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Road America weekend benefits from ad blitz
Weather, maybe. Indifference, perhaps.

But if the Champ Car-American Le Mans doubleheader weekend at Road America falls short of expectations, it won't be because of a lack of promotion on the track's behalf.

"It's a spectacular event, so we wanted to make sure everybody knew about it," said George Bruggenthies, president of the Elkhart Lake facility.

"We're seeing new names and comments from people calling on the phone, 'Hey, I saw the ad, I heard the ad on the radio, and it sounds exciting.' Maybe because it is a doubleheader and it is an exciting event, we're getting more people to it. Rather than just one race, it's a whole weekend of entertainment."

Champ Car's decade-long struggle for attention in the United States has been well-documented, and the American Le Mans Series - road-racing in general - remains a niche in this NASCAR-nuts nation. Both stage viable economic events but neither leaves a racetrack like the scenic and sprawling Road America busting at the fences.

ALMS will stage three events apiece in companion with Champ Car and the Indy Racing League. From a promoter's standpoint, the weekend costs considerably more than to bring in just one of the series but less than it would to do each separately.

Road America's decision to try was based less on economics of two featured races vs. one and more on rebuilding what Bruggenthies describes as "a monster event." In the early 1990s, Champ Car's predecessor CART attracted 70,000-plus spectators on Sunday, but crowds have dwindled to less than half that size in recent years.

A five-year marketing effort throughout the upper Midwest culminated with the track spending more than ever to advertise the weekend.

"If I get 1½ times what I would have gotten (in crowd size) for one of the events last year, I'll be fine," Bruggenthies said Thursday, as his weekend began.

"We have an honest chance, if the weather forecast would cooperate a little bit. I honestly think I could report to you that we had a hundred thousand people here over four days. We have that kind of potential, and I haven't seen that in my tenure here."

Practice and qualifying are scheduled for both divisions today.

But if the billboards, the unprecedented front-of-the-sports-section newspaper advertisements, the bank-statement inserts and the radio and cable spots did anything, you probably knew that already. Jsonline.com

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