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“I think the NBC production has been outstanding so far, but NBC and IndyCar have to do a better job of promoting races.”

NBC Sports said it ran three or four promotions during Wednesday night’s NHL playoff game, which was the most-watched NHL playoff opening night ever for the network. The network also said its promotion of IndyCar is second only to NHL, and advertisements for Sunday’s race aired on NBC during Saturday’s hockey games.

But there’s nothing on the home page of NBC Sports’ web site, and the motorsports page has heavy NASCAR coverage. There was also no mention of IndyCar in the network’s NBC SportsTalk program on Thursday night, the day Chevrolet decided to pull all 11 of its engines in a major storyline for the series.

The consternation about ratings and promotion has spoiled what most believe was an outstanding opening broadcast for rebranded NBC Sports. The network debuted the new IndyCar 36 show, which is produced by IMS Productions and drew high marks as a lead-in to the race. Graham Rahal will be the featured driver in the show set to air before Sunday’s race at Long Beach.

IndyCar loaned former race director Brian Barnhart to the NBC production team to help spot the race and point out interesting on-track battles, part-time driver Townsend Bell debuted as a pit reporter and the network unveiled a new graphics package.

The network now hopes for another strong effort Sunday at Long Beach, and understands that requires providing action, analysis and telling compelling stories that keep the fans entertained.

“You come off a show like Barber and you have to be really proud of what you’ve done and take into consideration a lot of the feedback we’ve received,” producer Rich O’Connor said. “You just have to build on that. At the end of the day, we work for NBC but we also work for the race fan.”

Team owner Roger Penske said television ratings are linked to IndyCar’s ability to grow the fan base, which can be done through consistent races in strong cities. Although he firmly believes ovals must be part of the schedule, Penske said city races such as Long Beach are critical in attracting new fans.

“Our issue with the TV ratings, we compete against golf and we compete against NASCAR on certain weekends, and they are established formats with an established base of fans and viewership,” Penske said. “We’re going to have to chip away at that a little bit at a time. But I feel very positive about the series, and we just need to stay the course.”