California Doesn’t Deserve A Cup Date

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.

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28 Responses to “California Doesn’t Deserve A Cup Date”

  1. glenc1 says:

    I think CA deserves the one date for now–but certainly not two. It looked like 55,000 to me rather than the 80 they were claiming. It looked full because they were spread out. Give one date back to the Rock or Darlington.

    I think KY has earned it though. If they were ‘eligible’ for a date, they could improve their facilities to make it happen. Obviously it’s complicated by the ISC vs. SMI issue, but someone needs to make it right.

  2. Neon says:

    Been preaching this for a while: tracks w/ infield alternate road courses should run one weekend on the oval and the other turning left and right. California, Phoenix, Homestead, Daytona, New Hampshire, Charlotte, Iowa, etc. etc. The beauty of the COT is same chassis can run both setups. Trust me, viewers be anything but bored!

  3. Kyle says:

    I could not agree with you more. What gets me is why NASCAR goes to this track second in the season. I know it might be too much, but they should go somewhere like Bristol to hold on to the audience from Daytona. Do you know how huge that would be??!! That being said, the racing was A LOT better than previous years.

  4. Kenn Fong says:

    T.C.,

    I hope to attend the October date. I think you’re right about the February date. It’s ridiculous to schedule a race during the rainy season. I think one date for Fontana is enough.

    West Coast Kenny
    Alameda, California (near San Francisco)

  5. You know I see a post like this, and it reminds me of the same typical hobgoblin that vexes ALL West Coast sporting events. We’ve got some of the best venues out here and what do we hear constantly?

    “Blah, blah, blah, California’s not exciting, why can’t they sell out, blah, blah, blah” That rather nasty affliction you suffer from is a condition called “East Coast Bias.”

    Yes, gentlemen, you have the same disease that afflicts Dick Vitale and all of his cohorts who cut off their collective noses to spite their face. You want someone to blame for the troubles at Fontana’s race? Why not look at the schedulers down in Daytona. There’s a device called the telephone that the boys in Scheduling can use to call the Academy Awards people and ask them a simple question, “Hey fellas, when are you planning to hold the Oscars next year?”

    Maybe if they didn’t put the race up against this town’s “Big Night” then maybe they would get more attendees. Do you know how much work it is for us “Hollywood” types to plan out an Oscar Party? Do you know what we have to plan out for that night then have to choose between that and the race? Come on, it’s a no-win situation, and you know it.

    You know, it’s attitudes like this that doomed Fontana’s legendary predecessor, the Late Great Ontario Motor Speedway. No races in California, Esta Loco!

  6. LeRoy Yeargin says:

    Once again the haters are out in force! I was at the race and can say that it was one of the better races I have been to there. NASCAR shot their self in the foot by putting Vegas after California. I used to go to both of them but now I only go to California. I am a California fan and don’t really care any more about trash talking easterners! We deserve our dates just as much as any of you…………JMHO

  7. T.C. says:

    Okay, I guess maybe I should have clarified. I’m not saying the state of California doesn’t deserve a Cup race, I’m saying the California Speedway (now Auto Club) doesn’t deserve it. Infineon is a great track and they always have great crowds there, and I’m sure there are plenty of NASCAR fans in Southern California.

    And no Tony, I don’t have an East Coast Bias. The other races in the west like Phoenix and Vegas do great, it’s just California Speedway that sucks. They haven’t sold out either Cup date since they were awarded a second in 2004. That’s not a bias, that’s the truth. Darlington lost its second date to California because it couldn’t sell out. So now why are we allowing Cali to do the exact same thing?

    LeRoy: I don’t hate the race or the track, I said right in the post that it’s a great facility. The problem is the people who run the show. Until they can figure out how to fill the place, they shouldn’t get Cup dates…

  8. Bobby#7fan says:

    T.C., I vote that you be put in charge of NASCAR. The job is yours as far as I’m concerned, we just need to get Brian France to sign off on it, he’s probably driving around drunk in Daytona somewhere.

    Tony, we all know that the racing at California sucks, it always has. Do you truly believe that having the race on Oscar night made a difference? Come on…. I will admit that i watched the Oscars sunday and not the race. Not because they are more important to me, but because if the California speedway was across the street from my house I would not walk across to watch the race. When the racing sucks people are not going to spend the money to watch it from the track.

  9. glenc1 says:

    No way is it East Coast bias. Phoenix is one of my favorite races, and since they put the progressive banking in at Vegas, it’s been pretty good. California isn’t. But the issue is just what TC said–since the logic they used to take away Darlington is attendance, then this makes no sense. They should, like Darlington, concentrate on one date. Give the other to a place that can fill the place.

  10. JT says:

    Move the NNS and CWTS dates to Irwindale. They would probably draw more (paying and not comped) fans than Auto Club and put on much better shows.

  11. windowlicker says:

    Yep glenc1. I agree there’s no east coast bias here. I like the Phoenix race also. California (the state) should have races. The Toyota all star races at Irwindale were awesome. It was the first time I (being an easterner) saw that race there & the track & the racing was awesome (even at 2:00 in the morning east coast time).

    Fontana just plain sucks. The quality of racing is horrible let alone 500 miles of it. I didn’t even make it to 8:30 after sitting thorough the pre-race nonsense because the idea of going to bed early was more exciting than the torture of watching that race. I did watch the truck & busch races on Saturday expecting something to happen but guess. What. Nothing did. If the racing is so poor that even the truck race sucks, you’ve got a problem.

  12. Richard Lira says:

    I was at the California Speedway this past Sunday and I have to agree, that the follow the leader type racing does get pretty boring. I think the track needs to be re-configured into a shorter track or add some high degree banking and make it a restrictor plate race. Those are the most exciting races out right now and until that happens, the races are always going to suck.

  13. JPE says:

    One correction: Kentucky Speedway is right off I-71 (you can see the stands from the interstate). They did a good job thinking about traffic –folks coming from the north park in one area and those from the south in another. It certainly helps getting in/out. The state of Kentucky also added an additional lane in each direction in the immediate area of the speedway. I’m not a fan of cookie cutters but, it is in within reach of several major metro areas. Certainly racing there would be more interesting than Cali-bore-ya. The truck and grand national series routinely sell out at Kentucky –to my knowledge it’s the only big speedway that does so for those series.

    California is boring as is Michigan. Both should lose one –or preferably both dates. I’m still angry that they took the Southern 500 from Darlington and closed Rockingham.

  14. Neon says:

    This attendance issue is eerily reminiscent of the Northern Lights days of the IRL (Indy Racing Series) of ~2000. The stands were so empty that the fans they did have were bunched close to start/finish. On your boob tube you would not see the empty part of the stands, but computer graphic overlays w/ Northern Lights logos. I think NL was a web engine. Anyway, nothing worse than were trickery is used to attempt a lame fake out of the educated spectator.
    Idea for CA, move the red carpet from Hollywood’s Mann’s Chinese Theather to Fontana for a star-studded line-up!

  15. Jeff says:

    being from San Diego I love to have as much races in SoCal as possible but I agree with you guys. Auto Club is one of the less exciting races. I would love to see a cup race in Irwindale as well though.

  16. Mario says:

    I am one of those people that lives within an hour of Fontana. I have been to races in Florida, Alabama, Texas, and Tennessee and would never go back to Fontana even if I had free tickets. Bad racing, poor attitudes, and poor set up for even some of the premium seats. They should lose a race immediately and not go back there again in 2009.

  17. Jeff says:

    Kansas Speedway is lurking in the shadows. Rumor is they will petition NASCAR for a spring race next year. The fan experience is awesome and they sell out the Nationwide and Cup race every year.

  18. Doug says:

    Your article regarding the California Speedway race never got close to the REAL reason attendance is soooo low. California is the most boring race on the schedule. I was one of those fans that eagerly awaited the tracks opening in 1997(?). But my friends and I never returned after about the fourth season. We’d rather drive to Phoenix or Vegas. When we did take friends new to the sport to California, after about 10 laps they were asking “how do you tell who is leading the race?”. It just turns into a gigantic Merry-Go-Round. BORING. We’d much rather travel 15 miles to the West and see a race at Irwindale. While California is a fantastic venue in every other way, unfortunately, the “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” answer is that California should have been a 1/2 mile, West Coast Bristol. It’s a horrible thought, but I think California will go the way of Ontario Motor Speedway. . .

  19. Bobby says:

    I hate to see any track lose a race, but when you sit & watch a string of cars that are so spread out for most of race it’s time. In 07 at Dega they pulled the train race,my guess would be because of the chase, it was one of the worst races I have ever seen. We almost did not renew our tickets for last year. This season we are debating not only because of the economy but because they messed with the dates. Pushing it further into the chase, it will cause a more cautious race at Dega, translation- boring!

  20. Zieke says:

    The web guys are right on top of this one. Calif. is a beautiful state, but when fans don’t show up for racing, it’s time to go to one date & see if they will fill up for that one. I too miss Darlington and Rockingham. They are driver’s tracks and racing is exciting because of that one fact. If we had cookie-cutter tracks like those, nobody would care because the racing would be good no matter how many they had at them. Ca. and Michigan are BOOOOOOOring. Neither one of them deserves 2 races.

  21. Mike says:

    Get rid of one and bring back Wilkes Barre….Rockingham….beach racing…..hey….how about a dirt race…or really get back to their roots……run some moonshine….!

  22. haulerdriver's wife says:

    Kentucky is a great facility…the garages are spacious, plenty of clean restrooms and a great rv lot not only for the competitors but also for fans.

    We’ve been there many times with our family in our rv, normally Easter weekend. The track had an egg hunt for the kids. The staff are friendly and helpful.

    The racing was great too!

  23. People in California can just go to the beach for free instead of spend money on a race. Interesting perspective in the article, I like the comments too.

  24. Theresa says:

    One thing you all must remember about Cal. speedway is they also sell motorhome spots in the infield.. So those spots should count when deciding if the track sells were a bust or not..
    The boring racing alone should constitute it losing a date…
    While I like to keep one at that track because it’s relatively close to me and I get to attend, I don’t think it deserves two.
    I need it here so I can get my racing junk (gear) and go have the fun that is also involved with racing, besides the racing.. I do also attend Vegas and Pheonix for my real racing fixes..

  25. tbpb3 says:

    What about Atlanta? who wants to watch cars go in a circle for three hours? Too much else to do in So. Cal. Let kentucky have it all. That is where this “SPORT” belongs

  26. duramaxdoug says:

    If cali speedway dos not deserve 2 cup races is it SUCKS as a track….. borring !!!!!!to many tracks like this already and they all suck … borring races every time they come here . with irwindale we could have had a track that would have sold out every time .. half mile built on an old rock pit so pleanty of room or were cili was built they could have built a super speedway with a RESTRICTOR PLATE ….. YES A RESTRICTOR PLATE people in cali drive 90 mph on owr freeways so …WE WANT MORE SPEED OR A BEAT AND BANG TRACK THATS THE BOTTOM LINE THIS TRACK SUCKS….THE TRACK SUCKS !!!! WE ARE NOT MICHIGAN WE DONT WANT THERE TRACK THEY CAN HAVE IT WE HAVE ENOUGH SPACE TO HAVE ANNY TRACK AND THEY BUILD THIS …….. WHY DONT THEY JUST GIVE FANS MORE OF THE TRACKS THAT THEY SELL OUT EVERY TIME …..THAT WOULD BE NICE….I SAY TAKE OUT TURN 1 & 2 MAKE THE TRACK LONGER AND AD MORE BANKING…. THIS WOULD DO IT .. NO OTHER TRACK LIKE IT MEANS MORE CHALLANGE FOR DRIVERS AND MORE $$$$$$$$ FOR NASCAR.

  27. Winston Churchill says:

    I have gone to the Fontana track. The problem is it has yet to gain and identity.
    The track tried a night race a few years ago on labor day weekend in 2004. I was there and it was hot.
    Moving the race to October is a good idea it should be much more comfortable.
    The sun goes down earlier and you will have more of a night race.
    The problem now is they stopped the train from getting to the track.
    This is going to be the downfall of Gillian Zucker. The very idea that she and I emphasize she did not go to metro and demand the trains run to the track during the event is just plain stupid.
    The idea were you will have to take a cab 3.7 miles in bumper to bumper traffic is ridiculous.
    The train has tracks to the track. If they didn’t have tracks to the speedway why did they put them there.
    They should have left it California Speedway people knew what it is stop the name changing.
    The dates they pick for a race. They have Vegas the week afterwards.
    What do you get after the race in Fontana Hometown Buffet.
    What do you do in Vegas during the races everything.
    Even driving out the have the Shelby plant.
    The last time I attended a race at Fontana the parking passes didn’t get sent. That is just not follow thru on the product to be delivered.
    I’ll go watch a race again at Fontana if they can get there act together.
    The first thing they should do is get rid of Gillian Zucker. She just doesn’t get it done.

  28. David K says:

    I’ve never been to Fontana, and, despite living in California, I have no plans to. So why isn’t it working?

    One… Fontana is a LONG way from Los Angeles. At least an hour when the traffic is good.

    Two… the date is between the biggest race of the year – Daytona – and one of the highlights of the season – Vegas. If you were going to one race in the first month of the season, you’d have to put Fontana in a distant last place.

    Three… and I know some folks will hate me for saying this but it needs to be said… just because LA is the biggest city in America doesn’t mean it’s the biggest American city. LA is in many ways a foreign city, particularly a Mexican city, and these folks simply don’t care about NASCAR and never will. They’ll sell out the Rose Bowl for touring Mexican soccer teams, sure… folks, there’s a reason why LA doesn’t have an NFL franchise.

    Four… NASCAR is an American product with a capital A and there are a lot of folks who just hate America and everything it stands for – and thus hate NASCAR. Again, some might hate me for saying this, but some people hate NASCAR because it’s patriotic, and don’t want to have anything to do with anything associated with the South. That is of course bigotry, but since it’s liberal bigotry it doesn’t get noticed.

    Five… obviously, the economy. Which is in much worse shape than we want to admit. Going to races – even on a budget – is expensive. Ticket prices aren’t the only expense. Hotels jack up prices to cash in. And have you even looked at rental car rates lately?

    Six… the racing is, for the most part, pretty damn boring.

    Seven… it’s freezing cold in the Spring and broiling in the summer.

    I have to laugh at the idea of changing the track! I read someone saying they should make it a one mile, banked oval. Basically… turn it into Rockingham! Oh the irony….

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