NASCAR Attendance Flags, Northern States Laugh

The hallmark of a really, really bad economy is seeing all the things we thought were recession-proof start to suffer. Professional sports as a whole has been a notable casualty. But seeing NASCAR, which makes more money than God and has unrivaled devotion among its fans, stumble in ticket sales, is a real kick in the teeth.

NASCAR Empty Seats

Next week’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway still hasn’t sold out, and if you’re not a NASCAR fan, you might not realize how big that is. Bristol has sold out the last 53 races, a streak dating back 27 years, the longest of any track. And hell, if you can’t get 160,000 people to trek to the Tennessee-Virginia border in March, you might as well just close up shop.

Filling 160,000 seats sounds like a challenge, but it’s never been a problem before for the World’s Fastest Half Mile. Track President Jeff Byrd won’t give specifics on how many seats remain unsold in advance of next week’s Food City 500.

“We’ve not answered that question and I’m not going to answer it now,” Byrd said. “The problem in answering that question is that you want to tell the truth to the media, and I don’t know the real answer to that.”

But he’s trying to put a positive spin on the sport’s troubles.

“It’s forced everybody in the industry to re-examine everything we do,” Byrd said of the economy. “So in a way it’s been a very healthy exercise for us.”

Since I have never been to an auto race, or know anyone who has, I was shocked at the prices for NASCAR. The cheapest seats in Bristol run $93. Ninety-three dollars!

NASCAR’s suffering everywhere. None of this season’s races have sold out, not even the Daytona 500. Last weekend at Atlanta there were 50,000 empty seats.

The silver lining in all of this is that perhaps Fox won’t be preempting the Simpsons with NASCAR races that run long.