IndyCar News and Notes, 3/7/14
IndyCar News and Notes
March 7, 2014
Below, AutoRacing1.com columnist Brian Carroccio covers a few topics making news in the world of IndyCar.
Indy 500 Qualifying:
I’m on record as saying that changes to the qualifying format are not going to increase the excitement of qualifying. Having 50 cars, 4-5 engine manufacturers, different chassis, tire competition, and about 50 entries is what will bring the luster back to qualifying that we saw pre-1996. And I feel pretty comfortable saying, that the opinion expressed above is not exclusively mine.
Now, I’m not saying that the new qualifying procedure is a positive per se. No one will say this directly but the driving force behind the new format was to insure there would be qualifying attempts during the ABC television windows, at 1-3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
That said, I will credit IMS and IndyCar for this: in making the announcement, they highlighted the clear positives of the new format, in particular the affordable ticket packages available for qualifying.
In other words, one of the hallmarks of good public relations is framing the message in order to insure a favorable response from the public. And today’s announced changes to the qualifying procedure had the potential to generate a less-than-favorable response.
However, by attaching a positive (the affordable ticket deal) to something that had the potential to generate cynicism (the new qualifying rules), IMS did not entirely disarm the cynics, but did make the changes more digestible.
Good public relations.
Speaking of Public Relations:
Generally speaking, the average fan doesn’t really care who heads up the public relations department for a sport they follow. But give Hulman & Co., CEO Mark Miles credit for hiring former Panther Racing PR head Mike Kitchel. Having witnessed Kitchel in action on race weekends, he is an unquestioned pro, whose passion for his work and the sport IndyCar, are noticeable.
Also, I have been critical of Miles on a few occasions for dragging his feet on important hires. And when Amy Konrath departed in late January, I feared the timing was bad with the season approaching. I also worried Miles might not have someone in place until after the season started. I’m happy to say I was wrong.
To his credit Miles, moved relatively quickly to fill the vacancy. And more importantly, he made an outstanding hire.
I’ve learned that nothing is ever official until contracts are signed, and announcements are made. Still, it appears Verizon and IndyCar are pretty far along in negotiations for the wireless communications giant to become the series title sponsor. What I like best about the deal (this is according to reports), is rather than simply a financial transaction, IndyCar and Verizon look to be forming a real partnership. In particular, nearly 50% of the money Verizon plans to spend is focused on activation and promotion.
Of course, Indy car racing, in its various sanctioning acronyms, has had many sponsors (Marlboro, PPG, Pep Boys, Izod, FedEx, etc.), CART’s decade-and-a-half partnership with PPG unquestionably being the most successful. But what Indy car racing has lacked since PPG is a true partner, that uses IndyCar to promote its brand, and in doing so, greatly raises the exposure and value of the sport.
If reports are to be believed a partnership (not just a sponsor deal), but a true partnership, could be on the verge of being consummated. And there could be fewer things better for the sport than that.