The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana on July 22, 1999 · Page 43
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The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana · Page 43

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Thursday, July 22, 1999
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THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR THURSDAY, JULY 22, 1999 D9 arm' flocking to 16th Street Speedway i 1 ..""" i .w if ' It's been two weeks since the Summer Sizzle midget extravaganza fizzled at 16th Street Speedway. Promoters Tony George and Jim Voyles must decide if it should continue. Not only the event; the track, also. ' Shnrt Ke tummer lizzie, lotn ; Jr ! street hasn,t been ..........!'?.!?..?. money-maker George and Curt Cavin Voyles, a local attorney, en-; visioned when they leased Bush Stadium from the city three years ago. Crowds have varied. Few events have been profitable. ; "It's just fair to say we're holding our own most weeks," said Voyles, who has events the next four Saturday nights, including the night of the Brickyard 400 at George's Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Summer Sizzle attracted nearly 100 race cars but only an estimated 3,500 spectators over five nights (July 6-10). The facility can hold 12,000. With final-night tickets priced at $30, the event fell far short of covering the record $140,000 purse. Promoter Kenny Allison was fired two days later. Allison said the event needed a larger advertising budget. George accepted his share of the blame. U .Amm w tr - r . , m 1llMII H A'L File Photo PLENTY OF ROOM HERE: Few events at 16th Street Speedway have drawn good crowds; the Summer Sizzle, run over five nights, was a financial flop. He believes he should have commissioned part of his 28-person IMS marketing staff to help the smaller track. Also, he hasn't been involved. "All I've done is shown up and raced once In awhile," he said. At season's end, the lease with the city will expire. George and Voyles must decide what direction to take. "I still think it's been helpful to the (Indy Racing League), giving a lot of young drivers the type of publicity and exposure they might not have otherwise had," Voyles said. "It was exceptionally helpful to Billy Boat, for example." George agreed, but emphasized this must be a profitable venture. In these three years, he hasn't had the time to help his investment grow. "If I had a chance to go back and rewind the thing ... we shouldn't have done the thing," he said. High honors Greenfield's Jim Fox will be inducted into the Indianapolis Speedrome Hall of Fame Saturday night In conjunction with the Sonny Thompson Memorial Figure-8 race. Fox. who captured 44 feature wins during his 1977 figure-8 and oval stock championships, also won the first World Championship Figure-8 that year. He raced on the Eastside track for three decades and retired in 1990. "It's an unexpected, but great honor," said Fox, who joins NASCAR great Darel Dierin-ger, Leroy Warriner, Forrest Halliburton, Billy and Wayne Arnold and Thompson in the Speedrome's honor roll. "Winning that first World Figure-8 race was my career high." Sprint Week The 12th Indiana Sprint Week began Wednesday night at Terre Haute and continues tonight at Lawrenceburg. Sponsored by Pennzoil, ISW boasts $4,000 to win each of the six features, and an additional $5,000 goes to the overall champion. Tony Elliott. Kevin Thomas, Dave Darland, Tracy Hines, J.J. Yeley and Jack Hewitt headline the entry list. Bloomington plays host to ISW Friday night, before moving to Putnamville on Saturday and Kokomo on Sunday night. The series concludes July 28 at Rossburg, Ohio. Where the crowd Conundrum for CART, IRL: Why do venues with least exciting racing have the best fan base? are The Racing Insider Robin Miller If and when the Indy Racing League and Championship Auto Racing Teams come together, one of the crucial issues will be choosing which tracks to keep on the schedule. And nothing illustrates the current dichotomy of open-wheel racing better than last weekend's shows. . The IRL race at Atlanta featured Its usual mix of close racing and mayhem, keeping CART driver Paul Tracy, CART owner Barry Green and me entertained (we stayed In the paddock at Toronto and watched the satellite feed) when there was live racing. But, also as usual, there wasn't much of a crowd (45,000 was announced, although an Atlanta television reporter put the number closer to 25,000). Unlike the Pep Boys southern show (16 lead changes), CARTs street snooze at Toronto saw Dario Franchitti lead all 95 laps; he wasn't seriously challenged after the third turn of the opening lap. Still, there were 73,000 paying customers on Sunday and a record Toronto turnout of 168,000 for the three-day Molson Indy. Australia drew 250,000 in 1998, Long Beach packs in more than 200,000 people for three days each April and Vancouver gets in excess of 90,000 on race day. Houston had 60,000-plus sit through a driving rain in '98. Therein lies the bottom line. CARTs best races are still on ovals, but its largest crowds come to street courses; those fans don't seem to care about limited vision, side-by-side racing or lack of sustained 200 mph speeds. The IRL's all-oval series features some good, hard racing, yet plays to more empty seats than the Montreal Expos. And NASCAR rules ovals by astounding, if not confounding, numbers. It makes no sense that Michigan International Speedway will be only half full Sunday i? This week Three-wide: We'll have an exclusive look ahead at CART, Indy Lights and NASCAR Trucks, all of which will be in Brooklyn, Mich., this weekend. Odds-on: If you want odds, we've got them for CART, Winston Cup and Formula One. Point-blank: After each weekend we have the updated points standings for NASCAR, CART, IRL, F-1 and NHRA. for CARTs U.S. 500 (there were 62 lead changes in arguably the greatest open-wheel race ever in 1998) and a month later 140,000 will pack MIS to watch the ho-hum Winston Cup parade. The IRL race at Atlanta was three times as good as either of NASCAR's dates on the fast 1.5-mile oval, yet the Cup crowd Is six times larger. Other than at Indianapolis and the California Speedway, Bill France's hardtops trample both open-wheel groups at the turnstiles they share (Phoenix, Homestead, Michigan, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Charlotte, Dover, Fort Worth). Even the Busch Series race outdrew CART at its longest-running venue, Milwaukee, this summer. Certainly the IRLCART war has killed the gate at some previously staunch Indy-car venues such as Phoenix, and NASCAR remains laps ahead of either organization in promoting or marketing. But what can't be denied is that major markets such as Long Beach, Vancouver, Toronto, Australia, Houston and Cleveland have embraced champ cars like ovals won't. Sure, the layouts are boring for television, and for every good street race there are 10 forgettable ones. But all these cities (except Detroit) have turned their CART weekends into a three-day happening that also sports a big-league atmosphere. There were more people watching practice and qualifying at Toronto, Cleveland and Long Beach than there were on race day at Nazareth and Homestead. Last year at Aus- 1-. 5tri!-jl4;'; .. . .... X .. Associated Press SUNDAY DRIVE: Dario Franchitti (right) was virtually unchallenged in winning last weekend's CART race in Toronto; teammate Paul Tracy (left) was second. Despite the lack of sustained racing action, the crowd was large. tralia, 20,000 people showed up just to watch teams set up their pit equipment. It's impressive to take a potential sponsor to these tracks and there is an electricity and atmosphere that can only be felt on race day at Indianapolis for the IRL teams. Selling some company on your series isn't easy in front of nobody at Colorado Springs, Dover or Las Vegas. And the alarming trend is that no IRL venue has increased its attendance in four years. Now, before you fire up your fax machine or crank out a nasty e-mail, I think that Phoenix could be restored to 60,000-plus (CARTs last crowd there in 1995) with a uni fied series. And maybe a couple of those other IRL ovals could be invigorated by one, strong, champ car circuit. If there's peace by then, the ideal Indy-car series of 2001 would be a sensible blend of ovals, road courses and street circuits with 20 to 22 races. But Long Beach, Cleveland, Australia and both Canadian dates should be a lock. It's simply a matter of street smarts. Robin Miller is the auto racing writer for The Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis News. You can contact him by calling (317) 624-4636 and entering 7165 or by e-mail at rmillerstamews.com Front POW: CART FEDEX CHAMPIONSHIP Points leaders Juan Montoya 113 Dario Franchitti 106 Christian F'rttipaldi .'. 96, Michael Andretti 95 ; GildeFerran 88 Next race: U.S. 500, Brooklyn, :. Mich. '"r TV: WRTV-6, 12:30 p.m. Sun- day Defending champ: Greg , , Moore IRL - v- PEP BOYS SERIES Points leaders Scott Goodyear 180 Scott Sharp 159, Jeff Ward 153- Eddie Cheever 149 Kenny Brack' 144 Next race: MBNA 200, Aug. 1 at Dover, Del. - ' NASCAR WINSTON CUP , Points leaders 11 Dale Jarrett 2,839 Bobby Labonte 2,599 Mark Martin 2,590 - Jeff Burton 2,551, Jeff Gordon 2,450.., Next race: Pennsylvania 500,;, at Pocono, Pa. TV: TBS, noon Sunday ". Defending champ: Jeff Gor- don FORMULA ONE Points leaders Mika Hakkinen 40 - Michael Schumacher 32 . Eddie Irvine 2Z-, Heniz-Harald Frentzen 26 : David Coulthard ..22" Next race: Austrian Grand - Prix, A-1 Ring. TV: Fox Sports Midwest, 10 . a.m. Sunday "f'.r,u Defending champ: Mika Hakkinen NHRA WINSTON DRAG SERIES; Points leaders Top Fuel Mike Dunn 814 - Kenny Bernstein 770 J Doug Herbert 759 Larry Dixon 726 Tony Schumacher 724 Funny Car ... . John Force 1,246 ' TonyPedregon 995", WhitBazemore 759 Tim Wilkerson 599'. DeanSkuza 582 Pro Stock Warren Johnson 988 Kurt Johnson 807 Jeg Coughlin Jr. 699 Jim Yates 698 Richie Stevens 632 Next race: Northwest Na- ; tionals, July 30-Aug. 1, Seattle SHORT TRACK SCHEDULE TODAY: U.S. Auto Club sprints at . f Lawrenceburg; drag racing at Indianapolis Raceway Park. PRinAV- I ICAP cnrintc ctnrke " t and modifieds at Bloomington; 3 rag racing ai ihp; legenas, v4 modifieds at Speedrome. " ' ' SATURDAY: American Speed " Association Tecumseh 300 at Salem; USAC sprints at Putnamville; drag racing at IRP; USAC '. '' midgets at 16th Street Speedway; stocks at Mt. Lawn Speedway; , stocks, late models and figure-8s -at Speedrome; USAC sprints at Lincoln Park; stocks at Paragon. T SUNDAY: Sprints, stocks and " ; modifieds at Kokomo; stocks at ; Speedrome. WEDNESDAY: USAC sprints at Rossburg, Ohio; USAC midgets at Speedrome. Texas satisfied with IRL crowds; other tracks are looking for more .. From Wire Services One of Bruton Smith's racetracks wants to continue its association with the Indy Racing League, while another one isn't sure. According to an article in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas Motor Speedway plans to make the Pep Boys series part of its schedule for the next five years. But the Atlanta Motor Speedway was weighing its options after Saturday night's disappointing turnout.,,,; Tony George's 4-year-old, all-oval circuit has been a hit only in Fort Worth and Eddie Gossage, TMS' executive vice president and general manager, said he plans to renew the sanctioning agreement with the irl: "We're willing to sign up to a five-year sanctioning agreement with them. We want everybody to know we believe that firmly in open-wheel racing," said Gossage, who also owns the track at Charlotte, N.C., where three spectators were killed on May 1. "Our only concerns with the IRL have been about safety matters. Thpy've addressed those. And they continue to address and improve them." Gossage said he has forwarded a letter to IRL founder George and executive director Leo Mehl, expressing his desire to renew for two races a year. Texas has hosted two IRL events each of the past two years and Gossage successfully campaigned to have the 1999 IRL finale moved from Las Vegas Motor Speedway to TMS (Oct. 17). "We've had tremendous success with the IRL," said Gossage, whose races consistently have ranked second only to the Indy 500 in drawing fans for the series. "It's been too successful for us not to continue to run them." While Texas has drawn 80,000-plus, Atlanta mustered less than half that last weekend. With the Atlanta Braves out of town, football season six weeks away and good weather, AMS president Ed Clark had high expectations. The speedway offered 2-for-l ticket deals and advertised heavily. There are things we could have done better," said Clark. "But the long and short is we worked real hard on this thing, put a lot of promotional (effort into it and we're somewhat disappointed that the crowd wasn't better. "A little doubt creeps in there. How big can it (IRL) be and how quickly can it grow?" Over the next few weeks, Clark and other members of Speedway Motorsports Inc. will analyze the numbers and discuss ways to improve attendance. This is no small issue for the IRL, which holds five of its 11 races at tracks owned by Smith's company. "I don't think Bruton or any of his track managers have changed their mind about the exciting product we put on the racetrack," said Mehl. "I know they're disappointed a little bit in the attendance at some of the tracks." Atlanta has a three-year contract with the IRL, but Clark offers no commitment beyond that. "They have a good bunch of drivers," he said. "Obviously, they need more sponsorship." Clark also realizes the IRL Championship Auto Racing Teams war isn't good for business. "While it's split there will always be a lot of talk that we don't have the full assemblage of the best open-wheel drivers in the world," he said, j mm M 4t INTERNATIONAL' rout 17 FifthThirSTBank AUGUST 4 gates open at 4 pm AUGUST 5 gates open at noon AUGUST 6 gates open at 11am liii' l

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