INDIANAPOLIS – We’re a little under four months away from the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500. With so much momentum that the NTT IndyCar Series has carried through the last few years, it’s helped ticket sales continue to track in the positives for the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.
Doug Boles, President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has always said that they’re not going to compete with the 2016 running in terms of attendance. See, that was the 100th running of the big race and just the number “100” alone brought out record setting crowds. In that race alone, the local blackout was lifted because of a complete sell out.
After another year of strong ticket sales though, it’s getting close to comparing attendance to that race now.
So, in terms of judging growth of ticket sales, basing 2017’s sales off of 2016 isn’t a far assessment. So, IMS’ approach was to keep the momentum from 2015 going. Make sure 2017’s ticket sales exceeded 2015’s. Then, make sure 2018’s beat 2017’s.
You get the point.
So far, the numbers keep going up.
2017 saw more people attend the race than there were for 2015. Last year’s race saw more spectators than 2018. As of today, the last day of January, the 2019 ticket sales are stronger at this point than where they were for 2018’s. Boles told myself and the Indianapolis Star’s Jim Ayello that ticket sales for the May 26 race should once again be higher than 2018.
2018 was better than 2017, 2017 better than 2015, 2015 better than 2014. Since 2011, the graph shows a complete upwards arrow in attendance. We’re to the point to where numbers are going to start leveling off. The new “norm” is going to be over 300,000 fans. That’s a big win.
Isn’t that the goal after all?
While IMS doesn’t announce attendance figures, last year’s estimated crowd was over 300,000. If this year’s crowd is higher, that’s a very good thing. Plus, Boles mentioned that the hospitality and suite packages are entirely sold out. There’s no more room there. He even said that they’re discussing bringing back the portable suite that was in Turn 1 for the 100th Running back. While he said there’s obviously positives by that, the negative is that the demand is currently high for these tickets that are already sold, and that he doesn’t want to dilute their value.
It’s a good thing when you don’t have to worry about filling suites this early in the new year.
Fernando Alonso Effect
Boles also mentioned that Alonso could have a strong boost for ticket sales again too. See, when he ran in 2017, Alonso’s announcement wasn’t until a little over a month before the big race.
This year, Alonso announced late last year that he’d be running with McLaren, so having literally a half of a year to have Europeans plan and have a chance to come over could only boost sales as well.
Boles said that he and members of NASCAR, IMSA, Motorcross, flat track, etc met with NBC executives, all together in New York, to figure out a plan on how to help each other out. He didn’t want to bash ABC and their coverage but said that NBC Sports has already shown a ton more interest and marketing planning than they’ve had in the past. That too will only help in terms of ticket sales and viewership.
So, if you don’t have your tickets yet, you may want to get on it.
IndyCar Grand Prix Sponsorship
Boles said that while there’s still time to find a new relationship to be the entitlement sponsorship for the IndyCar Grand Prix, he just doesn’t see it happening in 2019. The main reason is because it’s short notice and that they won’t get the value in the deal. But, he’s spoke to some potential suitors, some locally, and a deal could be done for the 2020 race.
Qualifying Format Changes?
Boles mentioned that he’s talked with the IndyCar team and that he doesn’t foresee any major changes between qualifying weekend this year and last. See, after last year’s race saw 35 cars show up, making bumping occurring for the first time in a while. The way that the qualifying format that is currently in place was set up, was for the lack of bumping.
Saturday is technically bump day and Sunday being pole day. That’s backwards than we’ve seen in the past. With there looking already like there’s going to be bumping again this May, was there any discussion about moving things back to the way it used to be with bumping on Sunday?
Boles, didn’t come out and say yes or no but he did say that nothing would be “major” in terms of changes and that if there were it would be on the TV end.