The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is seen by most followers of motorsports as the most famous race course in the world. Home to the biggest race: The Indianapolis 500. For about an 80-year period the track was home exclusively to open-wheel race cars.
In 1994, Nascar ran the inaugural Brickyard 400 in front of 250,000 fans excited to see a new style of racing at the famed track. For the first 10 years of the Brickyard, tickets were in high demand and the attraction of Nascar rivaled their open-wheel competition on open-wheel’s home turf.
The past decade has shown a rapid decline at IMS, with last years race barely reaching 100,000 in the stands. While many will argue that that number is great, it’s a huge eyesore on television when there’s more seats empty than filled.
The top reason ticket sales are struggling is that the race is held in the middle of July and never fails to be raced in 90-degree weather. It’s very hard even for a racing die hard to sit at a track with minimal shade for 4 hours.
Yes, someone has to host a race in the peak of summer, but with IMS having no lighting a night race is out of the question. Also without lights you are forced to start races early with the sun out and bright.
The second reason for dropped attendance is there is no local blackout for the race. May’s Indianapolis 500 is the biggest race in the world and is still subjected to a local blackout until the race is completed. With Nascar’s huge TV contract IMS is unable to invoke a blackout to get more locals to the track.
My last reason for the attendance failures is that with the first two issues existing, why would anyone want to leave their homes, battle the heat, just to watch cars race single-file for 4 hours like a glorified parade? Even as a racing fan I know that stock cars are not made for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the race with new aero packages and rules has made the Brickyard a snoozefest.
I commend Nascar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway for moving the race to September to solve the weather issue, but now it conflicts with the opening Sunday of the NFL which is a battle they will surely lose. I also applaud IMS for hosting a two day concert with younger artists to attempt to get the younger crowd to the track this weekend.
There is no certain future for the direction of the Brickyard, but Nascar and IMS need to come together before the damage is irreversible.