If you were watching the race on TV Saturday night, it looked like Texas Motor Speedway had a really great crowd. In fact, the Speedway reported a crowd of 168,400. That’s nearly one and a half times the capacity of Cowboys Stadium. A heck of crowd – if it stood up to scrutiny.
The grandstands at Texas can hold 122,377. Total infield capacity is 53,000. So if the grandstands were completely full (which they weren’t) that means there would have had to have been 46,023 in the infield (which there wasn’t).
I think we all can agree that 168,400 is a little unbelievable and that Eddie Gossage and to be fair, most tracks, have a knack for fiction when it comes to attendance figures. Still I have to hand it to the track, to SMI, and even to ISC because they have been doing a fantastic job this season distributing crowds throughout the grandstands – whether on purpose or accidental.
Take this weekend – on TV the main and backstretch grandstands looked nearly full from end to end. The reality is, on the frontstretch there were holes here and there, especially down low, at the ends and up high under the suites. And the backstretch was spotty. The same was true at California and to a lesser extent at Martinsville.
A recent innovation for the tracks has been finding unutilized grandstands and covering them with sponsor signage – a new addition at California this year. Charlotte Motor Speedway used to have seating that extended up under the suites in the turn two grandstand – no more.
The truth is, I don’t think any of this is bad (other than the exaggeration of attendance numbers). Most of the tracks on the Cup circuit were ridiculously overbuilt – and tracks throughout have been tearing down grandstands in recent years. Even with smaller than capacity crowds, these tracks have attendance that far exceed their nearest sporting competitor on any given week.
The crowds have been better this season, and these moves lesson the story and issue of attendance. I think anything that gets people more focused on the racing and less focused on the periphery issues is an OK thing.