Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

July 31, 2013

Boring Sprint Cup race at IMS? Columnist notes lower attendance

By Ken de la Bastide CNHI News Service
Greensburg Daily News

---- — It has become an annual ritual for those NASCAR beat writers to complain about how boring the Sprint Cup race is at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

They complain about the fact that attendance has dwindled, there is little passing during the Brickyard 400 and the cars run in single file.

The truth of the matter is that attendance is down at all NASCAR races. Empty grandstands and large sections of bleacher seats closed to the public so it appears there are lots of fans in the stands.

Even the night race at Bristol, which used to be one of the toughest tickets in racing to come by, is no longer selling out.

Estimates of the crowd at IMS this past Sunday was somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000 people. Granted when one considers IMS seats well over 200,000 people, when the track is half full it looks empty.

Places like Atlanta, Chicago, Pocono, Darlington, Dover and New Hampshire would consider 90,000 fans in the stands a success.

But for some reason IMS is put into a category all of its own, the rules are different. Even before the first lap was turned on Sunday, there were some in the media center dishing the race.

Was the race boring, no more than most NASCAR races this year? Fans have been complaining about the lack of passing and close racing, except following restarts for several years and this has not changed in 2013.

The problem has been the current rule package has placed a premium on track position. The car leading the field will pull away and other competitors will have a tough time making a pass.

There needs to be a change in the aerodynamic package of the cars to eliminate the advantage of so-called “clean air”.

For the most part the Brickyard 400 was like every other race run by NASCAR, except at Daytona and Talladega.

The IMS race was more interesting than most because the two dominant cars on the day, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson, battled for the lead throughout the race. Had Johnson not had a 17-second pit stop with less than 26 remaining, it would have been a much closer finish.

I kept waiting for NASCAR to throw a late caution flag at IMS to bunch up the field for another restart. It seems like many of their races have a late caution to add some excitement to the finish.

One has to wonder if Johnson was leading and Newman chasing, would there have been a late race caution flag to bunch up the field?

Do the national scribes want to talk about boring racing, have they watched a Nationwide Series race lately. Kyle Busch has won eight of the 15 races and normally wins in overwhelming fashion.

If the truth be known, NASCAR took away a good Nationwide Series race in Indianapolis when it moved the event from Lucas Oil Raceway to IMS. The LOR races were always filled with bumping and banging and an exciting finish.

The best two races of the weekend were the Champion Racing Association Super Series and JEGS All-Stars Tour events at LOR on Friday.

With discussions taking place in Indianapolis about moving the sports car races from the Brickyard weekend to either May or September, will that mean a Camping World Truck Series event will be added at IMS?

The Truck Series needs to return to Eldora Speedway for a race on the dirt and away from IMS.

Running the Brickyard 400 at night, maybe as soon as 2014, would renew fan interest in the race. Temperatures would be cooler and the competition should improve with the cars getting more tire grip in the corners.

Whether people like it or not, a win at IMS is second only to winning the Daytona 500.