Throughout 2016 we may have way too many quick thoughts for our post-race posts. So consider our Takeaways feature to be the home of our random and sometimes intelligent musings. Sometimes the post may have a theme. Sometimes it may just be a mess of unrelated thoughts. Make sure you tweet us your thoughts after the race or email your post-race rants via the link in the signature line below.
• It was impossible to not notice the empty grandstands all over Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Brickyard 400.
It’s also impossible to really know how many people were in attendance too, given that NASCAR no longer releases official attendance figures (that were perhaps enhanced anyway). The capacity of IMS is 235,000 people, and according to a guess by the Indianapolis Star, estimations pegged Sunday’s crowd at 50,000.
We’re not going to sit here and say that 50,000 isn’t a lot of people. It is. But compared to the crowds that used to be at Indianapolis for previous Brickyard 400s, there’s no denying Sunday’s race had an especially poor turnout. (And don’t counter by saying there were more people at Indianapolis than at a baseball game on Sunday. It’s not a direct comparison, and it’s also one that would sound incredibly foolish if it was being made 10 years ago.)
[Related: Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon share celebratory post-race lap]
Attendance at races can be over-debated. With the bountiful television contract the Sprint Cup Series enjoys, a track’s primary revenue source is from people watching at home rather than those walking through its gates. But empty seats of the magnitude seen at Indy on Sunday are jarring, especially when those seats were once occupied.
It’s no secret that the Brickyard 400 isn’t typically one of the most entertaining races of the season because of the downforce and aero-sensitivity of NASCAR’s cars and the lack of two grooves in Indianapolis’ corners. But is it as simple as saying “If the racing was better, fans would come back?”
If it was, wouldn’t there have been an attendance bump on Sunday given how much better the racing has been in 2016 compared to the year before? And also given that NASCAR was running a completely different rules setup than it did in 2015 in the Cup Series?
It’s certainly not a lack of interest in racing, either. The Indianapolis 500 was sold out in May, though that was also the 100th running of the race and the IndyCar Series has also provided some incredible shows recently at the track. And no it’s not promotion. It’s hard to avoid billboards and signage for the race in town.
As with most things in life, there likely isn’t a simple answer to the question of dwindling attendance. But if the Brickyard 400 is going to remain the prestigious Cup Series race that many people believe it is, it can’t be consistently held in front of grandstands less than 25 percent full.
There’s no denying Joe Gibbs Racing’s speed throughout the 2016 season so far. Each of the team’s four drivers have won and the team has won nine of the 20 races this season (10 if you count Martin Truex Jr.). But the only hesitation we have about Busch’s title hopes is his failure at avoiding bad finishes so far this season.
Busch has now finished in the top seven 13 times and has a 12th-place finish. The other six races? All finishes of 25th or worse. A bad finish at an inopportune moment in the Chase’s elimination format is devastating.
• Can Richard Petty Motorsports get things turned around? Its drivers finished 25th (Aric Almirola) and 27th (Brian Scott) on Sunday and the team doesn’t have a top-10 finish all season.
• Look how nasty this hit Carl Edwards took was late in Sunday’s race. Good thing he was OK afterwards.
• What in the world was Trevor Bayne doing here?
With Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s absence, Bayne has a prime opportunity to sneak into the Chase. But poor finishes (he was 30th after this crash) are hurting his chances.
Kyle Larson, who finished fifth, vaulted over Bayne in the standings and is now 15th; the final spot in the Chase on points. Bayne is still behind Junior and is now behind Kasey Kahne, who is 10 points behind Larson.
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