Indiana looks to cash in on unified IRL - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Indiana looks to cash in on unified IRL

Updated:
Fans turned out for Fast Friday at IMS. Fans turned out for Fast Friday at IMS.
Tony George Tony George
Firestone's Al Speyer talks with Governor Daniels. Firestone's Al Speyer talks with Governor Daniels.

Rich Van Wyk/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Race fans enjoyed a break in the weather Friday, crowding into the Speedway for "Fast Friday".

Video from Chopper 13 showed traffic back-ups along 16th Street, trying to get into Indianapolis Motor Speedway to catch the action before the rain came back. With this year's merger with ChampCar, there's a renewed interest in the racing that Indianapolis made famous.

"There is a lot more people talking about open-wheel racing than ever before," said fan Mike Wilhelm.

Fans are already seeing - and feeling - the benefits of uniting the sport.

"Ticket sales will increase, people will watch more on TV," said Bruce Miller.

Fans, drivers and sponsors fled the sport during the 12-year split between the Indy Racing League and ChampCar. Even the Indianapolis 500 struggled to fill its 33-car field. While 40 cars entered this year's race, Speedway president Tony George is cautious about meeting fan's expectations.

"I don't do somersaults and jump for joy, but it feels good. I think it is going to be a very exciting pole qualifying day," George said.

The success of Indy Car racing reaches well beyond the Speedway. A quick walk down "motor home row" is just a small indication of how much money there is to be made in motor sports off the track.

Al Speyer, the executive director of motor sports at Firestone, has talked jobs with Governor Mitch Daniels.

"Behind each driver, there are probably 100 other people with good careers in motor sports," Speyer said.

Daniels says he sees opportunity for Indiana with the sport united under the IRL. The state now counts 400 Indiana companies with 12,000 employees working in the motor sports industry.

"It is a multi-billion dollar business," Daniels said. "Indiana is out to capture a bigger share of it."

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