Saturday’s Southern 500 in Darlington turned out to be a full crowd, even in the depth of a recession. For the first time in five years, the event was not a sell out, but there were less than 2000 tickets left four hours before the starting flag fell. The Darlington stands hold 62-thousand spectators.
Apparently, it’s an annual tradition for many race fans and they were willing to make the sacrifice if it were at all possible to attend.
But Tom Nicks of North Carolina sells racing caps and t-shirts at the so-called “NASCAR City” surrounding the track. He travels to approximately five races a year but says this year he’ll be lucky to break even. He says people are attending the races but not spending any extra cash . “People like Darlington. It’s a nice track and always has been. So they come down here but they can’t afford to spend no money. They’re just glad to be able to make it to the races, is what they tell me. I say God bless ’em. I’m just glad they’re able to have a good time, you know?”
AleJandro Ramos(AH-lee-han-dro RHA-mos) of Gainesville, Florida, originally from Venezuela, is one of the entrepreneurs who transported up to six patrons at a time around the outside of the giant track from the parking areas, driving a bicycle-powered rickshaw–at a cost of up to $30 a ride. He said HIS business was great. “It is very good. I hear from some other guys that it’s a little slower than usual. But any business that doesn’t involve gas, like this one, is ok right now.”
There were race fans like Kim Ultradime of Lumberton, North Carolina, who says he and his wife would not have been able to attend the race without free tickets given to him at his workplace. “No, I ain’t got no money. But we rode with the neig hbors and that didn’t cost us anything either.”
Jeff Tims from Coorsville, California said that his wife allows him a trip to an out-of-state NASCAR race every year, and this year he chose the historic track in South Carolina. “This is it this year. I picked Darlington, the classic, old fashion NASCAR track.”
But Tims, who works with the California Department of Corrections, says his job is secure, and he actually received a cheaper ticket package because of the economy.