It would seem to be a measure of just how depressed expectations are for the 2009 season that a reporter for a reputable joint like SceneDaily.com writes the following, with no apparent trace of irony:
But track President Gillian Zucker was happy with the turnout, and rightfully so. She couldn't stop smiling, actually. As much as she and her track get ripped for the poor attendance, seeing the grandstand two-thirds full with a decent crowd in the infield should not go unnoticed.
In what NASCAR world do grandstands that are two-thirds full not constitute poor attendance? I mean, do the New York Yankees run around and brag when the House That Ruth Built is two-thirds full? That would be a "no." And that's certainly not to say that Auto Club Speedway is anywhere near the same league, but the point remains: as recently as 12 months ago, you'd have been hard pressed to find anyone who would be willing to spin "two-thirds full" as something to crow about. People, Sunday's race took place in what, the second-largest media market in the United States??
NASCAR, of course, doesn't release official figures unless it's to assure the world that a given race and track was sold out. That plan of attack isn't quite so viable these days, what with all those empty seats FOX tries hard never to show on TV (I kept waiting for DW to give a shoutout to the cameramen -- Good work, boys!). So, I'll take the writer's word that the stands were 67 percent full, but I've kind of got to wonder ... how many tickets were actually sold?
Admittedly, the following is the stuff of quiet conversation and purely off-the-record, but it comes from a close friend who works for one of NASCAR's more prominent teams: He was told that, as of Friday, fewer than 25,000 tickets had been sold for Sunday's race ... actually, come to think of it, if that number is even close to accurate, "two-thirds full" starts to look a whole lot better ...