Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles said ticket sales for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis have been "really strong" since March, and he thinks attendance for Saturday's road race could top projections by a wide margin.
"Our goal was 40,000, and I really feel comfortable we're going to exceed that," Boles said. "If the weather is good, we could break that mark by quite a bit."
If the race draws 40,000 spectators that will be three times the number who came to the opening weekend of May last year, Boles said.
Boles spent much of Thursday touring the track and mixing with fans who came to the Speedway to take in practice on the re-made road course.
"The response from fans is overwhelmingly positive," Boles said. "We had lots of fans [Thursday] in turns five and seven and we had tons of fans on the viewing mounds."
While Boles said the main purpose of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis is to "elevate the month of May," he is optimistic the event can be profitable on its own, even in its first year.
"We're trying to make this event make sense for our race fans and for families," Boles said. "Tickets are half the price as they are for the Indianapolis 500, kids 12 and under are free and fans on Saturday will be able to watch four races."
In addition to the IndyCar Series race, there will be USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights races on the IMS road course Saturday.
The event isn't just making sense for fans, it's making sense for sponsors too. Verizon, the IndyCar Series new title sponsor, is bringing in a big contingent of executives from accross the country for Saturday's Grand Prix, Boles said.
"Verizon has stepped up this month more than we've had a sponsor do here in a very long time," Boles said. "In addition to Verizon, Firestone, Chevy and Miller Lite/Coors have been very active here so far. Overall we've had an awful lot of sponsor activity out here this week, and that's a very good sign."
If the main purpose of the race was to raise the profile of the month of May at the IMS, it seems to be working. Boles reported that there is a larger number of national media members at the IMS for the first weekend of May than there has been "in a very long time."
"We think that's going to help build momentum for the entire month," Boles said, "and it's certainly going to help the Indianpolis 500."