The loss of racing baron Broton Smith had a huge impact on Texas Motor Speedway and Fort Worth.
Smith, who died in June of this year at the age of 95, brought NASCAR to Fort Worth and built TMS, which opened in 1996.
Had Smith been alive and active, it is doubtful that NASCAR would announce its schedule for 2023 that features just one race at Texas Motor Speedway.
If Eddie Gossage was still the GM at TMS, it’s also doubtful that NASCAR did.
It’s the first time NASCAR has come to TMS once a year since 2004.
TMS officials said they are confident NASCAR will return to Texas Motor Speedway for two races in 2024.
The loss of NASCAR’s history is a small blow to Fort Worth’s tourism economy, but it does match the trajectory that TMS is trying so hard to reverse.
In this age of sports, we may be a market for a single race.
Why Texas Motor Speedway lost a second NASCAR race
Announcing the NASCAR schedule could be indicative of the fluid nature of NASCAR, which is trying everything different tracks, bouncing homes to concerts to attract fans and viewers.
Announcement can be indicative of changes in TMS, both in management, on the course itself, and trends in attendance.
Or, the announcement could be indicative of the upcoming 75th anniversary of NASCAR and the organization’s desire to hold a race in North Carolina.
The NASCAR Cup Series All Star race was at TMS in 2021 and 2022.
The event will run in 2023 at North Wilksboro Speedway in North Carolina.
The last NASCAR race on this track was in 1996; The facility has been dormant for years after NASCAR moved away from smaller tracks to superhighways, such as Las Vegas, Texas, etc.
North Wilksboro Speedway is owned by Speedway Motorsports, Inc. which also owns TMS.
NASCAR drivers, notably retired Dale Earnhardt Jr. , and a campaign of influential NASCAR enthusiasts have longed for the sport to return to tracks like North Wilksboro.
These are the tracks that NASCAR wanted out, to make more money on the larger highways that were being built across the country.
Now, most of these paths are pretty big.
NASCAR’s first TMS races, which began in 1997, drew crowds of over 150,000. The field was full, and the party scene before the night was legendary.
As a result of interest and sales, Gossage repeatedly lobbied NASCAR for a second race.
NASCAR fan Francis Firco has filed a famous lawsuit Both NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports Corp. , which owns TMS, so the second race will be held in Fort Worth.
The parties settled the lawsuit in 2004, and beginning in 2005 NASCAR came to Texas twice a season.
However, in the past 10 years, attendance at NASCAR events has slowly declined in TMS, and across the United States, the overall popularity of the sport is nowhere near what it was around the year 2000.
TMS officials have removed large sections of grandstands, a trend throughout larger highways across the country.
New TMS Vice President and General Manager Mark Faber said this week that the stands currently hold about 46,000, with more available in the field.
To keep fans interested, TMS installed “Big Hoss TV” in 2013, along the back.
It has also invested in other amenities for fans, including a giant “Belly up Bar” and three new outdoor bars.
Sources said one of the reasons NASCAR moved the All-Star race outside of TMS was the poor crowds at the last two events, and the poor visuals it created for TV broadcasts.
A crowd of 60,000 or so seemed to be scattered over the TMS.
When the All-Star Race runs in North Wilksboro, which has a seating capacity of 40,000, it will be full and looking packed.
Another possible reason for moving the race is the unofficial results of the TMS track reconfiguration that was conducted in 2017.
The results led to more one-groove races. Initial response and results for NASCAR’s “next generation” cars running in TMS earlier this season, during the All-Star Race, were less than glowing.
TMS officials hope the NASCAR Cup Series qualifying race scheduled for September 25 will produce the kind of race, and traffic in particular, that fans want to watch.
If the race is another leader’s show race, don’t be surprised if TMS reshapes the track again.
The impact of changing TMS on leadership
Another change in TMS that had an inevitable effect was the change in leadership.
In the past few years prior to his death, Broughton Smith was no longer involved in his company’s operations.
It is now played more than before Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith.
The departure of Gusage, who retired after the 2021 season, has had an impact on TMS. Gossage was an old school NASCAR promoter and salesman.
Gossage was initially replaced as track general manager by Rob Ramage, who had been with the company since 2013. His background was mostly in finance and general counsel rather than merchandising.
Two weeks ago, TMS introduced Faber as Executive Vice President and GM. Faber has a long resume working in sports brands and sports promotions.
His mission is clearly to try to bring TMS back into place with NASCAR and Indy Car, at least.
“The entire world of sports and entertainment is going through a process of ‘couch removal’ – how do we get you out of your family room or media room into the place?” Faber said this week. “I don’t think interest in NASCAR is declining, but what we’ve found is in markets like this, there’s a lot of competition for people’s time.”
Crowds at Indy Car races at TMS have slowly decreased over the years, which is consistent with that of a series other than the Indianapolis 500. The crowd at the Indy Car race at TMS in 2021 appeared to be no more than 20,000.
There has been talk, for years, that Indy Car no longer wants to run in TMS.
Just speak. TMS officials said it has reached a multi-year agreement with Indy Car to stay on the schedule, starting in 2023.
The task now is to entice NASCAR to run the TMS twice again, or to accept the fact that we are now just a market for one race.
This story was originally published September 15, 2022 3:39 pm.