Fourth Turn: Mid-Season Report

Some mid-season issues that need comment, questioning, discussion or encouragement:

• The 2011 Brickyard 400 will mark the final year of its format that has basically been in place since its 1994 inception. Seventeen years ago, traditionalists cringed when “Taxi Cabs” took over the historic track, but NASCAR was at its height of popularity then and the stampede to the ticket window was proof that The Speedway had invited the right house guest. But since the 2008 Brickyard/Goodyear tire debacle, all involved have been trying to rebuild fan interest in an event that has had trouble selling tickets. Bringing the Rolex Grand Am series to run a Friday event in 2012 on the IMS road course, followed by the NASCAR Nationwide Series on Saturday, could prove to be a great promotion or an embarrassing effort. If each event manages to draw 40,000 to the track, the stands will appear to be empty. This will be especially true for the Rolex event when many spectators will be spread out over the entire road circuit. Moving the NNS race away from its traditional site at Lucas Oil Raceway Park has brought negative comments from many corners of the sport. A successful event for many years at Raceway Park’s oval could become just another under-attended prelude to a Sprint Cup Sunday. This shift to IMS has been rumored for years, but to do it at the expense of LORP smacks of desperation on the part of IMS. We hope that all three of the 2012 events will be well attended, but to expect fans to spend three-four hotel nights in Indianapolis to attend all three races means someone hasn’t been paying attention to attendance figures at multi-event weekends around the circuit.

• The cloud of uncertainty that hangs over the Milwaukee Mile gets darker every day after June’s Izod Indy Car Series event at the West Allis oval. Is there really any enthusiasm for a 2012 race that drew so poorly in 2011 after a year’s absence? The race organizers have recognized problems in their promotional efforts, but do they, or any other entity, believe that a race sponsor will step out of the crowd to sponsor a one-off event that seems to lack an enthusiastic audience. The track needs multiple race weekends that would keep it in the media and in the fans’ memory bank for the entire season, not for just one fleeting weekend a year. NASCAR seems happy after moving its Nationwide race up I-43 to Elkhart Lake and there’s not many series out there that could make a worthwhile profit for a race organizer at the Mile. It’s hard to remember back to a time when the Milwaukee track supported two Indianapolis car races, four USAC stock car events and an occasional midget or sprint car race; each well attended. Also, one wonders how excited the State Fair Board is to tie up the east side of the fairgrounds for one race weekend a year. Could they find a better use for that parcel of land? Race sponsorship, better promotion, a rebuilt fan base, fan-friendly ticket prices, better parking policies, fewer weekend races, better race dates, etc. are just a few of the issues that need looking at. Then there’s the possible return of Izod Indy Car racing to Chicagoland Speedway as well as Indy Car honcho Randy Bernard’s recent visit to Road America. Would the IICS want three events in such a small geographic area? There may be a promoter out there who’s up for the challenge in West Allis, but will there be races left to promote?

• One bright spot for area race fans will be the return of the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards to the Dairy State. The Herr Live Life 200 is on the schedule for Friday night, August 26th, at Madison International Speedway. The traveling series presents 19 races at 13 venues as diverse as the Illinois State Fair Mile, Daytona and Talladega superspeedways, New Jersey Motorsports Park’s road course and the high banks of Winchester, IN. As you read above, if you want a variety of races in our area, fans need to vote by supporting tracks that are willing to take a financial risk. MIS always presents exciting events. Think about being there.

• One of the European countries that has been active since the beginning of F1 racing is looking to get back onto the World Championship schedule in 2013. According to the French sports daily Le’Equipe, the French circuit Le Castelle is making plans to host an F1 race along with Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps venue on an every-other-year basis. We’ve suggested for years that North American tracks adopt the same plan. Coveted NASCAR Sprint Cup and Izod Indy Car dates could be shared by Pocono, California, Milwaukee, Road America, Michigan International, Mosport, Iowa, Chicago, Cleveland, Phoenix, etc., with tracks having one or two races every two or three years. This would bring NSC and IICS events to areas that don’t have a race and move a race away from tracks that don’t merit multiple events each year. If the NFL can rotate the Super Bowl among numerous sites, and the British Open can be contested at a variety of courses in the UK, why can’t racing here do the same?

Share Button