Brickyard 400 attendance remains flat

July 23, 2014
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles said this year’s Brickyard 400 weekend is shaping up “very well.”

But that doesn’t mean attendance for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race is headed up.

Though the Speedway doesn’t divulge attendance figures, last year’s race drew an estimated 75,000 to 85,000 fans, according to multiple sources, some inside NASCAR. That’s a far cry from the 250,000-plus the race attracted in the 1990s and early 2000s.

“Ticket sales are pretty much where they were the last couple of years,” Boles said. “They’re pretty flattened out.”

I got the feeling talking to Boles on Tuesday afternoon that a Brickyard 400 race-day crowd of about 80,000 or so is the new normal.

“It’s still one of the best-attended races in NASCAR,” Boles said.

Boles pointed out that “about a dozen tracks” that host NASCAR races have decreased seating capacity. Even the famed Daytona International Speedway is downsizing from 147,000 seats to 101,000 as it is renovated.

The IMS doesn’t have the option to remove seats because many are permanent and needed for the Indy 500 in May. Consequently, the place has looked somewhat empty during recent Brickyard 400s.

It’s not that IMS officials aren’t pushing for attendance gains. In fact, the Speedway and NASCAR have pumped more into advertising this year’s event than they have in the last four years, Boles said.

But track executives don’t seem to hold out much hope for returning to the Brickyard 400’s zenith.

“We’re less focused on getting to 250,000 attendance and more focused on having an event that our fans that do attend enjoy,” Boles said. “Right now, we’re really focused on the fan experience.”

To that end, IMS is offering more and better music entertainment this year, Boles said, and this week the Speedway unveiled a new, modern scoring tower. It has a much more colorful display and is easier to read, especially from a distance.

In addition, improvements to concession stands have continued since May’s Indy 500, and more food vendors are expected at this year’s Brickyard 400 than in previous years. NASCAR and IMS officials also are trying to make drivers and other team officials more accessible to fans.

“In a lot of cases it’s like if you had a pit pass in the past,” Boles said. “We’re trying to give fans as much access as we can to the drivers and teams they follow.”

The racing at this year’s Brickyard 400, too, should be better, motorsports insiders said, due to NASCAR’s new knockout qualifications format, which mimics race-like conditions. Before this year, NASCAR cars qualified one at a time in a lengthy—and some would say boring—process.

In addition to that, Boles thinks the new NASCAR championship points format—which puts a premium on winning races—will add excitement to this year’s Brickyard 400.

Boles points to Crown Royal’s active sponsorship, a strong relationship with Kroger, and the addition of Eli Lilly and Co. Inc. as the new title sponsor of Saturday’s Nationwide race—now known as the Lilly Diabetes 250—as proof that “from a commercial standpoint things are great.”

“All and all the health of the event is very strong,” Boles said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting butts in seats.”

  • Attendance does not equal failure
    So let's see; F1 came to town and regularly drew 80K for the race and it was deemed a complete failure and run out of town. MotoGP brings in nearly this amount and is one of the highest attended MotoGP races of the year, and the media still labels it a failure. Why don't we stop looking at all the empty seats and be thankful that in this economy we can still get nearly 100K people to attend a race in Indy. And while we're at it, let's stop asking everyone if they are in awe of the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway - the "greatest racecourse in the world". It flat out isn't. It's just an aging racetrack with a long history in desperate need of improvements.
  • It is a fading event at a fading facility
    The truth of the matter is this: When I cam to this country, the IMS and this Brickyard race were very big. NASCAR was so popular even I knew about it before I comae to this country. Today, this is no longer true. NASCAR has passed its prime and people have moved on to other interests and this event itself is without shine. I will be impressed if they receive an attendance of 80,000. I am told the ticket sales for the event are lackluster. This event was big time when I attened in 1999. Big time, indeed. I bought my ticket in April. This Sunday we will purchase a ticket on the morning of the race and have little to no traffic and space to relax. It is more like a racign meet now than an epic event. It is country-club and that is good. Easy, relaxed it is. No big crowds. In true, just another race at just another track today, but still enjoyable for the discriminating motor racing fan. NASCAR and the Brickyard 400, however, are fading in relevancy as cultural phenoms. And quickly is this. It is just not a popular thing anymore. But I will go as I enjoy it. Somehow, car racing in America is losing fan.
  • What happened?
    A Saturday night race under lights would be the only thing that would make this race a sellout. I thought the taxpayers loan was going for lights. Anthony, can you look into this? What happened to the $100 million loan from the state and taxpayers?
  • Bright Side
    Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?
  • Mark
    I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.
  • What?!?
    How on earth can anyone call the IMS a "fading facility"? I grew up literally next door to the place - if anyone should be uninspired by it, it would be me. To this day, every year I go to the Indy 500 and witness the start of the race, I am in complete AWE of not just the spectacle, but the PLACE. I have been to many, many race tracks but none that impresses as much as IMS.
  • C'mon
    Born and raised in Indy, I have nothing but respect for IMS. I am a fan of many types of racing and had family that worked in Indycar in its hayday. Since the split, I have become a much bigger NASCAR fan. I have come to the conclusion that there's only one way to make Cup racing exciting in Indy. Move it to Raceway Park. The end.
  • No lights at IMS
    JR (and anyone else who is wondering), I did ask Doug Boles about lights at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He said there is no thought of installing lights at the IMS at this time. That proposition is simply too expensive without a guarantee of a return on that investment. The $100M is going to a number of other enhancements at the track, including ADA accessibility, upgrades to restrooms, concession stands, etc. Thanks for reading.
    • be reasonable and appreciative
      Hey, let's all be reasonable. 80,000 people is a huge attendance. It is 3-4 times the size of the smaller cities that surround Indianapolis. This figure eclipses other sporting events in town. The event is still very reasonably priced and the experience has gotten better every year. The racing should be better this year as well. Finally, other cities would be thrilled to have the facility, the leadership and just one of these events in their community.
    • What in the world is going on?
      Anthony, the IBJ needs to be all over this. I hope this is on your front page this week. Are you telling me that $100,000,000 tax dollars went for a few port-a-lets, wheel chair ramps, and beer stands? Where is the outrage? This could possibly be the biggest scandal in Indiana history. Are you sure about this? Somebody ripped us off.
    • Little Fan Interest
      I have been to Michigan, Bristol, Darlington and Indy.......went to every one since 1994. The year they started throwing the yellow flag every 10 laps for competition and crappy tires.....never again. In addition, the cars are all identical. NASCAR is a big joke (and I am in a NASCAR Pool every week) We just don't follow it that much. All of the tracks are half empty. And the price is no longer reasonable. Price the tickets at 20 bucks each and I will take my family out to the track....but 80 bucks each to sit in turn 4....forget it.
    • Racing is On The Way Out
      Been a fan since '72 when I went to my first race at Indy, then Talladega in '73. Been to seven Daytona 500's, eleven Indy 500's, three Brickyard 400's and dozens of others over the years. Never have I seen the sport drop like a rock and it is dropping, dropping, dropping. Tens of thousands of empty seats. Sure the Brickyard may get 80,000 and hardcore fans will say that is a sign of how popular racing is. Wrong. If the Colts played in a 150,000 seta stadium they would sell at least 110,000. There is that much demand. Racing is dying. Dying. Dying. Just get over yourselves. Peopel today are like, cars going in circles wasting gas? You got to be kidding me! Sorry. That is how it is and I am a fan!
    • Fender!
      Dude is so right! People around my age (I'm 24) are like, NASCAR is so g--! Cars going around and around and around, and guys that are like in their 70's are racing sometimes. And rich kids and fat guys. They are so turned off by it. That's the problem with that sport. We go to the Brickyard race, though, mostly for the party. I never hardly watch the race. Just like when Earnhardt comes out before the start. Guy is dope but truthfully, he isn't much of a racer. Not like guys like Mario or Petty. That dude was cool. I read about him. But today, now way, the crowd is down because its just older people now all into cars and turning circles. The party is dope, though. All those NASCAR parties are dope. Better than Coachella.
    • Brickyard 400
      I have watched racing in many forms in many venues for a long time. I can say with out question the 2 Brickyards I attended would rank last and next to last on my list of races I've watched.
    • what you talking bout Anthony?
      [quote]Boles pointed out that “about a dozen tracks” that host NASCAR races have decreased seating capacity. Even the famed Daytona International Speedway is downsizing from 147,000 seats to 101,000 as it is renovated. The IMS doesn’t have the option to remove seats because many are permanent and needed for the Indy 500 in May. [/quote] ---------- The ims has been removing seats to mask their dropping 500 attendance for the past couple years. :roll:
    • Boring, Insipid
      NASCAR racing dulls the mind. Big, heavy cars lumbering around in circles for hours on end, requires little thought process. Fast cars, slow wits. I can see why it is fading in popularity. People have stopped and thought, "I need to save my mind!".
    • Qualifying/Racing??
      How does the qualifying format on a Friday make for better racing on a Sunday? Nonsense. The drivers won't go near each other during qualifying. They want to maximize clean air and downforce. Same for the race. The Brickyard 400 is a dud, plain and simple. The larger NASCAR cars of the 70's put on great racing at Ontario speedway but the smaller, modern day super slick, hug-the-track cars just cannot put on a good show on a big flat track. It's a dud.
    • What did you expect?
      Attendance is flat because the previous 10 events at IMS sucked the life out of 400. And thats on top of it being lame in the first place. The Indy novelty is gone, I think J. Douglas Boles needs to get ARCA a date at the speedway. We just need more rubes to buy into the Indy mystique again. An concerts. LOL.
    • What race?
      I figured they got rid of the 400 because it used to be the Crown Royal Presents the Curtis Shaver 400 at The Brickyard Powered by Big Machine Records. I have no idea they were havein a race this year cause it's just too hard to remember the name of the last's years race. So, I said forget it.
    • Decrease cost
      Part of the reason you are seeing lower numbers in attendance is the ridiculous cost of watching a race. Sure there may be limited "lower price" seats at some tracks, but in general, it costs an average of $80 a ticket for any good, quality seat. LOWER THE TICKET PRICES!!!! I think the interest and the crowd is still there. I know I would have went as well as several of my friends, but times are tough and we simply do not have $500 in disposable income to cover the costs of a race weekend. A family of 4 cannot afford to go to something like a Nascar race.
    • Come on, it's cheap but no mystique
      This great promotion by the speedway shoulda brought fans in...$30 and free kids under 12 yrs of age. How much lower you want to go? Yeah, both with promotion standards and costs? What? You and your 12 yr old are not party animals? Stay home then.

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