Easter Sunday brings a break in the NASCAR Cup schedule. The Nationwide Series traditionally schedules the first of its two annual Nashville Superspeedway visits on Saturday of the holiday weekend. This will be the first race of 2011 where the second-tier tour is the headliner. NASCAR’s national series attendance has seen an upward trend this year. Will that continue at Nashville?
Crowd counts have been up when compared to the difficult economic times in the past three years. Other than the Bristol Cup race’s crowd being criticized, most news has been positive on the fan front. As an aside, that race played out in front of roughly 100,000 people. Pick which side of the fence you wish to stand.
The Daytona 500 kicked off the season with upward television ratings and solid attendance. This led to realistic optimism for all of NASCAR’s divisions.
The Truck Series held a stand-alone event in March at Darlington. The main grandstand along the start-finish line was the only open seating while the turn and backstretch sections were closed. A healthy crowd in the 30-to-40-thousand range filled most of the available chairs and was an attendance winner for the tour and the track.
Dover Motorsports Incorporated owns the Nashville Superspeedway. DMI moved their Truck Series date from the now closed Memphis Motorsports Park to Nashville. Dover Motorsports also moved their Memphis Nationwide Series date to Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis. Since then Gateway has also been closed.
Nashville holds a pair of Truck and Nationwide doubleheader weekends in 2011. With the unfortunate precedence of Memphis and Gateway closing, racing does not need to add Nashville to the list.
Music City’s concrete high banks have not been known for overflowing Nationwide Series crowds. The track’s plans on paper allow for the addition of thousands of more grandstand seats along the frontstretch tri-oval. So far the extra chairs have not been needed.
The recession and fuel cost have a large influence on NASCAR race attendance. The recession is slowly improving, however gasoline pump prices are rising on a nearly daily basis. Nashville faces both issues as challenges to fill their seats.
A close and exciting Talladega finish last Sunday provided the sport positive momentum. Nashville stands in this weekend’s spotlight. Can the track take advantage of the attention NASCAR generated and keep the ball rolling?
Count me among those wishing the positive stock car racing news continues.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Mondays at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com.)