So far this month, spectators have seen more activity from the IMS track drying crew than by actual racers. Yesterday, 15 Speedway safety vehicles logged over 6,700 miles in their attempts to dry the track. Their efforts reaped a 30-minute practice session.
Three practice days that would have each normally attracted about 10,000 spectators were rained out reducing the crowds on those days to a few hundred. With a $5 entry fee for practice, that cost the Speedway $150,000 in gate receipts alone. Throw in parking, concession and merchandise sales, and the loss quickly doubles, motorsports business experts said.
The way the weather looks, the lost revenue for practice alone could approach $750,000 by month’s end.
The biggest loss so far came May 11, when the second day of qualifications was completely washed out. IMS officials were expecting more than 60,000 if the weather cooperated. With qualifications admission at $10 per person, the day amounted to a $1 million plus loss when you add in parking, concessions and other ancillary spending.
Carb Day May 23 and the final two qualifications days this coming weekend are expected to be big days with a $10 admission for each of those days. Rain and diminished crowds on those days could increase the loss to more than $3 million, sports economists said.
Luckily, Speedway officials have an ace in the hole. If the weather holds out on race day—May 25—they’ll expect a crowd between 250,000 and 300,000, pushed by the excitement of the recent unification of the Indy Racing League and Champ Car.
Since many of those tickets cost in the $70 to $85 range, a strong race crowd could raise around $20 million in ticket revenue alone.
Add in parking, soda, beer, hot dog and T-shirt sales that go with massive crowds, and a sunny race day will make Speedway boss Tony George forget all the raindrops that have fallen on his head this month.