During a time when the economy has taken its toll on the entertainment world, NASCAR as a sport was not immune and all the average fan had to do was look around at all the empty seats.
No longer are the tracks selling out like they used to, and the owners were left to begin experimenting with different promotions to try and draw the fans away from their television sets, and back into the stands.
Gary Camp, who is the director of public relations for Dover International Speedway, was able to answer a few questions about how the economy has affected “The Monster Mile.”
“The economy has affected ticket sales, but that is the case across the entire sport to some extent," Camp said. "We are optimistic about 2010, and we are doing our best to improve the fan experience for everyone.
“We haven’t raised ticket prices in over five years, and we have been working hard to add value for our fans. From free, live concerts, to the Monster Monument, to our new, expanded FanZone...there is plenty to see and do, even beyond the racing, when you make the trip to the track.”
With Dover looked at as one of only three independent tracks left in the series, Camp was asked what type of impact it had over the bigger corporations such as the International Speedway Corporation which is owned by the France family, or Bruton Smiths Speedway Motorsports Incorporated.
“Because we aren’t part of the ISC or SMI families, we are often deemed an 'independent' track. We also own and operate Nashville Superspeedway, near Nashville, and Gateway International Raceway, near St. Louis, but Dover is the only track of these three that hosts a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race,” said Camp.
Camp also talked about the other entertainment options that are part of the Dover experience.
“The unique nature of the facility in Dover sets us apart from other venues, we share the property with Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, and all the amenities they bring to the table.
“Fans love the opportunity to play the slots, eat at the multiple restaurants, and coming in 2010, they will play live table games. The ability to do this all on the same site as a race track is very unique.”
The planning and preparation that goes into making sure everything is in place for a typical race weekend can be very stressful, along with the stress factor of knowing that everything needs to be close to perfect.
A race weekend isn’t just put together in the few weeks leading up to the race, instead it takes months of careful planning.
“It’s interesting how many people are surprised to learn that many of our jobs here at the Speedway are full-time positions,” Camp said. "Many think we just open the gates on raceday, close them when it’s over, and do it again the next year.
“It’s a year-long, continual process getting ready for our two big NASCAR event weekends. Budgeting, advertising, creative development, promotions, and more all play in to our ultimate goal—selling tickets and getting fans to come to Dover to see a race,“ said Camp, while talking about the weeks leading up the big race.
Camp has been part of the Dover family for six years now, and he started out working for an advertising and public relations agency that used to service the track, and casino, as a client.
All together, he has been working on race weekend for 11 years, or 22 race weekends.
Camp also mentioned that his most memorable moment throughout the years since he has been at the track was the Dover race following 9/11.
It was the first major sporting event after the attacks, so everyone was in a heightened state of security, and patriotism. MBNA handed out U.S. flags to everyone in attendance, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place as the national anthem and flyover happened that day.
Camp still remembers how vividly the “U.S.A.” chants were that rang through the grandstands, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. after having won the event, celebrated with a huge American flag flying out of his window during his victory lap.
There is plenty to see and do at this unique one-of-a-kind entertainment venue, and the staff at Dover are doing all they can by working with the local hotel operators to get them to help the fans with more reasonable rates, and reduced minimum night stay requirements.
The cost of lodging is typically the largest expense when attending a destination sporting event, so anything that the staff at Dover can do to make it easier on fans will be helpful.
If Miles, the 46-foot-tall monster, doesn’t grab your attention, than maybe 43 of NASCAR’s biggest names racing on this one-mile concrete gladiator ring will.
Either way you don’t know what you are missing, unless you experience it first hand and in person.