In a milestone race Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson -- the last driver third-place finisher Kurt Busch wanted to see win the race -- took the checkered flag for the 50th time in his Cup Series career in the Food City 500. Image Credit: NASCAR.com
NASCAR - Bristol: Johnson notches first win, attendance down
With all of the winning Jimmie Johnson has been doing over these last four years, with consecutive national championships and now three wins in five races to begin a fifth year with few challenges from the forty car plus field ... in his 17 career races at the famed short-track at Bristol, Tennessee, Johnson has nine top-10 finishes but yesterday marked his first victory at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Further, with this victory, Jimmie Johnson became one of just 12 drivers to score 50 or more career victories and now there are only five active tracks Johnson has not won on: Michigan, Infineon, Watkins Glen, Chicagoland and Homestead.
With all of this winning the #48 car has had over these last four PLUS years, it is hard to find anything wrong except for this one troubling fact, after 55 sellout NASCAR Cup events at the Bristol track, the attendance was down at the Food City 500. The Bristol Motor Speedway can accommodate 160,000 and yesterday's attendance was NASCAR estimated to be 138,000.
The speedway’s record streak of 55 sellouts began back in August 1982 – when the track could accommodate a mere 30,000 fans.
Many seats in the grandstands at Bristol Motor Speedway were empty at the start of Sunday’s Food City 500. Image Credit: Andre Teague
This excerpted and edited from Bleacher Report -
NASCAR: Empty Seat Syndrome Even at Bristol
By Sandra MacWatters - 3-21-2010
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.
Lowered attendance cause the dominoes to fall with local businesses suffering due to reduced influx of fans.
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 sixty percent filled for the Nationwide race at Bristol.
There are those who say the COT [Car Of Tomorrow standardization] 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.
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 epidemic.
... notes from The EDJE