Although the series doesn’t disclose official attendance figures, several media outlets reported attendance at Miami-Homestead’s 65,000-seat speedway at or above 35,000. Attendance was up about 20 percent from last year, observers said. TV ratings calculated by New York-based Nielsen Media Research are also expected to be up, but those numbers won’t be tabulated until later today or tomorrow.
And 71 percent of nearly 5,000 viewers polled by a popular auto racing Web site rated the IRL’s season opener an A, while another 24 percent rated it a B.
The eight Champ Car drivers helped create one of the biggest opening day fields in recent IRL history, with 25 cars making the grid. If a practice crash hadn’t taken out Graham Rahal, it would have been 26.
“What [fans] saw wasn't the yawning Penske-Ganassi parade of past years, particularly last year, [with] races almost dull enough to be Formula One events,” said David J. Neal of the Miami Herald.
Before the race, IRL boss Tony George announced the series will get a new tagline: “I am Indy: One Series. All the Stars.” George appears to be borrowing a line from CART, which was known for “Cars and Stars.”
Despite the high praise, some sports marketers said IRL officials need to do a better job marketing their races in the weeks before the event if they are to realize the full potential of a unified open-wheel series.
What did you think of the race? And what can IRL do better?