SBD/July 30, 2012/Events and Attractions

Is NASCAR Still Viable At IMS After Crown Royal Brickyard 400 Sees Thousands Of Empty Seats?

NASCAR's estimated attendance of 125,000 at the Brickyard 400 "appeared generous"
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal 400 yesterday “played out in front of tens of thousands of empty seats” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the crowd “estimated at 125,000," according to Julie Sickel of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. The attendance at last year’s race “was around 130,000.” Less than an hour prior to the green flag, traffic around the IMS was “moving smoothly, and parking was still available in the infield and Gate 10 lots” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/30). In Charlotte, Jim Utter writes the race was the “worst attended” of NASCAR's visits to IMS. For a venue that “at one time saw upwards of 300,000-plus for the annual Brickyard event, Sunday's large gaping empty sections of grandstand seating were an eye-opener.” The crowd for yesterday's race will “still rank among the larger ones of the season, but the difference in how this race is perceived by the ticket-buying public is still very telling” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/30). In L.A., Jim Peltz writes the race at IMS is “emblematic of NASCAR's problem.” The series' lone visit to IMS “once drew more than 200,000 spectators," and NASCAR's estimate of 125,000 "appeared generous” (L.A. TIMES, 7/30). NASCAR President Mike Helton said, “It may not be on par with 19 years ago when we first came here, but certainly (this weekend) has a lot of energy to it” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/28).

HAPPY UNION? The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER’s Utter noted IMS officials “maintain they remain pleased with their association with NASCAR.” But “so far, this year's ‘Super Weekend’ of racing at the Brickyard has been anything but in terms of drawing fans to the track.” Downtown Indianapolis has “lacked any of the ‘buzz’ or excitement of previous years in the days leading up to the Cup race.” Utter: “At some point, there has to be a point when the crowd gets so small in a 250,000-plus seat facility where the race loses its profitability. One wonders if we are approaching that cutoff point” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/29). SPEEDTV.com’s Robin Miller wrote unlike Bristol Motor Speedway, which “features lots of close contact and a great vantage point from any seat, Indianapolis is not fan friendly -- at least in NASCAR terms.” IndyCar driver A.J. Foyt said, “People like to see racing, as long as it’s good racing, and the Brickyard has never been very good.” He added, “All in all, NASCAR doesn’t have good racing any more.” Miller wrote add the fact the Brickyard 400 “hadn’t been blacked out on television in Indianapolis since 2001 and there was one more reason to stay home.” Local broker Circle City Tickets Owner Mike Peduto said, “The Brickyard is so far down on our end, it’s like the Indy 500 after the split, IU basketball three years ago or the Pacers were after the brawl.” IMS President & CEO Jeff Belskus said, “We find ourselves in an odd position in that if we’re half full or even a little less it’s still one of NASCAR’s best attended events.” NASCAR team owner and driver Tony Stewart “concedes it’s probably more entertaining for the drivers than paying customers.” But he said that the race “hasn’t lost its luster with the competitors.” Stewart: “It is still a big, big deal for the drivers.” Miller wrote, “One has to wonder if there will be a time in the near future when it’s not viable for IMS or NASCAR to remain partners” (SPEEDTV.com, 7/29).
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