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Proposed Brickyard Changes Tell a Tale

Reinforcements are set to arrive to help Brickyard 400 regain fan interest.

The Brickyard 400 is arguably the second most important race on the Sprint Cup schedule. Sprint Cup cars on the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway don’t have the history of a race at Darlington or even Talladega, but the racetrack is so legendary that when Sprint Cup came to Indy, it became an instant classic. Recently, though, the event has become a victim of the economy, so the bigwigs at NASCAR and at IMS are looking for new ways to renew the Brickyard’s luster … and to put butts in seats.

An idea that has been floated is to add at least one -- possibly two -- races to the Brickyard 400 weekend, emulating the typical procedure at many NASCAR venues. The proposal is to add a GRAND-AM Rolex Series race and very likely a Nationwide Series race to the weekend next year, giving race fans more bang for their (considerable) bucks. But this proposal is not without its losers, and the big loser would undoubtedly be the other Indianapolis racetrack, Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly known as O’Reilly Raceway Park). One proposal is to have the GRAND-AM take place on the same day -- Friday -- as the NASCAR Truck Series race at Lucas Oil Raceway. While some fans might shuttle from one to the other, there’s the likelihood that many will stay holed up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But the bigger blow to the smaller speedway would be the shift of the Nationwide race from that venue to IMS. The Nationwide race is the highest profile race held at Lucas Oil Raceway each year.

The possible moves are prompted by the fact that attendance at the Brickyard 400 has taken a nosedive. Last year, attendance was reported as 140,000, which is a lot of folks, but it left something like 100,000 empty seats at the fabled racetrack. In the mid-2000s, before the recession clobbered the Midwest, attendance of 250,000 or more was common for the Brickyard 400.

If the changes occur, and we think the odds are they will, it is good news for racing fans; they’ll get a fuller menu of events on the Brickyard weekend. But at the same time, we can’t help feeling bad for a smaller track like Lucas Oil Raceway, which in a lot of ways is the heart and soul of the sport.