On Sunday, NASCAR held what is supposed to be one of their premier events of the season, the Brickyard 400. But the size of the crowd made the race at the famed race track look more like a local dirt-track race.
Capacity at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is 235,000 fans. However, this past May, the Indianapolis 500 drew an estimated 350,000 fans to the 100th running of the race.
While NASCAR doesn’t release official attendance figures, some estimates put the Brickyard 400 attendance on Sunday closer to 50,000, the smallest crowd ever for the race.
On television, the race looked even worse as entire sections of the race track appeared to be completely devoid of human life.
Matt Glenesk of the Indianpolis Star posted some photos comparing the crowds at the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 and the difference is jarring.
Even the main grandstand had plenty of empty seats.
This is a far cry from the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 that drew an estimated 250,000 fans, a record for a NASCAR race. It also raises questions about the long-term viability of this race.
For all the lustre and history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it is not a track suited for NASCAR’s stock cars. Drivers have been critical of the track because there is just a single racing groove in the corners which makes passing during the race extremely difficult.
There have also been complaints about the timing of the race — it is a lot hotter in Indianapolis in late July than it is in May during the Indy 500 — as well as ticket prices, which may be locking out some of the sport’s biggest fans.
Whatever the problem is, NASCAR needs to fix it or the Brickyard 400 will soon become a race in the past.
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