Toni Montgomery · Thursday July 7, 2005
At long last ladies and gentleman, here is the Busch column I originally intended to bring to you last week. So if it seems I was a little slow in the uptake on the subject, now you know why. What I'd like to talk about is Milwaukee. Specifically, I'm referring to the size of the crowd at the Busch Series race held at the famous Milwaukee Mile two weeks ago. In case you missed it, there was a packed house on hand.
Not only did it appear on TV as if there were precious few, if any, empty seats, but one of our esteemed staff members here at Frontstretch was in the audience that evening and confirmed that it was indeed as full as it looked on television. So what? They have good crowds at other Busch Series races too. Maybe, but those Busch Series races are usually riding piggy back with a Nextel Cup race that everyone is already in town for. Even more heavy handed, those Busch races may be at tracks where fans are forced to buy a season ticket package for the one race they really want to see and they go because they don't want to waste tickets they already paid for. Milwaukee was neither a companion event to a Cup Series weekend, nor was the ticket part of a season package. They came because they wanted to see the Busch Series.
You might think that maybe the Milwaukee crowd will go out to see anything race and in some places that might be true but I don't think it was the case, at least this year, for Milwaukee. I was also tuned in to the Craftsman Truck Series race the prior evening as well as the Champ Car and ARCA races a few weeks earlier. None of those races had a crowd anywhere near the size of the audience sitting in the stands to see the Busch race.
NASCAR has defended the presence of Buschwhackers in the Busch Series races by saying they are necessary to help sell tickets and generate fan interest in the Busch Series. In this one case anyway, I say horse puckies. Because the Milwaukee Busch Series race ran the evening before the Cup Series raced halfway across the country at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, there was only one lone Cup driver in the field in the person of Carl Edwards, who is planning to juggle the logistical nightmare of running all of the Cup and all of the Busch races this season.
So here we have a Busch Series race that was not loaded with Cup drivers to attract fan attention and help stimulate ticket sales, and yet there was a full house on hand in the grandstands. Do you think it's possible all of those fans turned out to see simply the Busch Series? Maybe it was an attraction because the concept of seeing only Busch drivers racing was a novelty. Because there are only a handful of stand alone Busch Series races and only a few of them far enough away or in conflict with the Cup schedule enough to keep the Cup drivers out of them, Milwaukee does almost seem like a novelty. I'll be curious to see if Pike's Peak, the other difficult stop on the double duty circuit fares as well.
I know the numbers are likely imbalanced in favor of those fans who do want to see Cup drivers race whenever they can, but I do wonder if there's not a segment of the fan population that will be alienated and stop buying tickets to companion Busch races because they don't want to see nothing but Cup drivers out there. I might count myself among that group. If that is the case, these fans might choose to go to stand alone races only. Incidentally, that's something that I will be doing myself. I'm much closer to Dover but skipped their Busch race. Instead I will be getting my next dose of Busch Series live action at Gateway in St. Louis. I am aware that I might still have some Buschwhackers to contend with however because Gateway is on an off Cup weekend. Those Cup drivers who do not want to take one last weekend away from the track for the season might still show up.
There was of course one other theory I came up with to explain the large crowd at the Milwaukee Mile. It's also possible Johnny Sauter, a Wisconsin native, invited all of his family and friends for a Sauter family reunion. I know that sounds crazy, but he did the same thing a few years ago. Sauter is one of nine children, I believe, and from what I understand the Sauter's are pretty keen on large families. It's a sizeable crowd if you throw in all of his siblings' spouses and children. When you start to add cousins the numbers get mind boggling. Even if that did account for a large part of the crowd, at least they still came to see a Busch regular.
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