CONCORD – At a critical time for the racing industry, Concord-based Speedway Motorsports, Inc. turned a reported second quarter net income of $27 million, up from a $28 million loss in the same period last year.
"The economy continues to put a strain on our corporate prospects, however we remain positive about the level of interest we've seen," said Marcus Smith, the company's chief operating officer.
Speedway Motorsports operates eight tracks across the country, including Charlotte Motor Speedway. Smith said he is encouraged by the numbers.
"Corporations are finding value in aligning their brands with motorsports events."
But for the most part, the recession means a big yellow caution flag for racing. Attendance is down or flat at NASCAR races – at SMI-owned tracks and other venues.
Fans noticed it at the spring races at Charlotte.
"I think people are using their money more strategically,” said Corinne Economaki, executive director of the North Carolina Motorsports Association. “If a fan might go to five or eight races a year, now he might go to three or four.”
Racing's deep roots in the Tar Heel state mean its successes and failures have a major impact here.
"North Carolina benefits greatly from it's association with motorsports and vice versa," Economaki said.
Race fans also aren't spending as much on souvenirs, so companies like Speedway Motorsports are investing heavily in social media and other ways to reach fans. Economaki believes it's a smart bet.
"They're doing an awful lot in that regard and I think that will pay off in the long run."
Another key indicator of racing's health is television ratings. SMI executives say they're pleased with the viewing trends so far this season.
"The races have held up well within the overall consumption of NASCAR related content in various medium,” said Smith.
The company said despite the economic uncertainty, it still plans to hit its year-end revenue estimates, though Smith cautioned that changes in gas prices or unemployment could put the final results in jeopardy.