Gillian Zucker  Photo by Lynne Huntting
Gillian Zucker Photo by Lynne Huntting

GILLIAN ZUCKER, President of Auto Club Speedway met with the Media mid-point Sunday during the NASCAR  Sprint Cup race. She admitted that the ticket sales were pretty close to flat and blamed it on the bad economy. “Overall, we had similar crowds to the past.” Zucker outlined all the many things the track had some to promote the race. “I can’t imagine what it is we aren’t doing.”

Among some of the more innovative ideas included building special packages around drivers, such as DALE EARNHARDT, Jr and JUAN PABLO MONTOYA. There was an emphasis on reaching the first-time fans, with a personalized Race Fan 101 kind of package so newbies could get acclimated to the 500-acre facility, find their way around and take advantage of everything. There were quite a few new fans this year.

Zucker was proud of the diverse crowd – twenty percent Latino, with a growth in the youth market. She was pleased with the great media support.

Auto Club Speedway marketed all over Southern California, especially San Diego – hometown of the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, JIMMIE JOHNSON/No.48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. In addition to main media, all stops were pulled out for an entire media mix.

NASCAR has done a lot to help ACS in promotion and there has been talk of making the fall race a 400-mile race (rather than 500 miles). This would provide more driver competition and tie in with several other NASCAR 400-mile races.

The so-called “Danica Bump” was credited for bringing a lot of attention to the sport. However, Earnhardt was also a marketing tool. Patrick brought a slight increase in consumer response.  Zucker reminded the media that we haven’t seen a rise in the economy. But there were long lines at the Patrick merchandise trailer.

Zucker talked about attendance. “There is too much emphasis on sellouts. We have 92,000 seats – not everyone does. But again, she admitted “we’re pretty  much flat.”

The track had a wide variety of packages, ranging in price from $35 to $105. The lower priced tickets sold out before the race. The more expensive tickets, often used for corporate sponsorship hospitality, didn’t fare quite as well. But, Zucker added – there is free parking and fans can bring their own food.

If Zucker had her choice for her two race dates, she’d select April and October, two great months for good California weather. “There aren’t many race tracks good for February racing.” One upside of the mid-February date is coming right off the Daytona 500 and the momentum it brings. Last weekend’s victor, JAMIE McMURRAY/No.1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, helped a lot in this weekend’s race promotion and gave a media lift. And Los Angeles fans like winners.

While Zucker would personally prefer a later race start time for ACS, she acknowledged that it helps knowing when the race would start, referring to NASCAR’s new policy of standardized start times.

There was a big Saturday walkup crowd and a lot on Sunday.