Should Brickyard 400 become night race?

It could cost $20M to install lights at IMS

INDIANAPOLIS - Most people will agree that the Brickyard 400 should become a night  race, but first, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would have to spend millions of dollars to install lights.

In 1994, the race was a complete sellout, one of NASCAR’s top events, and Indiana native Jeff Gordon won the race. Since then, attendance has gone down.

Some NASCAR enthusiasts think moving the Brickyard to night would resurrect the race.

David Newton is a Motorsports writer for ESPN.com and he said the attendance for the big race has fallen drastically.

"You look at the crowds now, and they're not even half of what they were then," Newton said. "They need to do something to make it unique on its own, and I think the night race would do that."

Doug Boles is the Chief Operating Officer of the IMS. He said in the next six weeks, track officials will decide on whether or not to spend the money it would take to install the lights. 

Some experts estimated it could cost track officials $20 million.

The state recently approved a $100 million loan to the Speedway for improvements.

"If it's good for the Speedway, it's good for the taxpayers, and the increase is going to pay back this loan. Is it good for our fans, and do they want to come out at night versus during the day," Boles said.

Fans seemed to agree that a night race would improve the Brickyard 400.

"I've been to Bristol and really enjoyed the night races. Saturday night races are much better in my opinion," said fan Mark Schneider from Pennsylvania.

The temperatures would be cooler at night, but fans said it was about more than just the weather.

"The atmosphere of a night race, you go to Bristol or you go to Darlington or those. It just seems to ramp everything up to another level and I just think it's exactly the remedy to help it," Newton said.

Speedway officials were on board if it translated to getting more people in the seats.

"Whether you do anything to enhance the fan experience or install lights, so it's a more weather friendly race, I think anything you can do to increase the crowds," said Speedway Town Manager Barbara Lawrence.

Boles said the decision will boil down to one simple business principle – return on investment.

Follow Drew Smith on Twitter: @drewsmith1

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