According to the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, last week’s edition of the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix was the biggest since the glory years of the CART IndyCar Series.
The three-day event, led by the Verizon IndyCar Series, IMSA’s WeatherTech Sports Car championship, the Pirelli World Challenge series, the Stadium Super Trucks series and the Historic Trans Am Series, put more than 185,000 fans through the gates to watch racing take place in sunny Long Beach.
“Having a new, modern attendance record is really important,” GPALB CEO Jim Michaelian told RACER. “We’re over 185,000 and still counting, and that’s the best we’ve had since 2000. Last year was 183,000, and that was a record, too. The best way to affirm we’re back and strong was to put on the kind of event we did this year.”
Michaelian cited a number of reasons for the uptick in audience size.
“We had great weather; walk-up ticket sales account for about 12 percent of the crowd, and we already had a great pre-event ticket sale number going, but the weather helped get people out to watch,” he added. “IndyCar is going in a great direction; the cars look better than they have in a long time, and the driving style to make them go that fast is appealing. And there’s a lot of good news coming out about IndyCar that has helped with the new NBC TV contract, there were six rookies to come out and see, and some popular drivers people know.
“IMSA put on a good race and has a lot of drivers and manufacturers and sponsors that people like, and from each series down; Robby Gordon’s stadium trucks are big, World Challenge was great; we had drifting at night, two concerts, and we’ve also made a lot of effort to make the event more enjoyable for families.”
The last comment was reinforced by a new trend Michaelian has been noticing in recent years.
“And Long Beach is becoming a generational event now, in my 44th year here, to the point where I’m being introduced to fans who are third-generation attendees,” he said. “I’m meeting folks who tell me their dad brought them, and now they’re bringing their sons and daughters to the race because it’s become that much a part of family tradition. Three generations is big. So we’re trying to make it more and more family friendly.”