Allstate 400 renewals 'way off'

December 22, 2008
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tireTroubles this year for the Indy Racing League—and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—that led to layoffs last Friday, started with a NASCAR event.

“We started seeing a downturn in revenue with the Allstate 400,” said IMS and IRL spokesman Fred Nation. “Ticket renewals for that race are way off.”

The beginning of a deep economic swoon coupled with racers’ tire troubles apparently turned NASCAR fans away from renewing tickets for the Indianapolis race in droves. Nation declined to detail the ticket renewal downturn, but said that was part of what led to Friday's layoffs. “We have completed what we believe is needed to deal with our competitive situation,” Nation said. “Overall, with the trends in ticket sales and sponsorships, we felt it was time to make a move.”

Sports marketers said race fans still haven’t forgotten about the 2005 Formula One Michelin tire fiasco, and that memory coupled with tire problems at last year’s NASCAR race had a cumulative effect. Tire problems forced NASCAR to throw a competition caution every nine laps of green flag racing to try to prevent blowouts at this year’s Allstate 400.

So powerful is the connection between NASCAR and the IRL that a growing number of motorsports insiders believe the open-wheel series that has toppled CART could not have made it without the good ole’ boys of the stock car circuit.

Annual revenue from the NASCAR event is estimated by various industry sources to be more than $35 million. With far less overhead than hosting the Indianapolis 500, much of that money falls straight to the bottom line and has been used to bolster the IRL.

Nation declined to say exactly how many people were let go, but said there were layoffs across the IRL, IMS and IMS Productions. “The percentage is more or less—probably a little less—than what you’ve seen with what other companies are doing,” Nation said. “All of those companies too are under a hiring freeze.”

The IRL currently has 70 employees and IMS has 300. The National Football League recently laid off 14 percent of its staff. Using the NFL as a guideline would mean about 50 people at the IRL and IMS lost their jobs.

Amid reports that various IRL teams began laying people off last week and multi-car teams may be paring down, there’s concern too that car count may be down next year. “It won’t be 26 like it was last season, but we still expect car count to be in the 20s,” Nation said.
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  • Last year's Allstate 400 race should rank up there with one of the worst races in Racing History, not just NASCAR, but across all series. Maybe right behind that Formula One race disaster before that.

    Until they convince fans that a tire debacle will NEVER happen again at that magnitude, then a small, but noticeable percentage of fans will rethink making that mistake again.

    Not 1, but 2 embarrassing tire disasters cannot be good for ticket sales at IMS.

    There's an old saying that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — basically what I'm saying is you can't get fooled again. - W.
  • Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
  • IMS is not a great place to attend a NASCAR race compared to the other race circuits. Couple that with that awful race from last year, a slumping economy and high unemployment, it's not a surprise at all that renewals are down. In addition, IMS has doubled the cost of tickets since the first Brickyard. The only reason I attend is because the race is right here in our backyard. If I had to travel to see this show, it would be one and done
  • Truth is...people are assessing their finances and making decisions just like businesses. Those die-hard fans who make this an annual tradition will be back. Those who go for the fun and the spectacle (and the drinking) are going to stay home. Sure last year's race was terrible, but I've rarely been disappointed by the races. And I love the venue. IMS is something that's truly Indianapolis. No one can compare. But traditions mean little if the product, like the pocketbook, is struggling.
  • Matt, you're right. When said correctly it makes sense, when spoken out of the mouth of such a Wise Poet like ol' George W, than it comes out, well, a bit off (to put it nicely).
  • Wonder if Goodyear will buy a bunch of seats and give 'em to us loyal season ticketholders (as Michelin did)?
  • HElls BElles ID rather get layed off from IMs then enywheres else. Think bout that. AInt no shame in beeng layed off. GIve you more tiem to enjoy the IRl when May roles round. ANd Ill drink to that.
  • Good. That just means less dollars for FTG to spend on his hobby stock series, the EARL. And it's no coincidence that both tire fiascos happened at IMS*. The diamond grinding caused both tire failures. This was done as a band aid to keep the crapwagons from launching into the stands like Tony Rennas's did.
  • Brett,

    Do you have a clue what you are talking about? Of course not, but that has never stopped you before. Lets see, how many years ago did they diamond grind? How many races have occurred since then? How many tire issues have developed since then? If every event had an issue since the diamond grinding, then you may have had a point. NASCAR's issue was they tried to save money by not tire testing like in previous years. They got caught trying to be cheap.

    As far as the decline, it has more to do with the economy than it does with last years race. When NASCAR and the NFL are laying off, you know it is bad. I am sure we will see empty seats at most racing venues this year. When you lose your job as hundreds of thousands have, and your not sure your three major automakers are going to survive, that trip to a NASCAR race is not so important.
  • Frankly, the BY400 has been a terrible race except for about the first 2 or 3. Most of us realized that years ago, and stopped going way back then. It took NASCAR's 800-lb gorilla losing weight (and popularity) and a tire debacle for the rest of the people to finally discover what we realized a long time ago.

    Goodyear is completely to blame for the tire debacle. Leave it to a cranky, whiney, washed-up CARTesian to blame Tony George, Tony Renna, GWB, Santa Claus, the NFL. global warming, and everyone else.

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