David Turner gives us his insights on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series….
Another week and more news as the countdown to the running of the 100th Indy 500 draws closer.
This week President Mark Miles of Hulman & Company, the company behind the Speedway and the IndyCar Series said that they guarantee there will be the full field of 33 cars in the 100th Indianapolis 500, and he’s also predicting the race will be sold out for the first time in 20 years. “We’ve got a very good chance of selling every seat and you might be surprised how soon it happens. All of the suites are already sold out and we’re looking at building 12 temporary ones to accommodate the demand. And we’re already way ahead of total ticket sales a year ago.”
While IMS never releases crowd figures, the last full house was in 1995 prior to the Indy Racing League/Championship Auto Racing Teams split. That’s when scalpers got three to five times face value and the Speedway sported in excess of 275,000 permanent seats. That number was cut back to 257,325 by 2004, according to The Indianapolis Star, and following another reduction in 2012, now stands at roughly 235,000. This is of course before you look at the infield general areas and the stand up crowd and this is how the number then tops 400,000.
“It’s really good, the best it’s been since the Split (ChampCar v Indy Racing League) ,” said Mike Peduto, who started Circle City Tickets in the early 1980s. “It was soft last year but it seems like everyone wants to go this year to the 100th. It’s going to be neat to see it full again.”
Miles claims the Snake Pit in Turn 3 topped 20,000 people alone last year and has even more demand this year, but with all the parking and other entertainment in the infield, there’s not a lot room for fans other than the spectator mounds.
As for the news on drives and entries this week. IMS is making sure the traditional 11 rows of three remains intact, Miles said: “We’ve very confident it’s going to happen and we’ll make sure it does.”
IMS has helped out with engines, aero kits and money the past few May’s and right now there are 29 confirmed driver/car combinations and this is still pretty early days in many ways.
In driver news this week Veteran Townsend Bell is certain he’s going to have a ride, he’s just not sure who with at the moment, and 2015 Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves is close to having enough funding but still needs $100,000, while ’96 Indy winner Buddy Lazier was at the Phoenix test and is returning with his own team.
Beth Paretta and Katherine Legge of Grace Autosport have been embraced by Chevrolet and Honda and are trying to work out a co-op deal with an established team. Simona de Silvestro and Oriol Servia are also hoping to land something by May, as is Tristan Vautier and Carlos Huertas.
The current available seats appear to be Michael Andretti’s fifth car, SPM’s third car and KVSH’s third car. Right now as it stands Honda powers 15 cars and Chevy 14 and each manufacturer has agreed to provide 18 if needed (36) so hence the chance of a real Bump Day in 2016.
Things are without a doubt building all the time and the feeling of the field topping 33 for Bump Day weekend and this possible 36 or more still seems to have a lot of merit as people desire to be part of the biggest race the Speedway has ever hosted.
Full time teams and drivers head to Phoenix next weekend for the second round of the 2016 Championship and the first visit back to Phoenix in many years. The interesting shape oval will also mark the first short track oval of the season as well after the first round was held on the downtown streets of St Pete with Juan Pablo Montoya taking the win just two weeks ago.