As early as 2022, NASCAR, like many professional sports, had a slight uptick in live attendance out of the Covid pandemic that kept fans away from stadiums and racetracks. As the world opened, the stadium doors opened, and the once-mired fans returned in droves to fill the seats and cheer on their favorite sport.
It was many tracks Able to report sales, including the inaugural season Daytona International Circuit Daytona 500 and Phoenix Raceway announced a sale for the spring race. Track operator Speedway Motorsports said the spring race at Atlanta Motor Speedway had its largest attendance since 2014 and Bristol Motor Speedway had the largest attendance for a spring race since 2017.
But in the late spring the economy began to falter. Initial gas prices have continued their upward trajectory that began with the beginning of the year, and the economy is beginning to continue to shrink and could lead to what many believe will be an eventual recession.
With prices rising, and household budgets tightening, discretionary spending families have shrunk, and that usually means live sporting events are taking a hit.
This does not appear to be the case with NASCAR.
NASCAR is concerned and has been, of course, looking closely at the economy. One way they can keep in touch with their customers, the fans, is through their “sales academy” that they started last year in order to sell tickets for all the tracks they race. It allows NASCAR employees to speak directly to fans to sell tickets, allowing NASCAR to listen to them live. And watch how ticket sales are trending.
“They are able to have a real-time dialogue with our racing fans to try to understand the difficulties we faced,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said of the sales academy.
“I have to be honest, I’m surprised we saw the kind of consumer numbers we saw. Our consumer numbers went up over 20%, ticket sales, from 21 to 22, despite what was happening with gas prices earlier in the year or obviously That’s the real inflationary stuff that’s going on.”
Phelps, who gave his “State of Sports” speech Friday at Phoenix Raceway, insisted ticket sales are high and prices will remain the same.
We haven’t seen a drop in ticket sales. He said. “We’ve already seen the opposite. I honestly don’t get it. It’s a bit confusing. We’re the only sport, frankly, that has generally kept ticket prices steady for the past four or five years.”
In the past few years, NASCAR has adopted a strategy to provide more than just a seat to watch a race, and even the ability to purchase that seat has evolved.
“I think NASCAR is one of the best places, from a value perspective, for racing fans, right?” Phelps said. “The opportunity to bring in coolers, in an effort to keep our ticket prices in a manageable place, we have different options for race fans to be able to purchase in different tiers to suit their own budgets.”
Phelps said that while they will continue to monitor the economy, sports have yet to be affected in the field of live attendance.
“It’s something we will definitely be watching because we want to make sure the stands are full,” Phelps said. “We have nine sales this year. Last year we had five. We’ll be double digits next year. We think that’s true because we’re bringing more races online.
“Again, like I said, we’ll keep an eye on that, and make sure we continue to be a place for racing fans to get good value for their money.”
In recent years, NASCAR has worked to attract new fans of the sport while increasing the value of everyone who attends the races by creating an experience for fans.
“I applaud all of our paths to doing this, we have already invested heavily,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s director of operations. Steve talked about ticket prices. We are proud of that. We are proud of our fans being able to come and attend an event, but then really focus on what they can do when they come to the race.
“The race was really good, but we have to entertain the people who come not just for the race but on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.”
Phelps added that the personal fan experience will continue to evolve and we hope to maintain a fan presence despite what the economy is doing.
“We continue to invest more and more money to increase the racing fan experience this weekend,” said Phelps. “Whether there are more concerts, more opportunities to entertain fans outside of what’s happening on the racetrack.
“To Steve (O’Donnell’s) point, the race has been great, but it’s more than that. We want this to be something they look forward to all year long, and then have a great experience when they are here.”
As if to underscore the point, the last NASCAR race of the season was sold out at Phoenix Raceway, marking the second 2022 sale of the track.