Two days ago I penned an
article discussing the merits of an IRL and Champ Car merger.
In that article I published the following proposed 20-race schedule:
St. Petersburg, FL - warm weather and a nice
venue for a mid-March season opener
Houston, TX - warm weather makes this a nice
late March venue
Long Beach, CA - do we have to explain it to
Motegi, Japan - we have to believe Honda will
want this race to remain
Beijing, China - Champ Car is close to making
this race a reality, all sponsors will want a race there
Indy 500 - no explanation necessary
Milwaukee, WI - the traditional
race-after-Indy. Combined attendance will be better.
Ft. Worth, TX - the IRL drew big crowds to this
venue. A merger will only help push it over 100K
Cleveland, OH - A popular venue for all
Kansas City, KS - the IRL drew big crowds to this
venue. A merger will only help push it higher
Toronto, Canada - one of the strongest races on
Champ Car's schedule will only get better
Edmonton, Canada - another strong race on Champ
Car's schedule will only get better
San Jose, CA - right in the heart of Silicon
Valley, a key market for sponsorship
Denver, CO - another strong race on Champ
Car's schedule will only get better
Montreal, Canada - this race would make a
strong comeback after a merger
Joliet, IL - the IRL drew big crowds to
this venue. A merger will only help push it higher
Elkhart Lake, WI - How can America's Spa not
be on the schedule? A merger will boost attendance.
Queensland, Australia - no explanation
Mexico City, Mexico - this is the stronger of
the two Mexico races, and a key venue
Las Vegas, NV - the sport must end its season
in the USA and what better place than The Entertainment Capital of the
However, upon further reflection I started thinking
about the bigger picture. When you start offering up a schedule,
the inherent problem of open wheel racing becomes apparent.
Is it a racing series - or just a series of events?
Where is open-wheel racing's core base?
Is there a plan in place to make it grow other than having the fans of
both series begin to watch?
The key to NASCAR's success is that nobody cares where the race is -
just tune in regardless - and in many cases, won't even know where it is
until they see it on TV.
Now they're slowly moving into Canada and Mexico, but on a very limited
On the other hand, as good as some Champ Car events are, you have to ask
yourself, what does it benefit in the big picture - and would you be
better-served in going someplace else that works better strategically.
Champ Car has been racing in Canada for over 20 years, yet, during that
time, only three companies have stepped up to provide any major
sponsorship --- Molson as an event sponsor; Player's as a team sponsor
and Mackenzie Financial as a team sponsor....today, only Molson is left
and on a much smaller basis. So I begin to wonder if three races
in Canada is the right thing or is another market better served?
I often talk about all the sponsors wanting to go to China, but as great
an event as it is, how many sponsors are clamoring to go to Australia?
Now I am sure they will still probably find a way to go to Australia,
but to do it at the end of the season is part of Champ Car's biggest
problem...leaving the country at season's end so nobody has a clue that
You want the closest thing you can get to a winning formula?
You end the season in Texas, where you have a great promoter....and you
lead into it with races in Chicago and Watkins Glen...or move San Jose
back in the schedule. Run in major markets to build up the season
finale. And you have to do all that and end the season as close to Labor
Day as possible (end of September)...keep in mind the IRL was paid an
ADDITIONAL $5 mill by ABC to end the season when they did so ABC could
fit in the last 1/3 of the NASCAR schedule that they recently bought.
Here's a schedule that might serve the series a whole lot more:
St. Petersburg, FL
Mexico City, Mexico
Surfers Paradise, Australia
Long Beach, CA (if you want Indy build-up, you
must race in the USA immediately beforehand...where better than in LA?)
Kansas City, KS (night race)
Cincinnati/Kentucky (night race)
Cleveland, OH (night race)
Watkins Glen, NY (Philadelphia, PA if it ever
San Jose, CA
Elkhart Lake, WI
Put it all together and you run the early portion of the
schedule overseas so you can come back to North America and build up
momentum....After Indy, you spend the majority of the next six weeks in
the Midwest where Indy's popularity is the greatest with a series of
night races involved that you package as a promotional tool (i.e.,
Budweiser's Hot Summer Nights, etc. on consecutive Saturday nights, same
time, same channel and promote the hell out of it).
Being in the Midwest after Indy makes it easier on teams after a long
stretch first abroad, then at Indy.....and even more important, it
allows the writers who cover Indy to start covering more events -- just
like they used to do. Open-wheel needs to start somewhere in this area.
Look at how many daily newspapers actually travel and cover NASCAR, then
look and see how many cover open-wheel racing (1 - the Indy Star). Run
races in Indy, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toronto and you'll
get more that cover multiple races.
And then when you get to the championship portion of the season, you end
the season in San Jose, Denver, Chicago, Houston and Dallas. Big
markets, lots of publicity. Then you have a Texas Two-Step for the
title, which provides another marketing opportunity, but just as
importantly can be sold as an easy to cover trip to get more exposure.
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