So, the East Coast motorsports writers are bitchin’ to NASCAR about how empty the grandstands looked at the second Cup race of the year – California Speedway a couple of weekends ago.  Yes, I’ll admit that there were some empties heading into Turn One, but scheeze, they still sold over 75,000 freakin’ seats!  And that is more of an amazing feat that anyone has cared to realize. 

California Speedway was granted their second race about 1½ years ago.  For the 2004 schedule, Fontana was given their typical April date and then granted their first double date in September for Labor Day weekend.  Yeah!  That was a large success.

But when the ’05 schedule came out in the Fall, guess what?  California Speedway had their Spring race bumped up to the second race of the year… freakin’ February!!!  Seriously think about that scenario – that’s three Cup race weekends within 10 months!  AND, it was within the mega-schedule of LA’s winter motorsports which included THREE sold out Anaheim Supercross races in January and the NHRA season opener in Pomona mid-February. 

I consider myself a gearhead, but damn, that’s a lot of cake to shovel out to fulfill my need of fuel in two months.

I’m just sick and tired of the pink shirts back East saying that they could do better.  I’ve heard and seen comments such as “They don’t deserve a second race…” or “Rockingham [NC] needs their two races back…” and “Darlington [SC] wouldn’t have had any empty seats…”

You truly have to be kidding me… before Rockingham was kicked to the curb, it was a joke – it was just another North Carolina race, and though being in the heartland, it still couldn’t tally 40K in attendance figures.  And Darlington?  Forget it.  What mainstream sportscaster even knows where Darlington is?  Or cares?

Give Cali Speedway some time… let them have their two races, but this time fairly.  Two races in 12 months, not three races in just 10.  LA is the second largest market in the country and yes, pink shirts, it DOES deserve a second date. 

But something that is shocking about the empty seats in Fontana is that the majority of NASCAR tickets sold by California Speedway belong to residents of the San Bernardino county.  NOT LA county and NOT Orange County.  That is a big problem.  What that says is that NASCAR still has not yet penetrated the second largest market in the country.  People from LA and OC just won’t drive the hour to Fontana for a day at the track unless there would be something to truly interest them.  They don’t get it, so they don’t go to it.

NASCAR needs to reconsider their marketing efforts in the LA region if they want to make their presence known.  And they can’t just rely on the tracks to do so… especially in such a large market as Los Angeles.

There are few, if any, driver appearances in the LA and the OC.  There are NO news mentions on TV of the race before it comes to town.  Heck, news crews resist driving out to Fontana to tape a segment or do a live shot.  The interest just isn’t there.  The newspaper articles about racing and California Speedway even get bumped to the outdoor section of the Sports pages.  There is a serious problem, NASCAR, and you ain’t addressin’ it.

NASCAR is running into several challenges with the mainstream media throughout the country.  It’s not as peachy as the France clan want you to think it is. 

Bottom line is, if they want to garner the respect of the stick and ball gurus, if they want to truly be the second largest rated sport in the country, if they truly want to beat football and baseball and even basketball, if they want their “Chase” to resemble a high intensity “Playoff”, then they must get out of the south and spread more evenly across the country.  And when they do make that spread, they must also market that spread so people know what the heck is going on. 

Let’s just hope these empty seats teach Bill and the boys a lesson this time.  Let’s hope they learn from it, at least to shut up the SE firestarters.  God help us!