Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Thomas L. Bell

Committee Members

Ronald Kalafsky, Lars Dzikus, Bruce Ralston, Derek Alderman


IndyCar events attract thousands of spectators and over one million television viewers. Additionally, IndyCar is the most elite form of motorsport that races on oval speedways, natural terrain road courses, and temporary street circuits. This research utilizes case studies of IndyCar events contested on each of these three venue types (Iowa Corn Indy 250 – oval speedway; Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – road course; Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – street circuit). Previous research in figurational sociology, place marketing, and mega-events provide a framework used to identify key similarities and differences among the perceived and observed benefits and costs of an IndyCar race on their host cities and regions. Identification and analysis of key local event stakeholders and sponsors from a content analysis of event souvenir programs, television broadcasts, and local newspaper coverage revealed key differences among the three case study events. Street circuit races rely on a high-level of public support, have a high impact on businesses and residents surrounding the venue, and can showcase a city’s downtown amenities via television exposure of city streets during most of the event. In the case of St. Petersburg, the festival atmosphere and high speed of IndyCar racing in their downtown streets has been part of a process of re-inventing the city as it sheds an image of a quiet city with mostly older residents and has been successful attracting both visitors and residents to downtown. Oval speedway events rely on high participation of private, local event sponsors that are marketing their good or service mostly to local race fans who, for the most part, stay only at the speedway on race day. In particular, the Iowa Corn Indy 250 provides a platform for local, corn-based ethanol promotion of their product in high-performance race cars. Road course races attract a greater number of weekend-long, on-site camping motorsport enthusiasts and participants as these events are more a celebration of the automobile industry, and in particular, the Honda assembly plants that employ thousands of nearby Ohio residents. The results from this research provide key lessons for other current and potential IndyCar venues across three different venue types.

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