Allstate 400 attendance could be down 100K

UPDATE #2 A crowd of approximately 170,000 is expected today, down from the estimated 225,000 in attendance at last year's race. Still, that would keep the Brickyard as the largest draw on the 36-race Sprint Cup Series schedule. Daytona International Speedway has 168,000 seats; Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway has 160,000.

Joie Chitwood said the crowd will surpass what his team recently presented to the six-member Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. board of directors.

"The economy and the tires were a bit of a double-whammy, but every sports property is dealing with the economy," said Chitwood, who is resigning, effective Aug. 6, to lead the 13 tracks owned by International Speedway Corp. "It's a challenge this year, but we've done our best.''

Asked if it was possible NASCAR wouldn't race here in the future, Chitwood responded with a quick "no."

When they're optimistically predicting 170,000 that leaves only 80,000 unused seats, throw in the late give-aways and it's likely they didn't sell more than 160,000 tops for what is one of their two premier events….and this coming after a July 4 race at Daytona saw the entire back grandstand closed. If NASCAR can't come close to selling out two of their three biggest events, what does that say for the rest of the schedule?

07/24/09 In the midst of a season during which the sagging economy has hit NASCAR from all sides, the series visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend for the 16th time with the added burden of making fans forget what happened a year ago.

"Today has challenges to it," NASCAR President Mike Helton conceded about a sport confronted by a litany of issues that includes:

Falling attendance and TV ratings.

Reduced financial commitment from its four participating automobile manufacturers, two of which — General Motors and Chrysler — have only recently emerged from bankruptcy.

The suspension of driver Jeremy Mayfield, which has wound up in the courts. NASCAR claims Mayfield twice failed tests for methamphetamine; the driver maintains his innocence and accuses NASCAR of doctoring the results.

On top of all that, a return to Indianapolis brings back memories of the 2008 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, in which a record 52 of 160 laps were run under caution because of safety concerns about rapid tire wear.

NASCAR was forced to slow the race every 10 to 12 laps to allow teams to change tires.

The latter problem, at least, appears to have been resolved. Goodyear tested seven times at the Speedway and, after the final test last month, all involved were adamant that tires would not be an issue in Sunday's race.

"It's been a lot of effort, a lot of time and a lot of commitment on a lot of people's parts to make sure we've covered all of our bases," Goodyear official Greg Stucker said. "We're very, very confident we've done that."

But even with those assurances and the fact that the top two spots in the Sprint Cup standings belong to a pair of Indiana drivers — two-time Brickyard winner Tony Stewart, who was born and still has a home in Columbus, and four-time winner Jeff Gordon, who grew up in Pittsboro — ticket sales have been lagging.

While not divulging numbers, outgoing track President Joie Chitwood said IMS is not immune to the economic realities that have produced an alarming number of empty seats (official attendance is not made public) at nearly all of this season's first 19 races.

"We're going to be down, like just about every other venue out there," Chitwood said.

But with a smile, he noted that because of the Speedway's enormity (257,000 permanent seats), it could have 100,000 go unused and still boast NASCAR's biggest crowd of the season.

"Trust me, we'll have a lot of people here," Chitwood said. Indy Star

06/12/09 Rumor has it there are as many as 100,000 unsold tickets for this year's Allstate 400 at Indy, just underscoring the huge drop in popularity of NASCAR.

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