The Coke 600: Why Did So Many Stay Away?

[media-credit name=”Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]The weather was perfect, if not hot, and the pre-race show was amazing. No one does the patriotic opening act like Charlotte Motor Speedway, so why was the attendance so bad? That’s a good question that comes in the form of multiple choice. Take any of these and you may win, but picking just one will not answer the question.

The Economy – This has long been the excuse for people not attending the races this season, but gasoline was down to $3.29-3.49 all along the way, with the highest prices being in West Virginia. With the economy improving somewhat, it might be ticket prices which have tripped in 20 years.

The Saturation of Information – No longer do fans have to come to the track to see what is going on. Even though many newspapers don’t send writers to many of the races anymore, we have the internet, Twitter, Facebook, a bevy of television shows, and Sirius XM Radio that keeps everyone up to date. Long gone are the days waiting for SouthernMotorRacing or Grand National Scene to come in the mail. Most fans simply get more information than they can handle. With most of the tracks being built during the boom era of the sport, a lot of seating was the norm. Today, there are just too many seats. Although the official press release said that 140,000, the printed capacity of the track, large blocks of empty seats could be seen in the third and fourth turns, as well as the backstretch. There were lots of fans there, but nowhere near 140,000.

The Racing – Here’s where it gets sticky. Many close to the sport continue to insist that the racing is “better than it ever has been before.” They reference the 1960’s and 1970’s races where only ten cars were on the lead laps and so on, but the truth is, most races have not had the excitement factor we saw a few years ago. Why? Some of it has to do with the pressure drivers feel to make The Chase. It’s hard to be aggressive and rub fenders when one mistake puts you out of the race and not in The Chase. Sunday night, we saw a long train of competitors driving around in line. Most of the small number of cautions were mostly for debris. Many fans left early or spent time in the concourses during the race just to get a break.

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The Lack of a Driver like the Late Dale Earnhardt – Earnhardt was unique, but not so far off from the other drivers of his era who were hell-bent on winning a race. In today’s environment, if you make The Chase, you still have a chance to win the title. Witness Tony Stewart last year. Yes, he won half the Chase races, but he overcame a bunch of very consistent teams who sat back and watched the magic Smoke brought to the final ten races. In other words, keep you nose clean for 26 races, make The Chase, and do your work there.

Of course, I didn’t mention Dale Earnhardt, Jr., which is in error. Junior is by far the most popular driver in NASCAR and yet he has a large losing streak that can be counted instead of races. More than a few of his father’s fans picked the son as their favorite driver. Let it be said that Junior is nothing like Senior on the track. Many believe that a win by the No. 88 would cure the sport, but I feel that any revival will come from one or more remedies from above.

There are many who think there is nothing wrong these days, but dwindling ticket sales and TV ratings say otherwise. The early ratings tell us that the Indianapolis 500 drew more viewers than the Coke 600. I find that hard to believe. Has America lost their love of stock car racing?

So take your pick and let’s see what the results are.

10 COMMENTS

  1. I will tell you why the town sucks rude in every way.I went to the 600 a few years back and I will never go back for anyreason at all.Even on the way to the track there was construction downtown so I asked a cop if there was a way around the traffic mess.His comment to was looks like you need a map,nice.Right on his sleeve said “PROTECT AND SERVE”which I did inform him of.I did get lucky and stopped at a beer store and someone saw my Kentucky plate and gave me directions,he was from ky as well the only nice person I meet.The company I work for would give free tickets and hotels if you wanted to go,after the first year they stopped NO ONE WANTED TO GO!!I can not think of one good thing about the town.But if you get a chance to go to the ky speedway go it is so much fun nothing like Charlotte.

  2. The seat widening is what made me give up my tickets . As much as I like my bigger seat I was not willing to be moved from the seats I had for 25 years 12 rows down and away from all the people I sat next to for years and have obstructions blocking my view of the racing which I had none before. I was moved from Row 34 on the start finish line to row 22 and a few fans who had their tickets for a lot less time than me stayed where they were or made out better. Dover is going to do seat wideing and if they do the same thing to me as Charlotte after 54 straight races there I’ll be gone too.

  3. I use to go to the NASHVILLE SPEEDWAY (both the old and New) At the New track u were able to buy tickets in advance for a race. Then they started that to “guarantee your seat” you had to buy a season pass for ALL RACES. we quit going. One other item to is the restrictions tracks make on coolers, drinks and food you bring in.

  4. Speed. Speed. Speed. Charlotte Motor Speedway = 150 to 180 mph Indianapolis 500 = 200 to 220 mph. The NASCAR cars look old and outdated.

  5. Good summation of the reasons many no longer go. Also the TV coverage has become so ridiculous bad that it doesn’t inspire anyone to actually go buy a ticket. If all you see is one car driving around in circles, followed 2 seconds later by another car, that doesn’t exactly shout out – whee, let’s spend $ and time and go SEE that.

    You have media and drivers who are going out of their way to insult and disparage the fans – and they do it on a weekly basis – and then wonder why the fans as customers aren’t interested in paying a lot of money to do this? Gee if I get bad customer service in a store, I change stores. The same applies to sports.

    The chase and adding the IROC car was a terrible decision but since BZF thought it up and from his own comments “someone told you they don’t like the chase?”. Sheesh, talk about out of touch.

  6. You said Junior, but it’s not his popularity, it’s a couple of other things.

    One: the press makes him out as some kind of God and makes it sound like when he retires the sport will fold. Why go then if it’s all about one driver.

    Two: The Junior fans, The rules don’t apply to them, drinking in the no-alcohol area, the constant flipping of the middle finger when a driver they don’t like goes by, The obnoxious shouts and language you have to endure during the race. It’s enough to keep a family away from the track.

    Then there is the overhype of Rick Hendrick, a man who was convicted of a felony, Came down with one of the worse blood cancers there is, supposedly went through Chemo and Radiation, never lost a hair on his head, went into permanet remission when his sentence was over and then paid to get a pardon. Rick Hendrick hasn’t done anything more in this sport than any other owner has, yet the press falls all over him.

    There are some of your reasons fans are staying away.

  7. Let us just say that I stopped going to the track for several reasons.

    1) Shrinking seats. At the Las Vegas track Bruton Smith and company decided that they could cram in more people by shrinking the seats. My perfect seats at the top of the stadium aisle became to miserable seats in the middle of row.

    2) The poor quality of the media covering NASCAR. I am not a Busch family fan. In fact I find them disgusting. But when Fox and ESPN spend all their broadcast time fawning over them, I tune it out, turn it off and do something else. I have lost much of my interest in NASCAR due to the media.

    3) Money. My ticket prices went up for years, until I decided to stop going to the track. I might go back someday, but the economy keeps me away.

    4) Lack of star power. The guys who used to make NASCAR fun to watch are gone and have been replaced by a different kind of driver. There isn’t much differentiating many of the current crop of drivers.

    5) NASCAR’s continual efforts to ensure equality have resulted in boring races with carefully orchestrated cautions to ensure “thrilling finishes.” I would far rather see a good driver in a good car win, then a “fixed” finish.

  8. I feel for the 600, I’d welcome anything, including Halftime. It is cruel enough to have a Sports Day Bigger than the Super Bowl not be better.

  9. These are all very good reasons why attendance has been declining over the years. But you forgot the most important one, at least in my opinion, and that’s hotel/motel prices. You can stay at any establishment (whether it be a national chain or a privately owned one)on a Wednesday night before a race weekend and pay a reasonable rate (say $95). But come Thursday night, that rate can triple or even quadruple for the same room. Not to mention most hotels/motels attach a 3 night minimum during the race weekend. So instead of paying $400 for the weekend, you’re paying almost $1300. This is the the reason I no longer attend out of town races.

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