Inside Motorsports

Utter: Dover should be lauded, not ridiculed for confronting attendance issues

June 4, 2014 

  • Next race

    POCONO 400

    Where: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa.

    When: 1 p.m. Sunday

    TV: TNT

    Radio: Motor Racing Network

    Last year’s winner: Jimmie Johnson

Perception has become the all-too frequent reality in NASCAR and there is no better example than the response to empty seats at Dover International Speedway this past weekend.

Attendance declines at Dover are nothing new and in fact the crowd Sunday wasn’t dramatically different from last spring’s race.

Yet the response on social media this week would lead you to believe the bottom fell out of the track, even leaving some to belittle the efforts the track made in efforts to attract new fans.

Here is the harsh new reality: It apparently is better received by fans and media to tear down your empty seats than try to fill them.

Don’t believe me?

Look back on your social media timelines and check stories in the media following the races this season at Fontana, Calif., Talladega, Ala., and Richmond, Va. You will find compliments galore on the crowds at those tracks and the efforts of those facilities to “fill the seats.”

Yet in each of those races, there was no dramatic difference in the number of people who attended over the same race a year ago.

So what changed? The seating capacity was reduced at each track in the offseason. Thousands of seats were physically removed from each track (and some seats were expanded in size) thus putting the crowd that showed up in a much tighter environment.

The end result is this: What transpired at Dover last Sunday was essentially no different than what anyone saw at Fontana, Talladega and Richmond in terms of “attendance woes.”

The difference was Dover chose not to haul away its problem and instead tried to address it.

And for that they were lambasted. What a shame.

Notes

Changes made to Eldora Truck race: NASCAR this week announced several changes to the format of the July 23 Truck series race at Eldora Speedway.

Pit stops during competition cautions will be optional (last season they were mandatory) and each qualifying race will be 10 laps long (previously they were eight laps).

In addition, a random draw will determine qualifying order (practice speeds were used last season) and owner points will be awarded to the top five team owners whose trucks do not transfer to the main feature. Last season, teams that did not advance to the main feature did not earn owner points.

Jones ready for double duty: Erik Jones will pull some unusual double duty this weekend, beginning with his superspeedway debut in Friday night’s Truck series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jones, 18, will drive Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota in the Truck race and then will compete for KBM on Sunday in the Howie Lettow Memorial 150 Super Late Model race at Milwaukee.

Jones’ team owner, Kyle Busch, won the Late Model event last season in dominating fashion.

Summer Shootout begins Tuesday: The 21st annual Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway kicks off Tuesday night and this season, highlights of the eight-week Legend Car and Bandolero racing will be aired nationally on MAVTV and locally on WCCB Charlotte.

A 30-minute recap show will air in the Charlotte area on CW-affiliate WCCB, Channel 11 on Time Warner Cable, at 1 p.m. on the Saturday following the Tuesday-night event.

Tickets are $7 for adults and kids 13 and under get in free. Gates open at 5 p.m. with opening ceremonies starting at 6:45 p.m.

Kennedy to run Pocono, road courses: Alex Kennedy will make his first Cup series start of the season Sunday driving Circle Sport’s No. 33 Chevrolet in the Pocono 400.

Kennedy, 22, will also compete in the road course races at Sonoma, Calif. (June 22), and Watkins Glen, N.Y. (Aug. 10), this season with the team.

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