Indycar photo by Chris Jones
Before last weekend, Indycar at Iowa Speedway was some of the best racing no one came to watch. The big crowds in the early years had dwindled to a bout a third of capacity, typical of oval attendance everywhere. Iowa did not have a slot on the 2021 schedule.
Thanks to Hy-Vee, Indycar returned to Iowa, big time. The activation and programing drew two sellout crowds. The event will be back in 2023 and 2024.
In March, details about the weekend were laid out by Bud Denker of Penske Entertainment and Randy Edeker, CEO of Hy-Vee. I posted about it in this story.
Everything they said would happen did happen. The track and grounds looked cleaner than I had ever seen t. The turn one and four suites gave the track a classy look.
In addition to the copious Hy-Vee signage, the company had a mobile store at the track with some grocery items and some camping supplies. If a desired item wasn’t stocked, Hy-Vee would deliver it to the fan at the track.
I visited a couple of their stores after i left the track. There were at least a half dozen cut outs of Jack Harvey’s Hy-Vee sponsored car displayed throughout the store. In addition signs with the logos of the two races hung prominently near the entrances and exits and above shelves. A racing related merchandise displayed greeted shoppers as they came in.
I don’t know the exact amount of money Hy-Vee put into this weekend, but it was substantial. I heard they weren’t interested in Return on Investment, but I think they got their money’s worth.
Indycar could use a couple more sponsors putting this kind of effort into the series.
While both days were sold out, the spectators in my area were different each day. I talked to several people Sunday who had never been to a race of any kind before. I’m positive some of them will return next year.
I have also heard some fans who did not come this year are making plans to some in 2023.
Were the concerts more of an attraction than the races? Perhaps in some cases, but the grandstands were filled for the races.
One of my concerns was that the crowd would filter out after the first concert and return for the post race performance. I was wrong.
This is the first oval race outside of IMS that I have been to, and I’ve been to a couple of them, where the atmosphere had the same buzz as the 500.
Keeping the Plan Going
The series now has a template for a successful oval weekend. Will ovals not currently on the schedule now have an interest in bringing Indycar to their venue? Will a certain track in the south that had an Indycar race this spring take notice or do they not care whether the series returns?
Can Iowa Speedway and Hy-Vee sustain this dame level of energy for the next two years? As great a success as last weekend was, the real proof comes in years two and three.
I could see this event becoming the Hy-Vee company picnic, similar to what Honda does at Mid Ohio for their employees.
I would very much like for the Saturday race to take place at night, but I’m not sure now if that would help attendance without one more support race.