Robin Braig, the president of Daytona International Speedway, has revealed that the Daytona 500 looks set to not be a sell-out for the first time in its history.
With the economic climate continuing to affect race fans, some 15,000 tickets remain unsold for the opening round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup next month. That has led to the circuit dropping ticket prices in an effort to bring more people through the gate for the series' blue riband event.
The fall in NASCAR sales came after an increase in attendance for the Rolex 24, won in dramatic fashion by the Brumos Racing team after a round-the-clock battle with Ganassi Racing and Braig admitted that he had been surprised by the way the sales for the respective races had panned out.
“This is the 47th running of the Daytona 24 Hours and it looks like being one of the best ever,” he told Crash.net
. “In a tough economy, as a track promoter, we thought we were going to be in trouble in terms of attendance but we are actually ahead of last year which is good in terms of sportscar fans who wanted to see the event. To have the product we are seeing on track as well certainly bodes well for next year.
“[The attendance] really did surprise us because our NASCAR sales are down and are soft. However, it is a different industry and a different kind of race fan and the economy may not be affecting the sportscar fan as much as the NASCAR fan. We are pleased to see they have showed up and it's been a great weekend.
“We have never not sold out for the Daytona 500. However, some people need to keep in mind that we added a 70,000 seater grandstand which meant we grew our capacity a lot. Like I say though, we have never not sold out so, this is a year of concern for us. But ticket sales are picking up since we dropped prices to $55 and anyone who checks on www.daytona500.com, will see how they can find those great seats.”
Braig added that work was ongoing with local hotels to work on a way to reduce the costs of a trip to the event for fans flocking from all over America although he conceded that the entertainment business as a whole was set for a difficult year ahead.
“We are fortunate to be the first race of the year and the Superbowl of the sport,” he said, “but in areas in Michigan for example where unemployment is very high, it will be a challenging year. That's not just for us, it's for things like Disney, the NFL, the NBA – everyone is feeling it.”