Indy's attendance drops

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis 500 is billed as “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and certainly the rush of 11 rows of three cars each starting at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is enough to make the hair on the back of the most jaded neck stand on end.

But a look around the 2.5-mile oval Sunday showed thousands if empty seats.

Whole sections of Indy’s famed grandstands were vacant.

Of course, this season, NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series has also had dramatic drops in attendance at their tracks on race day. The still-slumbering American economy has a lot to do with it but it has always been felt that the Indy 500 was somehow immune to those kinds of forces.

Even in the darkest days of the open-wheel civil war that lasted a dozen or so years was there such a noticeable drop in attendance at the Brickyard as we saw this year.

It was also very evident at souvenir stands, camping grounds and parking lots that saturate the area around 16th St. and Georgetown Rd. The hawkers are hurting this year with huge patches of empty spaces in the rag-tag trailer parks and neighbourhood entrepreneurs were dropping parking prices from $20 US a day to $5 two hours before the start of the 1 p.m. (EST) race.

It’s a trend that IndyCar bosses should be worried about.

Pit stops

Two of Canada’s top young open-wheel drivers — Daniel Morad and Robert Wickens — finished on opposite ends of the points parade Sunday in the GP3 series at Istanbul that was run prior to the Turkish GP. Morad completed his second points-scoring result of the season with a fifth place finish. Wickens, however, suffered through a frustrating day after an on-track confrontation with Manor Racing’s James Jakes. “I’d passed Jakes going into Turn 12 but on the exit he just hit my right rear tire and caused a puncture,” Wickens said afterwards. “It was needless, and the way the car was going it cost me a points finish.” ... In a case of the apple not falling far from the tree, Conor Daly, the son of one-time F-1 driver-turned-television-commentator Derek Daly, won his fourth Star Mazda series race in a row at O’Reilly Raceway Park on Saturday, just a week after graduating high school. Quebec City’s Mikael Grenier was second ... It was kind of Alex Tagliani to give his FAZZT Racing team’s second car to Bruno Junqueira as a thank you for the Brazilian allowing Tagliani to take his spot in last year’s Indy. But there were more than a few observers who noted that the deal left Tagliani’s squad stretched a little thin.

Finish lines

It continues to amaze and baffle me that there are still people — who should know better — that think P.T. Barnum’s, er Bruton Smith’s, offer of $20 million to anyone who can win both the IZOD IndyCar Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 on the same day is a serious deal ... NASCAR bosses need their heads examined for their choice of ultra-right wing religious zealot Dr. James Dobson to give the invocation Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This is the same Dobson who regularly, and with venom, preaches that all gay men and women are doomed to eternal damnation and who believes that only Christian doctrine be allowed in the United States.


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