NASCAR notebook: Chicagoland Speedway pleased with crowd
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org September 16, 2012 8:50PM
Updated: October 18, 2012 6:12AM
Even though Chicagoland Speedway track president Scott Paddock would not discuss raw numbers, he had to be pleased with the estimated crowd of about 65,000 fans — campers included — at Sunday’s GEICO 400, the first race in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
“There’s additional pressure that comes when you host the first race of the Chase, and I think we hit it out of the park,” Paddock said. “I got that message from our fans and from NASCAR.”
NASCAR senior director of communications Kerry Tharp said NASCAR also was happy with the attendance figure, considering other distractions such as the White Sox and it being an NFL Sunday.
“From the size of the [mile-and-a-half track], they’re not the largest that we race at,” Tharp said. “We race at Charlotte [N.C.] and they have a capacity of in excess of 150,000. They have a good size facility here to meet the demand.”
The turnout was much better than in 2011, the first year that Chicagoland hosted the opening Chase race. In 2011, the race drew an estimated 67,500 fans, but rain forced postponement of the race until the next day, a Monday, which only drew 42,000.
The far left and right sides of the grandstands were basically full with the majority of empty seats in the middle and up high.
The campgrounds in and outside of the infield were near capacity, and Paddock said the number of campers has increased from a year ago.
The 11-year-old venue had a seating capacity of 75,000 until track officials decided to widen the grandstand bench seating. Now the capacity is estimated at 69,000.
Attendance for Saturday’s Dollar General 300 Nationwide race was estimated at 34,000, an improvement from the estimate of 25,000 for the July STP 300 NNS race.
One lap down-ica
Danica Patrick was the first car to go a lap down, when she fell behind the leaders on lap 33 and ended up two laps down and in 25th place. Patrick’s performance was just as disappointing as her Nationwide race on Saturday. Patrick had an ill-handling car in the Dollar General 300 and finished 12th.
Lost a bet
Kurt Busch has family in the Chicago area and is an avowed Cubs and Bears fan. Matt Kenseth is from Cambridge, Wis. and loves the Packers. So the pair made a bet on Thursday night’s Bears game — and Busch lost. As payment, Busch had to wear an Aaron Rodgers jersey to Sunday’s drivers’ meeting.