|The crowd for the Brickyard 400 has become pathetic and playing games with the schedule won't help it. Instead of a 400-mile IndyCar race at the Speedway to end the season, they play host to their arch-enemy. It will be a cold day in hell before IndyCars are allowed to race at Daytona.|
Indianapolis Motor Speedway will announce Thursday that it is making a number of changes in hopes of improving the fan experience at the Brickyard 400 race weekend, July 21-23.
Highlights include the introduction of a Friday fanfest and a shift in scheduling, with qualifying for the 400 immediately following the Xfinity series race on Saturday evening. Many of NASCAR's top stars are scheduled to appear during the new fanfest, which also will feature other entertainment options for families. Following the fanfest will be the annual Hauler Parade.
Attendance at the Brickyard 400, one of the NASCAR season's signature races, has waned in recent years. Not long ago, the track drew upwards of 200,000 fans, but last year attendance was estimated at 50,000.
“This new schedule will be more convenient and exciting for our loyal fans, packing all of the can’t-miss action of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series into Saturday and Sunday," IMS President Doug Boles said in a news release. “Friday is also going to be a big, fun day at the track."
IMS and NASCAR are discussing additional ways to augment the 400 weekend but IMS spokesman Alex Damron would not comment on a Sports Business Journal report that they are considering moving the event to the track's road course. Damron added, however, that no NASCAR testing of the road course has been scheduled for this year.
Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., which owns the Speedway, hinted last year that changes might be coming when he told IndyStar that the Brickyard 400 is important to the company and efforts would be made to rebuild audiences.
“It’s a big place," Miles said. “When you use the whole stands, it takes a really big crowd. It’s an event that’s important to us. I think it’s important to NASCAR and to the NASCAR paddock, so we are just going to redouble the effort to grow it."
2017 BRICKYARD 400 WEEKEND SCHEDULE
Friday, July 21
1-1:55 p.m.: XFINITY Series first practice
3-3:55 p.m.: XFINITY Series final practice
3-5 p.m.: Fan Fest
9 p.m.: Hauler Parade
Saturday, July 22
9-9:55 a.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series first practice
11-11:55 a.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice
12:45 p.m.: XFINITY Series qualifying
3:30 p.m.: Lilly Diabetes 250 NASCAR XFINITY Series race (100 laps, 250 miles)
6:15 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying
Sunday, July 23'
3 p.m.: Brickyard 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race (160 laps, 400 miles) Indy Star