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Racing series feel economic pinch

The off-road stadium built a year ago in Primm should be packed with fans this weekend to watch the Championship Off Road Racing series.

But it won’t be.

There will be no racing and no influx of visitors — and their money — to Buffalo Bill’s, located adjacent to the track.

About 8,000 spectators attended each of the two days of CORR racing there in May, but Southern Nevada and a live NBC telecast slated for Sunday have been dumped.

A statement from CORR owner Jim Baldwin announcing the cancellation three weeks ago said the “credit crisis has made it very difficult to cover CORR’s costs.” And that was before Wall Street was discovered to have more bumps than an off-road course.

A source close to the series said a group of CORR team owners met recently to discuss how to get CORR out of its financial dust cloud.

Baldwin, like many other racers, has viewed ownership of a racing series as buying a cash cow. Well, those chips haven’t fallen the way he expected.

CORR isn’t the only form of racing spinning out from the global economic crash.

Formula One is working to limit the cost for teams in the world’s richest and most popular series. F1 has dropped events in Canada and France from the 2009 calendar for financial reasons.

Even NASCAR is feeling the pinch. Attendance and TV ratings are dipping.

American automakers are in trouble. Ford, whose shares have dropped 69 percent this year, will continue with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series but will end direct financial support of the Nationwide and truck series.

Dodge pulled its support of NASCAR truck teams this year, and General Motors has cut back sponsorship of NASCAR races and tracks.

Daytona International Speedway is considering offering discounted ticket packages for next year’s season opener, which has sold out nearly every year. It’s like the NFL offering discount tickets for the Super Bowl.

The rush of corporations wanting to join the motor sports party has slowed more than Kyle Busch’s run to the Cup championship.

Even Las Vegas Motor Speedway has found it tough to sell primary sponsorship for its March 2 Cup race despite it being one of the most successful NASCAR events in attendance, TV ratings and popularity.

“It has been more challenging this year,” speedway president Chris Powell said.

He adds that sluggish ticket sales in NASCAR are an offshoot of the economic environment. “We’re not immune to that, and NASCAR and all sports are not immune to that,” he said.

Powell began advertising to sell Cup tickets earlier than in previous years and is focusing more on motor sports publications and televised races to better reach NASCAR fans.

Not all is woe. Powell said advance ticket sales for next weekend’s NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series event are matching numbers from last year’s ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals.

The flow of discretionary entertainment dollars has become more like sludge than an open tap. Paying mortgages, bills and feeding the family are more important.

Tracks — maybe even the one in Las Vegas — are going to have to begin offering more deals to its customers.

Jeff Wolf’s motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com. Visit Wolf’s motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week.

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