IndyCar chief wanted more promotional help from ISC
IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard reiterated last week that International Speedway Corporation did not promote his series' races the way he'd like, which was a big reason ISC's four events, including the race at Watkins Glen International, were left off the 2011 IZOD IndyCar schedule.
He questioned whether ISC knows its fan base well enough to promote the series properly and offered to help do it in the future if the opportunity arises.
Bernard's comments came in an e-mail response to me, answering questions I raised before last week's column in which WGI President Michael Printup talked candidly about why the Glen lost the race it had hosted since 2005. Because Bernard was traveling to Japan for the IndyCar race there last weekend, he wasn't able to immediately respond.
"I will work with tracks if they prove to me that they are going to put (in) the effort to sell tickets," Bernard said in the e-mail.
Bernard said Speedway Motorsports Inc.-owned tracks, like Infineon, were more aggressive in promoting.
"It's pretty simple to look at SMI crowds and then look at ISC tracks," Bernard said. "Our event there (Infineon) was up more than any other event this year."
Printup said earlier this month Watkins Glen did a good job promoting its events and he felt he was "backdoored" by comments Bernard made to the media criticizing the ISC marketing efforts when it announced its schedule on Sept. 10.
"It's disappointing that Randy Bernard accused us of not promoting it," Printup said, stating that ISC did a big push in the Toronto market. "He is kind of out of line for what he said about what we do."
Said Bernard: "I like Michael and I never intended to 'backdoor' him."
Bernard questioned whether ISC truly understands who its fans are.
"Anyone can spend money on advertising, but are they buying the right advertising is the big question," he said. "Have they ever done research on IndyCar to really see who our fans are and where they are?"
Although the Watkins Glen race was aired on ABC, Printup cited the series' big weakness as its television package with cable channel Versus, which carries most IndyCar races.
"You've got to have a good product to sell," Printup said. "Their product is too weak, and that's part of the problem."
Nevertheless, Bernard said the series' ISC events, in particular, drew smaller crowds in comparison to other venues.
"Yes, he is right; IndyCar can never promote enough in my opinion, but if you look at our crowds, it seems to be a trend at ISC tracks," Bernard said.
Printup maintained the 30 percent increase in their sanctioning fee was a big deal breaker for them and the other ISC tracks that didn't return: Kansas, Homestead-Miami and Chicagoland.
"We would have accepted a nominal increase," Printup said. "I wasn't going to go up 30 percent. That's ridiculous."
Bernard did not comment specifically on the increase, but he did confirm the sanctioning fee to all new tracks was $1.5 million.
"That was the fee we asked from SMI, ISC or any other promoter," he said.
Bernard said ISC-owned tracks like the Glen would be welcomed back as long as IndyCar played some role in how its events are promoted.
"I really believe we can have a relationship with ISC tracks in the future, but we want more say on how they promote and (how) they take care of our fans," Bernard said. Star Gazette