Football attendance is down. Baseball attendance is down. NASCAR attendance is down. Lucas Oil attendance is up. What do you attribute that to?
“We have a product on the race track that everybody’s interested in seein’. It takes a lot of people to build up something,” Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series director Rick Schwallie told RacingNews.co.
“We have great race teams with us, great sponsor partners and we have a lot of dedication from Lucas Oil to provide us the infrastructure to go race. I think all those things mesh together and it’s something people wanna go see.”
“I’m proud of where it’s at. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot more work to stay there with it.”
I see a point, years down the road, where this is the #1 form of motorsports in America. Would that be a good thing, for the sport as a whole?
“I don’t really know. I’ve never really had that thought in my mind. There’s many forms of motorsports out there. When you go to PRI and you see other types of race cars out there.”
“To think that we would even be in the league with something like Sunday’s racing or open-wheel INDYCAR. That would be way distant for us to be in that area.”
But, I see the trend going in the right direction. At the same time, some other racing series are going in the opposite direction. So, it makes since that over time it would scale to be there. But, I’m still unsure if it would be a good thing or not.
“Our facilities aren’t structured to be able to handle anything like that. We’re just glad that we’re at a comfortable spot with the crowd attendance.”
“To where promoters can re-invest in other purses. We’ve raised a lot of purses this year for the race teams. All that’s because the race teams are working with us and everybody’s workin’ to do their part to make it better. It’s getting better for them.”
The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series is setting another record in 2018. In total, $4.7 million is up for grabs during 2018 for the accumulation of race payouts and point funds.
For 2018, A-Main purses alone will net payouts of $3.6 million. This breaks the previous record of $3.1 million, which was set in 2017.
Related: 2018 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race payouts detailed
“Most of our race tracks are in the 3,500 to 6,000 range as far as the grandstand capacity. There’s many that are higher and bigger than that. But, there’s quite a few that’s not.”
“We can’t outpace our facilities.”
I noticed that a few times in 2017. I could probably count 3 tracks that added seats. That’s just the one’s I was made aware of. Some of it was temporary seating. Maybe there was more?
“Really, the hardest part is whether or not to justify adding more seats when they just need it once per year, or twice a year. That’s the hard part, for the track to walk the line. Whether or not to invest that kind of capital into putting in more grandstands or not.”
In 2017, NASCAR attendance was down 2% in comparison to 2016. Last year marked 10 straight years of an attendance drop for NASCAR events. Attendance earnings for the three publicly traded track operators (SMI, ISC, Dover) are down about 50% from 2007.
In 2017, MLB saw attendance fall below 73 million for the first time since 2002.
During the 2017-18 football season, the NFL averaged 67,000 fans per game during their regular season. That’s the lowest average since 2011. In 2017, regular season attendance fell 3% compared to 2016.
Meanwhile, at dirt track track it’s standing room only for the special shows. As other sports struggle to maintain their growth, the nationals dirt racing series are on the rise.
It’s still on a minor league scale in comparison to the big three listed above as Schwallie stated. But, it’s trending in the correct direction, unlike the other three.
Dirt tracks adding seats
Golden Isles Speedway purchased a section the old backstretch seating from Daytona International Speedway. Despite the increase, they still near sold it out in 2017, if they didn’t completely sell out.
Brown County Speedway brought the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series to South Dakota for the first time in 2017. They sold out the show, weeks in advance. As a result, the track rented temporary seating for the pit area and sold more pit passes than usual to accommodate the overflow.
Florence Speedway added temporary seating all the way through the outside of turns 1-2. That’s the section that’s going to fill your cup of beer full of dirt. It’s not the most popular seating area. However, the front and back stretch were at capacity, as were the temporary seats in turns 1-2.
Boyd’s Speedway was in the middle of construction for additional seats in 2017. That section was completed for the 2018 show. I forgot to look at the new section throughout the night. However, I know the main grandstands looked completely filled. I’m sure the new section was as well.
Those are just the one’s I noticed. I’m sure there was a few more that I didn’t hear about.
It’s growing. It’s the greatest racing on the planet. Have you claimed your seat?
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