Continuing NASCAR’s ongoing efforts to lure an ebbing fan base back to the track, Michigan International Speedway (MIS) has announced that it will continue...

Continuing NASCAR’s ongoing efforts to lure an ebbing fan base back to the track, Michigan International Speedway (MIS) has announced that it will continue a tiered pricing plan for its Sprint Cup series races next season, a plan first implemented last year.

The Speedway, owned by International Speedway Corp. (ISC), is employing the strategy once again in the hopes of returning more fans to the stands to cheer on their favorites in person.

The tiered pricing system encourages fans to purchase their tickets earlier in the year, with ticket fees increasing as the season nears. “Renewal Pricing” is in effect currently, ending on January 31, 2011. During this time, fans who attended races last season can renew their general admission tickets for just $20 each, with children ages 12 and under admitted free in the general admission section. New fans, or those who did not attend last season, must provide a $30 deposit by January 31 in order to take advantage of these lower rates.

In February, “Value Pricing” takes over, with the cost of general admission rising to $25. Beginning in March and continuing through race weekends, “Event Pricing” raises ticket cost to $30. An added incentive to buy: the earlier fans purchase their tickets, the better their seat location.

The venue is making tiered pricing available not only for Sunday Sprint Cup events, but for Friday and Saturday events as well. Friday races such as the ARCA Racing Series event and Sprint Cup qualifying will charge only $7.50 admission. Prices climb to $15 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and to $20 for the Nationwide Series race. Children 12 and under attend free in reserved seats for Friday and Saturday events, and tickets for teens 17 and under in reserved seats are discounted 50 percent.

These changes come as no surprise to Peachtree Tickets owner Stephen Raver, who has seen the need for NASCAR to change its pricing structure for some time. “Prices have got to come down. They were way too high to begin with. In this economy, the average person just can’t go to that many events anymore.”

This new way of thinking about motorsports pricing seems to hold at least some promise for the industry. Last season, the first year of MIS’ tiered pricing, ticket deposits at the track increased by 10 percent, with renewals remaining at the previous year’s levels. Combined with a simultaneous 30 percent decrease in ticket prices, the track was able to sustain itself in a period which was generally not kind to motorsports revenues. The ISC is encouraged by the Speedway’s results, with plans to replicate it for at least one of its other racetracks in the near future.

Raver believes that NASCAR’s financial problems are due to some strategic errors the organization made over recent years, errors which are coming back to haunt the motorsports industry today. “They put too many seats in these tracks, expanded these tracks to 100,000 seat-plus mega venues, and in their heyday, probably 10 years ago, that was probably a good decision. And on top of too many seats, they just price the tickets too high, and they’re having to back pedal. [NASCAR is] not what it used to be. I don’t know why that is, maybe too much TV exposure, maybe [the new] point system.”

Raver sees these errors as having had significant effects on the secondary market to date. “If the starting point’s too high, there’s not much room for us to enter the market.”