ISC welcomes ‘stability’ in attendance, admissions for Cup events in third quarter

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The president of International Speedway Corp. described attendance and admission at the company’s Cup races in the third quarter as comparable to the same point last year and “a welcome sign of stability.’’

International Speedway Corp., which owns 12 tracks that annually host Cup races, reported its third-quarter earnings Thursday morning.

ISC hosted Cup races at Daytona, Watkins Glen and Michigan in the third quarter.

Admissions revenue was $22.8 million, a decrease of less than $100,000 compared to the same period in 2016.

Greg Motto, senior vice president and chief financial officer for ISC, said on Thursday’s call with investor analysts that attendance in the third quarter was down slightly for those events but admission revenues were close because of ticket prices. The average ticket price for those events was $85.60, an increase of three percent from last year.

ISC noted that admissions revenue increased at Daytona in July and that reserved grandstands were sold out a third consecutive year at Watkins Glen. John Saunders, president of ISC, said that “some softness” at Michigan’s Cup events offset totals at Daytona and Watkins Glen.

Saunders said that races in the fourth quarter at Darlington, Richmond and Chicagoland Speedway were “in line with expectations.’’ He said advance sales for the remaining races at ISC tracks — Talladega, Kansas, Martinsville, Phoenix and Homestead-Miami Speedway — are “trending comparable to prior year quarter.’’

Saunders later said on the call that ISC advance ticket sales are “trending just up a tick versus last year.’’

“We remain confident our consumer-focused marketing and sales strategy are working to bring ticket sales in line to deliver stronger results,’’ he said.

Saunders noted that ISC is “pleased with the year-over-year to-date increases in the younger demographics attending the events.’’

Asked about challenges for 2018, Saunders said: “Our most popular driver (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) is retiring, while we don’t have any visibility into (first quarter 2018) on any impact there, the good news is that Dale Jr. is going into the booth with NBC, so he will be at the race tracks. Jeff Gordon is in the booth with Fox.

“One of our primary focused areas, in partnership with NASCAR, is we’ve got great young talent coming along. I mentioned Ryan Blaney, there’s Chase Elliott Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, William Byron, a very young, very talented driver. … Building their brands are a key focus area. All sports go through a period of time where big stars … retire and we’re seeing Jeff and Tony Stewart and Dale and others stepping out of the car and so I wouldn’t call it so much a challenge as an opportunity.

“They are very engaging people, they resonate with younger folks. They’re active in engagement in social and digital platforms. I would say that is one of our greatest opportunities for the first quarter and going into 2018.’’

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