The “Fernando Effect” Drives Indy Ticket Sales

Fernando Alonso. [Chris Owens Photo]

Fernando Alonso. [Chris Owens Photo]

by Allan Brewer

Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles is excited to open the doors and let the public come into this huge racing facility where speed is king. “It’s been a great IndyCar season so far, watching the drivers and the teams travel around the country and put on some fantastic racing,” he said, “so we are extremely excited to have them here for this month.”

In terms of attendance, things are trending up for tomorrow’s Indianapolis Grand Prix. The inaugural race six years ago drew the greatest attendance for the road course event, before a seasons-long slump set in. The excitement seems to have returned in 2019 as the numbers are anticipated to be up this year.

“That says a lot,” said Boles, “about people getting used to this race being the kickoff for the month of May. It says an awful lot about the last couple of years the IndyCar Series has been so competitive, and that this is a race where you get to come into the Speedway and you can see from all different places. It is a comfortable less-crowded venue where you can be flexible, wander through the facilities, and sit on the mounds. It offers a really neat opportunity to see and learn our racetrack.”

One thing that Boles revealed today is that from an international aspect, the Speedway has more people following it from northern European countries because some of the Nordic invasion in IndyCar (e.g., Felix Rosenqvist, Marcus Ericsson—two Swedes who have joined the series this year).

The momentum appears to be carrying over into later in the month for the Indianapolis 500 as well. “The Indy 500 is going to be up again, I think, for 2019,” Boles said. “We are at this moment up a little bit or flat in ticket sales, so we’re right in that spot where a lot of it’s going to be walk up on race day. Some of the things over the next two weeks will impact that number, but interest has been really, really strong around the Indy 500.”

He also noted that Indianapolis will have “a larger number of folks actually coming from Spain for the Indianapolis 500 than we’ve had in the past.” He points out that even when Fernando Alonso was here a couple of years ago, he announced so late many potential racegoers simply were unable to make schedules work so they could attend and watch the two-time World Champion on-track. “I think we’re going to see a bigger international crowd here for this year’s Indianapolis 500 than we’ve seen the last couple years, and certainly more inner national interest and a broad international interest just because of who is here.”

“I’ve been following the sport my whole life,” said Boles, “and I remember a point in time where 33 drivers in the Indy 500 were essentially American, and then we went through a period of time where essentially everybody in the Indy 500 was foreign.” He gave a pause for a moment, and then continued, “We are at a point now where the diversity in our series is pretty amazing; when you think you’ve got 15 drivers or so that are American drivers and basically the other half is international. The Indianapolis 500 is today I think what Carl Fisher envisioned it being back in 1911, a true international sweepstakes, and I think the international influence certainly helps our ticket sales.”

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