Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

September 21, 2010

Indy Car Attendance…Not The Only Venue With Problems

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:52 am

The NFL is the most popular sport in America at this moment. Why, then, have they announced programs that make attending games more like watching from home? Why is their attendance down? Why are their ratings down? Why aren’t idiots shrieking that the end of the sport is near?

The fact is attendance for most sports and entertainment venues is way down. The only thing noticeably up is movie attendance. Curiously, movie attendance always spikes when there is a recession. With football, however, tickets cost an arm and a leg. NASCAR recognized that and has begun lowering prices.

The point? Indy Car needs to concentrate more heavily on making their on-track presentation as fulfilling as it can be. They do a relatively good job at street races. That atmosphere lends itself to many diversions. They just need to capture that same sort of atmosphere at non-street race venues. If not, bad attendance becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. That explains the losses of more than one great oval.

If you watch or attend Homestead, you will see what I mean about lame duck oval tracks that could be great. New cars are probably on the way in a year. That is one facet of improving the presentation, but it will take a lot more. More Americans are needed and the oval presentation must be enhanced.

On a related note, even Roger Penske is having sponsorship difficulty in NASCAR. The 77 car and team of Sam Hornish is now endangered to the point of hearing Sam not rule out a return to Indy Car. That is something he had soundly dismissed as recently as six months ago. I say the more the merrier. It has been working out quite nicely for Dario after his return.

The main thing is one more race in Homestead in early October. We should all go and send it out in style.



  1. I’m hoping the following is a typo. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. It was late when you posted.

    “Indy Car needs to concentrate more heavily on making their on-track presentation as fulfilling as it can be. They do a relatively good job at street races.”

    A relatively good job of on-track presentation at street races? Please say you meant ‘off-track’ presentation. Please say you were referring to the associated street festivals, concerts, events, and weekend-long parties that often accompany street races. Because, unless I’ve misunderstood you, the only thing I think of when I think on-track presentation is racing. And for years, you’ve advocated (and I’ve agreed with you) dumping street courses because the racing is, essentially, horrible. It’s nothing more than a two hour parade with no passing and a red car winner at the end. You’ve advocated for less, not more street circuits. And I’ve agreed with you. And now, again, unless I misunderstood you, you say that oval on-track presentation needs to be more like street course? Somewhere I must be missing something.

    As for your question about IndyCar vs. the NFL.

    ‘The NFL is the most popular sport in America at this moment. Why are their ratings down? Why aren’t idiots shrieking that the end of the sport is near?’

    Umm, maybe because ratings AREN’T down? Maybe, it’s because ratings are way up. Up over last year, which was up 15% over the year before. Sunday’s Week 1 afternoon games on FOX drew 28 million viewers, the most ever. Redskins/Cowboys on Sunday night drew 25 million, a Sunday night record. Sunday night and Monday night NFL were the two highest rated programs of the week. It was the NFL’s most watched Opening Weekend since 1987.

    (Source: The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/18/AR2010091803691.html)

    Is in-stadium attendance down? Yes. League officials are saying that they’re expecting a drop this year. Of 1-2%. That means about 1000 fans per game. And according to league officials, fans are staying away primarily because of the economy. “I think the economy is really hurting our fans,” NFL executive VP Eric Grubman said in a telephone interview. “We know it. We see it. We hear it. They tell us they’re not leaving for good. They’re just staying at home.”.

    But then again, why would you let something like, oh, I don’t know, facts, stand in the way of a perfectly good argument.

    Just an aside, you might also not hear ‘idiots’ shrieking that the end of the sport is near, because you don’t have, say, the Chicago Bears folding because they can’t sell enough tickets. Or the Kansas City deciding they’d be better off without the Chiefs and telling them to move….say to Loudon, New Hampshire.

    Or maybe it’s because the NFL isn’t losing money. Maybe it’s because the ‘idiots’ know that the league is making $4 BILLION a year in TV revenue…and their TV advertisers/partners are ecstatic with the current ratings.

    Don’t compare IndyCars struggles to the NFL. At the end of the day, they likely draw more fans in a weekend than the entire IndyCar series will draw in a year. Their TV viewership is 100 times larger than ours. Their TV revenues the same. Why aren’t the idiots crying? Because there isn’t anything there.

    If you’re going to ask about shrieking idiots (or the lack thereof), why not use something accurate. Like NASCAR. Where attendance is down over 10% across the board AGAIN, and more in some markets; like Indy. And Dover. And Fontana. Where TV ratings are down, AGAIN. Where marquee drivers like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart who, in the past likely had to turn away sponsorships, are now looking at Silly Season needing to go out and find money. Where they are cutting sanction fees, purses, and likely races in the Nationwide series because of poor attendance and racing. Where in their effort to grow, they’ve forgotten their roots and alienated their base, possibly permanently.

    Okay, this last part may be a little off topic, but…

    Fans are leaving the TinTops in droves. Why not go after these fans. Above all, these people are first and foremost race fans. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it . If someone likes racing to begin with, its a lot easier to get them to like another form of racing, than it is to make whole new race fans. I’d welcome the mouth breathers to any race they’d choose to attend. Oh, and they’d probably bring beer.

    Comment by Steve Kornya — September 21, 2010 @ 3:21 pm | Reply

  2. It may be too late for Sam Hornish, and that’s a shame. With three rides already taken in IndyCar there’s little likelihood of his getting a ride with Penske. I could never figure out why a guy who had the world by the tale in IndyCar chucked it all for the uncertainty of NASCAR–and look where it got him. So many open-wheel drivers, some of them very good, think they can do even better in stock car racing, but so far, the only one who has fulfilled that promise is Tony Stewart. Nothing like letting egos get in the way of practicality, I always say.

    Comment by DOUG — September 21, 2010 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

    • Hornish left IndyCar because he isn’t good on road and street courses, plain and simple, and he probably saw ahead of time that the schedule was going to be 50/50. That’s my opinion anyway, besides going for the money (which is now admittedly starting to dry up in NASCAR). Dan Wheldon ended up getting dropped by Ganassi because he struggled on road courses (and I’d say he’s done more on them than Hornish has), and now look at Wheldon…he might be rideless next year. Had he remained in IndyCar, I think he would have been dropped by Penske because Power and Briscoe are better on twisties by far, and Briscoe is just as good on ovals (Power definitely isn’t yet, but seems almost F1-caliber on road courses). I don’t really see why he’d want to go back to Nationwide really. I don’t see any Cup team hiring him besides Penske, as he was not good at Cup at all (although better than David Stremme, which was one of the most bizarre hires I’ve ever seen from a major team, and he was hired by BOTH Penske and Ganassi.) Hornish should reunite with Panther. If Wheldon can almost win for them, and even Meira and Carpenter in recent years, I could see Hornish winning for them on a cookie-cutter.

      I hate when people say Tony Stewart was the only successful switch. Doug wrote “think they can do even better in stock car racing”, so it’s accurate, but I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Defender and others call Montoya a failure. While no, he isn’t scoring 5-win seasons like Johnson, Hamlin, or Kyle Busch, I think Montoya has been a success the last two years, consistently in the top third in points and usually in the top ten when he finishes; his main problem is that he doesn’t know how to points race yet (and NASCAR’s points system that forces drivers to points race is in my opinion one of the stupidest things about the whole series, even prior to the chase). He pretty much blew out RCR last year singlehandedly and is pretty much on par with the entire Roush team this year. Even if you don’t say he’s been a success due to not winning on an oval or something, it’s too soon to call him a failure. The others, however, have definitely not. Allmendinger may have some potential.

      Comment by Sean Wrona — September 22, 2010 @ 7:36 am | Reply

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