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Brickyard 400 profitable despite falling crowds, experts say

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Despite sharp attendance declines in recent years at the Brickyard 400, the event remains hugely profitable for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, motorsports industry experts say.

NASCAR officials estimated attendance at this year’s race in Indianapolis at 125,000, down from 138,000 last year. In 2007, race attendance was more than 200,000.

The Speedway makes enough television revenue—close to $6 million—to pay its NASCAR sanctioning fee, according to industry experts, leaving the track with most of the revenue from ticket sales, concessions and parking.

Motorsports business experts estimated that the Speedway made at least $9 million in ticket revenue from Sunday’s Brickyard 400 and another $1 million to $2 million from Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, which until this year has been held at Lucas Oil Raceway a few miles to the west. The IMS also for the first time hosted the Grand Am Series, but that wasn’t likely a big moneymaker since attendance was only about 10,000.

A new Brickyard 400 title sponsorship deal with Crown Royal added another $2 million to the Speedway’s take.

Speedway spokesman Doug Boles said the race remains a good event for NASCAR and the track, and he expects it to continue into the future.

“There is no thought internally or within NASCAR that this race shouldn’t continue,” Boles said, adding that track officials are constantly looking for ways to improve the event.

IMS officials in the past 18 months have even pondered installing lights to allow for NASCAR night racing, Boles said. But Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus said the cost of erecting lights—$20 million—would be a major concern.

While some food vendors said sales were down for Sunday's race, several merchandise vendors said business actually grew over the entire NASCAR event, which was expanded from two days to three this year.

“Our business with the track was definitely up, about 10 percent,” said Dave Moroknek, CEO of locally based MainGate Inc., which provides the IMS with NASCAR merchandise.

The biggest factor in any business increases at the track this year, Moroknek said, was the addition of the Nationwide race, which helped draw a crowd estimated at more than 40,000 to the track Saturday. In addition to Nationwide Series qualifications and race, spectators on Saturday also got to see Brickyard 400 practice and qualifications on the 2.5-mile oval.

While NASCAR officials said they were pleased with the first Nationwide race at the IMS, others were split.

“When it comes to the Nationwide race, I’m a bit of a traditionalist,” Moroknek said. “At Lucas Oil Raceway, you got a completely packed house, and it created a lot of energy and excitement.”

While many fans prefer having the race at the more intimate Lucas Oil Raceway, sponsors and NASCAR officials definitely benefit from having it at the Speedway, said Zak Brown, president of Zionsville-based Just Marketing International, which represents several NASCAR sponsors.

“Sponsors like having the Nationwide race at the Speedway because it’s much better for hospitality, it has a higher profile, and it's just easier to navigate,” Brown said. “It’s good for the Speedway because they have an opportunity to bring in more revenue without a lot of added costs, and it’s good for NASCAR and its sponsors because it’s so much better for corporate hospitality and has so much more potential to grow that aspect. If the Speedway can bring in more sponsors and those sponsors are entertaining at the track, that has the potential to bump up ticket sales.”

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  • Reconfigure IMS
    Blaine, the proof is in the results. the old 1911 track configuration is doing just fine, with the fastest 500 and most lead changes by double. Thanks for putting your opinion out there, but there is danger in being shortsighted.
  • Agreed
    Exactly right. They have run NASCAR the last ten years like this and now its finally going to start biting them in the a$$. They deserve it.. France JR has ruined NASCAR.
  • NASCAR
    NASCAR started out a a car oriented sport but NASCAR turned it into a driver oriented sport to make more money selling tee shirts with drivers names on them. i have been going to to NASCAR races since 1955 and fans like me went to see a chevy or a ford or a dodge win and it did not matter who was driving. also NASCAR moved the races near large cities where very few people own cars so why would they be interested in auto racing
  • Wel Said Griz el
    If the product is bad, people don't buy it. Plain and simple. People want go ole boy, old style racing (even with women drivers). And forget this crap with trying to make NASCAR an international sport. Move the majority of the tracks back to the south, where most are short tracks and watch the attendance and more importantly, TV ratings take off. Put the "stock" back in stock car racing again. And STOP getting drivers with names like Montoya - people in the south can't relate to them and that is what NASCAR fans are all about. Why do you think Earnhardt and Elliott were so dang popular?
  • The BIG Picture
    You all are missing it....both the Frances and the Hulman-Georges TOGETHER created mass dilution of the sport to get market share...both in stock cars and AOW. This homogenized mess is what you have now in sports cars (Daytona Prototypes), AOW cars(Indycrapwagons), and NASCARs(CoT). An unappealing compromise designed to provide motorsports entertainment versus pure auto racing. You all are to blame for it so stop looking elsewhere for blame and responsibility. If the powers that be are too stupid (as they've shown they are fully capable of), then vote with your wallet. I promise they will soon get your message. Keep going to the races, and NOTHING will ever change.
  • I agree
    Bring back Tony before there is no business to recover. For all the complaints he was doing a far better job than this. The Speedway should have considered a road race for Indy Cars by now. They built the facilities. We know the drivers. It would beat the tragic fiascos in Las Vegas last fall and Texas this year even if it only lasted a few years or was done biannually.
  • Better Cars
    Nascar needs cars that car run on these tracks. That is the problem. Not the drivers. Not the promotion. Nothing else will fix the problem. The "Car of Tomorrow" killed the Brickyard 400 along with the tire fiasco. People realized it is a boring race.
  • Um No!
    Changing the track to 24 Deg banking would make the track unsuitable for Indy Car racing. Drivers would need G Suits to withstand the G-Forces generated by those turns. Also, raising the banking would require the alteration of the grandstands behind the turns so fans could see the race.
  • Major Factors
    NASCAR doesn't seem to have heard about the law of supply and demand. Attendance is seriously down but don't reduce ticket prices to get it back up because that would "cheapen the ticket." Okay. A sea of empty seats does look good on TV. But in the long run it's the car itself. A thirty-four hundred pound replica of a 1963 two-door hardtop may seem cool to me, but the young guys don't relate to it. Those cars are never coming back to the showrooms and the fans are never coming back to the races in the same numbers they once did.
  • Blaine=Brain dead
    Where to begin....Even if (a big If)I don't argue with all the tradition you throw out the window by altering the track angle and shape, your ideas for reconfiguring the seats is retarded. With your proposed maximum capacity of 150,000 you would be leaving about 75,000 peope who CURRENTLY attend the Indy500 without a seat. Throw in the lost general admission revenue by "doglegging" the fourth turn and you just lost the track about 7-9 million dollars a year from lost ticket and concession revenue. Lets hope you are not a CEO.
  • Consistancy vs. winning
    The race for the chase was a bad idea from the start. The old point system was fine with one exception. Nascar rewards consistancy instead of winning. Go back to the old point system and give the winner an extra 100 points. Put the premium back on winning and Nascar might recover. Consistancy sucks as compared to winning. This is coming from a guy who is not a Nascar fan, but one who can see the problem and knows the solution. Bill France needs to come back to reality before he ruins what he is trying to make better.
  • Whats wrong
    This pretty much sums up whats wrong with NASCAR. they are choosing tracks that are more profitable only because they are huge and have large grandstands. Racing fans would rather sell out a 90,000 seat short track and watch an exciting race while NASCAR eliminates many of these popular and tradition filled tracks and moves them to large boring ovals because they can get a few more butts in the seat even if the race is boring to fans. This will catch up to them when fans realize races have become boring.
    • Boring
      People have no interest in watching Jimmie Johnson drive around in circles by himself every year.
    • Why
      I think NASCAR will continue to slide until they really go back to racing..why the limits on speed? Last I looked the cars still had a brake pedal. Why are all the cars the same? Pretty boring stuff.
    • Reconfigure IMS
      I think the time has come to reconfigure the track to make it a better racing facility. What worked fine in 1911 is not working in 2012. Even the Indy 500 would be better off. I say, bank the turns to 24 degrees and the short chutes to about 18 degrees. Also, there is space available where the golf course is now to dog leg the backstretch sort of like a larger Phoenix. It would make the track must racier. Next: The seats in T 3 and T4 need to be reduced down to about 25,000. Likewise T1 and T2. The VIP suites need to go on the outside of the race track on the front stretch. Tear down the one they have now and increase the view. I suggest getting rid of the inside seats and make it more like Texas. The Pagoda is all that should be there. Basically, if they did this, the place would seat about 100,000 on the front stretch from T4 to T1. Add in about 25,000 seats on either end and it woudl hold 150,000. Still plenty big, racier, and easy to get a sell out for the Indy 500 and close to it for the Brickyard. And yes, run both on Saturday night. Lights are a great idea.
      • LIGHTS - Please!
        The late July weather is just too hot for a day race. Even yesterday's more moderate temps were really hot with all that concrete, asphalt and metal. The Speedway could put in lights, let Nationwide race on Friday night (if they must keep them there - I prefer LOR), and run the Brickyard on Saturday night. I'm guessing attendance would improve, so they wouldn't have to increase ticket prices to help offset the costs of lighting. As for the Grand Am race, I'm not convinced it did anything to add to the weekend other than helping the vendors. And while the IMS is at it, make NASCAR give LOR an additional Nationwide date and a Truck series date. We would likely attend events at both tracks.
      • brickyard
        For all our sakes bring back Tony and drum his moronic, greedy sisters and mother out of the racing business! Then tear all the computers and ground effects off all race cars and throw in the trash! Put the driver back in the cars. Eliminate the Frances from NASCAR. Do away with the chase. Go back to being the old NASCAR. Are they too stupid to understand why they are losing fans?

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