Friday, September 23, 2011

An Oval Rallying Cry

There’s been plenty of gloom this week about the state of oval track opportunities in 2012 for INDYCAR. And I will confess up front: although I generally enjoy most road and street courses, I’m a big oval fan. Indy, Iowa, Kentucky—to my mind, these are great events and great tracks. However, above all, I want a healthy, financially feasible Series. If that means a deficit of a couple of ovals for the time being, I’m not going to throw a tantrum over it.

But I do want ovals to succeed wherever possible. I think the trick to gaining new fans for INDYCAR is simple: wherever possible, get their butts to the track. Experiencing a race on VERSUS or ABC just isn’t the same, as anyone who’s been to a race can tell you.

Now, it’s not always possible, I get that—some of you reading this are overseas or on one of the coasts. Things are tight, and discretionary income isn’t always readily available. But if you were already thinking of going to the Kentucky Indy 300 next weekend, bring a friend. Especially if you’re in Indy, Louisville, Cincinnati, Nashville, or even Chicago—this is not some inaccessible destination. We’re talking a few hours of driving time.

Look, you can type in the code “Andretti” or “USAC” on the Kentucky Speedway tickets page and get a ticket for $35 bucks. If you’ve got someone who’s always wanted to go to a race or that you’ve always wanted to take to a race, doesn’t that seem worth it? If you talk about bang for your buck, there aren’t many sporting events that can top it. And really, there are no bad seats at Kentucky.

And it isn’t as if accommodations are that expensive, either—motels can be found for $50-$60, and campground for far less. That might crunch some budgets, but the points is, especially if you’re carpooling, you can get the entire race experience for under $100.

That ticket to the Kentucky 300 isn’t just for the IZOD IndyCar race. It’s a ticket to the free Sunday driver autograph session, a Lights race, the INDYCAR fan village, and more. It’s going to the track and knowing you’ve got a pretty good chance of running into a driver (literally, at times—Helio almost ran me over on his scooter at Kentucky last year), or even a legend associated with the series such as Rick Mears or Johnny Rutherford. There’s that moment your heart stops when the engines are fired, when the green flag waves, that jolt of everyone subconsciously half-jumping out of their seat during the first yellow. There’s the scientific fact that a beer and a brat simply taste better when you’re at a race track. Maybe it’s even introducing your son or daughter to racing for the first time.

We as fans have the power to help bring in new fans, and it can start next weekend for some of us. Send that link around—get your racing friends to try out INDYCAR—not watching it at home on their TV, but enjoying one of the most accessible and exciting in-person entertainment events possible. If you love IndyCar, you can do your part to help it. Be postive, share what you love, and enjoy every minute of it along the way. For my part, I’m going to send that link to everyone, and I’ll be there next weekend to watch some awesome, awesome racing.


  1. Couldn't agree more!

  2. Thanks--great article you've got there!

  3. Zach, you're on the money that butts in seats is the key to continued oval presence on the IndyCar schedule. I was never so disappointed with the IndyCar community than I was at Milwaukee. We completely failed to turn out in any kind of showing. Friday, the media and photogs outnumbered the fans. Sure, the promoter could have done a lot more to attract the local casual fan, but we within the community clamored for this race and then failed to follow through when IndyCar went out on a limb to put it back on the schedule.

    Kentucky last year had a similar, although not as dramatic, of a feel for me. Everyone always talks about how great the Kentucky race is, but we fail as a community to show up in the numbers that are really needed to make the event viable. Rather than grumble about the dwindling number of ovals, we need to step up and as you say bring a friend. We need to buy tickets and support the races we claim to love.

  4. Your blog inspired me to go to Kentucky. We have been debating whether or not to go and take my 9 year old and you put me over the top. It will be the fourth year in a row he has made it to a race and he is super excited. Maybe we will see you there.

  5. @Anonymous: Hey, wonderful! I hope you have an amazing time! I really think it's one of the best events on the schedule!

    @Doug: Thanks for the comment! I could not agree more! I hope people discover what a treasure this race is!