NASCAR's Kevin Harvick sees benefit in Fontana track losing one race
NASCAR's decision to drop one of its two annual Sprint Cup Series races in Southern California should benefit crowd sizes for the region's remaining race, series title contender Kevin Harvick said Friday.
Stock-car racing's sanctioning body announced in August that Auto Club Speedway, the two-mile oval track in Fontana, would host only one race next season, on March 27.
The speedway has held two Cup races a year since 2004, and NASCAR made the change after crowds at the 92,000-seat speedway had dropped to 70,000 to 80,000 in recent years. Many other tracks on NASCAR's schedule also have seen significant declines in attendance amid the poor economy.
The series returns to Fontana next weekend for the fourth race in NASCAR's 10-race Chase for the Cup championship playoff.
"What's best for the sport is full grandstands, and they always had good crowds when they had one race [in Fontana] and I think they'll have a good crowd for one race" going forward, Harvick told reporters at Kansas Speedway, site of the third Chase race this Sunday.
"When people watch on TV and the grandstands are full then they want to be there too," said Harvick, the Bakersfield native who drives the No. 29 Chevrolet and currently is fifth in the Chase, 65 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
But Harvick maintained that the Chase remained "wide open," according to a transcript released by Team Chevy. "I don't think there's any clear-cut favorite." And Harvick, who narrowly lost to Johnson at Fontana in the race there last February, said "we're really looking forward to going back" to Southern California.
"We need to capitalize over the next couple of weeks on making something happen," Harvick said.
-- Jim Peltz
Photos: Top, NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick before practice Friday for the Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire. Bottom, Jimmie Johnson during practice Friday at Kansas Speedway. Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images