Tickets once hotter than the Memorial Day sun are available at bargain prices, and Sunday’s race is far from sold out. Crowds and interest have waned as the novelty of stock car racing faded, a problem at most tracks on the circuit. There were empty sections all down the frontstretch for Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.
IMS President Doug Boles said the track would have around 100,000 fans on Sunday.
“It’s still six figures, it’s still a great, big event,” he said. “Daytona’s tearing down their down grandstands and they’re coming up out of the ground with 101,000 seats. Because the Indianapolis 500 has a significant crowd, we don’t have the ability to eliminate seats.”
The Cup was overshadowed this week by the Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway that marked NASCAR’s return to dirt after a four-decade absence. Drivers were still buzzing this weekend about Eldora even with the 20th Indy race on the horizon.
Because the track oozes racing history, winning still means the same to drivers, even if the checkered flag is grabbed in front of 100,000 fans instead of 250,000.
“It’s a pretty big deal and there is a good amount of envy to the guys that have won this race before, more so than I feel at other race tracks that I haven’t won at,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “I would say it’s a pretty important race, it ranks right up there.”
Johnson and Gordon have each won four times at Indianapolis. Foyt, Mears and Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s. It’s possible they could join Michael Schumacher as a five-time winner at the track. Schumacher won his five F1 races on Indy’s road course configuration.
“Fifth would be incredible. I can’t believe I have four of them right now,” Johnson said.
He could stand alone from the open-wheel greats all because NASCAR and IMS bucked tradition 20 years ago.