Stewart blames media for empty seats, ratings woes

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There are a lot of theories on why tracks have so many empty seats and why television ratings are down.

Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates after winning at Watkins Glen on Sunday. Although attendance at the Glen topped 100,000, some drivers admit being frustrated over the focus on empty seats.   NASCAR
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates after winning at Watkins Glen on Sunday. Although attendance at the Glen topped 100,000, some drivers admit being frustrated over the focus on empty seats.

A new one being floated is the media.

Tony Stewart said reporters -- not the Car of Tomorrow, the economy, restrictive driver availability or the lack of passing at the end of the race -- are a main reason why it's been difficult for NASCAR to match the attention the sport used to demand.

"When you finally tell someone that the racing is bad enough, long enough, you're going to convince people that it really is," he said. "The result of that is not having as many people in the grandstand because of that."

Attendance figures and ratings have become sensitive issues for tracks and NASCAR. Race officials clearly are working harder and being more creative to bring fans back to the track, and they are clearly frustrated by the media's attention to empty seats.

No track was a bigger target than Atlanta Motor Speedway, where the spring race has been played out in front of as many as 40,000 empty seats.

At the same time, track president Ed Clark always reminds people that if 40,000 people aren't at his track, 85,000 people are there.

Perception, however, became reality last week when the track lost one of its two annual Sprint Cup Series dates to make room for a new race at the 65,000-seat Kentucky Speedway.

Stewart said everyone, including the media, shares in the responsibility for waning interest.

"The facts show that the racing is better than it's ever been; it's more competitive than it has ever been," Stewart said.

"Everybody has gotten so spoiled over the last 10-15 years that we've all lost sight of what we've really got here."

Jeff Burton said racing needs everyone to work together to turn things around. He also said fans are smart enough to recognize the truth.

"The ultimate goal for NASCAR is to make this the best racing in the world," he said. "That's one thing I have always had a lot of respect for is that is what they are trying to do. They are trying to move the ball forward to make this the best racing in the world."

Reach Don Coble at


(23RD OF 36 RACES)

WHERE: Michigan International Speedway at Brooklyn, Mich.

WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday

TRACK DIMENSIONS: 2-mile tri-oval with 18-degree banking

BROADCAST: Television -- noon, ESPN; Radio -- 12:15 p.m., Motor Racing Network, Sirius Satellite Radio 128

2009 WINNER: Brian Vickers

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BLACKOUTDAWG1 08/12/10 - 06:17 am
The problem with Nascar is,

The problem with Nascar is, only the ones with the most money to spend win all the races. Cut the number of cars owned by one person back to one and U will see a difference in the attendance. Remove the restrictions that hold back the cars and just let them run.

rmwhitley 08/12/10 - 06:21 am
NASCAR deserted the South:

NASCAR deserted the South: North Wilksboro, Rockingham, Darlington, Atlanta. How about those "historic" tracks: Chicago, Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky? Next in line to generate interest: Mecca, Teheran, Cairo. The France family proves 2nd generation incompetence.

Unbelievable 08/12/10 - 08:18 am
The car of tomorrow was

The car of tomorrow was designed to reign in some of the costs associated with racing. Making 'template' cars that cost the same to whichever team purchased them. Making the main differences become setup and engine work. Now I understand that a multi-million dollar shop can build a tough motor, but there are hundreds of mechanics out there that can tune a motor to get the most HP out of it.

Cut teams down to 2 (get rid of the family rule) and you will see driver availability go up.

85,000 - 65,000 = 20,000 So Atlanta sells 20,000 more seats than Kentucky can hold, but it loses a race. Say average ticket price is 75.00, then thats 1 and a half MILLION dollars in lost revenue. You need to look at who owns Atlanta and who owns Kentucky (the tracks) to see whats beneficial in it.

ZoomLenz 08/12/10 - 10:45 am
Nascar- a boring left turn

Nascar- a boring left turn "circleramarathon" cookie cutter cars steered via wimpy drivers in jabberthon by ignorant tv commentators i.e. Larry Mac"Riiiight Now"!!!! Next to win ratings how about a mandatory wreck flag every 25 laps best wrecked becomes the " Lucky- Cat", a new car and takes the lead. Car with least damage becomes the "Unlucky Mule" goes to the rear. Not to be confused with the "Luck Dog". Who's win'n, don't care ain't Jr. give me another beer and wake me if there's a good wreck.

MadSnapper 08/12/10 - 10:48 am
The real reason interest is

The real reason interest is down: Dale Earnhardt's death. Love him or hate him, he made racing fun to watch. Add to that NASCAR's abandonment of it's base by the high ticket prices and elimination of the previously mentioned tracks and you have what you have, a boring 3 or 4 hour event with look-a-like cars turning left.

woodchk2 08/12/10 - 12:04 pm
The reason there are so many

The reason there are so many empty seats at NASCAR races is because they are just too expensive! When the economy tanked they should have responded by lowering the seat prices a little. The average person just can't afford these prices anymore. The majority of the fans at a race are middle income. With the economy in the state it is who can afford to go to a race? Lower those seat prices and I guarantee you will see an increase in attendance. Otherwise I will save my dollars and watch it at home.

Pat388 08/12/10 - 03:25 pm
"The facts show that the

"The facts show that the racing is better than it's ever been; it's more competitive than it has ever been. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read that quote by Tony Stewart. All I can say is maybe Tony is getting old or burnt out. I have always loved Tony's racing style (at least in the "old" days) because he raced hard the whole race and wasn't afraid to take chances. Seems now he is content to drive cautiouslly like the rest that are trying to get into the "Chase". Either that or he can't handle the "COT". The Chase and the COT combined are what have ruined racing. It's not the media and it's not all about the economy it's that we fans are bored to death with the races. Give the crew chiefs a chance to show their stuff and have all races till the end of the season count, then and only then will we have some exciting racing again.

victoria_29 08/14/10 - 06:06 pm
NASCAR is killing

NASCAR is killing NASCAR...Lucky dog-that is about stupid..this is racing-free pass? They have to be kidding. Then you have this phony chase system. Why am I motivated to go spend my money any of the last 10 races especially if my driver is not in the "chase" it really doesn't matter. The chase is insulting to fans, they can just crap along all season doing just enough-& have 10 perfect races & wham they are champion. Rest of season doesn't matter. First part of season doesn't matter so why go & 2nd place if your driver not in chase who cares. This hidden fining drivers for talking about NASCAR, the boring boring tracks. Someone earlier mentioned leaving the southern base-yep sort of showed us what NASCAR thought about us & how important we were, they took our good races, the ones with special meaning in their attempts to chase the "cool" crowd. Well guess what NASCAR the "cool" crowd moved on you were a fad & you alienated your base.

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