Hot Laps Michigan Edition

BROOKLYN, Mich. - In an area of the country that continues to suffer from a very tough economy, Michigan International Speedway shines.

Sunday's Helluva Good! Sour Cream Dip 400 drew a larger crowd than last year's June race with an estimated attendance of nearly 100,000 turning out in the Irish Hills.

Were there empty seats in the grandstands? Yes there were. But that is not an indictment at all on the track or the fans of this area by any means.

Considering what's going on...hell forget that. Take the economy out of the equation and tell me what professional sport wouldn't take 100,000 paying customers in this day and age?

The truth of the matter is that every sport - including the mighty NFL - has suffered a downturn of some kind in the last few years in terms of ticket sales. The NBA just completed a regular season that was played to lesser capacities in a number of arenas. Major League Baseball is in the middle of a schedule that has seen significantly less people through the turn styles than last.

NASCAR has not been immune to that trend but business has been picking up lately. The turn of the financial picture is helping but so are the track operators who keep doing whatever possible to help fans find a way to the speedway.

Michigan made some major improvements in the off-season including the installation of wider and more comfortable seats and the upgrade of acres of camping areas that surround the facility.

On a personal level a brand new media center made its debut this weekend and it has quickly shot to the top of the list of places guys like me get to work on the circuit. In the not too distant future new garages will be in place for the competitors with speedway officials promising more improvements for the track coming.

Lower ticket prices, more entertainment value for the price of those tickets and an overall enhanced experience were also part of the weekend which no doubt added up to the stellar turnout.

It's a great site to see and one that I hope will continue in the same direction for years to come.

  • Lots of talk over the weekend about next year's Sprint Cup Series schedule which many believe will undergo a big overhaul. If Kentucky Speedway comes on board from the SMI side of the fence and ISC follows suit by bringing a second date to Kansas, expect next year's slate to have a very different looks with other dates and even the Chase races being shuffled.

  • Also discussion this weekend around Michigan about a meeting NASCAR held with teams at its R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina last week. Among things discussed were the overall health of the sport, tweaks and modifications to the Chase and the possibility of updates coming to the Sprint Cup car.

  • Among those updates is a new front nose that will reportedly be employed next season and feature much more manufacturer brand identification than the current version of the Cup machine. Apparently the new Nationwide Series car, which makes it debut at Daytona Fourth of July weekend, has sparked the need to ensure the senior division doesn't fall behind connecting fans to the makes of cars on the race track.

  • Adam Sandler and Kevin James were Sunday's Grand Marshalls and did an as expected great job with the command to start engines. James, who delivered what i consider to still be the gold standard of commands at the 2007 4th of July Daytona race, said he's becoming quite the NASCAR fan. Both sat in on the drivers' meeting and seemed to be enjoying themselves very much on Sunday. Let's hope the feeling is mutual when we buy a ticket to so their summer movie "Grown Ups."
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