Thursday, July 22, 2010

Don't expect much (Attendance) From the Brickyard 400

NASCAR invades Indianapolis this week as all three major series of NASCAR will be racing in open wheel country. The Camping World Track Series (CWTS)will hit the payment on Friday night at O’Reilly Raceway Park (ORP), and the Nationwide Series will race on Saturday night at ORP. The headliner, the Brickyard 400, will drop the green flag sometime after 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, at the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the Sprint Cup Series taking center stage on ABC.

2010 will be the 17th race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that features stock cars. The first annual race was held in 1994, as local sprint track hero, Jeff Gordon passed Ernie Ivan late in the race to win his second ever NASCAR race, and it was just short of his 23rd birthday. The race was very popular throughout the 1990’s as 84 drivers were on the entry list in 1994, even A.J. Foyt drove in 94 race, but finished 30th.

The race continued to give NASCAR a huge popularity boost throughout the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s, but when the 2008 tire debacle happened, it was a chip in the armor that might not be easy to repair. 2008 exposed what a lot of fans already knew about NASCAR at IMS, its not a great track for stock cars, its not easy to pass and the race is pretty boring compared to NASCAR’s other superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega.

The attendance for the 2008 Brickyard 400 was a healthy 240,000 fans, 2009 saw attendance dip down to 180,000 and this year figures look to be just short of 150,000.

The economy, declining TV ratings, and just flatness in NASCAR, all have contributed to one of the worst NASCAR seasons in the past 20 years. When I say worst NASCAR seasons in 20 years, I caution that NASCAR is still attracting strong sponsorships, is the second most watched sport next to the NFL, and has all the drivers that common American’s relate to. NASCAR is hurting in attendance, TV ratings (The Daytona 500 was the lowest since 1991), and leadership.

How does this affect the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? It’s too early to tell at this point, but no brain surgeon is needed to figure out that NASCAR revenue going down, only hurts the bottom line at IMS, which owns the Indy Racing League. Will NASCAR continue to race at IMS? Yes probably, as long it makes business sense for the IMS Corporation.

2010 will be a year that NASCAR at the Brickyard, flirts with little or no revenue for the Speedway.

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