Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Smith Throwing Stones from the Proverbial Glass House

Sirius NASCAR Radio's Dave Moody has a great column this week on Bruton Smith's comments about Homestead-Miami Speedway and NASCAR's decision to host its championship weekend in south Florida.

Smith is one of the more outlandish characters in NASCAR racing; he's always brash and never shies away from controversy. In fact, he often likes to start one when things are a little slow in the NASCAR news circles just to get his tracks a little more publicity.

I won't mention Smith's comments here. He has his reasons to say those things and if you can chew gum and walk at the same time you probably can see right through them. He needs to do what he can do to paint the best picture of his facilities as he can. Afterall, he has shareholders to answer to and they don't like seeing all the empty seats at the two flagship properties in the SMI portfolio, Charlotte and Atlanta.

Smith can rail against Homestead or any other track on the Sprint Cup schedule all he wants, but he needs to remember the old addage about pointing fingers at someone else - there are always three more pointed right back at yourself.

Homestead doesn't have 120,000 seats. It has somewhere in the neighborhood of 70,000. And each one of them is full for the Sprint Cup finale. Atlanta, meanwhile, has the aforementioned 120,000 seats. Most in the media would agree that on a good day they have 70,000 on hand for a Sprint Cup race. The claims of 94,000 this past weekend are almost certainty inflated, although there is no doubt that the speedway's $39 ticket promotion worked and did put more people in the grandstands than other recent races at AMS.

Charlotte is another story. Located in the self-proclaimed hub of the motorsports world, the Charlotte track runs three Sprint Cup races every year with thousands of empty seats at each. Those seats have been empty when the country was rolling along in good economic times. How empty will they be when the country finds itself deep in a recession?

Smith's tracks aren't the only struggling to sell tickets. All of the tracks that overbuilt their grandstands during the boom times in the late 1990s and early 2000s now find themselves with an abundance of inventory on Sprint Cup weekends. Michigan and Dover, two tracks that had impressive streaks of sellouts until the past couple of years, now struggle to sell all of their tickets. But both manage to put in well over 100,000 to their two Cup races each year.

Why don't we hear from the track presidents at the facilities that do sell all their tickets deriding the SMI facilities that don't? Why doesn't Jeff Boerger, for instance, speak out about taking away one of Atlanta's dates and moving it to Kansas? After all, Kansas sells out every year and Atlanta hasn't sold out since Alan Kulwicki clinched the 1992 championship there.

I like the SMI facilities. Atlanta is a great track and is comfortable to work at, either in the media center and press box or on pit road. Las Vegas is beautiful and Smith's renovations have made it one of the sport's showplace venues. Bristol's makeover into the Colloseum of Motorsports is something to behold. The motorsports community anxiously awaits to see what Smith has planned for New Hampshire and Kentucky, both recent additions to the SMI family.

But how about making sure your own house is in order before you get critical about someone else's? If Atlanta had been selling out for the past decade and only started having problems selling tickets due to the economic downturn that would be one thing, but those problems have been there for years. Fix those problems and then start worrying about what everyone else is doing.

1 comment:

  1. Hey NASCAR how about bringing the races to the fans instead of making the fans come to you. Add more tracks to the schedule and less 2 times races at existing tracks. Add Memphis, Nashville, Kentucky, Iowa, Milwaukee, Pikes Peak, and Portland. The remaining 6 races can rotate among those tracks that do well with a 2nd date.