When Is A Sports Crowd of 180,000 Disappointing?

Normally, when you hear that 180,000 fans showed up for a sporting event, the sensible immediate reaction is, “Oh god, the stadium collapsed, we just had a horrific tragedy, I should call my family.” After all, the largest football stadiums hold little more than half that figure, and those are the largest field-based sports stadiums in America.

IMS stands
(Even the crickets won’t bother.)

Oh, but this is NASCAR, and six figures are de rigeur, not spectacles. More to the point, this is Indianapolis, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway holds up to 400,000 people; the fact that it hasn’t been attacked is the surest proof yet that America-hating terrorists either don’t exist or have been weakened into irrelevancy. So when only 180,000 people show up, we got problems.

According to the INDIANAPOLIS STAR, officials are blaming themselves. Ha, ha, just kidding! Clearly it’s the economy’s fault:

[IMS president and CEO Jeff] Belskus reiterated Sunday that NASCAR will return to the Brickyard for additional races.

“(The event) will be here for years and years to come,” Belskus said. “We want it here and NASCAR wants it here.”

Concern for the event has centered on a smaller crowd, which Belskus and others attribute to a struggling economy and the tire issue that plagued last year’s race.

That “tire issue” is a residual of the new “Car of Tomorrow”; the change in center of gravity places a different stress on the tires than they were so finely engineered for. And when that happens, well, boom goes the dynamite, and they split. That ain’t good.

The ORLANDO SENTINEL’s FIFTH TURN blog, however, is less than impressed with Belkus’ explanation:

I found myself praying to the NASCAR gods above for someone to please blow a tire, pancake the wall, or blow an engine just so a caution could be thrown to bunch these guys back up again for the double-file restart and some good racing…. for at least for a couple of laps.

But the stands!!  Oh my gosh!  Did you see how empty the stands were?  I think Indianapolis qualifies for the most empty stands of any race track up to this point.  Is it really the ticket prices and the economy?  Or is it really that NASCAR has beaten these new cars to a pulp with rules and sucked all the fun and excitement out of it and fans have finally had enough?

Um, both? “Both” comes to mind as a reasonable answer here. Really, it’s fine that NASCAR’s concerned with driver safety. But the safest thing a driver can do is not race; they knowingly put their lives in a certain, agreed-upon amount of danger every time they get onto the track. The fans expect that, not pre-packaged slivers of pseudodrama.