Elliott Sadler had a novel idea to improve attendance at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, site of this weekend's NASCAR races.
As much as the track would like to dance around the subject, attendance for the two NASCAR races in Fontana have not been that great. Estimates have been in the 70,000 to 80,000 range ever since the track got two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, but a more accurate estimation would be around 50,000. It's still probably more than Darlington Raceway draws or Kentucky Speedway would draw, but far from a sellout at a track that can hold nearly 100,000 people in the grandstands.
Sadler was asked how he would improve attendance. Mind you the reporter who asked the quesiton suggested making Auto Club Speedway a restrictor-plate track to make the racing closer, and consequently more dangerous. Sadler didn't think that was a great idea, but he was not opposed to giving away tickets to put people in the stands.
"If I had anything to do with this race track, I would go to every single middle school within 50 miles of this place and give away free tickets," Sadler said. "What’s the difference in an empty seat and a free ticket? You might sell a Coca-Cola to them in the stands. I would go to every Boys and Girls Club, the Girl Scouts, middle schools … give away tickets. Give them a chance to come to this race that might not have come before. You might make a fan; you might not."
It doesn't seem like that crazy of an idea. In the track's defense, kids under 12 are admitted free on Friday and Saturday. If that isn't incentive enough to go watch NASCAR, free tickets for Sunday won't help much.
Still Sadler said the there's not much to lose in giving away tickets to kids.
"If you don’t make a fan, what have you lost?" Sadler said. "You really haven’t lost anything because you didn’t have anyone in the seat anyhow. If you gain a fan, you maybe gain a couple tickets for next year. That’s my Emporia (Virginia) opinion which is not worth two cents out here in Los Angeles, California. I think changing the racing (to restrictor-plate), you would have to spend a lot of money on the race track and who knows if it will work. I think that we’re competing against a lot of things … with the Oscars … there’s a lot of things that go on out here other than Sprint Cup racing. I would really concentrate on Ontario and surrounding areas rather than L.A. L.A is a long ways from here.”