NEWTON, Iowa. — The NTT IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway this year will be highlighted by four big musical acts leading up to and in between the late July doubleheader.
Last year, Penske Entertainment announced that it would be reviving a doubleheader weekend at Iowa after taking a year hiatus from the 7/8 of a mile-long oval, adding two more oval races to the schedule which had only three in the 2021 season.
But, the event will be more strategic than simply showing up, running two races, and leaving. The goal of the weekend is to help throttle the growth of Indy car racing forward. In a partnership with Iowa-based grocery store chain Hy-Vee, the series will be holding a series of concerts both leading up to and in between each race.
Country music star Tim McGraw will headline a concert on July 23rd ahead of the first race of the doubleheader. After the race, fans can stick around for a nightcap concert with Florida-Georgia Line.
The following day Gwen Stefani will perform before the second race on July 24th, with Blake Shelton slated to take the stage after the race.
“To think about these four acts. Normally you’d fill up a stadium or arena with one of these acts for one evening,” said Penske Corporation president Bud Denker. “We’re going to have four Class A entertainers at the Iowa Speedway pre-race, post-race that entire weekend. It is going to be a massive weekend for us.”
Denker and IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, who is sponsored by Hy-Vee, both say the partnership with these four artists is a big deal because it is the first time IndyCar will be enacting a strategy to draw more people to an IndyCar race in a location where the sport is not rich with tradition.
“To me, racing is a great, great family environment. To keep kids occupied, as a new dad I fully understand and appreciate this,” Rahal said. “But to keep people entertained for a full day or a full weekend of oval racing. The race is the highlight, right? People do come to see that. But there’s always a lot of dead time between practice and qualifying, particularly on a two-day show.”
“Tracks like Road America, it lives on its own,” added Denker. “For these other tracks that are not attached to an urban market, don’t have their own iconic nature, as Graham said you have to circle it with other things going on other than what’s going on on the racetrack.”
They say the concerts with A-list acts are the perfect remedy to keep people immersed and engaged with the culture of an IndyCar racing event. Denker calls it their “model for the future.”
It’s clear the strategy is the first real push, outside the Indianapolis 500, by IndyCar since reunification in 2008 to push beyond the comfy confines of its established races at tracks like Long Beach, Road America, Indianapolis, and Mid-Ohio to name a few.
The series began to dabble with it by running a brand new race on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee last season to moderate success.
The growth potential is there based on what they have seen in the two years that Roger Penske has owned the sport of Indy car racing, especially after TV viewership was up over 40-percent for the season’s opening race at St. Petersburg, Fla., and the fact that hundreds of thousands of people attended the race in person.
“The numbers coming out of St. Pete … best numbers we’ve seen since 2011 in terms of viewership,” Denker said. “If you were in St. Pete, you felt the buzz, the momentum going on. We got a lot to do. We got a lot to build on. We’ve only owned this sport now for two years so we need a little time to build it.”
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