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Dover targets kids to boost sagging attendance

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DOVER, Del. (AP) — Dover CEO Denis McGlynn urged NASCAR drivers to forget the autograph and take a more proactive approach toward building a new fanbase:

Snap selfies with them.

McGlynn was blunt in Sunday’s pre-race speech to drivers, telling them attendance has dipped at the track because fans “can’t afford to come.”

McGlynn said drivers should pose for selfies at the track with fans, giving kids a chance through Twitter and Snapchat to share their experiences in a way they can’t with an autographed photo that sits in a scrapbook.

Dover International Speedway listed capacity at 113,000, though there were plenty of empty seats for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.

“You’re going to see some holes in the grandstands today,” McGlynn told the drivers.

McGlynn said the track is trying to build a new generation of fans and was aggressive in targeting kids and first-time or lapsed fans. Dover offered $10 tickets for all kids 14 and under (with the purchase of one adult ticket) in seven alcohol and tobacco-free sections for Sunday’s race.

McGlynn said ticket tracking showed 6 percent of Sunday’s ticket purchases were for kids, and 16 percent were first-time ticket buyers. He did not say how many total tickets had been sold and tracks don’t usually list attendance figures. He said Dover’s attendance was only 1.5 percent kids just four years ago. He wanted to add headsets to future kids’ packages.

While pockets of empty sections look bad on TV, tracks don’t necessarily need the ticket revenue to thrive. NASCAR completed an $8.2 billion television package last season, and more than half of that money trickles to the tracks.

“It’s a media-based revenue now, that’s a fact, but I’m not sure that’s a desire for us,” McGlynn said. “We still want those people in the grandstands.”

Dover Motorsports also agreed last week to sell the Nashville Superspeedway to NeXovation, Inc., in a deal worth nearly $46 million.

NeXovation will pay $27 million and also put up a letter of credit for the $18.8 million in bonds issued to build the infrastructure needed by the speedway near Lebanon, Tennessee. The Nashville-based company also was the highest bidder for the Nurburgring motor sports facility in Germany and is contesting that sale.

The 1.33-mile, concrete track opened in 2001 hosting NASCAR trucks and Nationwide races along with an Indy Racing League event through 2008. Dover closed the track, except for testing, in 2011.

“We keep it operating as long as we could,” McGlynn said. “We were running testing out there, making a few bucks, but still losing money. It needed something new. It was clear, if we held onto it, it’s going to be a long, long time before we could even think about getting a Cup race in there, if ever.”