Brickyard lost its novelty

The Brickyard 400 is one of the premier races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule each year. The inaugural race in 1994 had more than 200,000 fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It has been a long, hard road for NASCAR. Of the 23 tracks on which its 36 points races are contested, 14 have reduced permanent seating capacity, but IMS will not.

“The track introduced a range of activities this year, including concerts featuring seven country music attractions and improved fan access to drivers and the garage area. It also offered a ticket package designed to make the race more affordable for families and to cultivate young fans,” said IMS President Doug Boles. “Where we feel we’re making traction is with the casual fan who’s looking for more than just a race and that’s one reason for the music this year.”

To mask the diminished crowd this year, the speedway placed giant tarps over thousands of seats between Turns 1 and 2, and between Turns 3 and 4, rather than have the television cameras showing swaths of empty grandstands.

The race is a snooze-fest and fans are showing their displeasure with their wallets. The event ranks eighth in attendance among the circuit’s 36 races.

By the number of empty seats, the Brickyard has lost its juice and novelty.

* Greg Ives will rejoin Hendrick Motorsports next season to lead the No. 88 Sprint Cup Series team of driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ives, 34, was race engineer for Jimmie Johnson’s run of five consecutive Sprint Cup championships (2006-2010).

“Greg was our number-one choice,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “This is a talented guy who already has a terrific rapport with Dale Jr. and is a fit with the organization. He and Chad had a lot of success together, and all of our crew chiefs think the world of him and what he’s accomplished. Greg’s proven that he can win races, and he has all the tools to do big things.”

Since his debut as a crew chief for JR Motorsports in 2013, Ives has won five NASCAR Nationwide Series races including three this season with rookie and current points leader Chase Elliott.

Contact Eddie Thomas at ethomas@newsandsentinel.com