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Slow Economy, High Gas Prices Hit NASCAR

AP

What sport is taking the biggest hit from the economic slowdown? There's no doubt about it, it's NASCAR.

Fans in their gas guzzling RVs are cutting back on the number of races they go to and car manufacturers who are seeing huge declines don't have the money to spend on sponsorships.

All you have to do is look at International Speedway Corporation's numbers today. The track operator, owned mostly by NASCAR's France family announced this morning that second quarter profit was lower than expected because race related revenue at the track fell. Now it's stock, which is down big today, is down below 40. That's a big deal considering that from Aug. 29, 2003 to Jan. 17, 2008, it had not fallen below that mark.

Today, I spoke with racing legend Richard Petty about the tough times. The most interesting part of the interview might have been when we talked about the 1974 fuel crisis that shortened races that year by 10 percent (Petty won the Daytona 450, not 500 that year).

Petty said the shortening of the races had nothing to do with the fact that the teams couldn't afford the gas--just like today, they got the gas for free. It had more to do with making a political statement because people were upset that drivers were using gas for a race instead of to go somewhere.

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