By Goodyear Media Relations
1996 GOODYEAR RACING ATTENDANCE REPORT STATISTICS COMPILED BY THE GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY
AKRON, OH - Auto racing attendance in North America continued its remarkable growth rate and broke through the 15-million mark in 1996, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company announced today. This year's attendance grew 3.7 percent versus 3.9 percent in 1995, according to the figures compiled annually by the company.
A record-setting 15,430,637 fans attended races in the 12 North American racing series monitored by Goodyear in 1996, up from 14,873,796 in 1995.
As the company has tracked major American motor sports growth for 25 years through series in which it participates, new key series that have emerged have been added to the report displacing others. New to this year's report is the Indy Racing League, while the American Canadian Tour and NASCAR Modified Tour have been removed.
Attendance figures are compiled using data from sanctioning bodies, race tracks, Goodyear racing reports and other sources. All figures represent weekend totals with attendance and dates for multirace events counted only once in the grand totals.
"I think we will look back at 1996 as a major turning point in American motor sports," said Stu Grant, general manager of racing worldwide for Goodyear. "The sport is in an era of tremendous growth. In 1997, there will be several new exciting markets (in California, Missouri, Texas and Colorado). Other cities like Las Vegas and Orlando will be in their second full year of building events. Our report has reflected constant growth in auto racing attendance throughout the years at many of the same venues. As we expand into these new markets, I can only predict more growth ahead."
That growth is exemplified by NASCAR Winston Cup, which again leads with more than 5,588,000 fans witnessing an all-out run for the coveted Winston Cup Championship that was clinched at the season finale in Atlanta by veteran driver Terry Labonte. Despite no additional races or venues being added in 1996, a record number of fans were on hand for the 31 points events, up 4.9 percent from last year.
This year was a milestone for NASCAR, traveling to the Far East for its first of three exhibition races in Suzuka, Japan. In 1997, Winston Cup will run inaugural races at the Texas Motor Speedway and the California Speedway.
The PPG Indy Car World Series (renamed PPG CART World Series in 1997) raced in two new locations in 1996, at the Homestead Motorsports Complex in Florida, and at the Nelson Piquet Raceway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. According to Nielsen Sports Marketing, 38.5 million households tuned in to watch the 16 races and support programming on ABC or ESPN. Overall, more than 2,366,000 fans attended PPG Indy Car events in 1996.
"In the past, we have always included the USAC sponsored Indy 500 in the PPG INdy Car World Series totals," said Grant. "Since we pulled that figure and put it under IRL's totals, we can not compare last year's total to this year's total. Nonetheless, the series saw attendance increases at a majority of its races in 1996. Next year's figures will allow us to more accurately gauge CART's growth."
Drag racing fans numbered 1,869,437 at the 19 National Hot Rod Association events in 1996.
The 1 percent increase for NHRA comes despite no new events or venues on the 1996 schedule. In 1997, the series plans to add two races, one in the new market of St. Louis, as well as a second event in Dallas/Fort Worth.
Always a major player, the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series attendance increased 3.9 percent over 1995. Approximately 1,665,700 fans attended the 26 events.
Also adding new markets to its schedule in 1997, the NASCAR Busch series will race in Fontana, Las Vegas, Dallas/Fort Worth and St. Louis.
In spite of losing two events in 1996, the World of Outlaws showed a 1 percent increase with more than 1,594,000 sprint car fans turning out to see Mark Kinser work his way to the coveted crown during the extensive 70-event schedule.
A major new open-wheel series streaked onto the racing scene in 1996. The Indy Racing League held five events in 1996, including the Indianapolis 500, which contributed greatly to the more than 1,144,000 spectators the series drew in its first year. The series will add three races in 1997, at new tracks in Colorado and Texas and at the existing Charlotte (NC) Motor Speedway.
Goodyear's attendance report covers all IRL races held in calendar year 1996, even though the series ran on a fiscal year ending in May. In 1998, the IRL will adopt an annual schedule.
Exhibiting the biggest increase in 1996 was the SCCA Trans-Am series, which, according to Grant, "deserves a lot of credit." After a transition year in 1995, the series showed a remarkable 75.9 percent growth surge. Revamping of the series included shifting six existing races to new locations, as well as adding three races to the schedule, drawing 1,305,571 fans to the 14 events.
Another major increase came from the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In just its second year, the series had a 47.1 percent increase with more than 811,000 fans attending the 24 events, up four events from 1995.
In 1997, the truck series will add three more races as new events in Orlando, Dallas/Fort Worth and Fontana. In all, the tour will visit 25 different tracks in 19 states.
The American Speed Association also showed a nice increase in 1996, up 28.7 percent from 1995. The series held four additional races in '96 and drew 578,740 spectators over its 20 events.
The IMSA GT and IMSA World Sports Cars brought out 435,301 fans to its 10 events in 1996, up 1.1 percent from the prior year, this despite holding one less race.
While the International Hot Rod Association dropped one race from its schedule and registered a spectator decrease in 1996, down 8.1 percent, its average per-race attendance for the 10 events was up, at 43,023.
More than 284,000 fans watched the International Race of Champions four races, a 10.5 percent increase over 1995, during IROC's 20th season, which included its first apperance at Charlotte Motor Speedway and under the lights.
"This year was a good year for the motor sports community," added Grant. "Next year will be a testament to how big the sport of auto racing has become. Everyone from the teams to the manufacturers, and especially the sponsors, should enjoy the ride."