Friday, March 25, 2011

Exciting or not, Fontana is a good measuring stick

After a fast, exciting start to the 2011, NASCAR is all of a sudden in a tough position this weekend as the sport heads to the much-maligned Auto Club Speedway in Southern California.

The season started surprisingly well. With a still-stagnant economy, attendance and TV ratings were both up in the first three races. Then, after an off week, the bottom dropped out at Bristol when, optimistically, 120,000 filled a track that can fit 160,000.

Reality quickly jumped back up and slapped everybody in the face. Sparse crowds such as the one at Bristol are supposed to happen this week at California, not at what many consider a marquee track on the NASCAR schedule.

So, what does this week mean in terms of the business side of the sport? Well, two weeks of bad attendance aren’t much in the long run, and it was quite optimistic to think every race this season would see improvement in those areas from last year, and there is reason to believe the stands will be a bit more full this weekend.

However, unless the race is sold out (and it won’t be), people are going to spend all of next week talking about how bad the attendance numbers were, which is unfortunate and at this point would just beat a dead horse.

Is Fontana the best place for racing? No, but get over it. It’s now just one week, and the race always provides a pretty good indication of which teams have their act in gear as far as engines and chassis are concerned.

Speaking of the racing, that will actually happen this week, as well, and this race is one where the big teams generally strut their stuff. It will be interesting, however, to see how many blown engines happen since the race is now fifth on the schedule as opposed to second.

There likely won’t be as many since the race is now just 400 miles, but in the past teams haven’t had all of the bugs worked out of the engines by the time they come to one of the most demanding tracks on the schedule.

Anyway, there will still probably be a surprise or two in the front half of the field, and those teams will show the NASCAR world they came to play this season. The Earnhardt-Ganassi cars did it last year as Jamie McMurray won the pole for both races at the track, and maybe this year a team such as Richard Childress Racing will get all of its cars up toward the front and show it isn’t just a Paul Menard powerhouse.


  1. The Inland Empire apparently is gearing up to support the AAA 400 this year with the local political leaders pointing how much the event means to the economy (over $100 m per race) and that if they don't show well NASCAR might just pull the plug completely. The shortened race is being played up as well...

    We'll see if a crowd shows up.

    Thanks Jacob!

  2. No crowd today as the rain is reigning...Fontana is an important race for the teams to figure out the rest of the 1.5 milers and is a good indication of who will end up in the Chase BUT its still painful racing. Glad its 400 miles of JJ leading not 500 anymore.

  3. Dwindy1 - I think it would take something drastic for NASCAR to take the one remaining race from the track. Every sport still wants to be in the Los Angeles market, just ask the NFL -- it would love to put a team back in LA.

    klvalus - Rain and more of those darn weepers. At least the weather came through today rather than Saturday or Sunday.

  4. Yep, at least it's 400 instead of 500 miles of snoozefest. Up here in central CA, we're supposed to get rain tomorrow during the day and partly cloudy on Sunday. Hopefully it'll bypass SoCal. They can sure use some drying out!

  5. jon_464 - A race affected by rain would really be a bummer this weekend. I thought they had fixed the weepers a few years ago. Guess not.