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.