have in common?
They both go around in cirlces, aren't involved in the race & get
passed by all the competitors.

What do College students & the Toronto Maple Leafs have in common?
They are both finished the year by April..

Enjoy the golf course boys! FORE!