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Jay Busbee

I'm trying hard to spin this empty-Bristol-seats thing positively

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Let's see if there's any way we can put a positive spin on the empty seats at Bristol, one of NASCAR's legendary tracks and once "the toughest ticket to get in sports." It was because:

The economy's in the toilet and people can't afford to make the trip.

It was going to rain, and most NASCAR fans are in fact made of graham crackers and papier-mâché.

Like Laker fans, NASCAR fans are notorious late-arrivers; many are just now getting to the track.

The lines at the bathrooms and concession stands were just brutal, man.

Why were there so many empty seats at Bristol? It's anybody's guess, but at least one or two of the above reasons is probably on target. The economy is still rotten, despite the fact that we apparently came out of the recession, technically speaking, sometime last year. I'd imagine that tickets to a NASCAR race fall into what you'd term a "lagging indicator" category -- if you've suddenly got a few bucks, you're more likely to sock it away than blow it on a race, at least for the next year or so.

Following from that, then, one could assume that NASCAR will start seeing an uptick in attendance as people's disposable income grows in the coming months. (That, and the health care bill provides for two free tickets to a NASCAR race of your choice for every American. It's true.) Everyone's going to be watching the attendance figures with the same kind of dread that you have when looking at your 401(k).

I know that a certain very loud segment of NASCAR fandom is screaming that it's Jimmie Johnson's fault that fans are fleeing NASCAR, that he's made the season boring with his dominance. I can agree with the latter sentiment, but not the former. If somebody's beating your guy, you're gonna run and hide? Come on!

Anyway, back to the point. The lack of butts in the seats is highly troubling, but I'm taking a long view. I'm hoping this is a temporary setback, and this time next year Bristol is once again packed to the gills. If not, well ... I may do something about the 48 myself. Nobody else seems to be able to handle it.

So, your thoughts. How badly are you concerned by the empty Bristol seats? And what do you think caused them? Extra points given for creative answers.

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