Blog Entry

Critical year for Brickyard 400

Posted on: July 27, 2011 2:43 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2011 12:56 pm
By Pete Pistone

The grandstands at Sunday’s Brickyard 400 will generate as much attention as the on track action during NASCAR’s annual visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

That’s because since the Sprint Cup Series first competed at the historic Indianapolis track in 1994, attendance has virtually been cut in half. 

As recently as 2005, 280,000 fans showed up for the Brickyard 400 but the numbers have been going downhill ever since. Estimates had about 140,000 on hand for the 2010 edition of the race however there is wide speculation this year’s crowd will be even drastically smaller. 

The Charlotte Observer reported last week an internal NASCAR memo citing that “ticket sales are significantly behind from previous years," leaving many to believe an audience of 100,000 for Sunday’s 18th running of the 400 would be a major success. 

So what happened to turn what some still consider the second most prestigious race in NASCAR with the second largest purse behind only the Daytona 500 into a must not see event? 

The 2008 tire debacle is one of the major culprits, with thousands of fans vowing never to return to watch a stock car race at IMS after the fiasco that saw Goodyear tires literally blowing to pieces after only ten laps of racing. 

Certainly the economy is a factor to consider as all tracks including Indianapolis continue to suffer from consumers simply not being able to afford spending entertainment dollars as freely as once before. Couple on the cost of tickets to still soaring fuel prices, inflated hotel rates and other travel expenses and any NASCAR weekend can easily be a thousand dollar or more outing. 

I’d toss Kentucky Speedway into the Brickyard woes equation as well. The Sparta, Kentucky facility is about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Indianapolis. Rather than making the trek to Indy, thousands of fans from that area simply will choose to stay closer to home and took in Kentucky’s inaugural Cup race. 

Plus the debacle that transpired at Kentucky’s Sprint Cup debut may also play a role in keeping people away from Indy. I’ve heard from a number of fans who say the horrific tales of parking woes and traffic nightmares that ruined the Kentucky race earlier this month have scared them away from attending any NASCAR race on the calendar. 

Then there’s the Indianapolis Motor Speedway itself and the NASCAR product the track produces. While the Brickyard 400 will always be a spectacle, the racing usually leaves a lot to be desired. 

Stock cars were not meant to race at the flat, 2.5-mile track, which was created for the more nimble open wheel machines. More often than not the Brickyard 400 turns into a follow-the-leader game of pit strategy and fuel mileage rather than the kind of side-by-side racing most fans embrace. 

That’s not to say the race hasn’t created its share of drama, memorable moments and storylines over the years, but if it’s door handle to door handle competition you’re looking for a trip to watch the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series at nearby Lucas Oil Raceway should be on your itinerary. More on that in a minute. 

Finally there are the sightlines at the mammoth facility. Because of its sheer size and flat layout, there’s no way to view the entire track from the grandstands. That’s a turnoff for many who would rather be in the comfort of their living room and enjoy the high definition television presentation with surround sound than sit in the stands to watch only part of the action. 

But even with all of those issues, NASCAR belongs at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The prestige of racing at one of if not the most famous race tracks in the world is something that helps elevate the prestige of the Sprint Cup Series. As one of auto racing’s most prominent entities, NASCAR should compete at the hallowed ground of Indianapolis. 

It seems both track management and the sanctioning body agree and while recognizing the many challenges, remain committed to the Brickyard 400. 

"I think to blame it all on the economy is not appropriate, but the economy is certainly part of it," said IMS president Jeff Belskus. "I don't know if we had become complacent with things, that may be the word, but we have to ramp up our efforts." 

Next season’s plan to include a Rolex Grand Am Sports Race race on the schedule in addition of the Nationwide Series event moving from Lucas Oil Raceway to IMS is intended to enhance the value of the weekend for fans. Autograph sessions, reduced ticket prices and other entertainment activities are also part of the strategy to pump up NASCAR’s mid-summer trip to Indianapolis and hopefully bring back some of the luster that has been lost in recent years. 

Whether that will be enough to generate interest remains to be seen 

The Brickyard 400 remains a premier event on the racing calendar. But it’s in need of a tune-up and one that can’t come a moment too soon.   

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Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: July 29, 2011 6:56 pm

Critical year for Brickyard 400

Nascar has slowed down its cars and added safety features to the equipment and safer barriers to the walls.  People can argue all they want but the truth is there is no real DANGER in Nascar anymore.  It is exciting to see cars going as fast as they can.  Imagine the popularity of the NFL if it became two hand touch. 

Since: Jun 26, 2007
Posted on: July 29, 2011 11:35 am

Critical year for Brickyard 400

Yay! Let's cancel this race and move it to another pathetic 1.5 mile tri-oval....Gimme a break! A classic track like no other on the circuit, cars that don't desintegrate into shrapnel at the slightest touch, shoulder to shoulder racing; rabid followers; this should be a blockbuster. Lower the prices and make it a weekend, not just an expensive one-off race. Instead they build a cookie-cutter track in Kentucky and fans go there? Puh-leeze.  

Since: Jan 13, 2007
Posted on: July 29, 2011 10:02 am

Critical year for Brickyard 400

jones_fan20......I couldn't have said it any better,great post,I've been to the last 33 Indy 500's and you're right the  stock cars look like they are on the parade lap at the 500.....slow and boring,I don't care what anyone says Indy car racing is much more exciting on any track be it ovals or road then NASCAR is,if you like pure racing and speed and passing  there is no comparison,the plate races are some of the dumbest racing I have ever seen....two man tag teams,NASCAR needs help and like the one poster here says go back to true stock cars and get away from spec cars like the Indy cars are doing next season.As bad as it is ,I will be at the Brickyard 400,you can buy a ticket at 25th and Georgetown right before race time for ten bucks.

Since: Dec 5, 2008
Posted on: July 28, 2011 1:46 pm

Critical year for Brickyard 400

Get rid of restrictor plates and let these guys go over 200 mph like Bill Elliot and the boys did 20 years ago.

Nascar officials blew it when they cleansed all the personal wars drivers had with each other by fining them and take points away - aka Tony Stewart - and now they are trying to bring it back but too many years of plain vanilla "good ol' boys" aka Jeff Gordon - and clean racing has finally caught up with them.  When was the last time Tony Stewart caused problems?  Now the media focuses on Kyle Bush but everyone hates him anyways because he's just a douche who would rather wreck you then race you if he knows he can't win.

Owners and crew chiefs get fined or lose points because of a non-approved bolt, really?  How about the days if Ford or Chevy etc were just better than the rest because of horsepower, aerodynamics etc. so be it, nope, we need to have all the cars match the same specs creating boring races as the driver that usually wins is the crew chief that picks a better gear ratio, has better gas mileage and and/or picked the right chassis setup and fans have to watch him lead 168 laps out of 200.  I do believe they used to call this the IROC series -


Since: May 10, 2011
Posted on: July 28, 2011 1:44 pm

Critical year for Brickyard 400

What a terrible track to host a nascar race, and now they are bringing trucks and nationwide cars.....who's the idiot who thought of that , they should be fired. The Indy race is by far the most boring race of the season, I love nascar, but would rather watch paint dry than watch this joke of a race.....I can tell you right now, whoever has clean air will dominate this race, there will be zero passes on the track for the lead too. They should all race at IRP instead, much better racing.

Since: Dec 19, 2006
Posted on: July 28, 2011 10:45 am

Critical year for Brickyard 400

You look at the picture with this story and think that next year for the Nationwide and truck race they will be filling in the 2 grandstands at the start/finish line and that will be it.  So the cars will go by and they will have to look at tv screens to see rest of the race.  This is not a great track to see a race at. 

Since: Sep 5, 2008
Posted on: July 28, 2011 9:19 am

Critical year for Brickyard 400

Wake me up when NASCAR goes back to half-mile tracks. Otherwise I'd rather nap.

Since: Feb 17, 2008
Posted on: July 27, 2011 9:57 pm

Critical year for Brickyard 400

It seems like it would be the perfect match, the world's greatest race course with the series widely considered as the tops America has to offer.  Unfortunately the two just aren't made for each other.  Despite all of NASCAR's success they simply cannot match the prestige, drama and pure spectable of the Month of May at IMS.  No matter what you always look at stock cars there and they just simply look and feel slow and unsuited for the place.  It sounds insance considering they are pushing 200 mph, but once you see an IndyCar blast around the track getting up around 230 mph, nothing else will do. 

Since: Jan 13, 2007
Posted on: July 27, 2011 9:49 pm

Critical year for Brickyard 400

NASCAR is fading not just the race at Indy,I don't know the figures but I'm betting Indy has one of the highest attendance totals of all the  NASCAR races.To single out Indy is wrong,from what I see on TV when I do watch a race there are many ,many empty seats at most tracks.even Bristol and that use to be one of the hardest tickets to get your hands on.NASCAR just isn't that good of a product right now no matter how you look at it.

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