IndyCar heads into tough stretch of schedule

The real work begins now for the IndyCar Series, which heads into the meat of its schedule on the heels of a spectacular Indianapolis 500.

IndyCar had a popular race winner in Tony Kanaan, a record 68 lead changes and a strong run by NASCAR regular AJ Allmendinger, who might have won had his seat belt not come undone. But the final television ratings showed that ABC’s live telecast of Sunday’s race earned a 3.7 rating and averaged 5.7 million viewers. That was down from last year’s 4.3 rating, though up from 3.6 in 2010.

It was a disappointing number for a series that had hoped the Indy 500 would kick off a long summer stretch of racing designed to build momentum and interest in IndyCar.

“In terms of marketing, we’ve got a lot of work to do, and there’s just no one thing that has to happen. There’s a lot of things we’ve got to do better,” Mark Miles, CEO of IndyCar parent company Hulman & Co., said two days before the 500.

First up is a double-header race weekend at Belle Isle in Detroit, which will host races Saturday and Sunday. Then it’s on to Texas Motor Speedway for a Saturday night race on ABC, Milwaukee and then Iowa. The series return to Pocono, where Kanaan will try to stay in contention for a $1 million “Triple Crown” bonus, is July 7.

The idea behind this heavy stretch of racing when former IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard put it together was to have the series on TV in consecutive weekends to build sine buzz. A double-header put another race on the schedule and got IndyCar on TV an additional day.

It comes at a time IndyCar should be surging based on its competitive on-track product, but is still struggling to gain traction and shore up stability for small teams.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing had said it would close its program for the rest of the season after the Indy 500, and popular driver Oriol Servia is not on this weekend’s entry list for Detroit. The days when series founder Tony George might write a check to help a struggling team are long over in IndyCar.

“We’re not going to be writing big checks to subsidize the teams one-off like that,” Miles said. “We would like as much as we are able to add more compensation for them, but they’d have to play and be successful.”

Instead, the focus is on a variety of tweaks that can be done beginning as early as next season to the schedule, long-term competition goals and major capital improvements at the dated Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Miles said he wants a condensed schedule that ends around Labor Day, and he seems to still be considering a championship format similar to NASCAR’s “Chase” that would have increased points and monetary value on those events.

Miles also said IndyCar is interested in making it more feasible for a driver to run both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day _ a prospect NASCAR chairman Brian France said last week was not on NASCAR’s radar. Miles said IndyCar is interested, and he’s had “a very informal” conversation with “a NASCAR driver who likes the idea.” It’s presumed to be Kurt Busch, who tested a car before Indianapolis opened earlier this month.

“I have not had any conversations with ABC about where they stand on it, but I am sure from a local perspective we can have some flexibility,” Miles said. “I think it would be interesting and good for motor racing if more drivers wanted to try it. If the stars can align, that’s really exciting if we can work it out.”


WHITT RETURNS: Cole Whitt will make his return to the Nationwide Series this weekend at Dover in a car fielded by TriStar Motorsports.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

blog comments powered by Disqus