|Paul Menard takes to the grass to miss Landon Cassill on his way to winning|
Following Cassill's spin, the field got seriously shuffled, as many drivers had to take evasive action and then make several pit stops to clear grass from their radiators to avoid overheating. I kept looking at the scoreboards the last 40 laps to see who was where in the field as early leaders went to the back, while others came to the front as the shuffling of positions continued. In some ways it was an odd day at the Speedway, as the Brickyard crowd was significantly down from prior years. Numerous stands were completely closed to fans and there were still plenty of empty seats. Even the infield mounds in Turn 3 behind me were sparsely populated. I hope the changes the Speedway is making for 2012 with the "Super Weekend" will help the overall show, as I have said for the last few years that the Sprint Cup cars simply do not provide enough track time to keep spectators interested. Today was a blistering hot day as well, which may have effected attendance, but having been to Daytona, Talladega and Kentucky to shoot those NASCAR races this year, I am not surprised that the Speedway's numbers have steadily dwindled. The bloom is off the rose at the Brickyard and while today ended up being an entertaining day through my camera lenses, it may not be enough to bring casual fans back in the future since they can't see much of the track from any vantage point and the race is generally follow-the-leader.
I think the sports car brigade with the Grand Am series next year will be an eye opener for many people, and while the Brickyard 400 has been a serious cash cow for the Hulman-George family for many years, could it be on shaky ground if attendance keeps falling? Or could the sports car crowd draw enough interest someday to hold a real endurance race on the road course as the next big standalone event at Indy? I'm just asking. I don't have the answers, but I will be there to bring home pictures like these no matter what.
There's still no place like Indy.