DENIS MCGLYNN prefers to look ahead to the Oct. 2 Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway. However, the president and CEO of the Delaware racetrack is still willing to discuss what contributed to the low attendance for the May 15 Cup race.
There were more vacant seats in grandstand turns than in any race in recent memory. The track estimated the crowd at 82,000, down 6,000 from each of last year's two Cup races. Impartial observers suspect attendance was closer to 75,000.
That size crowd is still good. Dover's problem is, 10 to 12 years ago attendance was close to a 135,000 sellout. Dover is dealing with the same problems other tracks face: The economy and high gas prices are the major deterrents for fans attending races.
"Our customers are basically working blue-collar people in construction and trades and, by and large, those people are out of work right now," McGlynn said this week.
McGlynn also cited a "terrible" weather forecast. Qualifying was rained out, but race day was fine.
"We did see some promising results with our family packages and our kids pricing," he said. "We've never seen more kids around here.
"One challenge for us, our speedway is so large that a good-sized crowd here still looks disappointing. We had a crowd bigger than Phoenix and some of those other smaller tracks. I think we're still the seventh-largest track in NASCAR of 22."
McGlynn disagreed with the assessment that not much happened in the first 350 laps of the 400-lap race, won by Matt Kenseth. Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards dominated the first 300-plus laps, where there were few passes for the lead.
"Race fans generally have a favorite driver," McGlynn said. "They follow their driver and if their driver happens to be 15th, they're not focused on who's leading. That was a hallmark of NASCAR back in the day. There was always racing somewhere on the track.
"It seems fans today never got that deep into the sport to comprehend that. Now, it's all about the lead. I think the fans expect way too much in terms of having a race where the challenge for the No. 1 spot is constant."
Dover's Oct. 2 race, the third in the Chase for the Championship, is a week later than before.
"I don't have a problem with it," McGlynn said. "It's still pretty good weather that time of year here."
Brian France, NASCAR's chairman and CEO, feels the tracks' pain regarding attendance.
"Dover had a tremendously bad weather forecast," France said before Saturday's All-Star race at Charlotte. "It's a miracle on Saturday and Sunday that they got the races off at all. We certainly don't want to see empty seats. We'll be working with tracks to get the best dates possible."
The next Cup race in the area is June 12 at Pocono Raceway.
After finishing 15th in his NASCAR debut in the Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte Friday night, former Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen is scheduled to race in Saturday's Nationwide event at Charlotte. He'll drive the No. 87 Toyota.
Stressing that he is just testing the NASCAR waters, Raikkonen, 31, said: "For sure, it's a different type of racing than what we have in Europe. It's very popular here and maybe it looks easy, but it's not so easy to be fast."
Raikkonen won the 2007 F1 title driving for McLaren. He has 18 F1 victories. Raikkonen reportedly grew tired of the F1 politics.
NJMP'S FINANCIAL PLAN
New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville is proposing a plan to emerge from bankruptcy. NJMP filed for bankruptcy March 7.
According to the Conshohocken-based Brownstein Corp., NJMP's court-approved financial adviser, Merrill Lynch Mortgage Capital Inc., the secured lender, is reducing its debt to $20 million from $30.4 million. NEI Motorsports, the other co-sponsor, will pay $2 million to fund certain obligations relating to the plan.
If the plan is approved following a July 14 Bankruptcy Court hearing in Camden, NEI will be the majority owner of NJMP, and Merrill Lynch will hold a minority interest. NEI is a new entity that includes some former NJMP owners. Other bidders will have the opportunity to offer more than a minimum of $23 million.
The next major event at NJMP, which opened in 2008, is the Grand-Am Rolex series July 22-24.
THIS WEEK'S RACE
Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.
When: Sunday, 6 p.m.
TV/Radio: Fox/WNPV (1440-AM)
Race course: 1.5-mile oval
Race distance: 600 miles/400 laps
Race forecast: partly cloudy, 80 degrees
Last year's winner: Kurt Busch
Last year's pole: Ryan Newman, 187.546 mph
Track qualifying record: Elliott Sadler, 193.216 mph (October 2005)
Track facts: Jimmie Johnson is tied with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for most Cup wins at Charlotte (six). Jeff Gordon is a five-time winner at Charlotte; Mark Martin has four wins . . . Carl Edwards won Saturday's All-Star Challenge. Seven racers have completed the All-Star/Coca-Cola 600 sweep. The last three to do it are Johnson (2003), Kasey Kahne ('08) and Kurt Busch last year. Jamie McMurray was runner-up to Busch in last year's 600-mile race; Kyle Busch was third . . . Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will make his Cup debut, filling in for Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne in the No. 21 Ford. Stenhouse won his first Nationwide race Sunday at Iowa Speedway. Bayne, recovering from an insect bite that led to a stay at the Mayo Clinic, is scheduled to return in the June 4 Nationwide race at Chicagoland Speedway . . . Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 83 Toyota, plans to skydive into Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday. Some racers relax by playing golf or video games; Vickers jumps out of airplanes.
Wins: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, 2 each; Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, 1 each.
SPRINT CUP STANDINGS(Through 11 of 36 races)
1. Carl Edwards 416
2. Jimmie Johnson 392
3. Kyle Busch 379
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 364
5. Kevin Harvick 362
6. Matt Kenseth 342
7. Ryan Newman 340
8. Clint Bowyer 336
9. Kurt Busch 336
10. Tony Stewart 328
11. Mark Martin 324
12. Greg Biffle 311
13. Denny Hamlin 304
14. Jeff Gordon 299
15. Juan Montoya 296
16. A.J. Allmendinger 295
17. Paul Menard 291
18. Kasey Kahne 286
19. Martin Truex Jr. 282
20. Marcus Ambrose 281
Up next: STP 400, June 5, Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan., 1 p.m.; TV: Fox; last year's winner: Greg Biffle.