Indy racing won't return to speedway

Last modified: 10/15/2011 12:00:00 AM
The Izod IndyCar Series, which raced at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in August after a 13-year absence, will not return to Loudon next year because of financial concerns at the track.

"We overestimated what the fan interest would be," and ticket sales did not compensate for the expenses of operating the race that weekend, speedway general manager and Executive Vice President Jerry Gappens said yesterday.

"There is no ill will on either side," he said. "We worked together to try to find alternatives, but they had to get their schedule out, and the answers just couldn't be resolved in time."

Track officials estimated they could draw between 35,000 and 40,000 spectators for the inaugural return of Indy racing in Loudon, about 40 percent of the typical attendance for each of their two annual NASCAR races, Gappens said.

Instead, total attendance - including people like the police and tradesmen who didn't buy tickets - was about 28,000.

"We thought we were being kind of conservative," he said.

The August race was a long time in the making, said Gappens, who has wanted to add a third major event to the track calendar for three years.

Indy cars raced in Loudon from 1992 to 1998, when poor attendance pushed them off the schedule.

Gappens speculated that this time, the economy might have tamped fans' interest.

"If I'm going to be a Monday-morning quarterback, I wonder, was it too much on the fans, to have a NASCAR event in July, and then 30 days later have the Indy cars and then 30 days later another NASCAR event? With the economic challenges in the country, was that asking too much from corporate partners and race fans? . . . It might have had a factor," Gappens said.

Rain on Sunday also hurt ticket sales to walk-up customers, he said.

The speedway marketed the event aggressively, he said, including buying a full-page national ad in USA Today newspaper. In total, they spent about $400,000 marketing the event, which Gappens said is comparable to the advertising budget for each NASCAR race.

"We even printed brochures in French and went up to Canada and in Portuguese and went down into the communities in Massachusetts, because this racing has a more international feel, and there are drivers from those countries that people might want to come see," he said. "It just didn't get the response we had hoped for."

The New Hampshire Motor Speedway is owned by Speedway Motorsports, Inc., which owns and operates tracks in Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Fort Worth, Texas; Las Vegas; Bristol, Tenn.; Sparta, Ken.; and Sonoma, Calif.

Loudon isn't the only one of the company's tracks to be losing Indy car racing in 2012, Gappens said.

Indy cars raced at five Speedway Motorsports locations around the country this year, but that will probably be reduced to two or three in 2012, he said.

The other tracks where races were held this year but won't be held next year faced a similar situation of low fan turnout, he said.

However, "we're still leaving the door open" to an Indy car race at the New Hampshire speedway in 2013, he said.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com.)




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