Brickyard 400 attendance becoming major concern

August 1, 2011
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus told me last week that attendance for this year’s Brickyard 400 was between 100,000 and 150,000.

For those at Sunday’s NASCAR race, it’s difficult to imagine attendance wasn’t closer to 100,000 than 150,000. Not even ESPN’s effort to minimize cameral angles that show bare grandstands could hide the fact that the crowd at this year’s Brickyard was not great.

NASCAR’s attendance estimate for the race was 138,000. NASCAR’s estimated attendance for the 2010 race was 140,000. In 2007, NACAR estimated the crowd at 270,000. IMS doesn’t release attendance figures.

Many in attendance noticed how easy it was to get in and out of the track on race day. A far cry from the scene at the Indianapolis 500 in May, which has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years.

Belskus said renewal rates from 2010 to this year among ticket buyers were above 80 percent and that he expected attendance at the 2011 race to equal that of the 2010 race.

Maybe the hot weather kept some people at home. The fact that the race is on TV live probably doesn’t help.

But it would appear from the crowd at Sunday’s race, the Speedway has some serious work ahead to revive this race. A number of observers said NASCAR’s attendance estimate seemed high.

While current ticket buyers must be the Speedway’s first responsibility, attracting new ticket buyers clearly must also be a high priority to re-build the event.

Former Speedway CEO Tony George, who is still on the board of the company that runs the track, said the Brickyard would make money even if the Speedway was half full. “For sure, it makes money,” George told WFNI-AM 1070 this May.

My math shows the facility may no longer be half full for the Brickyard 400.

At this point, though, officials for NASCAR and the Speedway say they are totally committed to continuing the race. It’s still one of the top three in attendance on the NASCAR circuit.

And help is on the way. Starting in 2012, Crown Royal will be the new title sponsor for the race. CR officials have committed to spend $7.5 million over the next five years to promote the race. The whisky maker will jump in later this summer with renewal efforts.

CR will pay another $7.5 million in cash to the Speedway over five years.

The NASCAR Nationwide and Grand Am races also have been added to the three-day weekend—starting in 2012—to bolster attendance.

But it’s important to note, NASCAR and the Speedway are on a year-to-year contract. It’s been that way since the inaugural race in 1994.

That deal means the stock car series could pull the plug at any time. Same goes for the Speedway. At this time, neither side has given any indication they’ll do that.

If NASCAR and the Speedway can’t rekindle this event with the Crown Royal deal and other enhancements that are in the works, a difficult business decision will have to be made. If the board members that control the track have shown one thing in the past three years, it’s that they’ve lost their patience with money-losing causes.

  • Times are tough all over
    Maybe the promoter know, not enough promotion?

    Maybe there's just to many seats at Indy these days.

    Maybe the fans, who were insulted by the tire fiasco a few years back are giving the ultimate protest by abstaining. The speedway even apologized.

    Maybe Indy is just oversaturated, over done, over played.

    Maybe no one cares anymore.

    Maybe the speedway needs stunts and gimmicks to bring back the lost fans.

    ToNy sez it makes money easy, even half full, so why all the hand-wringing?
  • change
    It's not so surprising. Nascar's overall popularity is down. Since the original Brickyard, races have been added at Chicago and Kentucky. The economy tanked. The weather stinks. I don't think it's any big deal. I'd imagine IMS half-full is still more fans that just about any other Nascar venue that's full. I don't know that adding a Nationwide race will help, but having a title sponsor won't hurt. I can't imagine that anyone is actually--as you said--"losing money" anyway.
  • Blackout
    Why is the Indy 500 blacked out locally, but the Brickyard 400 is not?
    • It's the economy Stupid
      NASCAR is more blue collar and those folks are hurting, and can sit at home and watch the race on ESPN. Ticket prices are way too high. I was an innaugral season ticket holder in turn 3 @ $75 a tic, that went to $135 or so before I let them go and this year turn 3 was empty! Lower prices IMS!
    • It's the economy Stupid
      NASCAR is more blue collar and those folks are hurting, and can sit at home and watch the race on ESPN. Ticket prices are way too high. I was an innaugral season ticket holder in turn 3 @ $75 a tic, that went to $135 or so before I let them go and this year turn 3 was empty! Lower prices IMS!
    • Night Race?
      I agree with MC that tix prices need to come down. Never understood the logic - lower prices should bring more people which one would think would equal higher prices with less sales - all else being equal. Plus, more people means more concessions, etc.
      What about having the race on Sat night? Daytona does it in July as do others. With cooler temps at night, might bring more people. Might cost IMS some bucks upfront, but think it would be well worth it in the long run. Look at the crowds at Lucas Oil at the Sat race. Btw, Nationwide should go back to Lucas - IMS is too big for this series.
      • Ticket Prices
        Our tickets in H stand actually went down from $70 last year to $50 this year.
      • Night at the Brickyard
        I completely agree with SL - Consider changing the Brickyard to an evening event! The bricks will have cooled off, fans would have a much better time, the cars look awesome under the lights,and music sounds better! The food and alochol sales would probably double, as well as attendance records! Here's to a "Night at the Brickyard!"
      • Too many races
        As said earlier here, NASCAR has too many races, July weather here has been scorching, NASCAR main audience income down, Indy fans can stay home and watch on TV...oh, the race itself is an indeterminable bore to watch in person. Not enough passing, just one conga line of cars going round and round...and round.
      • Here's the real TRUTH

        Great article by Hinton, who, calls it the way it should be called. And while he blames NASCAR...the fault falls squarely on Tony George's shoulders. You reap what you sow.
      • NASCAR
        The reality is that the NASCAR show is old and very uninteresting. The good ole boy personality of the players has grown monotonous. Most importantly, the racing -if that's what you call circling the track in line and only drafting to pass - stinks. No technology, no real racing, bland cookie cutter personalities and a cold, unfriendly and behind the times IMS result in what is happening. See the historical issues of the IRL for reference. Don't bother asking Tony George, he's the dufus that caved to NASCAR and created the IRL 15 years ago!
      • Hmmm
        One race is blacked out but is pretty full. Another race shows the race locally for free and is half-full. I assume that was the point you were making.
      • Race under the lights
        Totally agree with holding the race at night on a Saturday! It is way to hot to sit out there in the heat. Or move it to September when it isn't so brutal outside. Host a great day of fun like Carb Day for it, to encourage people to come out and experience the sport. The other piece of the puzzle is that it is a great and important race for the drivers on the big track, but the visual isn't as entertaining for the fans as the short tracks and superspeedways i.e no passing or wrecks b/c the cars get so spread out.
      • Day of the Race
        The day of the race makes a difference. When it first began in 1994 it was on a Saturday. The first Sunday race was under the new television deal of 2001. For me I like the Saturday afternoon race, it gave me time to rest up before going back to work on Monday. Yes real people work. Going to a race on Saturday is much easier...
      • My Glass Is Half Full
        Looks like the hypersensitivity meter is pegged today. Primary points:
        -100,000K + is a far larger crowd than NASCAR draws for the vast majority of their races.
        -Do you have any idea how much revenue is derived from ticket sales of over 100,000? Or how much television revenue is involved? Or what the effect of that much concession and merchandise business is? Or corporate sponsorship? Putting the CEO of a record company on the flag stand is not cheap for the record company.

        Doom and glooming about this 'problem' is petty and displays a woefully out of touch with reality sentiment.

        IMS is already planning an enhanced weekend for the BY400 and those additions should make for a fun, well attended weekend.

        100,000 attendance a problem? I really don't think so.
      • Not so bad
        IMS has done a nice job of holding this event for almost two decades now and while it is true the event has seen a marked decrease in attendance, it still is a big race the Speedway and NASCAR have should continue to partner.

        Next year offers some additional racing and a new sponsor. More bang for the buck with a variety of cars and drivers.

        It is a mid-summer racing celebration and 100,000 fans may just be what the market will bear. That doesn't make it a failure by any means, especially with the Speedway earning money.

        The actual racing is not the greatest. Yesterday's event was fairly dull but not all races are that way and there will be future Brickyard races with compelling turns of event. Who would have thought Paul Menard would win? John Menard's kid. A man with a legacy at IMS.

        It was a good weekend and keep in mind that IMS was built to the amazing capacity it has for essentially the single largest and greatest motor racing event in history, not NASCAR. The shine has faded from those early years when the stock cars first roared into town, but there is still plenty of color and style left. NASCAR and the Brickyard are not done unless the powers-that-be decide running in front of a half empty race track is bad for business. I doubt it. They still get 100,000-plus.
      • I'm done
        Until NASCAR takes ownership of the real problems with the event, I wont be back next year. It was B-O-R-I-N-G. Yes, I agree the heat and economy is a factor - but not as big as some are making it out to be, more of a side-note. The tickets are overpriced and you're lucky to sell your premium extra tickets for $20. I just keep them because I want the extra room. The cars are uninteresting. I'm done. And... What's this about attendance up? That's an insult to my intellegence, You've got balls, I'm stunned anyone would even suggest that. The Grand Am and Nationwide races are going to suffer the same boring fate. I'm done...
      • Chief is still whining about his apology? Sounds like IMS only apologizes when it is appropriate which means Chief won't be seeing one.

        It is funny that people preach doom and gloom about the Brickyard like it is the only issue NASCAR has. Google NASCAR and Attendance and you will see article after article about dropping attendance. it is not just a Brickyard problem.

        And since IMS just scored one of the biggest title sponsorships in NASCAR, not everyone thinks it is a bad race or a doomed race.

        The issues are plentiful. Indy in July/August is hot. But that alone is not what keeps fans away. The tire fiasco, like that in F1 has caused a fair share of ill feelings. The recession hitting the blue collar fan base as well as NASCAR abandoning its roots hurts as well. One of the biggest issues is NASCAR scheduling Chicago, Indy and KY within a month. That scavenges the fan base. If you want to keep those races, then spread them out. Have KY in the spring, Chicago in the summer and Indy in September. You are more likely to get people to go to mulitple races. finally, and most importantly, NASCAR is over exposed. Too many shows, too many people trying to suck blood out of it. 36 races plus is too many. Not many people have the time to follow that many races and it makes each race that much less important.

        Cut the races back to 25 to 30 at most. That keeps fan interest and does not kill drivers and teams....imagine being on the road 40+ weeks a year, counting testing and non points races.

        Don't license your product for every tv show, article of clothing or product.

        Come on now, NASCAR Angels TV show? NASCAR G-strings in size 4XL? Come on guys enough is enough.

        Finally if you are called stock cars, make them somewhat stock. There is nothing stock on a current car. It used to be win on Sunday, sell on Monday. Now the cars are identical bodies only differentiated by stickers. So much for stock.

      • Some changes needed
        I have attended each race for the past 10 years and enjoyed this years race much more than the past few. There was a lot of passing especially between turns 1-2 and it was a clean race with few cautions. With that being said, I would not have attended if i would have had to sit in the sun. Instead of paying $70 for 4 tickets in sunny Stand J, the wives stayed home this year and my buddy and I bought 2 $160 tickets in the covered Penthouse seating. It was worth every penny with the breeze and no sunburn coming home.

        Many people have commented on here about moving it to a Saturday night race. A good idea but the Speedway does not have lights! Even if the money was there to install lighting, how many Indy 500 purist would fight that to the end? A lot is my guess.

        What I think would be more interesting is to hold the Nationwide Race on the oval on Saturday and put the cup cars on the road course on Sunday. I think you would see a lot more passing and interesting racing this way. For those than want to see the cars on the oval, they would have an opportunity.

        My 1st choice would be to put in lighting but the 2nd alternative would work and interest a lot of people who like road course racing and a lot of passing.

        Prices are not too high. Go attend a venue with cheaper tickets. You have added cost of parking at some of them. The other Speedways do not allow you to bring your cooler in forcing you to buy inferior concessions at a higher price. It is cheaper for me to buy Penthouse tickets and bring my cooler in at the Brickyard than go anywhere else.
      • IMS, don't waste your money!
        It's simple. Popularity ebbs and flows. I never followed NASCAR until the mid-90's when I jumped aboard the bandwagon because NASCAR was the next big thing and everyone likes to be associated with what is cool. But NASCAR has run it's course. It's not cool anymore. It's no longer hip. It never was interesting. Until Friday's media coverage I had forgotten that this was Brickyard weekend.
      • NASCAR is Big, but Smaller
        NASCAR is still the big dog on the block. Known to virtually anyone, the name is. Most of this is due to constant exposure. But there is no doubt the fan base is smaller than five years ago. There is still keen interest amongst tens of thousands. But it no longer has the across-the-board, mainstream popularity it once had when it was trendy.

        I'd say teh sport will continue to decline for a few more years closer to what it was in the mid-80's. Still very popular and compelling. But not the overhyped, overexposed, mass appeal, mainstream, in your ace 24/7, monster it was and still is, although that is almost over.

        The sport will be better with about ten to twelve fewer races and cars that are more stock.

        Hollywood stuff ruined a good thing. Peopel got rich, though.
      • Yellow Flag 400
        2008's Yellow Flag 400 at the Brickyard was the last NASCAR race I'll ever attend. Shame on you!
      • IMS charging too much
        @MC...Thank you! I thought I was the only one who feels that IMS is charging WAAAY too much for tickets these days!
      • really ?
        lol...really ? lights at IMS ? for a nascar race ? yeah , right , whats amusement park at the vatican ?......maybe the pope saying "start your engines" at a race ?
        i think its time we all just admit the gimmick of nascar at IMS has run its course.
        now they are adding nationwide...that just boggles my mind. in a few years are we going to see street stock car racing at IMS ? or maybe the the worlds largest demo derby ?
        IMS is as big as it is , because it holds the worlds biggest one day sporting event. just look at how many empty seats you saw last may...few and far in between.
        2012 is bringing many changes to IRL , with several different engines and different aero kits. i for one , cant wait for next years IRL season.
        todays nascar is cookie-cutter cars & for the most part , cookie-cutter race tracks.
        i miss the days of the busch series and winston cup. busch was a stepping stone to winston cup , rarely did a cup driver run in busch. today you have full fledged , full time , cup teams (hello roush) running the entire nationwide schedule with full time cup drivers !! the average nationwide team does not have those kind of resourses.
        if it was up to me , i would like to see nationwide stay at indy raceway park and the cup cars run at north wilksboro or rockingham on this week end.
        leave the worlds biggest and greatest race track for the worlds biggest and greatest race , the greatest spectacle in racing in may.
        i raced a sportsman late-model for 10 years at the local 1/4 mile. i have gone to the 500 every year since i was a child (i'm 52), i used to go to all michigan int speedway races in the 70's , 80's , and 90's. i did go to the nationwide race at mis last year. thats my backround , and these are just my opinions.
      • Change Ticket Sales
        I was a season ticket holder, holding 4 tickets since the inaugural race. It was there policy at that time that season tickets be renewed and paid for 4 weeks after the race, for next years race. I had been working my up with renewals to the perfect spot at the start/finish line, and in the shade. I was about 5 days late (5 weeks after the race) in paying my next years tickets. Soon after that the people at the Brickyard returned my check and said they could not honor my request for next years tickets and said I could reapply. After 5 years of being a season ticket holder, I gave up and never renewed. Wonder how many other people that happened to. Bet they wish they had my business now. Maybe change the deadline for season ticket holders to renew, so they don't have to shell out $500 after seeing the race that they just spent an equal amount on to attend?
      • Night Race
        I think the Brickyard 400 as a night race would be great and also perhaps adding another Indy night race would be good.
      • Tired of Hendricks
        Tired of announcers feeling sorry for poor oldJeff Gordon not winning for over a year. And bragging about how great junior is. one win in 4 years, that is really great.
      • reply
        People deserve wealthy life and business loans or secured loan can make it much better. Because people's freedom depends on money state.

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