Since we are sort of in a “talking about tracks” mood (see Kentucky, Really?), I figured I’d continue the conversation with a little bit on the Auto Club Speedway.
Let me start off by apologizing to everyone who actually spends money and takes the time to attend races at this track. Thanks for showing up, but if I had my way, I’d make sure NASCAR did not return to Fontana, CA.
The crowds for the Truck Series and Nationwide Series races on Saturday were embarrassing to say the least. I’ve seen more people in attendance for ARCA races at short tracks. The funny thing is, is it appears the speedway’s management put both series on Saturday so they can use both races to sell one ticket. But even the promise of two races for one price can’t put butts in the seats.
While we did see more people in the stands on Sunday for the Cup race, the race was no where near a sellout. Even so, in an article on SceneDaily.com, track president Gillian Zucker claimed she was “happy” with the turnout for the Auto Club 500. Happy? What track was she at?
Attendance estimates from the piece range from as little as 55,000 to as many as 78,000. Either way, there were a lot of empty seats and neither estimate is good for a track that has a seating capacity of 92,000.
I know that the tough economy and the often boring racing doesn’t help this track, but you’d think they could find at least 90,000 people to stop by for the Cup race. There are 10 million+ people that live within about an hour of the place. That means we only need to convince 0.009% of them to buy a ticket. What’s even worse, is that a good number of the crowd on Saturday aren’t even from the L.A. area!
Unlike the aforementioned Kentucky Speedway, this track actually has plenty of infrastructure. It is minutes from the freeway and there are certainly enough hotels, restaurants, and shopping areas to appease the fans. On top of that, the Auto Club Speedway is a very nice facility. The track, infield, and amenities are on par with every other modern race track.
NASCAR wants a race in Southern California because it gives them exposure in one of the largest population centers in the world. But along the way, something has gone wrong. The track has history and presence in the area, but continues to have problems with attendance. If you tried really hard, you might convince me they deserve one Cup race, but you certainly won’t convince me they should have two. Especially when places like Darlington, Rockingham, and North Wilkesboro sit quiet.