Q: I’ve been at each of the IndyCar races that have been run at Gateway since its re-introduction to the series. A few notes about the attendance at Gateway looking sparse:
• In the section that my seats are in, the number of seats per row has been reduced since last year from 20 to 16, so even a sellout will look more sparse than in the past. I have always purchased four tickets for three attendees because I like the extra space for coolers and my scanner bag. This year with four seats for three people, with the widened seating space, it was like having a mile of grandstand seats to yourself.
• The ticket prices increased this year. I had seats four rows from the top of the grandstand in the past, but had to move down 15 rows so that my tickets would only increase by $10 each. My previous seats were going to nearly double in price. I have a hard time justifying purchasing tickets at races where a 500km race costs nearly as much, per seat, as my Indy 500 tickets. I gave serious thought about not renewing tickets with the dramatic jump in prices.
• I did see a fair amount of people behind and under the grandstands during the race, but probably not enough to make a noticeable crowd size difference on TV.
• The combination of a day race, not the greatest oval racing, increased ticket prices, and the probability of bad weather likely combined to keep the attendance down.
Jason, Batesville, IN
MP: Really appreciate the report from the stands, Jason.
Q: Do you see IndyCar ever going back to Sonoma? That was the one race I could go to easily. Though I like Laguna Seca, it is not as easy for me to get to.
MP: I do not. Sparse crowds year after year made it a financial loser for the track.
Q: In a recent Mailbag, someone mentioned Rick Mears and his comments on the apron at Indy. There was a pretty good article written in RACER back in 2017. I enjoyed reading it for a second time!
Chris, Western Springs, IL
MP: Well I’ll be hornswoggled, Chris. I didn’t recall writing it, but apparently I did. When you write 5-10 stories per week, and multiple that times five years, most fade from memory…
Q: I’ve noticed on Hemmings and Bring a Trailer that the IMS Museum has been selling quite a few cars. I hope this is not a case of burning the furniture to keep warm. Do you have any idea what is behind the sales?
Matt Townsend, Buhl, ID
MP: The IMS Museum announced a little while back that they’d be selling some of the excess inventory they have; there’s far more in their collection than we’ll ever see.
Q: How much of an impact is switching to Firestone tires going to have on Lights teams? Is it a situation where they’ll basically have to take their historic setup and performance data with a grain of salt? Seems like this could be a bit of an equalizer among the teams/cars next year!
MP: It will be huge. Cooper Tires is the only rubber the Dallara IL15 has known, so yes, teams will have a ton to learn and adjust to when testing starts. Beyond the engineering changes, also consider the driver feedback quality and how some of the young drivers might be better at delivering tack-sharp input on what’s needed for setup changes while others might struggle in that regard. For those on the struggle bus, it could affect the entire team’s competitiveness next season.