NASCAR – Not Tracks – Needs To Absorb Cost Of Air Titan Drying System

CHARLOTTE, NC (May 28, 2013) – I don’t know about you, but this deal sounds a little wet to me.

On Saturday, NASCAR chairman Brian France made a strong sales pitch for the all-new Air Titan track drying system. Developed and owned by NASCAR, the system reduces track-drying time by forcing standing water off the racetrack through the use of high-pressure blowers and suction trucks. NASCAR debuted the Air Titan system earlier this month at Talladega with reasonable success.

According to ESPN, France is now hawking the system to all facilities on the circuit stating they are “in the process of educating tracks on cost benefits of having the system on hand for their events.”

“In fairness to different tracks, they hadn’t seen that work in a real live condition (before Talladega),” stated France. “Now they have. My hope is that we will get the cost down, number one, and that every track who is in risk of having rain will be using the system.”

Considering that every track is at risk of having rain at it’s events, the last part of France’s statement is pretty tongue-in-cheek humorous. The reference to the cost of the system to the tracks isn’t quite as funny as it’s been rumored that NASCAR is shopping the Air Titan system to the tracks for a cool $100,000 rental fee per Cup race weekend.

That’s right – $100 grand.

That’s sounds like some pricey sucking and blowing – especially when you consider what it is already costing tracks to host a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

For example, this weekend’s FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway will cost the Delaware track $6,432,000 in total purse and sanction fees. That fee is up from $6,236,000 a year ago and almost $400,000 more than the $6,097,000 sanctioning and purse fees in 2011.

And that’s in addition to all the other costs the track has in staging a race. For instance, all tracks must also carry $50 million (per occurrence) in insurance for spectator injury, property damage, legal liability, product liability and advertising liability and $1 million in medical malpractice liability insurance. Other event-based costs include advertising, track personnel, facility maintenance and security just to name a few and all totaling millions of additional dollars in expenditures.

Meanwhile, as expenditures have gone up in recent years, revenue has dipped significantly. In 2005, the spring race at Dover drew a reported crowd of 150,000 fans. The economic crash of 2007 shrunk that number by a whopping 40 percent to 90,000. Since 2010, crowds at the Dover spring race have hovered around the 80,000-85,000 mark.

Now NASCAR reportedly wants the tracks to pony up another $100,000?

A quick look at the Dover ticket sales page on their website indicates fans can purchase tickets for the Sunday’s FedEx 400 for as little as $10 with $235 as the top price.

Simple math tells you that at $10 bucks a head, Dover would have to sell 10,000 more tickets to cover the cost of the Air Titan system this weekend. Meanwhile, not so simple math tells you that an additional 425 seats would have to be sold at $235 to have the system on property for the event.

Given Dover’s recent ticket sales history – and the fact that most season tickets to the track have probably been purchased – the only way the track is going to sell more tickets is if they have ‘chamber of commerce’ weather and a great ‘walk-up’ gate.

And – stay with me here – if the weather is great, Dover wouldn’t need the Air Titan system this weekend, would it? (FYI – the Weather Channel’s 10-day forecast this morning is predicting sunny conditions throughout the weekend with highs in the mid-80’s and just 10 percent chance of rain each day).

I applaud NASCAR for developing the Air Titan system. It is an improvement – to what degree still to be determined – over the traditional jet dryer track drying method used for the last 40-plus years.

That said, if NASCAR and France really want to “get the cost down” of the Air Titan system, they should provide it to each track at a significantly reduced shared cost or better yet, free of charge.

That’s a deal that will hold water for racetracks that are already awash in NASCAR-event related expenses.

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