Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscars, attendance and boring races

The list of things that are wrong with having NASCAR races at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana in February start with the date and includes poor attendance, little support, boring races and bad weather.
First the date. The Auto Club 500 goes up against the Oscars every year. They have been on the same day for the past four years. This year, the NASCAR races went head to head with the Oscars. The Auto Club 500 started at 3:30 p.m.; the Oscars started at 5 p.m. TV viewers, those without Tivo or DVRs, had to choose between the race and the Academy Awards.
Gillian Zucker, the president of Auto Club Speedway addressed that conflict, and answered questions about attendance, the start time of the race and the reputation the track has for not producing exciting races.
"The doom and gloom that California can't support a NASCAR race is wrong," Zucker said.
The crowds that turned out for the Cup race supports that statement. While it was far from a sellout, it was more than she expected and more than NASCAR expected. Estimates are anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000, which is a fairly good turnout compared to past February races at Fontana.
As far as Fontana being a boring race track, Zucker defended her track. She said the drivers have few criticisms, enjoying the wide open racing and smooth, sweeping turns.
"The races are not boring, they're different," Zucker said. "Drivers love this race track. There's a lot going on if you know about racing."
As for the Oscars, Zucker said, jokingly, that she welcomes the challenge. She has no problem competing against the Oscars.
Finally, the start time of the race was a little late. That was a decision by Fox. If the race started a little earlier, the rain that starting falling on the race track would not have been much of a factor. So far, there have been three cautions for weather. If the race started at 11 a.m. or even noon, the rain would not have come into play.
But weather is one of the things no one can control. Still, the race might have been a little more interesting without all the weather delays.

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