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Some NASCAR Tracks Cut Seating

As demand has shrunk for NASCAR tickets, so have the superspeedways that hold Sprint Cup races.

Several tracks have sliced their grandstand capacities by several thousand seats after a 2009 season in which attendance was flat or down at virtually every race. Among the biggest drops are Daytona International Speedway (168,000 to 146,000) and Phoenix International Raceway, which dropped by 20,000 seats. With a seating capacity of 56,000, Phoenix now has the coziest oval grandstands on the series behind Darlington Raceway and Martinsville Speedway (both 63,000) despite being one of NASCAR's largest markets.

Noting many other professional sports leagues have built venues with more intimate seating, International Speedway Corp. chief operating officer Roger VanDerSnick says bigger isn't necessarily better anymore.

"My philosophy is don't let PR drive a business decision," says VanDerSnick, whose company owns Phoenix, Darlington, Daytona and nine other Cup tracks. "Phoenix is a nice market, but it's been hit hard. This is an opportunity to take valuable real estate that wasn't going to be used and turn it into amenities."

The cost often is negligible because seats are widened rather than being removed. Phoenix and Richmond International Raceway (which reduced capacity by 12,000) expanded seat width from 18 to 22 inches to address a frequent complaint from fans, according to Phoenix track President Bryan Sperber.

"We think guests are going to appreciate the extra room," Sperber says.

ISC has slashed prices on 500,000 tickets, about a third of total capacity for its 19 Cup races. Though the Daytona 500 (which opens the season Feb. 14) has tickets available, VanDerSnick says ISC has seen a slight uptick in corporate sales, which plummeted last year.

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