While viewership is down across the board and fans just aren’t able to come to the tracks like they used to.The numbers don't lie and track owners and NASCAR have had to make adjustments
For one track they are doing just that. At Michigan International Speedway the last couple seasons the track has been making adjustments and changes all around the track.
Their changes have made fans visits to the track not only much friendlier but much easier to get around.
The changes this off season are to the silver, general admission grandstands taken down near turn 3. These changes will decrease the track’s capacity by 12,000 seats.
Track President Roger Curtis said in a release, “We are getting our facility back to where it should be capacity-wise. In 2011, we’ll be at nearly 108,000 grandstand seats, so this reduced capacity will have a domino-effect that will help us with our traffic efforts, with wait times at the gates, concession stands and restrooms, and the overall experience here.”
Chicagoland Speedway has also made changes to make fans experience at the track better. The track has been named the first track of the Chase in 2011 will offer single day tickets.
Like MIS, Chicagoland is changing the seating in the grandstand and also allowing fans to bring in 6 X 6 X 12. On November 11, Penske Racing driver Kurt Busch was "President for the Day" and announced the changes. “It’s great to have Kurt on hand to assist Chicagoland Speedway in announcing some very exciting, fan friendly initiatives for 2011,” said Ken Kohrs, vice president of operations. “The track continues to listen to feedback from its fans, and we feel the changes implemented at Chicagoland will directly address what they’ve been asking for.”Many tracks have been lowering ticket prices, offering payment plans and restructuring ticket plans.
In terms of at track facilities they have loosened the grip on items fans can bring in.
In the NASCAR boom that was the early 2000’s, new tracks like Chicagoland and Kansas Speedways' were built to what at the time was capacity.
Other tracks were adding seats to accommodate a growing fan base. Fast forward 10 years later and a worsening economy, high unemployment numbers and fans just can’t afford to attend as many races as in the past.
The schedule was realigned for 2011 removing races from California and Atlanta. They added Kentucky and a second date at Kansas Speedway.
Kansas has always sold well and Kentucky finally cleared itself from legal obligations to be considered for the 2011 schedule.
Tracks over built in the sports big boom of the late 1990’s and 2000’s. At that point in time they had to because the demand was high.
Fans were coming to races in record numbers. NASCAR was the hottest sport in the country. The ceiling in NASCAR did not exsist. For some fans, drivers, organizations and the sanctioning body the sport was untouchable.
TV ratings were through the roof and fans couldn't get enough of the "at the track" experience.
That was until its core fans have been hit hard by the poor economy. Now tracks are forced to adjust and find ways to bring fans back.
Give the tracks and NASCAR credit they are trying to adapt and make the changes needed. They know the only way to change the current tide is to go against the grind and be willing to scale back.
Fans will come back to the track. Maybe not in the numbers we saw in the past, but they will come back. If the economy begins to turn fans will buy tickets. Until then the tracks are working harder then ever to recapture the a glimpse of the past.
In the end, for NASCAR and the tracks it will be the economy that will dictate whether all these changes will work.