Friday, May 16, 2008

TV Cameras Can't Hide Empty Seats


SPEED put on a brave face Friday as the network continued with on-track action from 9AM until almost 11PM. For TV viewers, SPEED's efforts were outstanding.

Unfortunately, one thing was also easy to see throughout the coverage. It seemed as if there was no one there. The grandstands at Lowe's Motor Speedway are huge, and vast sections of them were purposefully closed for this Friday program.

It was the main grandstand along the dogleg in the frontstretch that served as the focal point of the TV cameras when "fans in the stands" needed to be shown. Like several other tracks, Lowe's has the multi-colored seats that appear to the TV cameras to be occupied when in fact they are not.

On this day, no fancy illusions or very tight camera shots could hide the fact that even for All-Star qualifying and the Craftsman Truck Series, the fans just were not there. Hardcore racing fans may have seen the Summer Shootout Series telecasts over the years as the Legends cars and other series take to the small oval built into the frontstretch and along pit road. This looked like a Shootout crowd.

As the Craftsman Trucks put on a great show, the SPEED crew tried very hard to keep the cameras off the grandstands. When the TV requirements needed a wideshot, it was almost startling to see the infield appear to be more populated than the available grandstand seating.

SPEED also originated other programs from the SPEED Stage outside the track, and things appeared to be rather thin in terms of crowd numbers even for popular shows like Trackside.

The reality of a Friday schedule no doubt played a role, but this race "weekend" is supposed to be a destination that people visit as a part of an overall experience. Instead, it appears that many fans will simply attend the Saturday feature race and nothing else.

All eyes will be on the number of fans who come out for the All-Star race on Saturday night. Only a short time later, the Speedway executives are counting on exactly these same fans to return for the Coke 600 on the big holiday weekend.

As SPEED once again goes it alone on Saturday, the network may be dealing with another NASCAR reality of 2008. The eyes of the TV viewers will certainly be looking to see how many fans paid-up to be in the stands for this non-points race.

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22 comments:

David said...

I wasn't surprised since the Truck Series has never gathered an overly large crowd for the Friday night races to begin with. That being said, the empty seats can be pinned more towards the economy than anything else. The excitement is there, but being here in Mooresville, the disposable income is not there to make a week out of things.

Unfortunately work calls and the bills have to be paid. I imagine the same is true for many others. Locally I have heard the track may only be at 50-60% capacity for tomorrow anyways.

The excitement on the track was great though, it was really a neat throwback to what things were like in the late 80's and early 90's with the "no holds barred, take no prisoners" style of racing we saw. One guy may have had a runaway, but the two best trucks wreck, opening the door for 2 guys who have never tasted victory and another hungry after YEARS since his last. Great stuff. Wish Mikey would have hushed a bit more though. The commentary, while detailed, was excessive. The picture could tell the story better than his words. That's Rick Allen's job to set the stage, NOT Micheal Waltrip's

Wisconsin Steve said...

I don't recall where, but I read somewhere that ticket sales for the All-Star race were up compared to last year, while ticket sales for the 600 were down.

So I wouldn't expect the crowds to be impressive next week, either.

SallyB said...

I also read somewhere that Sprint has given away something like 30,000 tickets to the 600 next weekend. With Sprint's business sliding down hill, they seem to be taking advantage of slow ticket sales to try to bri...er, win over fans to both attend races and continue with their service.

Anonymous said...

The truck race would have been a
lot more exciting if Mikie had
ceased his ongoing commercial by showing his favoritism for anyone driving a toyota.

red said...

as i commented last night: it's just sad. in my opinion, truck racing is often more exciting than n'wide or cup. but they are clearly the stepchild in the nascar world and get little media focus, media focus that is critical to building a rabid fan base. rabid fan base leads to people in the seats.

economics are, in my mind, the big reason for those empty seats. it is just so expensive to go to a full weekend of racing at this level anymore. few of us can afford ticket to all three days, especially when all the incidentals like lodging, food, etc., are factored in. if we can make those finances work, we can usually only manage it once or twice a year -- at best.

perhaps that's why some of us on this site are so vocal about how the races are presented on tv: it's the only way we'll get to see the racing at all. if that's the case, what are the ramifications for the production folks? what can they do to enhance or detract from the event for us? maybe THAT should be a point of discussion: since going to the races is becoming more difficult, what is it we would like to see each week on the television and can the production team provide that?

Anonymous said...

John how many people did you expect to be there? Truck races are always like that. Nothing new.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:29AM,

The issue is not the series, it is the location and ticket options.

A live race in Charlotte, a short drive away from anywhere on a Friday night and that is the result?

There has to be more to this story, like a combo-only option on tickets or the Tim McGraw concert right down the street.

JD

JC said...

I was there, in the front stretch, second row up (technically row 7), about 15 seats from the flag stand. It was pretty empty. However, I enjoyed not having to be crammed into a seat like a sardine. And, I had the perfect seat to score nice pictures of qualifying. I was very happy (especially when I was home in Cornelius by 11:30!). Another factor not mentioned is that it was quite chilly last night with a strong wind. I came to the race straight from work and at 6:00am when I left home, I did not think of grabbing a jacket. It was very cold-57 degrees when I got home. Add that with the wind, it made for an unexpectedly chilly night.
Tonight will be much more crowded. They have sold out both the entire 4th turn terrace and the Diamond section on the backstretch.

Plus, with gas prices as high as they are, even the people who live close by can't afford to attend!

Nicole said...

it was cold last night and Tim McGraw was playing about a mile down the road and it's bike week in Myrtle Beach. Oh yeah also hockey playoffs in Raleigh. There was a ton of competing events last night. Oh and all star race tickets were more exepensive than tickets to the 600. If I have to pick just one I pick the 600.

Anonymous said...

We only watch the truck races when Micheal isn't in the booth,or we'll mute the sound.His high pitch voice and stupid commentary drives us up the wall.
Tks. JD. Ron IL.

Mike said...

It used to be a time when people from out of town would go for the All-Star race and then stay in Charlotte for the week and visit the race shops and so on and also watch the events on Memorial Day weekend. Now, with the way hotel rates have become, people now just choose 1 weekend. Usually the weekend they choose is the weekend of the 600.

And, it's probably difficult for people in the Charlotte area to support both weekends, so they choose just 1 weekend....so that causes the crowds for the 2 events to become split up. Daytona goes through the same thing in February with the Shootout one weekend and the Daytona 500 the next weekend.
Obviously more people go to the 500.

Also, I don't think Darlington moving to Mother's Day weekend has been the most beneficial for the Charlotte events, either. While Darlington has been selling out their race on Mother's Day weekend, I don't think either the All-Star race or the 600 has sold out. We're talking 3 straight weekends of Cup races within a 100 mile area. And I just don't think there's enough disposable income to support all the races that take place over those 3 race weekends. That area is saturated with races in a short amount of time.

Anonymous said...

I think Mikie must be employed by the raceway owners in an attempt to increase attendance. You have to go to the race to avoid listening to him. When he appears, I disappear.

Beyond a sluggish economy, I think attendance is down because of the predictability of the racing. Regardless of the race, one of four race reams is going to win and the rest end up being field fillers.

Anonymous said...

I agree, I turned on the truck race and when MW started talking I shut off my TV. I can't listen to him. Then when speed started to play old all star races, I long for the team of Mike Joy and Buddy Baker.

Lou,Kingston,NY said...

Not necessary to repeat, but I agree w/ david 1219am and anon 322pm. I try to attend 2 races a season. But it is getting harder to do.

Mary said...

Well I can account for 2 empty seats at each race LOL Unfortunately my new job = reduced vacation time so I can only do the 600 this year, previous years I was able to take 2 weeks and I am certainly sulking because of not being able to attend this weekend.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- When Winston was the series sponsor, I understand RJR gave away many tickets to the all-star race, and maybe to qualifying, to retailers, distributors, etc. and to RJR employees. Outsourcing continues to have a big effect on the textile and furniture industries - and this year Wachovia and Bank of Amer. have taken big hits from the mortgage debacle.

Gymmie said...

@red--I agree, it really is. A friend of mine went from WA to Homestead a few years ago and it was about $2K just for HER! When I went to Sears Point a few years ago, I spent about $600. I lived about an hour and a half away so I drove back and forth. The tickets for the weekend were about $140, I spent about $300 on souvenirs, about $30 I think with gas and I forget on food. When I went to the TX race it was I think $170 for the one day. A coworker paid for the ticket because he is a really nice man and felt it was "wrong" for me to be so close and not able to attend. I was only at the Sunday race and I went with friends. So we picnicked and I bought a few things but not many. The man who was manning Rusty's trailer was so sweet!

darbar said...

JD, it's not just Nascar. I used to attend the first weekend of qualifying for the Indy 500 and then the actual race on Memorial Day weekend. While I know the division of the two series caused attendance to fall, it's amazed me that you could shoot a cannon off at Indy and not hit a person on the first weekend of qualifying. When we would go, you had to be on the road by 5am, or you missed a lot of the early qualifiers. They had more people for that first weekend for just qualifying than you'd find at any Nascar race. It's just the nature of the beast. The economy is bad, the price of gas stinks, hotels jack up their prices way beyond stupid, and ticket prices are way up. Add all those reasons and you're going to see less behinds in the seats. At least the one good thing about the race in Las Vegas is that with so many hotel rooms, they don't raise prices. I got a great per night price for Bellagio during race weekend.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that Humpy didn't pull his strings with the city / county so that there would be nothing competing with both races ...

Those of us on the West Coast would "kill" for it to be only 57 degrees ... There's a heatwave out here this weekend ...

Humpy & Bruton would've gained more fans had they dropped the prices as part of SMI's economic stimulus package ... They could take a small hit with the price, but make a bigger gain with getting more people to attend the races ...

There were probably also some people who didn't attend the Truck race because they knew Kyle would be in it & most likely run away with it ... again ... But, it turned out the Trucks had the most action of all 3 races this weekend ...

Since Humpy's the modern day PT Barnum showman extraordinare ... He's got to remember that HE needs to make it worthwhile for the fans to come out to the track ...

Anonymous said...

Humpy usually offers special deals (i.e., a reasonably low price for several events, like NCTS, qualifying, the main Cup race, etc.) to bring more fans to the "other" races. I don't know why more people don't take advatange of these. When I lived in Charlotte, I did.

The truck races, in particular, have been very good of late, and if more people knew what they were missing, they might watch.

Anonymous said...

You almost have to wonder if NASCAR will institute some sort of blackout policy where they must have a percentage of tickets sold for the race to be on tv in the local market. The track promoters and owners have been in the business long enough to gauge a rough number of butts in seats on race day.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 3:21PM,

I bet the TV networks are glad they have their TV contracts signed and in-hand.

JD