Numbers have more meaning

A number is used to measure many things in today’s world, but in the realm of auto racing it accounts for much more.

Morgan Shepherd set the record as the oldest driver to compete in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway during the running of the Camping World RV 301 this past Saturday.

The 71-year-old driver piloted the No. 52 Toyota owned by Bob Keselowski to a 41st place finish.

Shepherd surpassed Jim Fitzgerald as the oldest starter in a Cup race. Fitzgerald was 65 years, 6 months, 20 days when he ran at Riverside, Calif., in June 1987. He finished 17th. Shepherd last ran a Cup race in Sept. 2006 at New Hampshire, finishing 42nd.

International Speedway Corporation has decreased seating capacity of its tracks by 17 percent from 2007-2012, cutting capacity from 1.1 million to 909,000. And it pledges more cuts. Daytona International Speedway, which once had 168,000 grandstand seats and currently seats 147,000, will seat a mere 101,000 by 2016. ISC, whose stock is primarily controlled by the NASCAR-owning France family, says it plans to decrease capacity at several more racetracks. Other tracks cutting capacity points to at least a 25 percent reduction from 2007. Company officials said seats without views of pit road don’t deliver as good of an experience. Or seats too far from many of the midway areas or the prerace activities don’t allow fans to take advantage of those amenities.

Sounds like ISC wants to create urgency and worry among ticket buyers. The company doesn’t want fans to wait on the weather. They want fans nervous that if they don’t buy early, at best they will end up disappointed with their seat, or at worst, out of luck because the race sold out. This move is an acknowledgment that fewer people attend live sporting events. Overall spending habits of sports fans have changed and packed grandstands never will again exist.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame’s attendance fell by 10 percent from last year’s numbers, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which manages the racing museum. The Hall of Fame has lost money in its first two years of operation. The Hall of Fame was a positive move for the sport, but poor business decision due to today’s economy.

Fans would rather spend their money on live races than recount the history of the sport.

* Having achieved nearly everything he’d wanted in his racing career, Jack Roush, the 71-year-old captain of industry is planning to cutback on his duties at Roush-Fenway Racing. Roush quietly is moving toward the sidelines. After a quarter-century of owning stock-car teams that have 314 wins in NASCAR and two championships in its premier series, Roush has eased into a role he jokingly labels as public and human relations manager.

His challenge is to give up the management and decision-making commands within the next five years. He wants to spend more time with his five grandchildren who range in age from 8 months to 12 years old.

Contact Eddie Thomas at ethomas@newsandsentinel.com