ISC cites absence of Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr., Tony Stewart as impacting admission revenue in 2016

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International Speedway Corp. cited the impact of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart missing races as among the reasons for a decline in admission revenue last year at its tracks.

International Speedway Corp. reported its fourth quarter and yearly earnings Thursday morning in a conference call with investor analysts.

Gordon retired after the 2015 season but returned in 2016 after Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered a concussion and drove in select races. Earnhardt missed the final 18 races of the season. Stewart was injured before the season and missed the opening eight races last year.

ISC reported that its fourth-quarter admissions revenue was down about 9.3 percent from the previous year. The track hosted Cup races at Darlington Raceway, Richmond International Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Martinsville Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Earnhardt missed all of those races. Gordon drove in only three of those events (Darlington, Richmond and Martinsville). Stewart competed in each event.

For the year, admissions revenue was down about 5 percent for the company.

“We believe several factors influenced the softened attendance of 2016,’’ said John Saunders, president of ISC, during Thursday’s conference call. “The impact of Jeff Gordon’s retirement was underestimated, which was compounded with Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. missing races throughout the season. The lack of activation from the outgoing series sponsor (Sprint) and the distraction of the presidential election season further exacerbated the situation.’’

ISC announced on the call that three of its 19 Cup races sold out in 2016 — the Daytona 500, Watkins Glen and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Saunders said that advance sales for the Feb. 26 Daytona 500 were at comparable levels to last year’s event at this time. ISC is “optimistic” the race will sell out again. 

Saunders also said that advance ticket sales for upcoming races at Auto Club Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway were “trending slightly ahead” compared to last year.

Saunders noted the impact on corporate sponsorship Monster Energy would have as new series sponsor for NASCAR’s Cup Series.

“It is important to note that 2016 was the last year of our revenue-included agreements between ISC and Sprint for various inventory and activation rights at ISC racetracks,’’ Saunders said. “These agreements were negotiated in the mid-2000s, pre-recession.

“While we currently expect to have similar agreements in place with Monster Energy, we anticipate the economics of the agreements will result in a reset for 2017.’’

Saunders estimates that ISC’s corporate sales will decline by 1 percent in 2017  “due to the reset.’’ Excluding the reset for the Monster deals, ISC forecasts a 1 to 2 percent increase in corporate sales.

In other items:

— Three of ISC’s 20 Cup races this year either have the event sponsorship open or yet to be announced.

— Three of ISC’s 14 Xfinity races this year either have the event sponsorship open or yet to be announced.

— Average ticket price for a Cup event at an ISC track in the fourth quarter declined to $79.92, down from $80.36 for the same quarter a year earlier.

— For the full year, the average ticket price for a Cup event at an ISC track was $90.12, an increase of 5.4 percent. ISC officials cited Daytona’s pricing as a reason for the increase.

— On new series sponsor Monster Energy, Saunders said: “We’re encouraged. Monster Energy speaks to a younger demographic, which is promising for us. … They’re all about fun and activation. … They’re thinking outside of the box, and I think it is going to bring a whole new live entertainment component to the Cup weekends.’’

— On the enhanced formats that NASCAR announced this week, Saunders said: “What we’ve seen from fans is overwhelmingly positive.’’

— For the full report for International Speedway Corp. go here.

— Also, Dover Motorsports Inc., issued its earnings report Thursday. Dover also reported lower admissions revenue. The company plans to spend about $300,000 during the first quarter of 2017 to remove portions of the grandstand. The company also announced that the closing of the sale of Nashville Superspeedway should take place in the second quarter of 2017. For more on Dover’s report, go here.

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