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.
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.
Tennessee recently passed the Non-Smoker Protection Act, preventing people from lighting up in public places. These places include the homes of the Titans, the University of Tennessee, and Bristol Motor Speedway. The one-time home of many Winston Cup races now has to butt in and ask patrons to extinguish the cancer sticks and enjoy the exhaust fumes from the race instead.
(No, Junior! Stop! You’ll get a citation!)
Of course, this change isn’t sitting well with patrons that have watched the cars become safer, the sponsors become tamer, and the excessive drinking become slightly less excessive. The community hedonism and dangerous lifestyle of a NASCAR fan might well be a trip to Disney World with Jeff Gordon as the little mouse that could.