Q: I saw this past week at the NASCAR race in Kentucky that M&M’s sponsored and supported a “Glampground” (Glamorous Camping) — providing tents, three meals a day for two day, showers, race tickets and garage passes for the weekend, WiFi, VIP guest speakers etc. for $500 per fan. I know there is some glamping in the infield for the Indy 500, but I would love to do something similar and turn-key as a fan at Portland or Laguna Seca for the IndyCar races later this year. Does something like M&M’s Glamping exist at either of those tracks, or is it “do it yourself” camping in a motorhome or tent?
Brad, Lexington, Ohio
RM: I’ve actually heard rave reviews of what happened in Kentucky. My pal Kyle Petty was part of their activities in the glampground on race day and said the set-up was very cool. As for camping at Portland and Laguna, plenty of good camping is available for fans with some wonderful views of the track, but the is no “turn-key” camping/glamping — you need your own camper or tent. Indianapolis is the only track on the circuit that provides some level of glamping that I am aware of. Maybe something for tracks to think about in the future.
Q: Love your Wednesday Mailbag and read it religiously. One of the items you brought up was a letter discussing using covered grandstands. Since I turned 65+ I demanded covered seating at Indy. My wife and I would not be able to attend if we had to sit in the sun for three or four hours on those 85 degree days. We can enjoy the race and not have to be concerned about getting heat stroke. I’ve seen several younger fans sitting out in the sun and passing out or be helped onto a stretcher and carted off during some of those hot days (like 2018).
The old county fair grandstands almost always had covered seating, and so many of us older folk watched many a race or thrill show at the county fairs. Perhaps this would help attendance. We attended many a race at MIS and would boil under the summer sun. I just couldn’t take that anymore, so we haven’t been back for over eight years now. We also attend Road America, but we rent a golf cart and can sit wherever we think will provide us the best racing and the most comfort. We don’t walk as far and as easily as we did before turning 65+.
Finally, thank God Iowa is returning to nighttime racing again. We attended last year’s race (and several Iowa IndyCar night races before) and my wife had to miss over half of the race last year so she could sit under the bleachers and try and stay cool. We had said that we loved the race and the people who run it, but having a July race in Iowa during the day just was not possible for us anymore. I so hope the crowd returns for the spectacular IndyCar race under the lights. We will be there!
RM: My pal Dave Scoggan, who knows more about IndyCar and drag racing than should be allowed, was talking about declining attendance at ovals when I wrote that column a couple weeks ago and he brought up the fact that not having covered grandstands on a hot summer day could keep people away. Especially ones our age (I’m 69), Ron. I’d never thought about it, but it certainly makes sense. Of course to think how much money would have to be spent by tracks to cover the grandstands makes it highly unlikely anything will be done, but it’s certainly a talking point that merits consideration. I just hope the Iowa crowd comes back Saturday night.
Q: Follow-up on one of the Mailbag suggestions last week covered grandstands (or night racing) is a big deal. I’m going back to lower quality seats at IMS this year to get covered seats since I don’t have enough years yet to get into grandstands B or E, which is effectively Turn 1. I stopped going to the MIS NASCAR race years ago because of two things. Traffic into the track, and heat in the grandstands. There’s nothing comfortable about sitting in the sun on a hot and humid day that close to strangers – even if they’re nice strangers. For some tracks covered seating may be impossible because of track orientation to the sun. For those where it is possible, NASCAR included, I wonder what type of an impact that might make on attendance? If I’m NASCAR or IndyCar, I find a track I want to test that theory on and invest in the upgrades with the track and see what kind of an impact it has on attendance. There are a couple F1 tracks in Malaysia and I believe Shanghai with the template for what the upgrade would likely need to look like.
RM: It’s a good question, Ryan. Would the expenditure of covering grandstands be rewarded with a big bump at the box office? I remember when the IRL ran Dover and about 3,000 people showed up and that prompted our hero (Anthony Joseph Foyt) to say: “You’d have to be a damn fool to sit in an aluminum seat for three hours in 90-degree heat with the sun kicking your ass.” I guess it’s been so long since I sat in the grandstands during a day race I never even considered the ramifications, but you and Ron in the letter above yours make some excellent points.