With NASCAR in town this weekend, the idea of lighting up the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Cup race (and maybe even the 500), has been the topic of some discussion.
Some say the problem with declining attendance at the Brickyard 400 can be traced to the heat, which, because -- surprise -- it's summertime in the Midwest and as anyone who has spent time here knows, it gets hot. In fact, someone Tweeted earlier that it is 87 degrees in Indianapolis and how much better the race may be at night.
It's a bit confusing because it is usually pretty damn hot on Memorial Day weekend too, but 300,000 people still show up for the 500. Whether it is 100 degrees out, like it approached this year, or freezing, I would still go to the race because it is a great tradition, and one of my personal traditions too. I don't let uncomfortable weather stop me from going to IMS in May.
Let's stop kidding ourselves, people don't come to the Brickyard because they aren't happy with the single-file racing. If it were the best track on the circuit for racing, they would deal with it. How are lights going to improve that product? Maybe the darkness and cooler temperatures give the cars more grip, but I don't think it would change things THAT MUCH to make side-by-side racing at Indy that everyone wants.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not so much of a purist that I don't think Indy should have lights. I'm a Chicago Cubs fan (a post about IndyCar and the Cubs is coming, by the way) and while I at first had an issue with lights being installed at Wrigley Field, I enjoy going to night games and find them a lot of fun.
I just don't see how lights would make things better. Would it make the Cup racing better? No. Would making the 500 a night race improve ratings? Nope, because unless you want to move the race to a different day it would then be up against the Coke 600. Moving it to Saturday night won't work, and neither would Monday night because people have to work the next day and they wouldn't have the built-in rain date like they do now.
There just isn't anything positive that would have the folks at IMS ready to make a multi-million dollar investment. Maybe the first handful of Brickyards at night would bring back the fans, but long term the problems that keep them away would still exist.
And here is another difference: Indy has, at most, three race weekends a year. The 500 is at least 90 percent full -- and growing each year -- the Brickyard is half-full today (and I'm being extremely generous), and I don't even know if MotoGP races anywhere at night. So from a business standpoint, where does it make sense?
I can see it at a place like Charlotte, where they hold both Cup races at night and entertain other series during the year, and of course at Daytona, where they have a 24-hour event among its full slate of racing. Should the Speedway add more events over time it might be worth it, but now...not so much.
I will grant you that there is something about night racing. It is really, really cool. But it is not needed for the Indy 500 and wouldn't cure what is ailing the Brickyard 400, so I just don't see the point of having them.