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Newz Forum: AUTO: NASCAR: Tracks moving to bottleneck the boozing

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posted on Jul, 8 2004 @ 03:16 PM
NASCAR tracks moving toward more family-friendly areas

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - When Mark Spangenberg goes to the track with his wife and teenage daughter, he'd rather not be near the tailgate parties and rowdy drinkers.

And Richmond International Raceway is one of a handful of tracks offering fans like the Spangenbergs a haven of sorts. In three sections of the track 3,300 of the 107,100 seats, fans are prohibited from drinking alcohol.

"We're not against drinking, but when people overdo it, it can take away from the quality time of other people," said Spangenberg, who lives in Huntingdon, Pa., and recently attended a Nextel Cup race in Richmond.

"As we walked in, I didn't appreciate the people who you knew had been drinking asking the young ladies to raise their shirts. If we were to come back again, we would make sure we were in the same section."

Richmond installed its first non-drinking sections in 1988, when it expanded the asphalt oval from 0.542 miles to 0.75.

"Richmond has always prided itself on being a very fan-friendly and family-friendly racetrack," said Keith Green, director of public relations. "The non-alcohol section is just an extension of that policy."

Retired driver Richard Petty, the track's biggest winner with 13 of his NASCAR-record 200 career victories coming here, applauds the idea. Petty Enterprises doesn't accept alcohol-related sponsors.

"My mother wouldn't allow that," Petty said. "We don't look down on any of that stuff. We just don't condone it.

"It was kind of a Bible Belt situation and we all grew up around goin' to the racetrack and there was drunks everywhere."

In addition to Richmond, Darlington (S.C) Raceway has a non-drinking section, according to David Talley, spokesman for International Speedway Corp., which owns 13 tracks.

Other tracks offering dry sections: Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., according to Lauri Wilks, spokeswoman for Speedway Motorsports Inc., which manages six tracks.

Ironic for a sport that began with boys running moonshine through Georgia and the Carolinas in cars they had souped up to run faster than the revenuers.

"With a fan base of 75 million and a good part of it being families, we believe the tracks are serving their guests in a very positive and family-friendly way," NASCAR spokesman Mike Zizzo said.

There is even an alcohol-free family area at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, according to spokesman Eric Powell.

"Our most popular place is the grass viewing mounds on the backstretch of the oval," he said. "Great place for a family picnic while watching the races."

Las Vegas Motor Speedway had a family section in which no alcohol was allowed, but it was lost in last year's conversion to a section with more pricey seating.

At Richmond, guards keep an eye on the non-drinking sections.

Josh Sauter, who worked security at the Nextel Cup race here in May, said he is trained to ask anybody who walks into those sections with a beer to drink it somewhere else.

He also looks for signs of people who may have had a few too many.

"We watch 'em walk up and down the steps every once in a while," he said.

Added security worker Krista Albright: "If there's a problem, we call the cops. We don't get into any confrontation."

In the stands that day, Joey Jacobs of Cromwell, Ind., sat with his wife, Rhonda, and their two children.

"I told my boss we were sitting in a non-drinking section and it about floored him. He said, 'At a NASCAR race?' "


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