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Below new administration: SMI vows to maintain Dover on NASCAR slate


DOVER, Del. (AP) — Chase Elliott took notice that Dover’s grandstands handed the attention take a look at and appeared fuller on Sunday earlier than rain washed out the conclusion of the race.

A observe that scaled down in measurement — and races — in recent times had full sections, tons of of followers crowded the leisure occasions chasing driver autographs, and the turnout for a rustic music live performance appeared becoming for a well-liked act on the property’s yearly music competition.

At least one Delaware native liked the scene.

“This is like a festival atmosphere,” actor and tempo automotive driver Ryan Phillippe mentioned. “What’s going on outside with the concerts, and inside, it feels like way more than just a race for me.”

The promoting tarps that after lined empty sections at Dover Motor Speedway went the best way of the rain on Monday: completely gone.

“That was a great crowd we had yesterday,” Elliott mentioned after he gained the race on Monday. “Biggest crowd I have seen here personally since I’ve been racing, which I thought was really cool. Proud to see that.”

Dover’s attendance rebound following two years of pandemic restrictions — and shrinking turnout for greater than a decade even earlier than 2020 — was the enhance the observe wanted in its first race beneath new administration. Long independently owned, Speedway Motorsports purchased Dover Motorsports late final yr and added the Monster Mile to its rising assortment of tracks. And who doesn’t wish to impress the brand new boss, particularly when the boss — on this case, Speedway Motorsports President Marcus Smith — labored the Dover gates and greeted followers Monday with the observe short-staffed.

Dover had already moved its fall race to a brand new location. Perhaps a poor exhibiting this weekend would have made SMI strongly contemplate bumping Dover off the slate utterly to a sexier new web site. The previous mile concrete observe nonetheless has legs: SMI COO Mike Burch mentioned the plan was to maintain Dover on the NASCAR schedule simply as its been since 1969.

“Nobody has ever looked at making changes to thriving events,” Burch mentioned. “If the fans want us to continue to have races here, the racing is good, the support is here, yes, absolutely.”

Dover’s second race was transferred final season to Nashville Superspeedway. SMI property New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a observe with anemic attendance, stored its summer season date however had its September race weekend moved to Las Vegas in 2018. Pocono, which ran doubleheader weekends every of the final two years, misplaced a race this season to the Raceway at Gateway within the St. Louis area.

For these maintaining rating, that’s three misplaced dates within the Northeast hall in a span of simply 4 years.

But the bleeding could cease.

“Given where we are, there just has never been any kind of discussion about us losing a race,” Dover President Mike Tatoian mentioned. “I have no reason to believe we will not be racing here for a long period of time.”

Burch mentioned NASCAR’s footprint within the area could have modified, however the sequence isn’t intent on deserting the world. The highway course at Watkins Glen in New York races in August. NASCAR dumped tracks within the Chicago space and Kentucky over the previous few years in favor of reinvigorated markets like Nashville, or tried daring concepts in new ones like racing on an asphalt observe inside Memorial Coliseum.

The trade has remained bullish on reimagining its schedule, leaving no assure the identical previous tracks your grandparents visited shall be round so that you can take your grandkids.

“I don’t think there’s any desire to leave a market,” Burch mentioned. “But if you want to open up new markets, unfortunately, in order to go to different markets, you have to look at losing a race. But you really have to think long and hard before you abandon a market altogether.”

The actuality is, no developer is constructing tracks, that means any potential new dates must be held in man-made leisure websites (like in Los Angeles), metropolis avenue races, or thousands and thousands must be invested in rehabbing previous tracks such because the Nashville Fairgrounds.

“Can you support it long-term? I think you can be successful almost anywhere with an inaugural event,” Burch mentioned. “We certainly saw that when we went to Nashville last year. Or the Circuit of Americas. The key is, is it sustainable?”

SMI’s buy of Dover leaves Indianapolis Motor Speedway (good luck getting the important thing from Roger Penske) and Pocono Raceway because the final unbiased tracks. Burch mentioned SMI is at all times open for enterprise.

Burch raved about Dover’s employees, from higher administration to visitor providers, in addition to the Monster Mile’s proximity to main cities, the way it’s inside strolling distance of a on line casino/resort, and the attractiveness of the Firefly Music Festival. Burch shuttled followers on golf cart rides to parking tons and picked their brains for suggestions. After Sunday’s rainout, followers merely needed earlier begin instances. May as effectively throw in lights.

“We’re very pleased with where we are with all of those key performance measures,” Tatoian mentioned. “Admissions being one of them. Corporate partnerships. Sponsorships being the other.”

Burch mentioned from what he noticed at Dover, the place Monday’s turnout appeared higher than the common Xfinity Series race, it’s sustainable as a NASCAR weekend over the lengthy haul. And at Dover, which had kiosks providing a free reward for followers who locked in 2023 tickets on web site, drivers stumped to maintain the race on the schedule. But as followers from all around the area hopped on the golf cart, Burch had a easy answer for these fearful concerning the observe’s destiny.

Next time, deliver a pal. Or two or three. Because Dover is a superb place to race, “as long as it’s supported.”

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