Homestead NASCAR weekend may generate South Florida's largest sports-related impact
By Sherri C. Ranta
Three season-ending races at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend are expected to reinforce the track officials' position that it is South Florida's largest sports-related generator of economic impact.
The 2000 NASCAR weekend generated about $120 million in economic impact for the region, but this year's event is expected to push those numbers higher, said Curtis Gray, president of Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"For the last three years, our NASCAR weekend has generated the largest amount of economic impact of any sporting event in South Florida. We look for that number to go higher this year because it's a four-day event," he said.
Homestead-Miami Speedway will host three NASCAR races this year rather than two, plus a day of pre-race practice and qualifying trials. The weekend schedule includes practice and qualifying today (11/14), the Craftsman Truck race Friday, Busch Grand National on Saturday and the Winston Cup on Sunday.
"All three races will end their seasons at Homestead," Mr. Gray said. "Never in the history of NASCAR have they ended at one track. That's unprecedented."
Track officials have also secured the three season-ending races for 2003, he said. "It makes sense to end the season down here. It gives more exposure to the truck series being tied into the Busch and Winston Cup races."
Season-ending races in South Florida, Mr. Gray said, also give the teams, drivers, officials, fans and their families a chance to stay a few days for a mini-vacation.
This year, he said, some NASCAR officials are planning a cruise out of Miami after the race. Many of the drivers, he said, plan to stay and go fishing. Many fans also plan mini-vacations around the races.
Weston-based Sports Management Research Institute will complete another economic impact study for the track, Mr. Gray said, specifically focusing on this year's NASCAR races.
The firm's study of the 2000 NASCAR race found the three-day event - two races and one day of qualifying and practice - generated about $120 million in economic impact in South Florida.
The firm also found the track generated about $175 million in economic impact for the year.
"This facility is in operation 200 days a year. That's why the economic impact numbers are so high," Mr. Gray said. "Everybody who comes to our events usually come from out of state, so they're staying here in South Florida."
While track officials will not predict attendance or ticket sales, local observers expect about 150,000 people to attend events at the track during the four days.
The fans, sports teams, owners, NASCAR officials and support personnel will stay in hotels throughout South Florida, Mr. Gray said, including Homestead, Miami, Miami Beach and the Florida Keys.
About 140 racing teams, with 15 to 20 people per team, will travel to the track during the nationally televised events, he said. They will come with 150 large transporters to haul the cars and equipment.
The track will host 800 recreational vehicles, 90 souvenir trailers and 28,000 cars Sunday. Four hundred private airplanes and 600 helicopter flights are expected, he said. The track has three helicopter pads, he said.
The RVs will park on an additional 83 acres the track bought this year from City of Homestead.
About 1,200 South Florida volunteers - teachers, sports booster groups, retired police and other organizations - will work at the track providing information, parking and clean-up services. International Speedway Corp., owner of Homestead-Miami Speedway, will contribute about $100,000 to these organizations for their services, Mr. Gray said.
"The whole motorsports world will be focused on one place on this weekend. We're really lucky to be able to host this big event in South Florida."
Another first for NASCAR, he said, is Ford's sponsorship of the entire weekend - called Ford Championship Weekend. Sponsors usually back one or two races.
"It says a lot about the event that they would step up and sponsor the whole weekend," he said.
The agreement with Ford was reached in mid-year, Mr. Gray said. "We don't have to teach them anything about the sport to move their product. They already know," he said. Many of the cars being raced this weekend are Fords.
Locally there are opportunities for small and large businesses at the track, Mr. Gray said, in the areas of hospitality and signage. Businesses can use hospitality for incentives for employee sales, he said.
"We see that growing. A lot of customers see how to make it work as an incentive-type program. It is difficult to sell signage and hospitality to businesses these days without there being a return on that."
"We'd like people to take advantage of motor sports to grow their business," Mr. Gray said. "Studies have shown NASCAR fans are among the most brand-loyal of any sports fans."