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ISC issues third quarter report, discusses attendance for Sprint Cup events

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International Speedway Corp. held its conference call with investor analysts Thursday morning to detail results from the third quarter.

ISC hosted four Sprint Cup weekends during the third quarter, which ended Aug. 31 — two races at Michigan, Daytona in July and Watkins Glen. For the full financial report, go here.

Among the items mentioned in the nearly hour-long conference call:

— Admissions for comparable Cup events was up about 1 percent compared to the same time last year. This was mostly attributed to the Daytona race in July. In 2015, the seating capacity was reduced to about 50,000 for the Daytona summer race as construction continued on the grandstand. The stadium debuted at this year’s Daytona 500 with 101,500 seats.

— Watkins Glen had a second consecutive sellout this year.

— Michigan International Speedway saw admission declines for both its Sprint Cup events.

— The average ticket price for the four Cup races at ISC tracks in the third quarter was $83.11. That’s an increase of about 8 percent from the same period last year. The increase was mainly generated by the new seating and pricing at Daytona.

— The average ticket price for all Cup races at ISC tracks through the first nine months of the year is $96.14. That’s an increase of about 8 percent, also driven by pricing at Daytona.

— For the fourth quarter, ISC reported lower attendance-related revenue for Cup weekends at Darlington, Richmond and Chicagoland Speedway. Advance sales for the remaining events at ISC tracks (Kansas, Talladega, Martinsville, Phoenix and Homestead) are down 10 percent on average. ISC officials anticipate a sellout for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

— In response to a question about admissions and the future of the sport, John Saunders, president of ISC, said on the call: “On the attendance side, we’re doing a number of things internally where we are looking at the next generation of fans and how we reach them. We’ve talked before about aging fans, avid fans that are aging out. We have repositioned resources within the company and are currently working through and resourcing how we recruit the next generation of fans. We’ve got to be very aggressive in the next phrase and we are. We’re ramping it up more than ever. … We’ve got great racing, but we’ve got to get these folks to the track, we’ve got to get them exposed to the live experience and from there we’ll build retention.’’

— In response to another question about attendance, Saunders noted the changing landscape of Cup drivers (both Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are scheduled to drive their final Sprint Cup races this season). Saunders said: “We find ourselves in the sport with star-power opportunities, I won’t call them challenges, I will call them opportunities. We have a generation of drivers who are starting to retire and we believe that’s having an impact. … What’s key for us on the attendance side is to stay focused on our consumer strategies, really, really honing in on the live entertainment value of these events, the social experience of these events and building that driver connectivity, star power, we’ve got great drivers coming up through the ranks.’’

— ISC exceeded its corporate sales target by about 12 percent from 2015.

— From 2017-2021, ISC plans to spend $500 million on capital expenditures. ISC has stated that redevelopment construction at Phoenix International Raceway will begin in 2017 and continue through late 2018.

— Daytona International Speedway’s stands suffered no structural damage from Hurricane Matthew.

 

NASCAR America: Matt DiBenedetto on Indy success with small team

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Matt DiBenedetto has just three top-10 finishes in his three years of competing in the NASCAR Cup Series. But two of them have come this year in two of the biggest races in the sport.

DiBenedetto, who drives the No. 32 Ford for Go Fas Racing, finished ninth in the Daytona 500 in February and eighth in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

DiBenedetto, who was also celebrating his 26th birthday, joined NASCAR America to discuss his run at Indy and what is considered a successful race for his team, which has 15 crew members.

“You’ve got to keep it in the perception of your versions of wins are a little bit different than everybody else’s version,” DiBenedetto said. “We look at it as who we’re racing around. I would say on a regular week where there’s not a ton of chaos like Indy was, a top 20 is a really good day. A top 25 is if we just do our job.”

Watch the video for the full segment.

Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger unveil Darlington throwback schemes

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Both Chase Elliott and AJ Allmendinger have revealed the paint schemes they’ll drive in the Sept. 3 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Elliott will use his No. 24 Chevrolet to pay tribute to the car his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, drove in his first Cup start.

The light blue look was on his No. 9 car when he started in the Feb. 29, 1976 race at Rockingham Speedway.

The car was revealed on Facebook in the below video.

AJ Allmendinger will pay tribute to two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte with his No. 47 Chevrolet.

The car will resemble the No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Oldsmobile that Labonte drove in during the 198 Cup season when he competed for owner Billy Hagan.

NASCAR America: Felix Sabates: ‘I’m lucky to be here’ after near-death experience from illness last year

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For nearly a month last year Felix Sabates was at death’s door.

The fears were so great that Sabates might not wake up from a coma he spent 29 days in, Chip Ganassi bought a blue suit for the possibility he might have to attend his co-owner’s funeral.

But the 71-year-old made a full recovery through a rehab process that included learning to walk again.

NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty and Sabates have a special relationship. Petty drove the No. 42 car for Sabates’ SABCO Racing for eight years in the 1980s and 1990s, winning six of his eight Cup races for the millionaire owner from Cuba.

Sabates sat down with Petty to discuss the ordeal, which began in January 2016 when Sabates began feeling ill during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I came home and woke up the next morning and I (couldn’t) breath,” said Sabates, who drove himself to the hospital. “The minute they saw me I was in intensive care.”

Sabates was in the hospital for two and half weeks before he was released, but Sabates “should’ve know I wasn’t cured.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner returned to his usual grind until it caught up to him in August.

“My blood pressure was through the roof, my oxygen level was 55, which you should be dead then,” recalled Sabates, who has no memory of a three-month stretch. “They thought was I was brain-dead. They were pretty much going to disconnect me. So 4 o’clock in the morning, they took my tubes out.”

That’s when Sabates began the process of waking up.

“I’m lucky to be here,” said Sabates, who aside from being back at the track is also back to playing golf.

“I used to worry about little things,’ Sabates said. “Now I don’t even worry about big things.”

The full feature will air Sunday on Countdown to Green, which begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN before the Cup race at Pocono.

NASCAR America: Ryan Blaney glad Team Penske news is finally out in the open

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On Wednesday it was finally announced that Ryan Blaney would move from Wood Brothers Racing to Team Penske full-time next year in the Cup Series in the No. 12 Ford while Paul Menard will take over the No. 21 Ford.

NASCAR America’s Dave Burns caught up with Blaney on Thursday. Blaney was happy that his 2018 plans were finally public knowledge.

Blaney also acknowledged how a technical alliance between the two teams helped Wood Brothers Racing return to a competition level that allowed Blaney to get his first Cup win this season earlier this year.

“That was a big deal,” Blaney said. “That was getting us to where we could run a full-time season. That was really helpful not only to me but to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins, will be coming with me to the 12 car.”

Blaney has been driving for Team Penske part-time in the Xfinity Series since 2012.

“It’s been nice to get the news and tell everybody finally about what we’re doing,” Blaney said. “But mainly we’re trying to finish this year out strong with the Wood Brothers, getting their 100th win, that’s really big. That’s on my bucket list for this year and getting as far as we can in the playoffs.”

The No. 21 team returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend, the site of Blaney’s first Cup win last month.

Watch the video for the full interview.