IndyCar St. Pete postscript
Today, in our "St. Pete Postscript," AutoRacing1 will cover a myriad of topics from this weekend’s race on the Streets of St. Petersburg, starting with Power.
Sunday’s win was the 22nd of Power’s career, and third in a row (he won the final two races of 2013), and fourth in the last six events. For some historical reference, Power is now tied with Emerson Fittipaldi and Tony Bettenhausen on the all-time American Open Wheel Racing wins list.
Of course, Power at 33, is far from done. And those 22 victories are 6 fewer than that of teammate Helio Castroneves, who has more than double the starts (278-122). Power is a mere 5 wins behind Indy Car legend Johnny Rutherford, who won 27 races in 314 career starts.
Now, we at AutoRacing1 have done historical looks at many of Power’s contemporaries, such as Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. It may be time to take a look at the impressive career, the Toowoomba, Australia native is in the process of putting together.
Clean and Green
During the post-race press conference, Power made mention that the race was relatively incident free. Save for an off by Charlie Kimball on lap-72 and a somewhat clumsy restart, the race in St. Pete was uncharacteristically clean. And going forward, I think we can probably expect more of this.
For one, there are only 22 full-time cars, down from 24 last season. Second, the series has eliminated the double-file restarts which often bunched the pack and became something of a vicious cycle with caution flags.
Also, while we often harp on the challenges facing the Indy Car racing going forward, quality of the field is not one of those challenges. Yes, there are certain drivers who are clearly better than others, but there was not one driver who took the green flag in St. Pete who impugns the quality of the series or does not belong.
I expect this season will probably see more prolonged green flag racing, and less of the parade behind the pace car situations as we saw last season in places such as Baltimore.
At this point in time: none.
That’s not to say Verizon CEO Dan Mead was not impressive and likable in his Sunday press-conference with CEO of Human & Co. Mark Miles; that’s not to say that Verizon and IndyCar won’t be able to benefit each other in the technological realm; that’s not to say the beleaguered sport won’t benefit from the might of a company with a nearly $200 billion market cap behemoth (Izod parent company Philip Van Husen has a market cap just over $10 billion); that’s not to say I didn’t walk out of the media center after the press conference in St. Petersburg encouraged.
What I am saying is how exactly this new partnership between Verizon and IndyCar benefits each party, and the extent to which that occurs, remains a wait-and-see.
Yes, I know people are tired of hearing about TV ratings. Yes, I know AR1 hasn’t necessarily made itself any friends with caricatures of nooses and heads banging against walls, when talking about TV ratings.
But I also know that neither Verizon nor IndyCar stand to benefit with the series garnering less than a million viewers on over-the-air television. For those not attuned to how television ratings work the 0.6 overnight TV rating St. Pete generated equates to about 800,000 viewers. Further, while I can give countless examples of dog shows, softball games, and the like of programming which performed better on cable television, I’ll spare everyone the depressing details. Just know a 0.6 network television rating, Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET, is a dreadful number.
Now, the spin doctors have already and will surely be out in full-force. They’ll note that the television broadcast was better overall (it was), and that the 150-minute TV window allowed for both adequate pre and post-race coverage (likewise, true). We’ll also hear that the IndyCar race was up against the NCAA tourney Elite Eight round, and the NASCAR race at Martinsville, which is true.
However, such thinking conveniently overlooks the fact IndyCar scheduled the race in that television slot. And let the record show, AR1 has long advocated starting the season earlier to take advantage of lesser sports-entertainment television competition, particularly during the cold-weather months at the end of football season.
What does IndyCar do? Schedule their opener in late March opposite the NCAA Tournament. Say what you want about AR1/me/whoever beating a dead horse regarding to the television issues facing the sport, just let the record show: This new relationship between Verizon and IndyCar does neither party any good, if less than million people are watching on free television.
Why do the TV numbers continue to flounder?
Expect an AR1 feature on the subject in the coming weeks.
Because I was in St. Pete, I did not see the TV broadcast until last evening. Briefly, I will note that Allen Bestwick was very good. He seemed to bring more out of both Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear than before. I’ll also note that the production, particularly the pre-race show was much, much better than before.
I’ve been one of ABC/ESPN’s harshest critics over the years. And while the overnight television stinks, the broadcast is not to blame.
Something I noticed
This was my first time attending the St. Pete race. Even by street race standards, I found the circuit has very poor sightlines, and frustrating during the times I ventured outside the media center to view the on-track action.
Don’t look now, but three Americans Zach Veach, Spencer Pigot and R.C. Enerson won races in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda, and Cooper Tires U.S. F2000 Championship Powered by Mazda respectively. Pigot actually swept both rounds of the Pro Mazda Championship.
Although success in the junior categories does not necessarily forecast success at the top-level, let the record show: there is young, American talent making its way up to open-wheel ladder system, and that’s not including 2013 Indy Lights champion Sage Karam.
While I’m not advocating some sort of provincial xenophobia against international racers, I am saying that for the sport to grow in the United States, talented, winning American drivers are not a luxury, but a necessity.
Brian Carroccio is a columnist for AutoRacing1. He can be contacted at BrianC@AutoRacing1.com.
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