INDIANAPOLIS – The 26th Running of the Brickyard 400 went off without a hitch on Sunday afternoon from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But, one thing that once again came up was, where were the race fans?
I feel the need that we need to address that.
The stands in Turn 1 aren’t as filled as they used to be
Doug Boles told the competitors during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers meeting on Sunday morning that they had will have an estimated crowd of 65k in attendance for the race. While I get that most will point out that this race once had over 200k and even northwards of 250k in the events heyday, a crowd of 65k is strong these days.
Look, Darlington and the Southern 500 is getting lauded for having a sellout on Labor Day weekend. My question is, nothing against Darlington either, why is 47k being praised but 65k not?
Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis has a capacity around 70k for Indianapolis Colts games. If all but 5k seats are sold, I don’t hear anyone talking about how small the crowd is? Bankers Life Fieldhouse seats less than 20k and normally has between 10 to 15k showing up. Why are these open seats not chastised? If 65k showed up to BLF for a Pacers game, we’d never hear the end of how great that was.
Why does the Indianapolis Motor Speedway get so much flack for having triple that and nearly 20k more people in attendance on Sunday than Darlington just seven days earlier?
The main reason is, there’s a lot of open seats. It’s aesthetics.
The famed 2.5-mile oval has over 200k, some say around 215 to 220k of grandstand seating. When you have 65k in attendance and a lot of them on the spectator mounds, that leaves over 150k of gray aluminum visible, which in turn makes the place look empty.
Trust me, it was far from “empty.”
A lot of NASCAR tracks are reducing seating. Daytona went from nearly 165k to 101k in their new stadium style seating. Indianapolis, can’t reduce their seating capacity. That’s not an option. The Indy 500 annually draws around 300k now, so why would the track reduce grandstand availability?
65k for the Brickyard 400 is strong. That means the crowd is rising again which is a very good thing. 65k for a NASCAR race these days should be applauded not brought down.
Then, you have the people saying NASCAR doesn’t need to be here, but I disagree. NASCAR is bringing in a lot of money to the race track. The TV deal is so lucrative that the track is making millions just for one weekend. Throw in solid ticket sales, concessions, parking, etc and this money the track is making for the Brickyard weekend which helps what – the Indianapolis 500.
I don’t know why we all can’t work together. I get some aren’t NASCAR fans. I truly do. But, stop to think for a second that this NASCAR race is bringing the Indy 500 money too. It’s a win-win for the Speedway.
I also get that this race is less than desirable to witness. It’s a tough track to pass on. It always has been. Nothing is going to change that. Sunday’s race showed that it doesn’t matter what package these cars race, passing isn’t going to come easy.
Moving it to a night race isn’t going to change the racing product. Moving it to the road course isn’t going to help and likely is never going to happen for the Cup cars from what Boles said on Sunday morning too. While they discussed the possibility in the past, they admitted that other than trying it for the XFINITY Series, it isn’t something that will happen any time soon.
Nothing is going to get this race back to 200k. I think that ship has sailed. But, 65k and possibly more is a good thing and should be applauded. Continually to bash this race isn’t helping and will only hurt the track overall.