Ticket sales are down but profits are up for the racetracks that have NASCAR events.
Just how high are the profits? The tracks cleared more than $100 million in 2014. It sounds as if, even though they are spending money tearing down seats at many places and putting up seats at a couple of others, they have money they can spend on other projects (and we know what you're thinking: including SAFER barriers).
There's no doubt the tracks are making money even if they aren't selling as many tickets. They have to make money -- their stock price would tank if they didn't make the money their investors expect.
There are two main track operators with NASCAR national races: International Speedway Corp., which has a majority of its stock owned by the NASCAR-owning France family, has 21 Cup events (including the Sprint Unlimited and Daytona 500 qualifying races); and Speedway Motorsports Inc., which has a majority of its stock owned by Bruton Smith, has 13 Cup events (including the All-Star Race). Dover Motorsports Inc., also a publicly traded company, has two. Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway are owned privately and aren't required to release their earnings.
ISC and Dover released their 2014 results in late January, and SMI released its results Wednesday. The three companies combined for $101.64 million in profits in 2014. Although the companies do have other events besides NASCAR (some NHRA races, some IndyCar races), NASCAR makes up 86 percent of ISC's revenues and, as of 2013, about 82 percent of SMI revenues.
Ever wonder why television gets to dictate so much? The tracks report that ticket sales were down 2.5 percent over the past year as they took in over $239 million in ticket sales. Meanwhile, they took in approximately $388 million in television revenues in 2014. That's right. They make much more money from the television contracts than they do from tickets sold. It wasn't that way 10 years ago, when the tracks took in approximately $450 million in ticket sales.
Overall revenues were up 0.8 percent thanks to television revenue being up about 3.6-4.2 percent depending on the company. And the tracks reported that profits from core operations (when taking out various accounting measures) were up 2.6 percent.
The tracks' season-ending results were not surprising and met their shareholders' expectations, a key when trying to keep a stable stock price.
• ISC said a year ago that it would make between $1.30 and $1.50 per share from its core operations. It made $1.42 per share, two cents less than in 2013.
• SMI said a year ago that it would make between $0.90 and $1.10 per share from core operations. It made $1.00 per share, 10 cents more than in 2013.
• Dover doesn't give guidance, but it made $0.13 per share, same as a year ago.