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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Indianapolis Motor Speedway security personnel shield themselves from the rain Friday afternoon. Rain threatens Sunday's Brickyard 400.

Saturday, September 08, 2018 1:00 am

Driver sees gambling as NASCAR's savior

Sadler: Crowds would flock to racetrack again

MICHAEL MAROT | Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – Elliott Sadler wants NASCAR to roll the dice.

Or at least, he figures, a few betting windows can be added to race tracks across America.

Amid sagging television ratings, dwindling attendance and longtime sponsors pulling out of the series, the former Cup driver and current Xfinity Series contender thinks NASCAR should embrace race-day gambling.

“I think attendance would double tomorrow,” he said Friday at Indianapolis, site of this weekend's Brickyard 400. “I told them they should get an 18-wheeler and take it track to track. That would be my No. 1 suggestion.”

NASCAR will give the idea an initial whirl in four weeks at Dover, Delaware.

While many state governments seek new revenue sources and many leagues find themselves rethinking policies after a Supreme Court decision in May opened the door to legalizing sports wagering everywhere, it's a novel and complicated concept for a sport so deeply rooted in the Bible Belt.

Currently, sports wagering is not legal in Indiana.

It's unclear whether there would ever be enough support in the state legislature to pass. Even if new laws were adopted, Cup officials and race organizers would also likely have to consent. 

Friday's scene around the speedway illustrates why Sadler believes gambling could solve NASCAR's ills.

Just two days before the 25th Brickyard race is run at one of the world's most revered racing venues, cars moved briskly along city streets, parking lots were mostly empty and aside from barriers preventing left-hand turns into the track's main tunnel, there was virtually no hint race weekend had arrived.

When Cup drivers first started coming to Indy in 1994, it was one of the series' toughest tickets – attracting more than 250,000 people. But since 2008, when the race was marred by tire wear and a series of roughly 10-lap shootouts, interest has waned and the crowds shrank. Observers estimated more than 200,000 seats were empty for last year's race.

This year, Cup officials agreed to move the race out of July and into September in an effort to eliminate fans' most common complaint – the searing heat. But now track officials face new obstacles beyond their control.

The Indianapolis Colts open the NFL season just a few miles across town, a little more than an hour before the green flag is supposed to wave and forecasters are calling for rain most of the afternoon. On top of all that, Kasey Kahne will not defend his Brickyard 400 victory because of dehydration issues.