Dover International Speedway Reducing Seat Capacity

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

(WOMR file photo)

In 2001, Dover International Speedway completed an expansion of the grandstand that had been ongoing for 16 years. The result: 135,000 seats for NASCAR fans. But since the economy crashed in 2008, NASCAR tracks across the country have battled sagging attendance, a problem that has been all too apparent on TV broadcasts showing rows and rows of empty seats. In recent years, track officials have covered some of those empty sections with large banners.

Now, Dover officials are considering removing some seats entirely!

Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment and Dover Motorsports Inc., said there is “serious consideration” of removing seats. In 2011, the track cut capacity from 135,000 to 113,000 by widening seats.

“The last thing I ever wanted to do was take seats down,” McGlynn said. “We had to spend a lot of money and went through a lot of effort to build and fill those seats.”

Company officials would not say when a decision would be finalized. A lot of factors, like sight lines to the track and restroom placement, have to be taken into account.

The track, which opened in 1969, has two Sprint Cup Series races annually, one in the spring, the other in the fall. Track officials estimated that Dover drew 133,000 fans to each of the 2008 Sprint Cup races. In 2012, though, the track estimated crowds at 85,000, according to, a NASCAR-centered website. Estimates are not available for the most recent Dover races.

In July, published reports noted that Dover International Speedway had swaths of empty seats, continuing a trend of declining attendance at the track. Longtime observers told the Associated Press that the crowd was the smallest in years, and NASCAR Chairman Brian France acknowledged during a press briefing that Dover is a market under “a lot of pressure.”

Many attribute declining NASCAR attendance to the costliness of traveling to tracks. For instance, gone are the days when a convoy of RVs would clog U.S. 13 on its way to and from Dover for a race weekend.

McGlynn said attendance at the speedway is on par with 85% of the other tracks on the circuit. But image can be everything. Despite a reduction of seats from the widening effort, the grandstands are still the same size.

“Rather than risk our reputation and lead people to the wrong conclusion that we’re stressed from an attendance standpoint more than any other track, to avoid that, we’re going to reduce capacity physically,” he said.

Dover would be following the lead of other NASCAR tracks, like Daytona and Talladega. The latter, in Alabama, announced in December it was removing an 18,000-seat grandstand. More significantly, Daytona, which hosts the sport’s signature race, the Daytona 500, plans to remove 46,000 seats as part of a $400 million renovation project called “Daytona Rising”.

Company officials say they’re hopeful that this weekend’s race numbers will top last fall’s race, thanks to a new postseason format.(

As an avid race fan, I know all too well the costs of going to a NASCAR race.  For those of us who take a RV to the race it can be very costly.  If you factor in the cost of fuel for the RV, the groceries needed for the week, the costs of tickets, and various ancillary costs, the whole NASCAR scene can rack up more than a thousand dollars!

For those who fly into these races, grab a hotel, a rental car, eat out at the local establishments, etc., their costs would replicate the costs of the RV crowd.

Even for the “locals” the cost of attending a race weekend for, let’s say a family of four, can easily top more than $500, more if you have some choice seats, eat some “race track food”, and imbibe in a few adult beverages!

Add up all the above factors up with the fact that the economy has not really shed any new jobs of monetary substances over the last six years, and you have a major understanding as to the reason that there is a current sag in attendance at all of the race tracks throughout the USA!

Or as I like to put it when viewing the race on TV, “gee there sure is a lot of race fans that have dressed up like empty seats this week!”


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