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Rank Driver Points
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32 Townsend Bell 22
33 Pippa Mann 21
34 Martin Plowman 18
35 Buddy Lazier 11
36 Franck Montagny 8
The Unification Was Great, Will Anything Change?

by Jason Peters
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

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Dan Wheldon won in Kansas but was overshadowed by Danica Patrick who was a backmarker all race
Firestone Motorsports
A few days ago I received a phone call from the Motorsports Manager from a major company who is currently putting in a lot of effort into sponsoring a car in NASCAR.  The reason for the phone call was to discuss the possibilities of a sponsorship in Indy Car.  Needless to say it was a very short phone call.  Their rational was, they would lose too much money if they ended their NASCAR sponsorship.  It wasn’t totally because of the lack of value in Indy Car. But obviously if Indy Car had more value the sponsors would be more interested. 

Made me think of how nice it would be to have companies fighting to sponsor anything related to Indy Car.  Which obviously led me to asking myself why it isn’t happening?  I have worked with several teams and drivers over the years in areas of public relations, and sponsorship development.  I have heard firsthand from companies that have sponsored Indy Cars before, the disappointments they had with the series. 

I also received input from companies that were simply not interested in Indy Car.  Sadly, most of the problems could have easily been fixed.  I hope my comments are not strident to the folks at Indy Car, but I feel that unification alone will not be the answer to the problems that they face.  Once the buzz about the merger and Danica’s win fade, what will remain? 

Indy Car is the Most Underrated Series in the Country.

With top speeds in excess of 220 mph, in cars that have curves as sexy as Angelina Jolie and clearly the most diverse group of drivers in the world of Motorsports.  Combine all of that with some really great racing, Indy Car could be the top series in this country.  Even with all of the steps forward that Indy Car has taken in the last few months, things could be better.  Unless some things change, they will always be in someone’s shadow, teams will always be underfunded, and drivers will still be picked not by their ability but the size of the check they bring.

They Don’t Use Paper Plates at Morton’s.

The broadcast team for Indy Car needs to be seriously evaluated.  The image and quality of the broadcast is equally as important as the racing on the track, and together become the image of Indy Car.  The boredom that comes from the booth does no justice to the speed and excitement of an Indy Car race.  The first person that should be reassigned is Brienne Pedigo.  I am sure she is a lovely and intelligent woman, but she has no business being a live pit reporter.  Unable to complete a sentence or give a detailed message, she falls below the ranks of amateur for a position that should have the best available. 

You don’t hear Peter Windsor fumbling his words like she does.  I am amazed I am going to say this, but Indy Car needs another voice like Paul Page to complement the excitement on the track.  I always thought radio guys were the best at this.  Either way, a change up is needed.  I like Jack Arute, so he gets a pass.  It is also time to focus on all the cars and drivers.  For some teams, they get less than 2 minutes of coverage out of a 2 hour race.  It is a reason one sponsor did not renew its program.  That is unacceptable.  And yet we wonder why the lower tier teams have such a hard time finding sponsorship. 

Who Has Benefited More, Gene or Indy Car?

One of my biggest disappointments is with Gene Simmons.  I wish his brain was as big as his tongue and ego, because I think he has been nothing but a waste of money to the IRL.  I may be hard on Gene, as I think he does have a clue to what Indy Car racing is.  For what he could have done for this sport, he has certainly failed.  You can’t keep saying you’re the best, when your results don’t speak of it.  Part of me says get rid of him, the other part says he hasn’t been used to his potential.  KISS was great at branding their image on everything.  Why hasn’t he brought any of that branding to Indy Car? 

I go into Target and 7-11, and I see nothing that would indicate that these companies sponsor an Indy Car.  The league needs to work with AGR, TCGR, and the other teams to make sure that a large amount of Indy Car hats, shirts and marketing collateral are being distributed too and are used by their sponsors.  It is imperative that the hats and shirts don’t look like something you would get at a state fair.  Make them look good so that people will feel good wearing it.  I would love to sit and brainstorm with Gene and others as I think Indy Car could easily position themselves in several markets that are open for the taking. 

They Have Over a Dozen, Indy Car Doesn’t Have Any. 

I once told a friend that had trouble going to sleep to stay away from Ambien.  Instead just turn on Speed or ESPN, there will probably be a NASCAR show or race on and that should put him out cold.  Isn’t it amazing how many television shows NASCAR has?  And aside from race day coverage, isn’t it equally amazing that Indy Car does not have one show? 

Makes you think what the guys at IMS Productions could be doing.  The Indy Car series needs to immediately come up with a weekly television show, with post race commentary and the upcoming race preview.  Allowing for more driver interviews and profiles, also get some more attention to the Indy Lights Series.  This would only please sponsors and fans, and possibly create new ones.  Probably doesn’t fit into the marketing plan. 

Considering all of the money Tony George has spent to fund the new teams, you would think he could help support a program that showcases his own series.  I am sure Bob Jenkins, Steve Chassey, or a handful of other talented guys in the Indianapolis area would make great hosts.  This is something I think Indy Car has needed for years, and I am amazed that they still don’t have a show.  Why?

Anyone Get ESPN Classic, Me Neither.

ESPN and Speed continually sweep Indy Car underneath the NASCAR mat. With the ABC relationship the Indianapolis 500 has shared for years, you would think we could leverage the Speedway coverage for more Indy Car programming.  NASCAR is given 6 plus hours to air a race, and if it’s delayed ESPN will accommodate them.  Indy Car however has to go to a timed race, or even worse get aired on ESPN Classic. 

ESPN.com has done no justice with Indy Car as the series does not even get its own page, its grouped in with several other series.  As for Speed, Indy Car is mentioned occasionally, but usually gets only a percentage of the attention that NASCAR gets.  Are there any better options for television with Indy Car?  Considering how much ESPN invested in NASCAR, maybe its time Indy Car evaluates their relationship with them. 

Are They Criminal?

NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation are in all intents and purpose the same company.  Most motorsports people outside the ISC and NASCAR believe that the two have engaged is less than ethical business that borderlines criminal for quite some time.  Take a little time to look at the ISC website, and you will find nothing about any upcoming Indy Car races, or anything Indy Car.  What you will find is total dedication to NASCAR.  You can even buy NASCAR merchandise that is linked from the home page.  What about the Indy Car races that the ISC has? 

Most people don’t realize that in order to buy tickets to NASCAR races at ISC tracks that host Indy Car; you buy a package of  tickets which includes an Indy Car ticket.  That way there is no need for the ISC to promote the Indy Car race. Convenient don’t you think?  Does it not benefit NASCAR to have a subsidiary limit the amount of promotion a competing series gets?  But wait there is more. 

Remember when Phoenix International Raceway president Bryan Sperber introduced a bill to the Arizona legislator banning motorsports events that aren’t at a closed course?  He also ran a negative Champ Car public relations campaign before that.  He was employed by the ISC and was just another of several attempts by the ISC to control the success of an open wheel races in this country. 

We all know what happened to Phoenix, and then later Las Vegas with Champ Car.  It is even believed that sponsors were strong-armed away from the Phoenix race.  The sponsors were told that if they wanted any involvement in NASCAR, they would not be so active with the Champ Car race.  Then in September of 2007, Phoenix promoter Dale Jensen buys the majority of Hall of Fame Racing in NASCAR.  NASCAR has denied any involvement. 

What happened to Michigan or Fontana with Indy Car?  I think it’s obvious what is going on, NASCAR and the ISC are borderline criminal.  The media for some reason is afraid to call this out for what it is.  Indy Car needs to space itself from anything related to the ISC.  If they are going to run ISC races, they need to retain communications firms that will insure the race and series is getting the proper promotion.  If possible, start eliminating ISC races from the schedule.  It’s time for Indy Car to take a stand against the mighty giant. 

The Media Shills

How many times do we have to hear from a guy that never had the balls to drive an Indy Car, let alone be able to fit in an Indy Car, passive aggressive degrading comments about Indy Car?  Sadly you hear it all the time from one on the Speed Crew during the pre-race shows.  Because of what NASCAR says, it’s now a common belief that Indy Car is “Junior Varsity” or a feeder series below NASCAR.  Here is another spineless cheap shot, and there are more. 

I have yet to see a NASCAR driver without an Open Wheel background come drive an Indy Car.  Are they scared?  Let’s see how well Dale Jr. and Jimmie Johnson do their first time flat out in traffic at over 220mph.  Because quite frankly, I am annoyed and infuriated with these shills writing about how great NASCAR is and how Indy Car is such an inferior sport, when the Indy Lights Series cars actually goes faster than NASCAR on most circuits.  And that’s the feeder series into Indy Car.   

I am also sick and tired of the assumption that every driver that does well in Indy Car needs to go to NASCAR like it’s the pinnacle of motorsports.  The bottom line with drivers going to NASCAR, it’s all about the money and popularity, and that has nothing to do with being the most difficult, well rounded motorsport series in America.

Did NASCAR Invent the Wheel Too?

Indy Car was the leader of many safety innovations, including the safer barrier, yet NASCAR seems to have no problem taking the credit.  Sadly they were the same folks that made every excuse not to mandate the HANS device.  Had they been the forefront of safety all along, they wouldn’t be still paying tribute to a fallen hero, instead would be watching him race on the track.  Their ignorance could have saved the life of their most marketed driver.  Yet in the meantime, they continue to degrade the value of Indy Car contributions to motorsports technology.  Perhaps it would be smart for Indy Car to take a stand for themselves, it’s only their image that is being tarnished.   

It's Tough To Have a Symphony With Only One Musician.

Danica Danica Danica
Firestone Motorsports
Danica may be the most visible personality, but she is certainly not the only driver in Indy Car.  If Indy Car places all of their eggs in her basket, the same way they did after she lead at Indy, the results could be catastrophic.  First, people get tired of seeing nothing but Danica on the race broadcasts.  They want to watch racing, the real product of Indy Car.  Second, if she leaves, what is left?  Since you didn’t market the racing, or the other drivers, how does the series continue growth? 

You are only as strong as your weakest link. One of the biggest issues with Indy Car is that the public doesn’t know who most of the drivers are.  Each driver is different, and can be marketed to many different groups.  Example, Vitor Meira is an avid biker, why isn’t he more involved in their publications?  Is it not possible that other bicyclists might enjoy Indy Car racing, and would root for Vitor because of that shared interest?  Could it not be possible that K2 or Schwinn might become interested in sponsoring Vitor, or someone else from that industry?  These are companies easily capable of being a long term sponsor.  K2 is one of the largest companies in a multibillion dollar industry. 

The rest of the drivers in Indy Car do things outside of racing that could translate into possible fans and sponsors.  Indy Car needs to maximize this and delegate one person to doing nothing but creating buzz for the other drivers in non-racing media.  Most of the lower tier teams can’t support that campaign on their own, and it's time the league helps them out.  Isn’t that part of the Public Relations department to create some buzz for the league and teams? 

They will work with the teams to make sure that cross promotion is available.  You combine the maximized audience of all the drivers, and I guarantee that you would start to see some better numbers in ratings, and improved value to current and future sponsors.  It would also increase the morale of the drivers, and they might not feel the need to look for greener pastures in other series.  As some will say, “what comes first, the chicken or the egg?”  In the case of Indy Car, it doesn’t matter because the farm isn’t ready for either.  A lot of people on the forums cry that there are not enough American drivers; we have at least nine, and the average sports fan don’t even know who they are.  The strength of Indy Car is the diversity in all of the drivers. 

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