Thats The Ticket

Shortly after the end of the 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series season, IRNLS chief marketing officer Bob Reif "let the cat out of the bag," as he put it.

In detailing the IRNLS’s expectations for attendance in 2001, Reif made it clear that the 6-year-old series "needs" to sell out three events besides the Indianapolis 500.

Two of those events, at the brand-new tracks in Joliet, Ill., and Kansas City, Kan., are already well on their way to selling out. The third event is a wild card Midwest event, either at the new Nashville Superspeedway or Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.

Reif also said that officials would like to see a ticket-buying increase of 15 percent at returning tracks.

For their part, the 12 tracks on the 2001 IRNLS schedule are doing what they can to help the IRNLS reach its goals.

Of the returning tracks, Texas Motor Speedway and Kentucky Speedway should have the easiest jobs.

TMS hosted the closest IRNLS race in series history and one of the best open-wheel races ever in June and had a near-repeat in the October season finale. Crowds for the spring event have always been hearty, and the October event holds its own. And the addition of a CART race at Texas may actually help the track’s other major events, as it has been added to the season-ticket package.

Kentucky Speedway’s inaugural event was a near-sellout and its proximity to Indianapolis should keep it that way. If not, Kentucky Speedway officials recently unveiled a Coca-Cola 4 Pack special ticket offer. Everyone buying a Coca-Cola Grandstand ticket to the ARCA, NASCAR Busch Series, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and IRNLS race will receive a racing hat, T-shirt and a coupon for a free six-pack of Coca-Cola. In addition, the package automatically registers buyers for a NASCAR jacket worth $250.

Other returning venues will have their hands full, however.

Atlanta Motor Speedway increased its IRNLS attendance and thwarted the axe in 2000 by offering last-minute promotions. In 2001, AMS has started its promotional blitz by not raising ticket prices. As part of that announcement, track president Ed Clark described a new ticket payment policy that allows fans to pay for their tickets in two payments, one at the time of ordering and one at a later date.

"By keeping ticket prices stable and introducing a new payment procedure, we will make it even easier for our race fans to enjoy Atlanta Motor Speedway events next season," Clark said. "We know that the loyalty and dedication of the fans is the reason we're here, and we don't take that lightly."

Tickets start at $20 at AMS.

Phoenix International Raceway has had attendance problems in the past, and officials made moves this year to rectify that. In 2001, PIR will open the IRNLS season and will pair its popular USAC Copper World Classic with the IRNLS on the weekend of March 16-18. Race day tickets start at $20 with tickets for children 12 and younger at $5 each.

Pikes Peak International Raceway has not announced its ticket plan for 2000, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, of course, has already sold out the Indianapolis 500.

Now, on to the new venues.

Chicagoland Speedway, which will seat 75,000, and Kansas Speedway, which will seat 75,000 after Phase 1 of its construction, are expected to be sell-outs or near sell-outs. That leaves four new venues.

Nashville Superspeedway is one that Reif believes could sell out, Gateway is the other.

"We haven’t done any advance ticket work yet, but what we’re getting from all the research and talking to folks is that there’s an acceptance for our product in those markets," Reif said.

The still-under-construction track in Nashville will seat more than 50,000, and based on the first-year numbers at Kentucky Speedway, which sold more than 61,000 of its 66,089 tickets, Nashville could fill up quickly.

Gateway is the other potential sell-out, Reif said.

Gateway is offering a season ticket package that offers a 20 percent savings and a free IRNLS pit pass if ordered by Jan. 16. Also, children younger than 12 are admitted at half price and parking is free on a first-come, first-served basis in the blue and green lots.

The CART FedEx Championship Series raced at Gateway for the past four years and struggled with attendance.

Homestead-Miami Speedway has hosted CART for five years, and next year the IRNLS takes over.

Infiniti has signed on as the race’s title sponsor at the 1.5-mile oval that seats 60,000.

No special promotions have been announced, but tickets to the race begin at $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 and younger.

The last of the six new venues is Richmond International Raceway, which hosts two successful NASCAR Winston Cup events each year.

Like NASCAR, the IRNLS will run under the lights, and RIR is hyping the event as Extreme Speed, Extreme Excitement. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series joins the IRNLS on pole night, and the USAC Silver Crown Series runs a 100-lapper before the IRNLS headliner.

To go along with the marketing plan, RIR is offering tickets for both nights of action for $40, general admission, and $45, reserved seating, until June 1. Children 12 and younger are admitted free both nights with a paying adult.

"Richmond International Raceway is very excited to offer fans a great experience at a great value for our Extreme Speed, Extreme Excitement weekend," said Doug Fritz, president of RIR. "We are confident that fans are going to thoroughly enjoy seeing the cars and stars of the Indianapolis 500 at the Action Track under the lights at over 160 mph."

When the 2001 season is over and the IRNLS has not achieved its attendance goals, it will not be because tracks didn’t do their part.

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