The Indianapolis 500 has been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember. No, really… my furthest back memory is being at the race in ‘86 at the age of 3. The cool thing about this race is that everyone associated with it has their story on how they got introduced to it, why it made an impact on them, and for a majority that will grace these grounds today, they have a specific reason… or 33…. that keeps them coming back year after year.
The reach of the ‘500’ goes well beyond the ever-changing yet classic town of Speedway, outside the state lines of Indiana, across the borders of the United States, and travels in every which direction, drawing everyone in on Memorial Day weekend. It’s power makes every fan feel like they can claim Indiana-roots, proudly belting the lyrics to Back Home Again in Indiana with a glisten in their eye as though they were born and raised just outside the track limits.
Twenty-nine countries across six continents are broadcasting the Indianapolis 500 today.
Which ones you ask? Thanks to IndyCar, I have that answer for you…
Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands – ESPN, Austria – Sport 1, Belgium – BeTV, Brazil – BAND, Canada – Sportsnet and TVA Sports, Caribbean – ESPN, Czech Republic – Nova Sport, Finland – Elisa Viihde Sport, France – Canal +, Germany – Sport 1, Greece – Nova Sports, Hungary – Digi Sports, Israel – One Sports, Italy – Sky Sports, Japan – Gaora, Latin America (excluding Brazil) – ESPN, Netherlands – Ziggo Sports, Middle East and North Africa – OSN, Romania – Digi Sports, Portugal – Sport TV, Russia and CIS – Viasat Sport, Serbia & ex-Yugoslavia – Arena Sports, Slovakia – Nova Sport, South Africa – Supersport, Spain – Movistar, Switzerland – Sport 1 ], Sub-Saharan Africa – Kwese Sports, and United Kingdom – BT Sport.
Thirteen countries across five continents are represented in the starting grid of this year’s race: New Zealand, The United States of America, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Australia, The United Arab Emirates, Spain, Russia, England, Canada, Colombia, and France.
Outside of the Olympics, the international appeal of this race is unparalleled in sports. Last year’s running was named the event of the year by the Sports Business Journal, and more than 350,000 fans stood behind that decision when they sold out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time in history.
While we haven’t reached a sell out level this season, according to J. Douglas Boles (President of IMS) the renewal rates from last year for today’s race were the highest the Speedway has experienced since they started keeping track of those numbers.
In the words of one of my best friends (and our friendship exists because of IndyCar), “The needle is moving, Shay… the needle is moving.” And he’s right. We’ve seen livestream numbers higher than ever, much of that in thanks to the excitement around Fernando Alonso running in the race this year. Regardless of the reason, they are still our results and the numbers (800,000 unique viewers for a test session) are legitimate. Another colleague of mine mentioned that the viewership numbers for IndyCar qualifying in the UK increased 556% in comparison to last year.
Interest is growing. The product is top notch with competition levels between drivers and teams that can’t begin to compare to other racing series. If you are at IMS today, or tuning in from somewhere across the globe, you will see that displayed in stunning fashion this afternoon. And for a few hours at least, we will all be Hoosiers.
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Photo credit: Chris Owens / IndyCar