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Track boss touts passion, turnout

- The Associated Press
Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009

Despite the economic crunch that has hit California particularly hard and predictions of a disastrously small turnout Sunday, it appeared the grandstand that holds 105,000 spectators was more than half full.

Auto Club Speedway president Gillian Zucker was obviously pleased with the numbers.

"This says a lot about what Southern Californians feel about NASCAR," she said as the cars zoomed around the nearby track. "I think there is not any kind of question about how hard this part of the country has been hit by the economy.

"...To see this kind of a crowd in this grandstand says a lot, I think a heck of a lot, about how we've promoted this event and how much people are beginning to care about this sport the same way with the same passion as they have in the Southeast."

The track 60 miles east of Los Angeles has had trouble filling the stands since adding a second Cup date in 2004. But a swap with Atlanta Motor Speedway moved the second Auto Club Speedway race from Labor Day Weekend to October in 2009.

"We have a race now that's at a great time of year for racing in California," Zucker said. "We have a Chase race and I expect you'll see these crowds continue to grow. But the doom and gloom about the fact that California can't support NASCAR is dead wrong."

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