The IZOD Indycar Series made a triumphant return to the Pocono Raceway last weekend, a return that hinted of more good things to come.
The event showed enough promise to give Indycar something he’s lacked for a tragically long time, another oval track dedicated to putting on a big show. No disrespect to the other ovals on the schedule, but the family-owned Pocono Speedway went on an advertising blitz for the Pocono Indy 400, and it paid off. The crowd is estimated to be around 30,000 and Sunoco came on as a presenting sponsor. There was even a traffic jam because the crowds were larger than projected.
The race was also solid on television, bringing in a 1.1 rating, which still isn’t good, but a marked improvement for the non-Indy 500 races on ABC.
President Brandon Igdalsky said he was excited about the crowd with the track reporting that 60 percent of ticket sales were to new fans.
“What struck me is the atmosphere,” Igdalsky told a local paper. “I don’t know if it was because it was the first race back after so long, but I don’t think so. This whole fan base makes it different than the other events we have.”
He also made it clear that his family wants the race to be 500 miles next year. Pocono eventually related to NASCAR’s desire for 400 mile races, and apparently still wants to host a 500 mile race.
If Pocono is able to hold on to their date on the calendar and build the Indycar race it could give the series something it’s been trying to establish for a long time, another race that radiates with the audience that tunes in for the Indy 500 and then never watches another race all season long. If the crowd grows from the initial 30,000 to 45,000 or 50,000 over the next couple of years Igdalsky will basically be handing other track owners a blueprint on how to build successful Indycar events.
If Pocono succeeds its success could inspire other tracks like Phoenix International Raceway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway to re-evaluate their approach to Indycar weekends. My bet is that Pocono’s success is already being discussed by a couple of tracks currently on the fence for 2014 or 2015, and it could have significant repercussions.