On Pit Road: How Much Harder Will the Economy Hit Nascar

If the excess empty seats at Nashville Saturday during the Nascar Nationwide Series, Pepsi 300, is any indication, times are tough. The light turnout may have been effected by the Tornado that touched down just south of the track on Friday, causing extensive damage in the Murfreesboro area.
The light turnout was not for lack of effort by the track, who has implemented some new ideas that actually throw back to the ‘Good ole Days’. Nashville SuperSpeedway came up with the Fan Walk a few years back and that was a good draw. The Fan Walk, provided shuttles from the grandstand to the infield where a gated walkway between the garage and Pit Road allowed fans to get close to the teams a drivers, including a small area that allowed access to the drivers for autographs.
The Fan Walk is still in place and appeared busy as ever Saturday, but the new ALL ACCESS PASS is a throwback in time. It is a pass that allows the fans access to Pit Road and to the garage area after qualifying and before driver introductions. It reminded me of the old days of Nascar, when, like at the local dirt tracks, any fan can buy a pit pass and rub elbows with the drivers and crews. Nascar put a halt to that kind of access several years ago, with safety being the buzzword for it’s implementation.
Some of the Nascar tracks do still offer ‘Pit Passes’, but they are nothing like this idea. Most of them permit access to Pit Road, pre race, before the cars or the teams are in place. They make for neat photo ops, but bear no real resemblance of Access. Now at Nashville with the normal Nascar Nationwide Series, qualifying on race day, making it an impound race, the safety concerns was diminished greatly, as the cars were all secured on the front stretch.
Asked by the media regarding this new idea, most team members, crew chiefs and drivers expressed the importance of the ‘Race Fans’ to the security of their jobs. A common thought was that without the fans, many of these guys, especially in the Nationwide and Camping World truck series, could easily be running Late Models at local short track for little of no money at all. Of course, not risk being ’lumped’ in there with the other drivers, Kyle Busch had a whole different perspective on the ALL ACCESS PASS. When asked about it in a post race interview, he lamented about all those fans that showed up at his hauler, where he was unable to escape them. Not that being trapped by fans was bad enough, he eloquently told those who would listen about ALL those fans that showed up at his hauler, each carrying 3 suitcases full of diecast for him to autograph.
I was hoping that I could find a photo to attach to this story, with the convoy of suitcases headed to the 18 hauler, but alas, those nasty fans really gave me the slip.