Speedway officials predict year-over-year attendance increase this May

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials expect to draw more fans to the track this May than they did a year ago.

Saturday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis will draw more than 40,000 ticket-buying fans, and the Indianapolis 500 will see ticket sales increases for the third consecutive year, said Speedway President Doug Boles. He declined to say how many fans would be at the Indy 500, by far the track’s biggest money maker.

“With the Grand Prix we’re right in the same ball park as last year at this point in time,” Boles said. “Just like last year, weather will be a big factor.”

Right now, weathercasters are predicting a chance of rain for Saturday.

Last year, IMS officials initially said anything over 30,000 for the inaugural Grand Prix would be a success. They later upped that to 40,000. Boles told IBJ Tuesday “we exceeded our expectations” for Grand Prix attendance last year.

“If we match what we did last year, we’ll consider that a success,” Boles said. “You often see a drop off after the inaugural year.”

The Grand Prix’s new title sponsor, Angie’s List, has provided a boost, pledging to bring 5,000 fans to the race, which takes place on the Speedway’s road course.

“They certainly have a significant amount of tickets. Just as important, with the Angie’s List sponsorship, the race has been transformed into a proper road race,” Boles said. “It really has a different look and feel from the [Indy] 500. It has the feel almost like a street race at a place like Long Beach.”

The outlook for the Indianapolis 500 looks even brighter. In each of the last 10 days, more Indy 500 tickets have been sold than on the corresponding day a year ago, Boles told IBJ Tuesday.

“The ticket sales for the [Indy] 500 are really, really strong,” Boles said. “We think we’ll have a really strong crowd this year, and we’re hopeful that will lead to an even stronger crowd next year for the 100th running of the race.”

Motorsports insiders said attendance for this year's Indianapolis 500 will likely be over 250,000.

Boles attributes the uptick this year to the new aero kit and the promise of higher speeds; an American, Ryan Hunter-Reay, winning the race last year; a strong marketing push during the NCAA men’s Final Four in Indianapolis in April and a new marketing deal with USA Today; and the run-up to the 100th running of the race next year.

“We just have a lot of really cool story lines surrounding the Indy 500 and I think that’s really driving interest in the race,” Boles said.

Boles also attributes improved ticket sales tactics to the sales increase for the Indianapolis 500, which will be run on May 24.

“Every year we get better at reaching out to ticket buyers who haven’t bought tickets in the last year,” Boles said. “We’ve gotten better and better at promoting this event.”

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