04/24 17:45 CDT Richmond hoping track access boosts fan experience
Richmond hoping track access boosts fan experience
HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) --- They are calling it "Track Takeover" at Richmond
International Raceway, and track President Dennis Bickmeier hopes allowing fans
onto the racing surface a few hours before race time on Saturday night will not
only improve their experience at the 0.75-mile oval, but bring more of them, or
bring them back.
"This is a way to give people that access and let them kind of see the sport up
close, or a little closer," Bickmeier said Thursday. "This sport defined
access, and we've got to keep that going."
At a time when most agree the racing in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series has been
better than in several years, tracks are always looking for ways to bring fan
support back up to the days when it sold itself.
In those days, Richmond was like most other places, selling out 18 consecutive
"They focused on selling the Friday night race," Bickmeier said. "We're not
Richmond has opened the front-stretch before, but only for a section off the
front stretch. On Saturday night, fans will be able to walk the entire surface,
take in live music, tour a NASCAR hauler and pose for pictures at key spots in
the track's history. They also are encouraged to share those pictures on social
media, a vehicle the track has used to try and highlight its status as an
enjoyable place to visit.
Bickmeier, with a little prompting from Dale Earnhardt Jr., on Twitter, even
used that vehicle to land Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III as
Saturday night's honorary starter. Earnhardt suggested RG3 as Grand Marshal,
Bickmeier offered honorary starter and Griffin was more than willing.
The idea for Track Takeover came from a more conventional source --- a survey
the track did with ticket-holders from the past who stopped coming when the
economy tanked, ending the sellout streak.
"One of the things that really registered was they said they wanted more to
do," he said.
"Ever since we've announced it, I've been to Martinsville and Darlington
leading up to this race, and people are stopping me and saying, 'Hey, that
track thing you're doing? That's sounds pretty cool.'" he said, adding that
while the reaction has been good, he has no idea how many will actually take
"We don't know if we're going to have hundreds of fans, or thousands."
Bickmeier, who met Thursday afternoon with six campers, one of whom he'd been
emailing back and forth with over one of her concerns, will be out on the track
for the takeover, making sure it's running smoothly from an operations
standpoint, but also interacting with the fans he's hoping to impress.
He's also considering sky-diving into the track with the green flag, perhaps in
"You never know," he said, "at what level you are going to engage with a fan."
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