Economy taking its toll on the big NASCAR weekend

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - It may be early, but so far things were looking pretty empty at Richmond International Raceway around noon today. Only a few people scattered about here and there. Meanwhile, the gate attendants talking among themselves.

In the small crowd is Jeffrey Myers, at the track for what he said is about the seventh year in a row. For the first time, the economy is putting a damper on this trip.

"A whole lot less, a whole lot less. I'm unemployed now and it's hitting us really hard at home," Myers said.

Usually he'd turn over hundreds of dollars to the merchandise trailers. "None of that is going to happen. Pretty much race tailgating and that's pretty much about it," adds Myers.

A common story these days, even at the track known as the one where sell outs are the norm. Tickets are still available here for both Friday and Saturday night races. As for a sell-out, forget about it, because race officials are not expecting it.

It's not expected.

"People are just holding onto their money the way things are right now," says Richie Denzler with the Raceway public relations office.

One person who isn't planning on holding on their money is Mark Venedam, in Richmond this weekend all the way from Canada.

"I haven't been affected too much by the economy," says Venedam. "I've been lucky with the job. So far so good."

The workers are hoping more people like Mark show up this weekend. As for inside the gates, race officials are hoping a lot of the empty seats we saw on Friday morning are filled up by those last minute buyers.

"We've made up a huge amount of ground the last few weeks," adds Denzler.

Yet there's no doubt, a lot of people will be cutting corners this year on the spending at this short track.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.