Empty seats at Brickyard as attendance declines

UPDATE Super Weekend was a marketing idea that was meant to fill seats in the grandstands surrounding America’s most famous speedway. The ‘Super Weekend at the Brickyard’ was designed to give fans an entire weekend of racing at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, at a price of course. While no one can fault the idea on paper, the reality turned out to be an embarrassment of near epic proportions (see photo in this article).

Almost immediately after the announcement fans and critics began to question the idea of allowing anything but the top tier series of NASCAR to race at the ‘Big Track’. After all it had taken some time for open wheel fans to warm up to the idea of allowing stock cars to race on the famed yard of bricks, now it seemed that the kids were going to be allowed at the adult table. The addition of the Nationwide race at Indy meant that the loss of a race at the little track across town which while known as many names, was always simply Indianapolis Raceway Park. The Friday night racing under the lights there was some of the best of the year and always held in front of packed grandstands. IRP however would lose the event that was the highlight of the year for many.

What had been talked about since the announcement last year became a reality this past weekend. The Grand-Am race on Friday and Nationwide race on Saturday were nothing memorable. Other than two controversial calls by NASCAR on Saturday the racing was no better or no worse than anywhere else. Not that many people saw it in person. The crowd estimate of 40,000 was a mere drop in the ocean that is Indy which can seat 250,000. The empty seats far outnumbered the occupied ones. In fact some joked that there seemed to be more race officials, workers and crewmembers than actual fans. 40,000 fans would have been a sellout at IRP, but instead those fans that did attend were forced to watch the endless parade of Nationwide series cars.

Sunday’s Sprint Cup race fared only marginally better. Attendance was listed at 125,000 but there still seemed to be many empty seats. Jimmie Johnson staged a dominating performance and at least the racing itself was better than Saturday.

Bottom line; the idea of a Super Weekend, was a super failure. Fans who couldn’t afford a ticket to the Sprint Cup race on Sunday, still can’t afford one for Saturday. The proof of that were the rows upon rows of empty seats. No one should fault the marketing people for trying something, but until the economy turns around the smart thing might be to offer cut rate tickets for fans, not try and sully the historic speedway by running series there that many feel don’t belong and then trying to brand it.

The sight of so many empty seats is an embarrassment to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and to NASCAR. The experiment is over and it was a failure. Leave the big track for only the best racers America and the world has to offer, not the up and comers in the Nationwide series.

Next year send the Nationwide and Truck series back to Indianapolis Raceway Park. There may not be a yard of bricks or fancy seating, but the tickets and the beer are cheap, the racing is great and fans deserve to see NASCAR. They don’t need to be forced to pay for anything ‘Super’ and as this past weekend demonstrated, they won’t. Examiner.com

07/30/12 Yesterday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal 400 "played out in front of tens of thousands of empty seats" at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. NASCAR estimated the crowd at 125,000 (debatable), down from about 130,000 for last year's race. Less than an hour prior to the green flag, "traffic around the Speedway was moving smoothly, and parking was still available in the infield and Gate 10 lots"

Many fans noticed the drop, including Cincinnati residents Bob Hamilton, 70, and his best friend Adrian Alfano, 72, who have been coming to races at the Speedway since 1959. This is the second year they've brought Hamilton's son-in-law, Ken Proud, 38.

Hamilton and Alfano said there seemed to be fewer people this year — the crowd was around 130,000 in 2011 — and even newcomer Proud noticed the difference before the race.

"Usually by this time, these bleachers out here are full," Proud said. "It just seems like less people."

Less than an hour prior to the green flag, traffic around the Speedway was moving smoothly, and parking was still available in the infield and Gate 10 lots.

"In the 11 years I have worked this race, I do not recall general parking being available so close to race time in either of those lots," said Sgt. Tony Slocum of the Indiana State Police.

Scalpers had a challenging day, too.

Kyle Nicholson, 25, and Kyle Berher, 26, purchased tickets outside the Speedway for half price, $45 for a $90 ticket.

Berher has been coming to the Brickyard for 10 years. He said it was the smallest crowd he had seen.

Sara Hurtman, 31, Noblesville, said she had a seat valued at $75 that she couldn't give away on Facebook or at the Speedway entrance.

"People don't seem to get into it as much these days," Hurtman said.

Before race day, tickets on Craigslist were on sale for as little as $25. INDIANAPOLIS STAR

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