Indians, Pacers, IMS celebrating, while Lucas Oil Raceway takes hit

July 6, 2011
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While I don’t usually do grab bag blog posts, it’s a big day for sports in Indianapolis, and there are a number of things to cover.

First, the Indiana Pacers are holding a press conference today to announce that Frank Vogel will be the team’s new head coach. The only real surprise is that it took so long to take the interim tag from Vogel’s title.

Vogel went 20-18 as head man after taking over for Jim O’Brien in the middle of last season. The players and fans connected with Vogel, and though he lacks head coaching experience, Pacers’ basketball operations boss Larry Bird has assembled an experienced group of assistants.

It’s unfortunate that the announcement is being made in the midst of what figures to be a lengthy NBA lockout. Usually an NBA franchise would launch a marketing campaign or ticket sales push in the wake of a new coaching announcement. But that will be made difficult due to the lockout.

Out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this afternoon, track officials are expected to announce the addition of NASCAR Nationwide and Grand-Am Rolex Series races to the Brickyard 400 weekend in 2012.

The Nationwide race, which has previously been held at Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park), will be held Saturday afternoon with the three-hour Grand-Am race being held Friday afternoon.

The events are being held to give added value to Brickyard 400 fans, and it should be a nice revenue driver for the IMS. But it comes at the expense of LOR. There is discussion that LOR will get another NASCAR race at some point, but that deal hasn’t been finalized.

Ironically, this year marks the 30th anniversary for the Nationwide race at Lucas Oil Raceway, which is situated in Clermont, to the west of the IMS.

Lucas Oil Raceway will not only lose its Nationwide race, but it’s NASCAR truck race as well. That event, sources told IBJ, will no longer be held in Indianapolis during the Brickyard 400 weekend.

“I can’t comment on the financial loss, but obviously it’s a big weekend for us,” said LOR spokesman Scott Smith. “Right now, we’re focused on making this year’s race the best ever.”

LOR officials made it clear they thought the intimate setting of their facility is better for the event than the cavernous IMS.

Despite the loss of the event to the Speedway, Smith doesn’t think it will hurt the working relationship of the two tracks.

“We’ve worked with the Speedway a lot in the past, and I don’t think that will change going forward,” Smith said.

While Smith said LOR’s 2012 schedule hasn’t been worked out, he does expect the track to host races in conjunction with next year’s Brickyard 400.

While LOR is licking its wounds, the Indianapolis Indians are celebrating a successful first half of their season.

Following Monday’s sold out game against the Toledo Mud Hens, the Indians’ season attendance is tracking 5.6 percent ahead of last year’s pace.

Through 41 home dates played this season the Indians have drawn a total of 313,175 fans compared to 296,673 through the same number of dates last season.

The July 4 crowd of 14,333 was the Indians second sellout in as many weeks as the Tribe drew a standing-room-only crowd of 14,481 on June 24. Monday’s sellout also marked the 44th in Victory Field history.

Over the past 19 home games the Indians have averaged 10,184 fans per game. The Indians have also drawn 101,786 fans over the past nine games for an average of 11,310 per game.

The Indians’ attendance increased from 549,552 in 2009 to 569,969 in 2010, and the team could be headed toward 600,000 this season as attendance usually rises throughout the summer.

The Indians record attendance was 658,250 in 1999.

  • More Races
    Could definitively be worth it if the added the Nationwide for another weekend. It is a great race there! Maybe add on a IndyCar night race too at ORP to run with Nationwide???
  • Outlaws
    LRP should bring in Outlaw Sprint cars and midgets. They are fun to watch on a short track
    It will be no fun to watch the Nationwide race at IMS.
  • Really?
    This is nothing more than a money grab for IMS.

    As a fan, do you really want to go through the hassle of getting into the Speedway for either the truck race and/or Nationwide event and then do it all over AGAIN to sit through the Brickyard 400? No, thanks.

    And, you're going to see nothing but vast stretches of empty seats on TV. You have to wonder why? One answer: money.

    Lucas Oil Raceway is a great venue for any event it hosts and it's a shame that greed is being used to "block" them from continuing what has been a great tradition.

    One last thing: the Nationwide race won't be any more exciting at the Speedway. That is, unless you come to the race to see Danica spin out -- you can watch that in May.
  • LOR
    I used to go to IRP for the ASA stock car races. It was a nice track, small but clean. Loved the fresh hot donuts on the way out. I went to one NASCAR truck race, Hornaday led start to finish. What a bore. I can't imagine that would be any better on a 2.5 mile track. I hate to see the Nationwide race shifted to IMS. It was a special thing to have racing events around town, especially for those of us who find IMS cavernous.
  • whatever
    LOR is one of the few unique and exciting venues left that the top touring NASCAR circuits visit. The Nationwide Cars and Trucks put on a spectacular show there every year (one I never miss). I love the "old school" feel. Racing at the brickyard is a joke. You can't see 1/4th of the track from the best seats and the car's aero dependancy paired with the narrow track make a horrible NASCAR venue. Come to think of it it's a horrible venue for any racing. If they'd gut the infied of trees, the pagoda and seats then build some real grandstands with height they may have a place where you could see the whole track and it might be enjoyable. I wish Bruton Smith would buy the place until then- IMS can continue to have meager crowds and poor TV ratings!
  • Come On!
    What we're seeing is just a greedy move by the overhyped IMS to put LOR out of business. The races at LOR are beast but I've fallen asleep at Indy out of boredom. The new job for LOR is to make sure that IMS doesn't get greedy and take the US Nationals and put them at IMS because that wouldn't stun anybody knowing the greed of IMS. As people have said, there will be little interest and therefore, small crowds. Can't wait for late July for LOR's races because they're 100,000 times better than the Brickyard.
  • Terrible for LOR
    We've been attending the NCWS Truck race at ORP/LOR since 2007. It's such an accessible track and I look forward to that race almost more than the Brickyard 400! Having attended races recently at Texas and Daytona, I can say that the bigger of IMS isn't alway better. We will miss going to the truck race as part of our weekend and doubt that we will attend the Nationwide race at IMS to compensate. I hope that NASCAR gives LOR an additional Nationwide race and a truck race at a different time on the schedule.
  • Money grab, that's the goal
    I hear people complaining that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is making a money grab by snatching the Nationwide race. Huh!!?? Isn't that what all businesses are supposed to do; make cash, generate revenue. It all amounts to one big money grab. While it will be a shame for the old IRP (and to some extent local race fans), you can hardly blame the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for going after Nationwide race. The only thing I would say is they are doing this 17 years later than they should have. The IRP is NOT the Speedway's top concern. Making money for their stakeholders is. Just like any other business.

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  1. Uh, sorry Johnnie, but you are incorrect. Despite the assertions by yourself and various defenders and captains, sports attendance is NOT off significantly at most sporting events in the US. Variances in attendance has been in the range of single digits, both + & - for years now. MLB has had most of its best overall attendance nubers in the last decade, and that trend has been consistent for most major sporting events. The number one issue cited by most fans when asked about attendance is the overall cost of attending. The presence of HD and big screen televisions in home doesn't even register, as a factor for not attending an event. VALUE in the product is the key, and apparently is something lacking in the current ICS. What other explanation is there when with what is routinely touted as the "best" racing on the planet, fans are staying away in DROVES. A "close" title battle into the last event at Fontana, with the "cars and stars" of the ICS, and who showed up? MAYBE 8K. Sorry, but HD TV isn't to blame for that kind of fan apathy.

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