For the first time in over a decade, the NTT IndyCar Series had cars turning laps at the Richmond (VA) Raceway. Tuesday’s Aeroscreen test coupled with a Firestone Tire Test was the first glimpse of the cars on the .75-mile D-Shaped oval since 2009.
The buzz was certainly big. See, while the racing was less than desirable towards the end of their last tenure, the racing fans in the Virginia area still remained loyal to the series.
If you look at the TV metrics for each race, among the top five markets each week for an IndyCar race is Richmond. So, you can see why the announcement to bring Richmond back to the schedule for 2020 was met with high anticipation in the local area.
“I said this before, I’ll say it again: one of the most asked questions I got in the time I’ve been at Richmond is, When are the Indy cars coming back,?” said Track President Dennis Bickmeier. “I’m happy to say we’re able to answer that question now.”
Bickmeier, said that it’s not just the Richmond market that’s showing a large interest in the return, it’s nationally too. Over half of the states in the entire nation will have a race fan representing them in the grandstands for next June’s race. That’s saying something.
“What’s great is we put tickets on sale right away right after the announcement,” Bickmeier said. “Our ticket director sent a report a week or so ago. We’ve sold tickets to people from 26 states already. I know our tourism folks like to hear that. And two areas of Canada. We feel great about getting the ticket sales launched.
“Great to know there’s buzz from around the country for people that want to see the NTT IndyCar Series here in Richmond.”
In terms of overall ticket sales, the renewal period is still going on for NASCAR ticketholders to add the IndyCar event to their ticket package for 2020. That means the first overall glimpse of official numbers is yet to be known. That deadline is up on Nov. 1.
“We’re in a renewal period with our ticket buyers that for years have been buying two NASCAR races. We’re in a transition right now. Their renewal deadline is November 1st. We have to go through relocations, then we’ll start working with our season ticket customers on adding the INDYCAR race into their package.
“It was important for us right out of the gate from the time we announced it to have tickets on sale. We do have those tickets on sale. We do have to continue to hold our season ticketholder’s seats until we get through this renewal process. All the territory we’re making available for the INDYCAR race will then open up.”
Bickmeier, noted that he was giddy to see an Indy Car on his race track on Tuesday. This was his first time seeing these cars in person. He noted it being an “adrenaline rush” and that these cars were much quicker than he expected.
“It’s everything that I’ve heard from people here in town who came to watch the series when they competed here through the 2000s, early 2000s, it’s an adrenaline rush to watch these guys go around.
“I’ve watched from pit road area, inside Turns 3 and 4. I watched from up top. My plan this afternoon is to move around different places in the grandstands so when I’m out talking to fans, I can talk about the experience and the perspective they’re going to have in watching these guys blast around here as fast as they do.
“Certainly exciting. Much quicker than even I anticipated. Again, given my previous history watching open cars around two-mile tracks, this is a different experience.”
It was also noted that the discussions to bring the series back started last year in fact and that Jay Frye was an integral part of making this work. The reason for the June return was because of history. The series used to come to the area in the month of June, so why not make the return for the first time in over a decade in June too?
“For us, it actually was something we started discussing in 2018 about the prospects of INDYCAR coming back. We just continued to work on it with Jay (Frye) and the INDYCAR team.
“But really it was about trying to find an opportunity in the schedule. We were open to a lot of different dates. This June date is more along the traditional date where INDYCAR raced here before. We love this date. It works well between our two NASCAR races. For us, it really presents kind of a big cadence to our year as we’re promoting all of our racing events here at Richmond Raceway.
“Really, it was trying to make everything work with the series and the schedule, then certainly getting that local support and the desire of some people here locally to bring INDYCAR back.
“It really wasn’t that complicated. These guys made it easy, Jay and the team, to discuss the possibilities of having INDYCAR return. I’m just thankful we were able to get it all together.”