Is the land at Texas Motor Speedway worth more than NASCAR races at TMS?

Texas Motor Speedway was built in the middle of a vast empty prairie, which is now an epicenter of growth and development to the point where that “vast empty prairie” is no longer empty, and that may be more valuable than hosting a car race.

According to people familiar with the land in and around TMS, its 1,500-acre property is worth “quite a bit;” do not expect TMS to start selling off parts of its estate, which includes more parking space than Disney World.

One Fort Worth city official said in order for that to happen would require a visit to court, and lawyers.

Also, don’t expect much to change even though the future of TMS’ most visible events likely will.

NASCAR runs this weekend at TMS, culminating at 2:30 with the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400, a 267-lap race; it’s the fourth of NASCAR’s 10-playoff races, and it may just be the last time TMS hosts a playoff race for a while.

NASCAR is not leaving TMS, but its arrival date could change.

TMS’ attraction has now become a challenge almost too big tame: Its size. There are just so many seats around the 1.5-mile track.

According to a report by Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star this week there is a “legitimate chance” that TMS will not host an IndyCar race in 2024 because NASCAR wants to move its Fort Worth race to the spring.

TMS vice president and general manager Mark Faber said in an interview this week that he would not comment on the report because it contains “so much speculation.”

He is correct; there is a lot of speculation in the report.

Brown is also one of few remaining reporters in America who covers racing, and he’s about as plugged in as they come. People at both IndyCar and Fox Sports, which carries NASCAR, said they think Brown’s report is accurate.

The respective 2024 schedules for both IndyCar and NASCAR have not been announced, and are in the process of being finalized.

TMS would prefer IndyCar return. The four-year contract between the two parties expired last year, but the two sides reportedly reached a multi-year extension.

There are apparently potential scheduling conflicts with IndyCar, NASCAR’s Circuit of the America’s Race in Austin, which is operated by the TMS people, and the desire to avoid the worst parts of the Texas summer heat.

If this report is accurate it would mean that a track that opened in 1996, and once hosted NASCAR, IndyCar and the now-deceased CART series, would then potentially have one major race in 2024.

Between 2005 and 2022, NASCAR visited TMS twice a year. Among those events were All-Star, and playoff, races.

The Indy Car series has been a constant on the TMS schedule for 27 years; its 2023 race, on April 2, was both celebrated for its exciting finish, and criticized for what was a follow-the-leader race.

The impetus behind these potential schedule alterations has nothing to do with the management of TMS, or the facility itself.

It has everything to do with NASCAR trying to accommodate the visual that TV producers desire.

At one time, TMS could seat 181,655 fans, which made it among the largest venues in the world. A packed TMS for a car race was a visual stop-down.

In the last 20 years, as consumer habits evolved, tracks throughout the U.S. removed seats that it could no longer fill.

The only facility left that can get away with 200,000-plus seats is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Indy has the element as a bucket-list tourist destination few places possess.

When TMS was built, adding seats and races were appropriate for the era. With that era over, those seats are an eyesore.

Last year, Faber said the TMS grandstands were good for about 46,000. If TMS sells 46,000 tickets for a race, that’s a good haul.

The challenge is there are far more than 46,000 seats, and on a TV screen 46,000 in a venue that can seat, say, 80,000 doesn’t look great.

Faber would not say what the attendance was at TMS’ 2022 NASCAR race, which is a common practice at nearly every race facility in the U.S.

Other NASCAR tracks have had the same issues as TMS, most notably Atlanta Motor Speedway.

TMS has removed some of its seating, but to reduce the number of seats/suites to make the place look “packed” would cost millions.

Faber said the ticket sales for the 2023 NASCAR race weekend far exceed 2022, the same for a high number of suite sales.

As far as affordable sporting events go, a NASCAR race is still one of the best deals around. A race ticket is $50. Parking is free. Fans can bring in a loaded cooler.

Faber has been with TMS for about a year, and he’s aggressively tried to modernize the facility while attracting events outside of just racing.

The venue itself is fine, and busy.

Chevrolet tested cars at TMS. Peterbilt held a convention earlier this year that drew more than 2,000. New Holland agricultural manufacturer did the same.

Faber said the track hosted a total of 275 events last year.

The three-day Gordy’s HWY30 Music Fest will run Oct. 19 to 22.

He’s reached out to Fort Worth city leaders in an effort to create more tourist-type opportunities, whether it’s concerts, races, etc.

He’s receptive to hosting anything; perhaps a soccer match. The patch of grass on the straightaway is big enough for a football game.

“We just built a pickleball court by the garages,” Faber said.

The land that Texas Motor Speedway sits on may now be worth a small fortune, but the does not mean the future of the facility is in peril.

TMS is not going anywhere, and it’s only real issue are those seats. There are just too many of them.