New Hampshire IndyCar race could be the last UPDATE #3
Jerry Gappens, General Manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, said after the race that about 30,000 were in attendance for Sunday's race and he has until September 1st to make a decision about bringing IndyCar back next year. He stated that he would like to grow it to at least 50,000 to make it financially sound. He said he liked the controversy at the end when Will Power offered this gesture to race officials in the scoring tower (which was obviously followed by an apology from ABC) because it had people talking about the event. He understood that Power did it in the heat of the moment and hoped he would not get fined. Brian Barnhart met with the media and admitted he made a mistake in going green again.
|Will Power gestures to IndyCar Control after making the race go green on a wet track that resulted in him getting taken out by a spinning Danica Patrick|
08/14/11 IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard met with the media before today's MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which marked the return of Indy car racing to New England for the first time since 1998.
But did it necessarily mean that the Izod IndyCar Series would be back at NHMS in 2012?
While attendance figures were likely to be less that what was anticipated, given the inclement weather that prompted the scheduled 4 p.m. start of the ABC-televised race to be moved up a half hour, Bernard said he planned to discuss the series' future at the track with Jerry Gappens, NHMS executive vice president and general manager, and Bruton Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., the parent company of NHMS.
"We're in this for the long haul, too,'' Bernard said. "If Bruton and Jerry want to try it again, and we continue to see growth, I think that's the most important thing we can do.''
The addition of NHMS to the 2011 IndyCar Series added a mile oval to the diverse circuit, which competes over various venues such as superspeedways, short ovals, permanent road circuits, and temporary street circuits.
"We need these type of tracks in our series, to help us keep that balance where we can proudly say we are those most versatile race car drivers in the world,'' Bernard said. "So we want to work with Jerry and Bruton.
"We want to look at today, sit down and re-evaluate everything and get our arm around the financials and marketing and promotion and how much pr we were able to get out of this, too --- ABC, as well,'' Bernard said. "We know that 4 o'clock start is not the most opportune time for the locals and the live attendance, but what we feel is most critical is the later you go on ABC, the more households you're going to attract.''
Bernard stopped short of saying he was disappointed in the turnout. Bernard said former track owner Bob Bahre said a crowd of 7,500 turned out to watch the Indy Racing League's latest race in Loudon in 1998. It was down from 8,000 the previous year.
Track officials had expected a turnout of 25,000.
"I don't think we're disappointed, I wouldn't say that,'' he said. "We came in here with expectations of we wanted to see what we could do. Did we think we would have more? Yes. I'll say that. The fact we're significantly up from the last time, I think we're making progress.''
Asked if it would be more advantageous to move away from the two NASCAR Sprint Cup dates the IndyCar Series event was sandwiched between this year, Bernard said, "It's a good point, and that's one of the things we have to look at.'' Boston Globe08/14/11 New Hampshire Motor Speedway general manager Jerry Gappens hopes his Hoosier pride didn't get the best of him. The Windfall, Ind., native worked three years to get an IndyCar race back in New England and used a crowd of 35,000 to build a budget. He said he needs a strong last-minute turnout to reach that figure.
Only about 25,000 tickets had been sold at the latest tally, he said. [Editor's Note: See below - 25K sold and distributed. This includes free giveaways, which means they all won't show up. The grandstands hold 70K, so no matter how you slice it, IndyCar is going to come out looking like a loser.]
"I thought 35,000 would be a fairly realistic figure, but right now we're a little short of that," he said.
Gappens, a former television pit reporter for the Indy 500, said the event had several unexpected challenges, starting with the absence of a computer database of ticket buyers from the last IndyCar race here in 1998.
Then again, there were only a little more than 7,000 tickets sold for that race, and about 8,500 for the 1997 event.
"I realized that we were basically re-introducing the product in this market," he said.
Gappens went so far as to print brochures in Portuguese and French to reach pockets of the community. Gappens and IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard hope the series can return next year. Gappens has until Sept. 1 to make that decision. He said he will review the final numbers from this weekend before deciding.
"(Track owner) Bruton Smith reminds me all the time that we're a for-profit company," he said. IndyStar
[Editor's Note: Let's not forget that Bruton Smith and SMI made a play to bring IndyCar racing to the New Hampshire oval after talks got serious about IndyCars racing around the New England Patriots football stadium in Foxborough, Mass. That would have been a much more successful event, but Smith and company did not want a competing race facility in their market and convinced IndyCar to race at their facility instead. Today will be a money loser for SMI, but sometimes they stopped the race near Boston, which was their goal.]08/13/11 New Hampshire Motor Speedway President Jerry Gappens said the goal is to have 35,000 in attendance for Sunday's IndyCar race.
"I thought that was a realistic goal," Gappens said. "In the back of my mind I was hoping that we could get to [50,000], but I thought [35,000] was a good number based on what you see realistically at our tracks."
Gappens said Friday that about 25,000 tickets have been sold or distributed for Sunday (distributed means free tickets plastered over the nearby market in the hope of avoiding a complete embarrassment like IndyCar had in Milwaukee). The crowd will go far in shaping the decision of whether or not the series will be brought back in 2012.
"We're basically introducing a new product to New England race fans again because it had been gone for so many years and so many things have changed, it's kind of like reintroducing a product," Gappens said. "I think they've got a good product. There on track product is pretty good. It just hasn't been exposed and marketed to enough people yet. You look at it like a product launch. You know you're going to have to put some money into it and it might take a while to make it go, but at the same time we are a publicly traded company and we're in business to make money at any event we do. We need to be profitable with that."
But with two NASCAR Sprint Cup race bookending the IndyCar race in July and September, both of which sell 70,000 tickets each, it's easy to see that fans won't have much money to spend on an IndyCar race in that market. Once you give away free tickets in a market, you've killed the market. Fans will expect freebies every year.