IBJNews

Race vendors gearing up for big weekend

Scott Olson
May 28, 2010
Keywords
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Vendors at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are banking on a big weekend to restore some of the luster they say has been missing from the historic 500-mile race the past several years.

Crowds were thin on Thursday to watch practice and qualifications for Friday’s Firestone Freedom 100 race. But Friday, known as Carb Day, typically attracts the most spectators leading up to the main event on Sunday.

Business reps both inside and outside the brickyard are cautiously optimistic that changes under way to make the Indianapolis 500 more exciting will translate into more traffic off the track.

Rick Johnson of New Jersey has been traveling to the city the past 24 years to sell motorsports paintings for his business partner, Maryland artist Randy Owens. Formula One commissioned Owens to design its official posters each of the eight years (2000-2007) the series ran at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Randy Bernard’s our great white hope,” Johnson said. “In my opinion, Tony George [messed] up the whole thing; 1995 was the peak, and it’s been a damaged market ever since.”

Indianapolis Racing League hired Bernard to replace George as CEO after directors dismissed him from the IMS last summer and he declined an offer to keep leading the league.

Bernard, the former head of the Professional Bull Riders circuit, took the helm of the racing series March 1. He already has compressed the traditional month-long Indianapolis 500 schedule into two weeks, shortening qualifications to a single weekend, and instituted a made-for-television, nine-car shootout for the coveted pole position. He also supports the notion of allowing a wide array of engine and chassis formulas at the race.

Whether his changes and ideas are enough to draw more race fans to the corners of 16th Street and Georgetown Road remains to be seen.

Johnson is not the only vendor who still harbors ill feelings toward George, who instigated an open-wheel split by breaking away from Champ Car and forming the IRL in 1996.

Business has not recovered since, said a ticket broker working a booth on Crawfordsville Road about a mile from the track.

“With the changes this year, we don’t have a clue [about ticket demand],” said the merchant, who refused to provide his name because he said
another reporter “twisted” a quote from him after the contentious open-wheel split.

But several vendors attribute recent declines in race attendance to a slumbering economy as well.

Steve Cermak, an independent contractor from Bloomington, Minn., who is working the Danica Patrick merchandising trailer outside the track, said the Indianapolis 500 is not the only racing event that has hit a rough patch.

Cermak typically sells merchandise for National Hot Rod Association driver John Force. But with that racing series off this weekend, he was brought in by Indianapolis-based Maingate Inc., which produces merchandise for both Force and Patrick.

“Times are tough right now,” Cermak said. “Everyone is having to work hard to get the fan.”

The three women at the nearby Diggin’ It Doughnuts stand have no history at the race to make comparisons. This is the first year they’ve operated their stand, which they plan to take to several summer festivals.

Business so far has been slow, said Tiffany West of Noblesville, but they’re anticipating a busy weekend.

“We’re hoping to be slammed Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” she said.

Inside the track, corporate participation seemingly is on the rise, at least from the perspective of Brett Cocherell, special events manager for hat retailer Lids, owned by Indianapolis-based Hat World Inc.

“This is as crowded, from a vendor standpoint, as the lot’s been in a number of years,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Indy 500 is on the rise
    What do you mean "it is done"? I'm not a scientist, but when something is the Largest Single Day Sporting Event in the World, it means that it is popular!
  • Who cares
    Crowds are the same or just a wee bit larger this year, but again, who cares? You watch and see the TV ratings numbers when they come out a week from now. Lowest ever. I predict it. The "500" is done as a major sporting event in this country and certainly done as a big moneymaker for the vendor. Game over. The "500" will be a thing of the past in just a couple of years. It had its day. It is done.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. The $104K to CRC would go toward debts service on $486M of existing debt they already have from other things outside this project. Keystone buys the bonds for 3.8M from CRC, and CRC in turn pays for the parking and site work, and some time later CRC buys them back (with interest) from the projected annual property tax revenue from the entire TIF district (est. $415K / yr. from just this property, plus more from all the other property in the TIF district), which in theory would be about a 10-year term, give-or-take. CRC is basically betting on the future, that property values will increase, driving up the tax revenue to the limit of the annual increase cap on commercial property (I think that's 3%). It should be noted that Keystone can't print money (unlike the Federal Treasury) so commercial property tax can only come from consumers, in this case the apartment renters and consumers of the goods and services offered by the ground floor retailers, and employees in the form of lower non-mandatory compensation items, such as bonuses, benefits, 401K match, etc.

  2. $3B would hurt Lilly's bottom line if there were no insurance or Indemnity Agreement, but there is no way that large an award will be upheld on appeal. What's surprising is that the trial judge refused to reduce it. She must have thought there was evidence of a flagrant, unconscionable coverup and wanted to send a message.

  3. As a self-employed individual, I always saw outrageous price increases every year in a health insurance plan with preexisting condition costs -- something most employed groups never had to worry about. With spouse, I saw ALL Indiana "free market answer" plans' premiums raise 25%-45% each year.

  4. It's not who you chose to build it's how they build it. Architects and engineers decide how and what to use to build. builders just do the work. Architects & engineers still think the tarp over the escalators out at airport will hold for third time when it snows, ice storms.

  5. http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/duke-energy-customers-angry-about-money-for-nothing

ADVERTISEMENT