Gary Camp of Dover International Speedway is optimistic about NASCAR’s format enhancements for its three national race series.
The changes, announced Jan. 23 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, emphasize aggressive racing and strategy with the goal of delivering more dramatic moments over the course of a race and season.
Camp, recently promoted to assistant vice president of marketing and communications for Dover International Speedway, said the races should be more interesting. The June 2 World Truck Series will be Dover’s first race under the new format.
“Hopefully those changes across all the NASCAR series will create a lot more excitement on the track and a lot more urgency for the drivers to compete aggressively,” said Camp, who has been with the speedway for 13 years. “Hopefully fans in the stands will reap the benefits.”
Camp said races previously were 400 miles nonstop and “it’d be nearly a four-hour race for someone in the stands, which can sometimes have its ups and downs in terms of action on the track.”
Now there are segments in the new format. Within a 400-mile race there’s going to be a 100-mile race and a winner, another 100-mile race and a winner and then the 200-mile finale and the winner of the race.
Camp discussed the state of NASCAR, ticket sales in Dover and how he’s trying to draw younger race fans.
Who's your favorite driver?
Kurt Busch has always been a really great guy. He's very aware of folks in the industry and the role that everybody plays to make the sport go. I had one particular experience with him that always stuck in my mind and makes me think really favorably of him. I was at the track on a race weekend one night, wrapping up some stuff.
I got a call from Kurt Busch saying he ran into some fans at a restaurant he was at. One of the guys ways a veteran and he wanted to set him up with tickets to the race and pit passes. He was really trying to extend a nice opportunity to this guy he met. I think the man had just lost his job and had been down on his luck. We were able to get him squared away and set up. I saw the fellow the next time and he was appreciative and had a great time.
Right before race, there's a mad dash sometimes into the media center by the drivers to use the restroom. Kurt ran in. I said hello to him, but he sort of blew by me. I didn't think much of it at the time honestly, because I knew he was focused on doing what he had to do and getting back in his race car.
I think it was the Monday after our race on Sunday, I got a call from Kurt Busch and he called to apologize for blowing by me so fast and not stopping to say hello and thanked me for the help with the veteran. I thought it was really impressive.
Will you do anything different this year?
We’re trying to add to the fan experience by making more drivers available to the masses, as opposed to using a lot of drivers in specific hospitality areas. We’re trying to concentrate on making more driver appearances open to the public so fans can get to catch a glimpse or hear a Q&A with their favorite drivers.
Can you describe the state of NASCAR?
I think it’s honestly in a good spot. Visually there are less fans that attend the races in person. But it’s still certainly a huge event, the largest sporting event that happens in the state of Delaware for sure. The way the sport is consumed is just so different now. The TV product is so great at home that everyone seems to have a 65-inch HD TV in their homes. From a total eyeballs watching the sport perspective, it’s probably declined slightly. But there’s just as many enthusiastic fans out there cheering for their favorite drivers as there ever has been.
Can you tell us about 2016 attendance?
It was about flat. The last couple of years had about the same quantity of ticket sales. Our hardcore fans, fans that really love seeing races and will make the trip to Dover, sort of leveled off and has been consistent. We’re working that out, trying to bring new fans into the sport and into Dover and introduce them to the property.
We know that some of our older fans have aged out or their favorite drivers have retired, or it’s not as easy for them to come to the events anymore. So our focus right now is on youth marketing and really talking to young kids and try to get them engaged in the sport and bring them out to the property.
We have junior pricing right now where they can come and see the races on Friday and Saturday for free. On Sunday for the big race, now called the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race, a ticket to that race for anyone 12 or under is only $10. It’s really affordable or as affordable as attending a minor league baseball game.