I know it is supposed to be one of NASCAR’s signature events. And I get the mystique of a track that has hosted racing since the Taft administration. And NASCAR now has 23 renditions of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
No more of this event. It has run its course. Time to move on to somewhere else for this date on the schedule.
You may say I’m being blasphemous or all doom-and-gloom, but it you look at what has transpired at Indy for NASCAR over the last few years, there is really no way to objectively say this is a good event for any of the parties involved.
First, the racing is downright terrible. I have seen better racing on the playground at my kid’s daycare. And those kids aren’t even pedaling. They are pushing themselves with their feet, Fred Flinstone style. I stand by my assertion that stock cars aren’t supposed to run on flat tracks longer than a half mile.
Kyle Busch led 149 of the 160 laps on Sunday. The only laps he didn’t lead were based on pit cycles. There were something like four green-flag lead changes over those 160 laps. Again, terrible. It’s really bad when the most memorable action came after the checkered flag, when Tony Stewart made a lap in what was his last 400 in his home state (maybe) along with Jeff Gordon in his second “last” race at Indy.
Second, partially because of reason one, no one shows up for the event. I will give them something of a pass this year because it was hotter than blazes, but if you have ever read my stuff, you know I don’t like the weather excuse — it never worked for Rockingham. NASCAR doesn’t release attendance numbers, but I’d be willing to bet the number in the stands didn’t top 60,000 in a facility that has around 235,000 permanent seats. Paltry would be an understatement.
The Xfinity race on Saturday was much, much worse in terms of attendance. Again, Kyle Busch dominated. The fact that this race event exists is an affront to common sense. NASCAR’s second series always put on a heck of a show at Indianapolis Raceway Park, a nearby short track better suited for stock cars. The fact that Mike Harmon and Todd Peck ran Indy is an affront to the track’s tradition. Nice guys, I’m sure, but not quite up to the challenge as their finishes show.
There was a great story in the Indianapolis Business Journal last week chronicling the declining revenue for Indy since the inaugural event in 1994. That year the race brought in an estimated $35 million with a profit of $20 million. Pretty good use of a fixed asset as the story, titled Brickyard 400’s profit margin getting perilously thin for Speedway, notes. According to estimates, this year’s rendition brought in about $8.5 million in ticket sales for an event that probably costs around $15 million to host. Sure there are offsets from sponsorships, parking, TV money and beer and food sales, but that is getting to be a fine line for the track considering ticket sales account for two-thirds of revenue. I’m no economist, but none of that sounds promising.
Indy is bound to NASCAR – not the other way around – for at least four more years after the long-term sanctioning agreements signed last year. That’s four years too long. NASCAR, it is time to cut bait on the Brickyard, cut the schedule by one race and give the drivers and teams a week off in the dead of summer. As it stands right now, you are trying to force feed people a product they don’t want.
Andy Cagle writes a weekly column during the NASCAR season. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.