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Summer racing keeps Indy hopping

8/4/2004

INDIANAPOLIS -- Summer in Indianapolis used to earn the
nickname "Naptown" because there was little to do after
basketball season ended and the Indianapolis 500 took the
checkered flag on Memorial Day.

Those were the days when the capital city did not have the
Indiana Pacers of the NBA or the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL.
Summer meant lazy hot days which gave the populace a chance to
relax and recover following the Indy 500.

It used to be said that they rolled up the streets at 5:30 p.m.
in downtown Indianapolis. How times have changed. Indianapolis
is now bustling with activity in a downtown area that rivals
most any large city in the United States for fine dining and
nightly entertainment.

The buzz increases in the spring and summer with auto racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the centerpiece attraction to
the Circle City. The Indianapolis 500 begins the summer of
activity on Memorial Day Weekend.

This year, the United States Grand Prix was moved from the end
of September to June 20, which continued the motorsports buzz in
and around the city. The Brickyard 400 is next on the schedule
as NASCAR Nextel Cup makes its annual visit to the Speedway the
first weekend of August.

After that, the city hosts a Hoosier tradition -- the Indiana
State Fair, which runs for two weeks in August following the
Brickyard. The summer of speed concludes on Labor Day Weekend
at Indianapolis Raceway Park for the U.S. Nationals -- the
biggest National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) event of the year,
which celebrates its 50th anniversary this season.

"The Brickyard 400 is a fitting end to the racing season at the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway," said Joie Chitwood III, the
executive vice president of business at IMS. "We start with the
world's largest one-day sporting event in the Indianapolis 500,
continue with a global sporting event with Formula One in the
United States Grand Prix and we cap it off with the most popular
racing series in America with NASCAR and the Brickyard 400. We
have two great bookends around a pretty nice event in June as
well."

Bob Schulz is the director of communications for the
Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association and said auto
racing is what fuels the economy of the city throughout the
year, especially in the hot and hazy days of an Indiana summer.

"Without question, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway plays a major
role in the economy of the city," Schulz said. "The Brickyard
400 is a very important part of that because it's the second
biggest event the city hosts all year. The Indianapolis 500 is
our biggest event of the year because of its history, tradition
and the fact events are spread over a three-week period
culminating with Race Day. From that standpoint alone, it brings
more money into the city."

Schulz said the Brickyard 400 fan is a bit different from the
traditional Indianapolis 500 fans or the fervent followers of
Formula One. The Indy 500 is a day when Hoosiers throughout the
state can take pride in a great event that has brought Indiana
worldwide attention. The United States Grand Prix brings the
world to Indianapolis with international racing stars showing
their prowess on the demanding road course.

But Brickyard 400 fans are more involved in seeing the race,
than touring the city.

"Rather than go to fancy restaurants, a lot of Brickyard 400
fans would rather park their motor homes in the Coke Lot and
fire up the grill and talk racing," Schulz said.

The Indiana State Fair has benefited from the Brickyard 400
because it has been able to cross-promote with Indianapolis
Motor Speedway. Auto racing has a long history at the State
Fairgrounds, which has hosted many of the top sprint car and
Silver Crown events with some of the top names in auto racing
competing on the dirt track, from Mario Andretti to Tony
Stewart.

"NASCAR fans have a tremendous amount of interest in their
drivers and that shows up at the State Fair," said Andy Klotz, a
spokesperson for the Indiana State Fair. "But the state of
Indiana is also the home of IndyCar racing and you can find a
lot of fairgoers that go to the Indianapolis 500 every year. The
Indy 500 and the Indiana State Fair are two events that
Hoosiers look forward to attending every year."

The Brickyard 400 made history in 1994 with its inaugural race,
becoming the first non-Indy 500 race held at the Speedway since
the Harvest 300 in 1916. Formula One racing came to the
track in 2000, giving fans a taste of international racing at the highest level.

The United States Grand Prix was held in September for its first
four years but the move to June brought nicer weather and
continued the auto racing buzz in downtown Indianapolis.

Brickyard 400 week also benefits Indianapolis Raceway Park in
nearby Clermont. The short track has a USAC Silver Crown race
on Thursday night, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on
Friday night and the NASCAR Busch Series on Saturday night.

"That's very important because both facilities are able to share
in a big week," Chitwood said. "By running the NASCAR Craftsman
Truck Series and the Busch Series at Indianapolis Raceway Park,
it gives race fans a tremendous opportunity to attend all three
races at two different venues."

The summer of speed concludes on Labor Day Weekend as drag
racers exceed 300 miles an hour on the famed IRP quarter-mile
drag-strip. Although IRP is over 10 miles from the heart of
downtown Indianapolis, it remains part of the city's motorsports
heritage.

Don't call Indianapolis "Naptown" any longer. With all the
motorsports activity from the beginning of May until Labor Day
Weekend, how could anyone get any sleep with all the noise from
the roaring engines?

"This is a city that celebrates speed," Schulz said. "Detroit
may be the 'Motor City' but Indianapolis is truly the 'Auto
Racing Capital of the World.' It's a title we are very proud
of. And all that racing really serves as the engine to the
Indianapolis economy."