“The white-zone is for immediate loading and unloading…” and it’s time Atlanta race fans drop the excuses and start loading into the track.
Let me just start off by acknowledging Atlanta Motor Speedway is not alone in attendance issues. In fact, it’s almost across the board. Percentage-wise, Atlanta probably fills more seats than Indianapolis. However, the issues surrounding attendance at most tracks are the on-track product. Atlanta is unique in its attendance issues.
Atlanta has a reputation for being a lousy sports town. Basically, the only sport people in the Atlanta area care about is college football. The Atlanta Falcons are consistently one of the top teams in the NFC South and could very well make a deep playoff run this season. However, the Georgia Dome is rarely sold out. The Atlanta Braves won 14 straight division titles from 1991 to 2005, five National League pennants and the World Series in 1995, but they couldn’t sell out playoff games during that run. The only series this season that packed Turner Field was when the Braves played the Yankees, and there were far more Yankee fans. The Atlanta Hawks finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, but Philips Arena was toward the bottom of NBA attendance. I should also mention that Atlanta has been host to two failed NHL franchises, the Flames (now the Calgary Flames) and the Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets) because of attendance issues.
Atlanta sports fans are also notorious for coming up with all sorts of excuses for not going to an event. I’ve heard because it’s “too cold,” it’s “too hot,” “I had a party to attend” and my personal favorite, “I’ve still not forgiven William The Conquerer for The Invasion of 1066.” Okay, the last one I made up, but I’ve heard the rest of these on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio channel 90 over the years.
Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. has played host to four of the 10 coldest games in NFL history. The Packers fans not only don’t use the cold as an excuse to stay home, they’ll even get painted up and pack the stands when the temperature is penguin house. The “it’s too cold” excuse is laughable to those who grew up in places like New England where it only warms up two days out of 365 (a slight hyperbole).
I also don’t think you can use the “it’s too hot” excuse when you live in a temperate place like Atlanta. Now I live in Knoxville, Tenn., but the weather patterns between Knoxville and Atlanta are very similar.
I know it seems like I’m nitpicking and picking on Atlanta. Nitpicking perhaps, but I’m not saying all this to be mean. I’ve said everything I’ve said because I really believe Atlanta Motor Speedway is close to being axed off the schedule. If the Atlanta sports fans continue to drag their feet and use these excuses to not attend the races, you eventually won’t have a home track to see the Sprint Cup Series. Knowing Bruton Smith has wanted to put a second Sprint Cup race in Las Vegas, the lack of support from the Atlanta populace will tell him that you don’t mind not having a Sprint Cup race in your area.
Do your part and go to the track in February if you want Atlanta Motor Speedway to continue existing. If y’all start packing the track, NASCAR will begin to seriously consider moving your race to an ideal date. But if you’d rather stay home and complain about the race weekend being too cold or too hot, don’t be shocked to wake up one day and read online that Atlanta has lost its Sprint Cup race.
I don’t want to see Atlanta Motor Speedway disappear. I consider it my second home track and it’s been home to some of the best finishes in NASCAR history. But you must understand that the Southeastern United States is the most saturated race market in the world. From Knoxville, there are eight tracks within a few hours driving distance. As such, it’s important for each track in the South to have a solid local base to fill the seats. With Atlanta being the third largest metropolitan area in the Southeastern United States, that shouldn’t be hard to accomplish.
My plane is about to take off, so I must wrap this up. Until next time, I’ll leave you with this fact. May 29 is officially designated as “International Put a Pillow on Your Fridge Day.”