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ISC stock sinks sharply, with ticket sales down 15 to 20 percent


Matt Kenseth winning February's 500 at ISC's California Auto Club Speedway: Needed, more fans in the stands (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Slumping ticket sales, a drop-off in track-side hospitality suite sales, and a sharply declining market for NASCAR souvenirs have combined to hit stock car racing hard this spring, and Tuesday the France family's race track empire, publicly-owned International Speedway Corp (ISCA) plummeted nearly 25 percent.
   The trigger was a conference call with investors delineating all those issues, and projecting a less-than-rosy 2009 for the sport and an economic rebound not likely until 2010.
   The stock, which has traded at a 52-week high of $44.75, closed Tuesday at $18.62
   Some are downgrading the stock to a 'sell' from 'hold.'
   John Saunders, ISC's chief operating officer, led the conference call.
   He said advance ticket sales at ISC tracks are down 20 percent compared to 2008.
  And Saunders said "Based on the current economic reports, we do not anticipate seeing any recovery in the economy until sometime in 2010."
   Analysts had expected profits of 62 cents a share for the first quarter; ISC, however, reported earnings of only 52 cents a share. Last year for the same period ISC earned 71 cents a share.
    However Saunders added that Detroit's own problems, while hurting, will not be any devastating blow: "Any reduced spending in NASCAR will not lead to the sport's demise."
   Saunders said that Ford, General Motors and Chrysler altogether spent between $480 million to $495 million in 2007 on all sponsorship programs. Toyota's sponsorship figures weren't included.
   Saunders also said that about 10 percent of ISC's "partner revenue" came from the four automakers.
   Saunders pointed to the pending casino moves in Kansas City by the ISC and said the earliest Kansas Speedway could get that second Sprint Cup weekend would be 2011.
   On the call ISC noted that weak crowds at its Los Angeles track, Auto Club Speedway, contributed to the decreased revenues.
   Overall ISC says it expects track admission over the whole season could be down as much as 15 percent.
   But it accentuated the positive – that ISC's big money comes from its TV packages, and they are locked in, regardless of TV ratings, which have been going down for about two years now. So far this season ratings are off more than 10 percent from last year.
   However ISC says the overall ratings for the Cup tour are averaging 6.0, which ISC says means 10 million viewers watching each event. And ISC said NASCAR racing has been "the number one sporting event on television, four of the six event weekends."

Enough with the second race

Enough with the second race at Kansas talk. I don't care if they move Disney World there, that track has no business having a second date. It's the most boring race on the schedule, and that's saying something with California and New Hampshire on the same schedule.

The economy isn't the only thing sinking ISC. Cookie-cutter tracks that produce boring races are not what fans want. Besides just thinking about adding a date at Kansas, which track is going to lose one? It better be from another boring track. If they take one from any of the short tracks then I hope ISC goes bankrupt. Enough is enough with them continually making bad decisions and the fans expected to keep filling seats in spite of them.

i do agree that sometimes too

i do agree that sometimes too many high ranking executives in this sport seem to be living 'in the bubble' and are too isolated from the real fans.

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