The month of May for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is already in overdrive.
Attendance for the opening weekend at the Speedway showed improvement over last year, said Mark Miles, CEO of IMS parent company Hulman & Co.
The opening weekend included Friday’s practice and qualifying for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Saturday's running of the race. The Grand Prix of Indianapolis was the fifth road race in this year's IndyCar Series.
Speedway officials don't like to reveal exact attendance figures, but Miles said attendance for the weekend was up “a few thousand” from a year ago, though not quite as high as in 2014—the inaugural running of the Grand Prix—when attendance topped 40,000.
Given the cloudy, cool, windy weather on Saturday, Miles said was pleased to see some improvement from a year ago.
“An event like that is so weather dependent,” Miles told IBJ. “We had better weather in 2015. Still, we were relatively pleased.”
“Before we started opening the month with [a road race], we brought in about 15,000 for the opening weekend, and with the road race we’re in the 40,000 range,” Miles added. “So we’re up a significant multiplier up over where we were before 2014.”
Television ratings for the race were up, too. This year’s race—which was broadcast on ABC—scored a 0.78 overnight rating nationally, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research. That means about 800,000 households across the U.S. tuned in. That’s a 13 percent increase over the 0.69 rating the race registered last year, according to Nielsen.
Auto racing advertisers said they’d like to see IndyCar Series races regularly hit 1.0 ratings, which equals a bit more than 1 million households nationwide.
When asked if he was pleased with this year’s TV rating, Miles said: “It’s going the right direction.”
French driver Simon Pagenaud pulled away to win the Grand Prix of Indianapolis for his third straight victory this season and second in three years on the road course at the famed Brickyard.