Critical year for Brickyard 400

The grandstands at Sunday’s Brickyard 400 will generate as much attention as the on track action during NASCAR’s annual visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

That’s because since the Sprint Cup Series first competed at the historic Indianapolis track in 1994, attendance has virtually been cut in half.

As recently as 2005, 280,000 fans showed up for the Brickyard 400 but the numbers have been going downhill ever since. Estimates had about 140,000 on hand for the 2010 edition of the race however there is wide speculation this year’s crowd will be even drastically smaller.

The Charlotte Observer reported last week an internal NASCAR memo citing that “ticket sales are significantly behind from previous years," leaving many to believe an audience of 100,000 for Sunday’s 18th running of the 400 would be a major success.

So what happened to turn what some still consider the second most prestigious race in NASCAR with the second largest purse behind only the Daytona 500 into a must not see event?

The 2008 tire debacle is one of the major culprits, with thousands of fans vowing never to return to watch a stock car race at IMS after the fiasco that saw Goodyear tires literally blowing to pieces after only ten laps of racing.

Certainly the economy is a factor to consider as all tracks including Indianapolis continue to suffer from consumers simply not being able to afford spending entertainment dollars as freely as once before. Couple on the cost of tickets to still soaring fuel prices, inflated hotel rates and other travel expenses and any NASCAR weekend can easily be a thousand dollar or more outing.

I’d toss Kentucky Speedway into the Brickyard woes equation as well. The Sparta, Kentucky facility is about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Indianapolis. Rather than making the trek to Indy, thousands of fans from that area simply will choose to stay closer to home and took in Kentucky’s inaugural Cup race.

Plus the debacle that transpired at Kentucky’s Sprint Cup debut may also play a role in keeping people away from Indy. I’ve heard from a number of fans who say the horrific tales of parking woes and traffic nightmares that ruined the Kentucky race earlier this month have scared them away from attending any NASCAR race on the calendar.

Then there’s the Indianapolis Motor Speedway itself and the NASCAR product the track produces. While the Brickyard 400 will always be a spectacle, the racing usually leaves a lot to be desired.

Stock cars were not meant to race at the flat, 2.5-mile track, which was created for the more nimble open wheel machines. More often than not the Brickyard 400 turns into a follow-the-leader game of pit strategy and fuel mileage rather than the kind of side-by-side racing most fans embrace. CBS Sports

Leave a Reply