NASCAR: Empty Seat Syndrome Even at Bristol

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2010

FORT COLLINS, CO - NOVEMBER 01:  A lone fan takes his seat as the Brigham Young Cougars and the Colorado State Rams take the field to warm up prior to the game at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium on November 1, 2008 in Fort Collins, Colorado. BYU defeated CSU 45-42.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The contagion of empty seats at racing venues appears to have migrated from California to Bristol, Tennessee.

NASCAR depends on fans. Sponsors suffer when fans don't attend races and television viewership drops.

The average NASCAR fan must budget for attending a race. Going to an event might equate to a mortgage payment for the family home.

There are those diehard fans who will scrimp and save to attend a race no matter what.

Speedways are offering more and more ticket packages and even all you can eat food deals.

Lodging still remains very expensive and the hotels and motels jack up their rates and often require minimal two or three night stays.

Lowered attendance causes the dominoes to fall with local businesses suffering due to reduced influx of fans.

Gasoline hovers near three dollars per gallon. The costly fuel is just one more reason for the fan to stay home.

NASCAR can't dictate to hotels, rental car agencies, or restaurants regarding their prices.

Perhaps discount cards for food and gas could be given out by hotels. In this economy, it would help.

During the Sprint Cup race at Bristol, Darrell Waltrip commented on air about the weather keeping fans away from the track.

Weather was an unlikely suspect in the low attendance. Most people come to the track for the Nationwide race and the Sprint Cup race. It was bright and sunny for the Saturday race.

The stands were probably only 60 percent filled for the Nationwide race at Bristol.

On Sunday, attendance was announced at around the 100,000 mark in the track with a seating capacity of 160,000.

Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most popular tracks on the circuit.

Supply and demand affects the price for lodging. At tracks like BMS and Martinsville, the lodging capacity is inadequate; not everyone has a motorhome or pop-up camper.

There are those who say the COT has dampened attendance. The wing will be gone in Martinsville making the Cup cars look more normalized.

The "let the boys have at it" will continue to play out. Hopefully it will bring about the anticipated fan attention.

Another camp of people believe Jimmie Johnson's winning ways have been a downer for the supporters of other drivers. He has won three out of the five races this season so far.

It just may take the return of Dale Earnhardt Jr. to competitive, perhaps winning ways to offset the Johnson tedium and get the fans back in the stands. 

Allowing drivers to show their personalities and the changes to the car can only help.

Whatever the reason, it is disheartening to see empty seats at the races.

We can hope the economy and employment levels will rebound to improve the situation at hand.

One still has to wonder if all the people who stay away from the races will be watching on television.

For the sake of all concerned, hopefully the spread of empty seat syndrome won't become an epidemic.