The RIse of Motorsport During the Pandemic
The rise in attendance at Tracks all over the country.
Those of you that attended a racetrack in the years prior to the pandemic may remember the varying crowd sizes and open speedways around the country. But now, after an era of limited TV population motorsport has seen a rise in popularity. Especially in the united states where fans have grown in number due to the lack of other tv content and television series like Netflix's Drive to Survive.
The increased attendance was most notable at the Indy Grand Prix. In previous years the bleachers had been empty and only the most diehard of fans were present. However funny watching James Hinchliffe fans and Will Power fans fight can be, that limited size crowd is not good for the sport. However, upon arrival at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2021, it was obvious that things had seen a tremendous uptick. The Main parking was full and fans lined the sidewalks on the way into the speedway.
The increase in fans was also present at Road America. I arrived at the track on Saturday, and I was greeted with the usual roar of the engines and the smoke from bratwursts being prepared at the various stands around the track. The increased attendance was not noticeable on Friday or Saturday. Parking was still open and the seating areas were filled to a level that I would consider normal for previous years. However, on Sunday everything changed. Parking was regulated, the seating areas had turned to standing room only with huge grass areas covered in people sitting under covered awnings and people sitting around the many huge screens providing nonstop coverage of the race.
This increase is not solely in event attendance. The viewership of motor racing on TV has also increased. This increased presence on television has lead many people who did not previously know that they would like the sport to be exposed to it and in turn, many of them have taken a liking to it. Last weekend during the Formula One Grand Prix the TV viewership peaked at just over 1 million viewers. This was a number that increased greatly from 529 thousand in 2019 according to Racer.com.
I have yet to see the crowds for an IMSA race, but I suspect that at the upcoming IMSA event at Road America we will once again see an increase in fans. And in the end when we see an increase in fans, and young fans at that, that gives a moment of pause that the sport is in safe hands for the future. It's those of us that are younger who will decide the future of the sport that millions of people all around the world love. It's our job to protect the sport for generations to come