DOVER — A decades-old tradition at Dover International Speedway will end today.
NASCAR is set to start phasing out the souvenir haulers present at every race track. Instead of dozens of individual haulers each selling merchandise for a specific driver, a football-field-sized tent will be set up for customers to peruse merchandise.
With the new venue, fans will be able to buy their NASCAR keepsakes and apparel in one place.
While customers won’t be able to get their picture taken in front of their favorite driver’s hauler, driver-specific stalls will be arranged throughout the tent in a facsimile of the haulers.
Jimmie Johnson fans can still visit the Jimmie Johnson area for specific gear, and Matt Kenseth fans can check out the Matt Kenseth section.
For years, haulers have traveled from track to track with about 30 stationed around turn four at Dover.
But that’s changing, meaning fans at today’s race who come back in October will notice something’s missing.
NASCAR opted to move away from the “hauler model” last year, according to Mike Tatoian, president of Dover International Speedway. Transporting dozens of haulers from track to track was expensive, and NASCAR officials sought to create a different fan experience, he said.The Pit Stop, the area at Dover International Speedway where fans can purchase just about anything with their favorite driver’s name or face on it, is popular with bicyclists of all ages.[/caption]
The tent will be operated by Fanatics, which currently handles NASCAR’s online sales. Motorsports Authentics, which runs the haulers, has been struggling monetarily, according to reports.
Mr. Tatoian is excited about the change.
Moving through the tent will be “like walking through a store,” he said.
The tent’s exact layout and long-term location at Dover has not yet been determined, he said, although it will likely rest by turn four come the fall AAA 400.
But despite his enthusiasm, some fans are unhappy.
Tom Leahy, of central New Jersey has been coming to Dover for about 10 years. Mr. Leahy, who was told of the news for the first time when he stopped to look at the Dale Earnhardt Jr. hauler Friday afternoon, was visibly crestfallen.
He called the change “horrible” and said he felt the haulers were an integral component of the fan experience.
Removing them takes away from that, he said.
Veronica Capaldi, who was shopping for Dale Jr. merchandise Friday, was distressed to learn of the planned switch. She said she fears the tent will become congested and pose trouble for fans.
Nick Zanghi had perhaps the strongest reaction when informed on the news.
“I think it sucks,” the Athens, Pa., native said as he stood by the Tony Stewart hauler. “We won’t come back here.”
Mr. Tatoian said the speedway has received mostly positive reaction from fans. While some may not be pleased, he believes they’ll change their minds.
“Change can be tough at first, but I think if they deliver what we’re expecting of them it will be a great addition to NASCAR weekend,” he said.