It’s just $5 per person at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, N.C., this season. Down the road a piece at Hickory Speedway, it’s $10 per car or 20 bucks a truckload on Saturday, plus fireworks after the race.
Although the NASCAR boys are at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend, Carolinas short tracks also are open for business. Another short track – the Dirt Track at Charlotte – is host to the World of Outlaws’ Circle K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown.
As usual, the promoters at the area short tracks are working hard.
“It’s very tough to put fans in the seats and it’s been even more tough to find sponsors than anything,” said Rita Martin, general manager at Tri-County in Caldwell County. “That’s probably the hardest part of the job, getting somebody to come on board, to buy a billboard.”
With NASCAR fan attendance and overall television ratings still down, short tracks are trying to fill a void for fans.
“It’s a little bit of a touchy subject,” said Hickory promoter Kevin Piercy. “Last year we had a little better fan attendance. This year we’ve had more sponsors come with is. If you want to know the truth, weather is the biggest circumstance for us each week. We’re completely at the mercy of the weather.”
But when Piercy isn’t thinking about raising money, he’s trying to save it for the fans.
“We’re always thinking about ways you can make it more affordable for the fans,” said Piercy. “It’s not just us, I think everybody – the Panthers, NASCAR, whoever – are trying to be more fan friendly. The truth of the matter is it’s very expensive.
"At a short track, there’s only so much we can do to survive. We try to have nights like $1 drink night, but you can’t do that every single week. Anything new is special at first, but people might want to go to a baseball game, bowling or Pigeon Forge the next week.
"You get that first influx of people, but then at some point it all comes down and levels out and you’re stuck with the same number of people.
“But I don’t want to sound gloomy. We’re surviving.”