Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Time to Kill the Brickyard 400?

Those who have followed the ebb and flow of my writing here know that I have frequently held up NASCAR as a successful U.S. motorsports business with which IndyCar should compete in the marketplace.

In my view, that assertion is becoming questionable. Yes, IndyCar would still love to have NASCAR's problems - in particular, its television audience. However, my purpose here is to offer an opinion on a different but related subject.

The Brickyard 400 should die.

I believe those IMS officials who say that 140,000 paying customers, roughly 54% of capacity at the IMS, are sufficient to make the event profitable. The television money alone might be sufficient to ensure profitability.

However, it bears noting that the audience is dwindling with each passing year.

Blame whatever you like – NASCAR’s general decline, relatively poor viewing angles, Goodyear, the COT. The fact is that the event is waning rapidly. The Brickyard 400 is contributing to the erosion of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway brand.

I suspect that NASCAR has over saturated the market for auto racing in the United States. If I am correct, then the House of France is dealing with a very large problem that it might not be able to solve. Its shared interests with the International Speedway Corporation and the threat of lawsuits from its other promoters likely render NASCAR unable to decrease its “inventory” of racing product, at least with regards to the Cup Series.

NASCAR’s problem need not be the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s problem. After all, the IMS is certainly not immune to the problem of over saturation. Eliminating the Brickyard 400 would enable the IMS to reduce the “supply” of dates that are available for fans to witness racing at the track. This, according to simple economic theory, would likely increase attendance for those dates – in May – that remain. This would be good for the IMS and for IndyCar racing.

The good news is that the Indianapolis 500 is still very special. We know this because, in spite of everything, its rate of decline is minuscule compare with that of both the Brickyard 400 and the United States Grand Prix.

If NASCAR sponsors want to participate at Indianapolis, then let them become IndyCar sponsors.


Monday, July 26, 2010

IndyCar Notes

Hello, all. It's been awhile.

I have a few things to say.

1. Could it be that the NASCAR model is fundamentally broken? The decline in attendance is becoming embarrassing. The television ratings are still very good when compared with historical standards for motorsports in the United States. Nevertheless, they're falling, too.

2. I am disheartened by reports that John Lewis has resigned. He has a terrific reputation both inside and outside of racing. He shall be missed.

3. Some might find it somewhat surprising that I have been silent regarding the Dallara-and-Clothes announcement. My reasoning is that we need more information before we can make any judgments about the program. There is one exception, of course. Given the market value of operating an Izod IndyCar Series team, we can say with certainty that the new Dallara costs too much.