- Associated Press - Saturday, April 14, 2012

LONG BEACH, CALIF. (AP) - Will Power drove from ninth to first to win IndyCar’s last race, and Dario Franchitti said he used one of the best drives of his career to improve eight positions for a 10th-place finish.

Both drivers praised the April 1 race at Barber Motorsports Park one of the best in years for IndyCar, and they were certain fans were highly entertained with the product.

Then they found out very few ever saw the race.

IndyCar’s television ratings are down through the first two races of the season, at a time the series believes it has its best competition in years and intriguing storylines that could attract a wider audience. But the race at Barber drew just a .25 on cable channel NBC Sports Network, and the Nielsen ratings company estimated it was watched live in only 218,000 homes.

“It’s a pity because it’s such a good product, good racing, good teams, good drivers and it’s just not getting out there and that’s unfortunate,” Power said. “Barber was one of the best races in a long time, and no one got to see it.”

So what’s the fix?

NBC has to advertise more, it’s as simple as that, if they care about IndyCar,” Power said.

There was an overwhelming sense of frustration throughout the paddock this weekend at the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix over the slumping television ratings. Although attendance was up at both events, the television ratings are dropping. The season opener at St. Petersburg drew a .9 on ABC, and many complained the network did a sub-par job in presenting an entertaining program.

It was the opposite with NBC Sports, which drew immediate high marks from fans about the network’s effort to showcase passing throughout the field.

“It’s so frustrating because the Barber race, there was stuff going on everywhere, and although I haven’t watched it, I know it was an excellent race,” Franchitti said. “So you wonder how do we get that word out? NBC Sports has to spend some big money and has to promote better, because when you’ve got racing that good, you need to let people know.

“You need to get the message out there because the product out there is good.”

IndyCar’s television package is split between two networks, with NBC Sports carrying 10 races on cable and ABC gets six races, including the Indianapolis 500.

The long-term future of the series is with NBC Sports, which is in the third year of a 10-year contract IndyCar signed with Versus before the 2009 season. That’s got many in the industry adamant that the network has been entrusted to help promote the series and carries a heavier responsibility than ABC.

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard noted the first two races of the season had tough television competition, with St. Pete going up against a Tiger Woods victory and the NCAA tournament, while Barber went head-to-head with a NASCAR race at Martinsville.

“I’m not making excuses, but our ratings are unacceptable and we can’t live with the ratings we are currently getting,” Bernard said. “We must move the dial. This is a major sport, and there are hundreds of millions of dollars being spent and it needs to have good ratings.

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