Building A New Tradition

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Many fans were outraged when the official announcement came a few weeks ago that Atlanta Motor Speedway would finally lose one of its two Sprint Cup dates beginning in 2011. More than one threatened to boycott this weekend’s second annual Labor Day event as a means of demonstrating that indignation.

I hope that was more bluster than action.

Because Atlanta deserves to be part of the Sprint Cup schedule and the new Labor Day tradition, which got off to a stellar start last year in its debut, can become one of the crown jewels of the event.

Once the bitterness of having a date harvested by parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc. to bring the Cup Series to Kentucky Speedway subsided, I hope AMS president Ed Clark and his staff realized that perhaps in its wake was a blessing.

The endless questions and speculation about whether or not Atlanta would actually lose a race, which seems to have been going on for more than a couple of decades, are gone. So are the concerns about weather and competition from college basketball and the economy and the proximity to other tracks in the south and the myriad other excuses that piled up over the years in hopes of explaining why Atlanta’s March date never drew much of a crowd.

Atlanta now has an opportunity to build its once a year NASCAR weekend into a “you have to be there,” end of summer event. The Labor Day heritage built by Darlington Raceway is something fans should latch onto and carry with them to Atlanta, which by the way provides some of the best actual racing in the sport.

The business economics of hosting one successful weekend with nearly packed grandstands has to trump putting on a pair of events in front of more bleachers than fans.

The same philosophy should apply to other tracks on the solo Cup race plan with Darlington a great example of how demand will keep up with supply. The track’s once a year Sprint Cup visit has nearly been a sellout since it debuted on Mother’s Day weekend six years ago.

Auto Club Speedway, with one of its two races taken to Kansas by International Speedway Corporation, should also reap similar benefits. Kentucky, Chicago, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Infineon and Watkins Glen all carry a similar cache of being unique venues that host NASCAR’s top division only once a season.

In a perfect world, every track except a handful, would be on the one and done plan every season. With lagging ticket sales, instilling a sense of urgency with fans every year that if they miss out they must wait an entire flip of the calendar before the opportunity arises again, might help the box office.

Let’s hope that’s the case with Atlanta and fans support what is now the track’s lone NASCAR weekend every Labor Day holiday for the next 50 years.

And there’s the added bonus of being able to wear your white pants, belt and shoes one last time before having to pack them away until next summer.
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