It’s odd to call a track that has celebrated it’s centennial a teenager but with NASCAR that’s just what the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway is. Just like the case with most teenagers there are some growing pains, some qualls and of course some wipe your face moment but alas it’s a stage that every track goes though eventually.
When NASCAR first began racing at the 2.5 mile square shaped track in 1994 anticipation was at a high. That lasted for a few years before fans began to complain about the follow the leader racing that the track produces with stock cars. There were years in which the Goodyear tires run on the cars lasted only a handful of laps and there has even been a few questions raised about penalties at the track in recent years.
But let me tell you one thing. This is still Indy. This is still “the birthplace of speed” and racing here is a dream for any driver, attending an event here is a goal of every fan.
Indy has a mystic about it even in NASCAR circles. Sure the bread and butter of the tracks history hasn’t come from the stock cars of NASCAR but that doesn’t change the track itself.
There’s also something about Indianapolis Motor Speedway and winners. The best of the best win at Indy.Think about this stat: In the 17 prior races at Indianapolis the winner has gone on to win the championship 8 times. Those are numbers you can’t touch any where else.
Here’s another:Of the 17 NASCAR races run at Indy, 14 of them have been won by a driver who has won a Championship in their career. Jeff Gordon won the first race in 1994, he is joined by fellow Cup champions Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson. The lone three who have not won a championship but have won Indy are Ricky Rudd, Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray.
If your watching on television this weekend expect the crowds to be smaller. Last years race saw roughly 140,000 fans filling the 270,000 seat track. Those numbers are expected to drop further this year as the economy still lags behind, gas remains high and that fans are opting to visit other tracks in the midwest such as Kentucky and Chicagoland.
I went to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2009. It was nice to visit Indy once but overall I found the racing difficult to watch. With a flat track being so long it’s almost impossible to see anything other then when the cars are directly in front of you. Built in screens that try to show the race offer little consolation and the seats are not nearly as comfortable as the living room sofa.
The other problem I’ve found with the track is that the ticket sales have done little to attract families. They were one of the last tracks on the circuit to offer free general admission tickets to children and overall the prices of tickets along the front straight away are among the highest on the circuit.
Despite all that the purse at Indy is one of the largest in the sport, the entry list is always packed, after all it’s still Indy.
Maybe the problems with Indy aren’t all with viewing and tickets. Could it just be in that awkward stage? Too young to be visited by everyone for the first time yet not old enough to be iconic when it comes to NASCAR.