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« Montoya loses the Brickyard 400 in the pits…again | Main | Why the need for secrecy over NASCAR driver fines? »

Did you see Indy as half full or half empty?

By admin | July 26, 2010


By Richard Allen

During the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday the empty seats around the facility were unmistakable. Scores of unfilled bleachers rimmed the historic track as it hosted what many consider to be the second biggest race on the NASCAR schedule.

NASCAR’s own estimate of the crowd at Sunday’s race was 140,000. The 2009 estimate was 180,000 while in 2008 there were 240,000 in attendance. 280,000 saw the 2007 version of the race.

The 140,000 fans make up the 3rd largest crowd of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The Daytona 500 had 175,000 people and the race in Las Vegas drew 150,000.

So, was it a good crowd in Indy or not?

One way to look at it is that losing half an audience in three years is essentially a disaster of monumental proportions. Many would contend that there can’t be any way to spin such a drop off in a positive way. Those folks would argue that no matter how bad the economy, that many people could not have been affected. More than the economy, people seem to be just losing interest in the sport according the so called naysayers.

Along with poor attendance, those who insist the sport’s popularity is waning would point to lowered television ratings as evidence that fewer and fewer people care about ‘watching cars ride around in circles’.

However, there is another view of Sunday’s attendance in Indianapolis. It can be argued by those with a more positive outlook on NASCAR that few if any other events around the country are bringing in 140,000 fans. Drop off from three years ago or not, that is an impressive number in these hard times according the more upbeat.

Should the view of NASCAR in 2010 be optimistic or pessimistic? Is the sport really in the midst of a popularity freefall or is this just an unfortunate blip created by a poor economy?

My view is that NASCAR has taken a fall that is going to be extremely difficult to recover from. While the argument that the crowd was quite good considering the economic situation is plausible, the fact that television ratings have taken a dip in almost every year since 2004 indicates a serious issue.

In hard economic times people tend to fall back on things that bring them joy and comfort, if only for a short time, so as to avoid the pressures of day to day life. Baseball attendance actually fared reasonably well during the Great Depression, which was a far worse economic disaster than the modern fall. For that matter, the dirt races I have been to this year have boasted record crowds on more than a few occasions. If people still loved this sport they would be watching even when they can’t afford to make the trip to a track.

NASCAR has some serious problems which the recent report by AP reporter Jenna Fryer shows they are clueless about. According to that report, NASCAR has chosen to fine drivers who are critical of the sport to keep them quiet instead of working to resolve the issues at hand.

History is littered with dynasties that fell when they became reactionary toward those who offered any sort of realistic criticism.

Follow @RacingWithRich on twitter.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

17 Responses to “Did you see Indy as half full or half empty?”

  1. zhills fan Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Until they get rid of the “IROC” unidentifiable cars, nothing is gonna change. Ford, Chevy, Toyota, and Dodge don’t look anything like what they race so why do they call it a stock car race. lol. IROC went under with an allstar cast of drivers so why does nascar think they can be successful with the format and cars they use now?

  2. Charles Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Richard I read about in another article about Nascar placing fines on drivers for talking negative about Nascar!

    I am not suprised, but the fans need to know, who were the drivers and what did they say?

    This is another example of Nascar Mafia! I mean if you listen to Kenny Wallace, Larry McReynolds, Darrell Waltrip, the Race Hub, Wind Tunnel, they are basicially Nascar ‘Yes Men” , they most all the time side with Nascar on controvesial issues, not the fans! Many times when you have just seen the worse race of the year, Kenny Wallace is telling us what a “great race that was!

    I think they are bought and paid for!!!! by Nascar!

    Nascar needs to listen to people who tell a story they may not want to hear, but should learn, not put us fans on a “enemy list” just because we speak our mines on things that would help!

    Controling the media and drivers just to paint a prettty picture just makes matters worse!!!!

  3. Ken Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 8:10 am

    A blind man could see there was not 140,000 people at the race. I don’t believe anything I hear from Nascar and since they are fining drivers for speaking their mind, we can’t believe anything they say. The Waltrips, Wallaces and other talking heads on TV haven’t had any credibility for years. They are simply a mouthpiece for the Nascar Mafia. Makes professional wrestling look honest.

  4. SFC Morgan Ward Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Charles,

    I ‘ditto’ your remarks. I truly believe if the fans knew that NASCAR drivers received sanctions (fines as were reported) just for expressing their honesty, many more empty seats would be found at the Speedways. Nobody knows more than the drivers the problems with these look alike cars. Why not listen to them regarding the problems?

    I agree completely with your assessment of the ‘yes’ men of NASCAR that are in the broadcasting booth. I have often wanted to smack those apologist and kiss a$$ men who suck up to NASCAR. You nailed the individual names I find the biggest suck ups. Sometimes I wonder if those idiots are even in the same universe I am in relating to an controversial issue. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they were all replaced by just a common fan who actually has a clue in what is going on. But then I just recognize them to all be ‘liberals’ who see the world in a different view than most conservatives(race fans) do.
    I believe in their distorted world, left is right and up is down.

    Again, I mirror your comment completely as you wrote what I have wanted to say for several years now.

  5. Ron Hill Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Im from the south where nascar started, I have loved nascar since my dad took me when i was 10 years old I am now 59. The problem is the mega rich owners who have come in and completly dominated nascar has left a really bad taste for nascar fans because they buy the best drivers and equipement and fans know who is going to win before they go to a race look at last four years dominated by hendrix , gibbs, roush and childers and now another amerges with alot of cars running same engines same set ups it is no more than a version of irock and we see where that went. one other no one has touched on is ford not winning for a couple years take their fan base out and maybe you have the problem in a nut shell .people still pull for drivers but you better belive they better be driving their brand. I hope it returns but unless nascar gives theses teams a little more reins to build their cars and all brands are winning then nascar will continue to free fall

  6. longtime fan Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 9:54 am

    The lack of fans in the stands can somewhat be traced to the economy. However with TV ratings plumetting, that is a bad sign that overall interest in NASCAR racing is dropping.
    This latest debacle of fining drivers for comments comes at a bad time too. It goes against the grain of the history of NASCAR and their wanting drivers to have personality.
    The sport is in a very sad state right now. This “secret squirrel” probation opens up more black helicopters for NASCAR. Why not be transparent and quit hiding behind closed doors ?

  7. Jim Allan Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 11:07 am

    I don’t know where Brian and company get off taking drivers money for being critics. Thats all they are, the same as a critic who blasts a play on broadway or a movie critic. After all the cats out of the bag. The drivers and at least one owner(micheal waltrip) freely admit it’s a performance, a show. Denny Hamlin seems to agree with that. Brian and company still don’t get it. They can’t see the forest for the trees.

  8. tmack Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Before the new race format, every race was a superbowl in itself…now they are just races on the schedule . Need to bring back the old format before too late. A format where the fan only cared about the race that day…I never cared about the points race until a few races were left anyway

  9. X-Na$car fan Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 11:37 am

    BZF can’t handle the truth. None of this is his fault!!! yea right - go have another drink!!!

  10. JR Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 11:58 am

    My comments come from the following perspective: I have attended NASCAR Cup, Grand National and Truck events as well as open wheel and local racing events all over the country since 1967. I worked in the business of racing for 18 years. I now watch all forms of racing on TV on a weekly basis. I have reached several conclusions concerning the current state of NASCAR:
    1) It tried to grow too quickly. Go back to the late 1940’s and early 1950’s and plot the growth of NASCAR’s fan base through the early 1990’s. Growth was slow and steady. Although considered a regional sport, NASCAR Cup racing took place from coast to coast and into Canada during those years. In the early 1990’s, with the arrival of Jeff Gordon, NASCAR saw the potential to market to an entirely new group of fans by promoting a good guy/bad guy scenario between Gordon and Earnhardt. This promotion started an accelerated growth that saw tracks expanding their facilities, new tracks being built and expansive TV and media coverage being developed. While this promotion did its job, the new fans being attracted were not the die hard racing fans that had been developed over the previous 40 years. They were more driver oriented groupies than knowledgeable racing enthusiasts and most did not appreciate the fact that a 500 mile race was more closely related to a chess match than a demolition derby. When the racing failed to hold their attention, NASCAR started making changes to spice things up to keep their attention. This continued until it morphed from sport to “sports entertainment”. Many of the old die hard racing fans abandoned the product being offered and because of the skyrocketing costs involved in attending races. TV coverage deteriorated into a blur of product marketing. It was being called a “show” even by the participants. The new fans got bored and moved on.
    2) The latest revelation that NASCAR has fined people for not following the company line is proof that the end is near. There will always be somebody willing to sit and watch a fake sporting event knowing it’s fake. I offer the WWE as evidence. I’m awaiting future pay-per-view NASCAR events with titles like “Daytona Death Match III…The Return of the Son”.
    3) In my very humble opinion, the best thing that could happen is for the current version to go completly belly up. When the dust settles, a group wishing to see actual auto racing will emerge and we’ll have a sport back that is not trying to appeal to everyone with a dollar to spend.

  11. Richard in N.C. Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me that no one in the media wants to give any comparables for other pro sports when they start bashing NASCAR for the drop off in attendance and TV ratings. As Kyle Petty commented on Victiry Lane Sunday, it is much easier to be negative than positive - and being a NASCAR fan since the 1960’s I have watched the media (in general and NASCAR in particular) become increasingly negative. I just happened to read in NSSN recently how much attendance is down in NHRA - but facts can often mess up a good story.

    There is a substantial segment of the so-called NASCAR media who would choke before they wrote anything about NASCAR that isn’t negative.

  12. JerseyGirl Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Sounds like most of the fans are on the same page about NASCAR. Its a shame that BZF can’t find a clue or a brain cell with both hands.

    I didn’t need a driver to say that NASCAR was using cautions to manipulate the race. I already knew that. When they went to multiple GWC for the end of the event, they were trying to make the end exciting since that way they can proclaim it was an exciting finish, never mind that 95% of the race was a total bore.

    I loved NASCAR racing until the introduction of the chase (ooh look a winner of 10 races trumps winners over a full season) and the ugly car.

    NASCAR you continue to make yourselves look bad with the decisions that are being made. Someone needs to grow a pair or at least a spine and oust BZF before he loses the rest of the fans.

    Oh BTW, yes Brian, the bad TV broadcasts ARE a matter of concern. They are the reason fans are NOT watching.

  13. Jonathan Brosilo Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Been a fan since 04 and have to say your all a bunch of cry baby idiots! Nascar is A ok, earlier this year during the NBA playoffs Nascar on Fox scored a higher ratings than the playoffs oh and btw that was a game that featured the Lakers. yeah yeah oh but the Finals ratings where sooo high.. go figure lakers celtics yeah all the blacks are going to wanna see that but not me! we beat the NHL during the playoffs, we got better ratings than the MTV Music Awards….. I know oh many NFL stadiums thats dont even sell half there tickets and this is to a stadium that holds a little over 50,000! 6 home games there at around 25,000 a game isnt very good!!! Now I know Nascar isnt a hometown based sport but I have plenty of events to go to around my hometown of Chicago, Nationwide, trucks, Sprint Cup @ Chicagoland, Michigan, Kentucky, and Indy! I got to all of them and have to say I see 10 times more people than I do at any Cubs, Sox, Bears games. Last year during the NFL season theres an option on my Direct TV controller that I press called the Active Button and you can view the highest watched tv programs on tv… 90% of the time even during the NFL season Nascar was usually number one in all options unless it was a big big NFL game there was that exception! The state of Nascar is all good and with the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger next year it will be even better! Also wanted to point out ratings have been down due to alot of crazy stuff happening in are sport combined with the Olympics, World Cup, one of the hottest NBA rivals in the Finals its been hard but Nascar has held its own very well im impressed! Also im happy to see them fine a couple drivers, Denny Hamlin for on should just not race if he hates what he does. I’ve heard and read for weeks all the bad stuff hes been saying good for Nascar its about time they say ENOUGH and shut his lil punk a mouth up! What happened to respect???? Nascar let it go for a while but enough is enough from twitter to ESPN to a live broadcast Denny did it all and there has to be a line drawn im sorry everyone! Nascar LOVE 4 life Nothing will ever come close to Nascar racing!! THanks

  14. Russ Edwards Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Theres only one fact that anybody talking about Nascar needs to know. Maybe two.

    ONE!!! The 18-34 year old males are dissappearing FAST! We older people have an annoying way of getting infirm and dying off. Without the 18-34 yo you have NO future as a sport. Even Leeza K. says that they arent going to spend hours watching Nascar. Again, if they wont watch Nascar for hours, what do you do? Digitize it and run it on an X-Box?

    Secondly, Ford seems to be doing quite nicely without winning in Nascar. Does anybody think the stockholders want to see them (or any other company) spending more on Nascar? How long before they and the rest say Goodbye!

  15. Snake Says:
    July 27th, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    @Russ Edwards - Run it on X-Box? Oh gosh no! NASCAR has the 18-34 demographic figured out. It’s called Drive For Diversity.

    @Jonathan - A fan since 2004, huh? WOW! That’s a long time. Right about the time NASCAR’s popularity went in the toilet because it turned into the WWE. It’s hard to knock a fellow NASCAR fan, but your opinion is based on a sport that exists today, not what made it great prior to that.

    Fixing the sport is so easy, only a France couldn’t figure out how to do it. Stop being ashamed of the fans that supported your rise to glory so they stop telling their 18-34 y/o childrend that it sucks.

    Lose the Sports Entertainment mentality. It wasn’t broke ’til ya tried to fix it. Ditch the Lucky Dog (what an abortion), debris cautions, the COT and the Chase. Those things didn’t exist when the sport was gaining popularity and when they came about, the decline turned into a free fall.

    Racing is racing. If someone is good enough to lap the field 3 times, real race fans will watch. It happened many times right up until the 90s. And if you’re looking for exciting, how about guys with big early leads getting run down at the end. Those things will happen if you let the race play out on it’s own. No other sport needs to interfer with the competition to make it exciting. NASCAR doesn’t either and the fact that they do is driving fans away.

  16. edward Says:
    July 28th, 2010 at 7:15 am

    It’s not Racing
    Having watched most of the races in all three series this season, it is easy to say that NASCAR is anything but racing. Door to door battles throughout the field are almost non-existent. Hey, this is points racing after all. Drivers come in off the track being happy they finished twelfth and can’t wait to go shower and head home. Owners continue to struggle examining why their cars aren’t going that fast. The cars are fast but drivers are not. The ability of drivers to hang a car on the edge is a thing of the past. Drivers do not race anymore but rather just drive around until the last 15 lap’s then racing begins. Driving half way across the country to watch 15 laps of racing is just not in my plans anymore. Watching the race on television is a snore. I tune in the last 15 laps.
    I thought this was stock car racing. Muscle cars that were simple, tough, fast and represented America’s finest automotive product are also a thing of the past. What are on the track now are race cars or what are now becoming slot or iroc cars. Everything looks the same and has no personality. Come to think of it, drivers also lack personality. The sport is controlled by a clueless dictator who continues to put his dirty finger prints on issues that should be left as is. The media is making the sport so spit and polish that they have created a utopian atmosphere all but forgetting that nothing is perfect. If I want to watch individuals who just drive I’ll go to the highway. At least there we get to watch passing. My seat at Indy will be empty.

  17. Ritchie Says:
    July 28th, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Half Full.

    I like Indy. I really like the 4 corners. It just needs to be wider. The next time someone builds a track, rather that another 1.5mi “D” oval. Build a wider Indy type track. With no grass near the racing surface.
    And the new car kinda sucks. Should go back to no aero and skinny tires.