Last night, Matt Kenseth won what many are calling the most bizarre Daytona 500 in history. The race was plagued by a fiery crash, a rain delay (the event’s first ever), and a series of other crashes that necessitated extra laps at the race’s end. It was an exciting event, but was it an economic boost for Daytona Beach?
Yes, according to a paper from 2000, but not to the extent that NASCAR would have you think. Some studies popular within the racing industry estimate that new raceways will bring hundreds of millions in economic benefits for communities. But surveying a three-year period, the authors estimated that in the month of February (which is when the race is always held), “the Daytona International Speedway induces an increase in taxable sales for Volusia County of $41.77 million dollars on average.” That’s not an especially large number to begin with, but the authors go on to argue that taxable sales and economic impact aren’t the same thing, and the actual impact of the race is probably smaller—much smaller, in fact, than the industry would like people to believe. “The exaggeration of the economic impact of sporting events in studies commissioned by the sports industry is ubiquitous,” the authors write. It might be tempting to see exaggerated figures as a simple marketing tactic, “but to the extent that these inflated estimates are used to justify public expenditures on speedways,” the authors caution, “careful economic consideration of these claims must be made.”