Empty Seats Highlight NASCAR's Woes

Tim KingCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - JULY 26:  A general view during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The ritual was familiar to anyone attending the Indianapolis 500 back in the early and mid 1980s. On the way out of the track you took your ticket request for the following season and dropped it in the box at the entrance to the Speedway Museum. 

It was the only way you were getting in the next year. 

Fast forward to this season and the picture above. Large swaths of seats were empty all of the way through the North Chute and into turn 4. 

There were even large sections of empty seat in the Vista Terrace, which has never happened before. Some estimate say that just barely more than 50 percent of the 265,000 permanent seats at the hallowed track were sold this year.

We're not talking about Martinsville, Britsol, or Pocono here, we're talking about the most famous race track on planet Earth and at worst the second most important race on the NASCAR calender. 

It's still the only other race on the calender outside of the Daytona 500 that can make a man's career in a single afternoon. 

Cast your eyes away from the sea of gray seats and onto the track and it doesn't get any better. What we learned yet again Sunday is that the COT is a pile of junk in traffic. Get out in the clean air and the track is yours. 

Get caught in the pack and you are toast. Juan Pablo Montoya was the poster boy for the effect. Leading by more than five seconds and running away with the race in clean air he could not pass tenth place Joey Lagano in traffic. The single file racing this causes must stop.

Montoya's predicament with a pit road speed violation brings up another sore point.  If NASCAR were really serious about the use and enforcement of a pit road speed every car would be equipped to measure it either by the pit crew or the driver in real time. 

As it stands right now its simply something else NASCAR can either enforce or abuse in its enforcement. There is nothing to prove that the numbers NASCAR belatedly provided the media Sunday afternoon were in fact actual or accurate measurements of Montoya's speed. 

While we're on the subject of rules, could someone in NASCAR please grab Robin Pemberton and wrestle his mouth to the ground the next time he comes within 500 feet of an open mike? Please! 

The proper answer to a legitimate question about the Montoya incident is not "I don't have to provide those numbers to you." Nice job Robin. Way to fuel all the speculation in the world that you rigged this one.

The final blow in a week gone bad for NASCAR was the announcement early this week by Allstate Insurance that it would not return as the presenting sponsor of the Brickyard race next year. 

Yeah, the economy had more than a little something to do with the announcement, but so too did the signs that NASCAR's house is far from in order.