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Editorial

Successful CART Venues - It takes Two to Tango

 

 by Mark Cipolloni
July 24, 2001

Go to our forums to discuss this article

Every successful business relationship requires two or more parties involved to cooperate and do their part for the partnership to flourish.  Because auto racing is an entertainment business as much as it is a sport, and, therefore, constantly in the public eye, it's subject to public scrutiny perhaps more than a normal business would be.  Success is measured by TV ratings and full grandstands. Failure can't be hidden, it's immediately evident.  In this article we examine why some CART races flourish while others fail....miserably.

CART's Part
As a sanctioning body, CART is not only responsible for putting on 'a good show', they are responsible for promoting their own product 365 days a year.  That product is not only the on-track spectacle, but the performers themselves.  While CART's on-track product is spectacular, compared to NASCAR, CART has done a woeful job in promoting its product and its drivers.

As we have written on numerous occasions, CART has failed to 'brand' its product, make it a household name like NASCAR has done.  CART is invisible to the vast majority of people.  Ditto for its drivers.  Most people would not recognize the majority of the drivers in the CART series.  Perhaps Michael Andretti might be recognized by most because he is CART's biggest name.  But it's not only his name alone that brings him recognition, it's also the fact that he has been featured in numerous TV commercials over the years.  NASCAR does five times as much promotion of their series, so much so that 'NASCAR' and 'Winston Cup' are 'branded' products.  Everyone knows what NASCAR and/or Winston Cup are, yet mention the word CART, or Champ Car and you get an immediate, huh?

TV is the single biggest reason why NASCAR drivers are so recognizable.  Many NASCAR sponsors feature their drivers in their commercials and print advertisements, and while CART can't force a sponsor to feature a driver in their advertising campaign, they certainly can make a strong sales pitch as to why they should.  It's CART's job to foster that sort of thinking.

And the drivers must do their part.  NASCAR drivers make more public appearances than CART drivers, a lot more.  One can argue that F1 drivers avoid the public far more than CART drivers do, but F1 is already branded, it already carries a 'mystique'.  Part of that is the result of the press that follows the F1 circuit.  If a driver (or senior person ion a team) opens their mouth and says anything, ten different media outlets will publish it, dissect what he said, and make a big story about it, sometimes even creating a controversy where there is none.  Then the newspapers pick up on it and the 'free' publicity spreads like wildfire.

Since CART drivers don't receive that sort of 'free' publicity, and given that NASCAR's drivers have worked hard to connect with the fans, CART's drivers are going to have to step up their effort further, right along with CART doing their part.  We have seen people like Kyle Petty and other NASCAR drivers make short appearances in local bars just to shake hands and mingle with the crowd on race weekends. Sometimes they show up at the same establishment each year for an hour or so, chat with fans and 'connect'.  They don't get paid for these appearances, their payback comes in the form of merchandising that their fans buy later.  At the end of the day, it's the drivers that fans pay to see.  If the drivers don't connect with the fans, they won't have any fans.  The grandstands will be empty and merchandising non-existent.

Adrian Fernandez connects with the Mexican fans, he goes out of his way to do so.  We have seen many CART drivers not even acknowledge an autograph seeker, when they are busy.  Making fans doesn't just happen during autograph hour, it happens every minute you are at the track.  If a driver doesn't have time to sign autographs, it takes a simple smile and a statement, 'sorry, I can't do that right now I'm really focused on something, catch me in an hour, or after so-and-so."  Every time I see a driver just turn their back on a fan and not even acknowledge they are there, I say to myself, 'well that's one more empty seat next year!' 

Then of course there's FedEx, CART's title sponsor.  Because FedEx views their CART business relationship as one of making business-to-business deals, they use the CART series and its drivers in almost none of its commercials.  In addition, because 99% of FedEx's business is with corporations, it does very little marketing to the average consumer.  Because it's the average consumer that buys race tickets, CART suffers from the lack of marketing FedEx does to those consumers.  

If a cola company such as Coca-Cola or Pepsi were CART's title sponsor, they would market heavily to consumers, run all sorts of fan giveaways and really engage existing as well as potential new fans.  So while FedEx is certainly a great company, it's really not the right company to be CART's title sponsor.  Perhaps FedEx should have their name on the Champion's Cup/Trophy, or perhaps it should be called the CART Pepsi World Series presented by FedEx.  A consumer product company should be CART's primary sponsor and CART would be wise to get one on board as quickly as possible.

CART is also responsible for making sure the on-air TV product is top notch.  There's no better way to turn off fans than to produce a TV broadcast that is boring, misses all the key points and does nothing to make the series seem like a really exciting, big-time sport.

These are a few examples of where CART can do its part to promote its series better so a track owner/promoter has an easier time selling tickets.  Now lets examine the promoter's part.

The Promoter's Part
The promoter is not only responsible for providing a world class facility for the performers/drivers/teams, but also an environment whereby the fans/customers feel as though they have been somewhere special and want to come back next year.

Here is where a 'street' circuit promoter has a definite advantage. It's nearly impossible for the promoter of a 'remote' track to provide the exciting nightlife that is available at a downtown venue.  It's also harder to engage the entire city in a weekend event when there is no real 'major' city to engage.  

Michigan Speedway is a prime example.  For the most part, it's out in the middle of nowhere.  Sure there are many wonderful little towns that surround these tracks, but nowhere near the population density one finds in a big city.  However, Motegi is able to attract a big crowd to its remote track on the top of a mountain, and Michigan certainly attracts a big crowd for its Winston Cup races, so what's the secret?

There's no really easy answer.  Michigan and other remote tracks work well for NASCAR partially because NASCAR has a big RV camper following.  Families pack up the kids into the RV after work on Friday, and it's off to the races for a weekend family outing.  The kids are fed NASCAR and the joys of camping at an early age.  However, what we have observed is the camaraderie that develops between the families that are parked in the campgrounds all weekend.  They make friends with their weekend neighbors and its that camaraderie that gets them through what might otherwise be boring downtime.

And while not all NASCAR fans are 'campers,' it can certainly be argued that they are the heart and soul of NASCAR.   From what we can tell, a large percentage of CART's fans idea of camping out is spending a night in the Hyatt hotel.  And while there is always an exception to the rule, one can argue that this helps NASCAR races to succeed at remote tracks whereby CART fails.

Recognizing this difference, what does a track promoter do differently for the CART fan to replace the camaraderie that is present within the overnight camper NASCAR crowd?  There is no easy answer to this one, but from where we sit, a promoter has to do a lot more to make a CART fan feel like the trip was worth the price.

Road courses, with their inherent natural beauty, give the attendee the feeling like they are spending a day out with mother nature mixed with the sweet sounds of 17,000 RPM engines and burnt methanol.  Fans can walk around the circuit, viewing the action from various vantage points, and break for the shade of the tree on a hot blistering day.  Compare that to sitting in an aluminum grandstand at Michigan in 95 degree heat all day and it's easy to see how critical it is to do something extra special for these fans......but what?

Getting the fan to an event is one thing.  Getting them to come back is a whole different story.  This past weekends race at Michigan doesn't get any better, yet as a fan, would you want to sit in 95 degree heat for four hours, or sit in your air-conditioned living room sipping a cold beer watching the race on TV?  That's the dilemma CART and tracks like MIS are faced with.

There has to be more than just a race to keep the fans coming back the next time.  This is where an oval track promoter has to get creative.  If it's a night race, a huge fireworks display can be done after each days activities.  If it's a day race why not have a really big carnival the week leading up to the race right at the track, so families from all the surrounding small towns come to the track each night.  The race weekend can be the culmination of the big week with big prize drawings and the drivers present at the carnival to sign autographs at night.  

Who wouldn't want to try and dunk Michael Andretti dressed as a clown into the water throwing softballs?  It would be a wonderful way for the drivers to 'connect' with the fans.  Would a NASCAR driver do it?  You bet he would!  There are many other examples besides a carnival, one just needs to be a bit creative.

So instead of the race activities ending at days end, and the fans scattering too Tim-Buck-Two, the race track becomes a central focal point for the entire region.  The 24-hours of LeMans is a prime example of successfully mixing a carnival with a race.  Another example of excellent promotion and getting a bang for the fan's buck, Pocono is having a major country star give a concert after both NASCAR races this year.

A carnival is one idea where a track promoter can actually make back some money spent on promotion.  Promotion, what a novel idea.  From what we heard in Michigan, there was very little promotion done for last weekends CART race.  More promotion happens when the race has a big consumer product company as the race sponsor.  Michigan had none and ISC didn't spend much of their own money to promote the CART race.  Perhaps that's because they have become complacent from promoting Winston Cup races, which almost sell themselves.  

Or perhaps ISC didn't really want CART to succeed at MIS because it wanted to do business with the IRL in the future.  Whatever the reason, there was very little promotion done and no real reason for a fan to spend $95 for a prime grandstand seat to sit in 95 degree heat for four hours and then drive an hour to their hotel each night.

The bottom line is promotion.  Those promoters who spend the money (or their sponsors money) to properly promote a race, see the return in higher ticket sales, whereby those that don't, fail.  Not only does the track lose money, but CART gets a 'loser' image running a race before empty grandstands.  It's a lose-lose situation, and one that can be avoided.

CART should not sign any contracts with a track unless a solid race sponsor is onboard.  There is a direct correlation between having a big race sponsor and having a successful event.  Here are some examples of good and bad CART race sponsorships.  Not that any sponsor is bad, but it's one thing to say you are sponsoring a race, and quite another to really go all out and do it right.

Monterrey -- Excellent -- Tecate 
Long Beach -- Excellent --Toyota/Texaco 
Nazareth -- Fair -- Bosch/none 
Detroit -- Poor -- Tenneco Automotive 
Cleveland - fair to poor -- Marconi 
Portland -- Very good -- G.I. Joe's/Budweiser 
Toronto -- Excellent -- Molson 
Chicago -- Excellent -- Target 

Michigan -- Poor -- Harrahs
Japan -- Excellent -- Honda/Firestone

I think you get the picture.

Where does CART go from here?
Like everything in our lifetimes, there are always some difficult choices to make and sometimes it appears no matter what decision you make, someone won't be happy.  It's at those times it's best to follow some simple advice - "When in doubt, always do what's right."  As CART strengthens its series by jettisoning its weakest races and adding more popular ones, it has some hard choices to make, and in the end of the day, some people are not going to be happy.  In general, many people don't deal with change very well, and we don't consider that a virtue.

At no time in its history has CART had to make so many hard choices on particular venues.  Does CART keep on racing at tracks with tradition like Michigan, Detroit, Nazareth, etc. where crowds are poor, the local fans have no interest in a CART race and the promoters are losing their shirts, or do they go to venues like Miami, Mexico City, etc that will have stellar crowds, fans who are really into the race and promoters who are actually willing to promote a race like Molstar does in Toronto, Vancouver and soon to be Montreal?

Although we likely won't make any friends with the Michigan folks, we will tell it like we see it -  having seen the lack of promotion by ISC at Michigan Speedway for years, and the lack of the 'party' atmosphere and poor attendance, CART should kick up their heels, brush the dust off their boots, and move on.  Sunday mornings Toledo, Ohio Blade had an interesting observation in their MIS souvenir edition - "The growth of open-wheel racing at Michigan has been stagnate, with the exception of 1996, when CART initiated the first and last US 500 to compete against the Indy 500 on the same day.  That crowd was announced at 110,879.  According to CART car owners and other devotees, it was the only Indy car race at Michigan that was properly promoted.  Crowds since have averaged in the 50,000 to 60,000 range [and this year down to 40,000]."  After you finish reading this article, we urge you to read this Autosport article by Gordon Kirby whereby he gives example of just how poorly ISC promoted their CART race at Michigan.  It's rather alarming.

We saw the same lack of heavy promotion by ISC at Nazareth and Homestead, and although if you talk to the PR folks from the tracks they will tell you we did a lot.  In fact, having talked to people who live near Michigan Speedway, Nazareth, Homestead, and before that New Hampshire, Phoenix and other races that have not worked for CART, inevitably lack of serious promotion always comes up.

If any promoter wants to see how to promote a CART race well, we suggest they pay a visit to Toronto in the weeks leading up to the Molson Indy Toronto.  Molstar promotes the race heavily throughout the Toronto area and when you arrive at the circuit you know you are at a great event.  The atmosphere is electric.

Although we won't mention any names, there are other existing CART races that don't deserve a race in our book.  If a F1 promoter did that poor of a job of promotion, Bernie Ecclestone would have given them the boot years ago.  In fact, Bernie would give them the boot for other things as well, including poor media facilities, lack of safety, tardiness, and garage amenities.

However, it's not always the promoters or CART's fault.  Sometimes a market is totally over saturated with too much racing or too much of sports in general.  In that case sometimes it's just better to move on.  There are plenty of other venues where CART can draw a huge crowd with a great atmosphere, some begging for a CART date.  On the horizon are Washington DC, New York City, Malaysia, China, San Francisco, Miami, Sebring, Road Atlanta, Montreal, Denver, Mexico City and more.

CART is in a very good position now to pick and choose its venues carefully.  CART should never sign any agreements with tracks unless a big sponsor is part of the deal to ensure the money is there to properly promote an event.  The contract should spell out the minimum to be spent on race promotion.  In addition, the promoter must have the wherewithal to really promote a race and CART should help them as much as possible.  To see a spectacular race like CART's Michigan 500 fail, due in part because of CART's failure to promote its own series, and ISC's almost complete lack of serious promotion, is a travesty of great proportion.  Shame on both sides!

As they say, it takes two to tango.  The CART community had better start doing its part, and race promoters had better start doing theirs.  There's really no secret to success in any business, it usually comes down to hard work, creativity, and just plain old common sense.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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Editorial

Successful CART Venues - It takes Two to Tango

 

 by Mark Cipolloni
July 24, 2001

Go to our forums to discuss this article

Every successful business relationship requires two or more parties involved to cooperate and do their part for the partnership to flourish.  Because auto racing is an entertainment business as much as it is a sport, and, therefore, constantly in the public eye, it's subject to public scrutiny perhaps more than a normal business would be.  Success is measured by TV ratings and full grandstands. Failure can't be hidden, it's immediately evident.  In this article we examine why some CART races flourish while others fail....miserably.

CART's Part
As a sanctioning body, CART is not only responsible for putting on 'a good show', they are responsible for promoting their own product 365 days a year.  That product is not only the on-track spectacle, but the performers themselves.  While CART's on-track product is spectacular, compared to NASCAR, CART has done a woeful job in promoting its product and its drivers.

As we have written on numerous occasions, CART has failed to 'brand' its product, make it a household name like NASCAR has done.  CART is invisible to the vast majority of people.  Ditto for its drivers.  Most people would not recognize the majority of the drivers in the CART series.  Perhaps Michael Andretti might be recognized by most because he is CART's biggest name.  But it's not only his name alone that brings him recognition, it's also the fact that he has been featured in numerous TV commercials over the years.  NASCAR does five times as much promotion of their series, so much so that 'NASCAR' and 'Winston Cup' are 'branded' products.  Everyone knows what NASCAR and/or Winston Cup are, yet mention the word CART, or Champ Car and you get an immediate, huh?

TV is the single biggest reason why NASCAR drivers are so recognizable.  Many NASCAR sponsors feature their drivers in their commercials and print advertisements, and while CART can't force a sponsor to feature a driver in their advertising campaign, they certainly can make a strong sales pitch as to why they should.  It's CART's job to foster that sort of thinking.

And the drivers must do their part.  NASCAR drivers make more public appearances than CART drivers, a lot more.  One can argue that F1 drivers avoid the public far more than CART drivers do, but F1 is already branded, it already carries a 'mystique'.  Part of that is the result of the press that follows the F1 circuit.  If a driver (or senior person ion a team) opens their mouth and says anything, ten different media outlets will publish it, dissect what he said, and make a big story about it, sometimes even creating a controversy where there is none.  Then the newspapers pick up on it and the 'free' publicity spreads like wildfire.

Since CART drivers don't receive that sort of 'free' publicity, and given that NASCAR's drivers have worked hard to connect with the fans, CART's drivers are going to have to step up their effort further, right along with CART doing their part.  We have seen people like Kyle Petty and other NASCAR drivers make short appearances in local bars just to shake hands and mingle with the crowd on race weekends. Sometimes they show up at the same establishment each year for an hour or so, chat with fans and 'connect'.  They don't get paid for these appearances, their payback comes in the form of merchandising that their fans buy later.  At the end of the day, it's the drivers that fans pay to see.  If the drivers don't connect with the fans, they won't have any fans.  The grandstands will be empty and merchandising non-existent.

Adrian Fernandez connects with the Mexican fans, he goes out of his way to do so.  We have seen many CART drivers not even acknowledge an autograph seeker, when they are busy.  Making fans doesn't just happen during autograph hour, it happens every minute you are at the track.  If a driver doesn't have time to sign autographs, it takes a simple smile and a statement, 'sorry, I can't do that right now I'm really focused on something, catch me in an hour, or after so-and-so."  Every time I see a driver just turn their back on a fan and not even acknowledge they are there, I say to myself, 'well that's one more empty seat next year!' 

Then of course there's FedEx, CART's title sponsor.  Because FedEx views their CART business relationship as one of making business-to-business deals, they use the CART series and its drivers in almost none of its commercials.  In addition, because 99% of FedEx's business is with corporations, it does very little marketing to the average consumer.  Because it's the average consumer that buys race tickets, CART suffers from the lack of marketing FedEx does to those consumers.  

If a cola company such as Coca-Cola or Pepsi were CART's title sponsor, they would market heavily to consumers, run all sorts of fan giveaways and really engage existing as well as potential new fans.  So while FedEx is certainly a great company, it's really not the right company to be CART's title sponsor.  Perhaps FedEx should have their name on the Champion's Cup/Trophy, or perhaps it should be called the CART Pepsi World Series presented by FedEx.  A consumer product company should be CART's primary sponsor and CART would be wise to get one on board as quickly as possible.

CART is also responsible for making sure the on-air TV product is top notch.  There's no better way to turn off fans than to produce a TV broadcast that is boring, misses all the key points and does nothing to make the series seem like a really exciting, big-time sport.

These are a few examples of where CART can do its part to promote its series better so a track owner/promoter has an easier time selling tickets.  Now lets examine the promoter's part.

The Promoter's Part
The promoter is not only responsible for providing a world class facility for the performers/drivers/teams, but also an environment whereby the fans/customers feel as though they have been somewhere special and want to come back next year.

Here is where a 'street' circuit promoter has a definite advantage. It's nearly impossible for the promoter of a 'remote' track to provide the exciting nightlife that is available at a downtown venue.  It's also harder to engage the entire city in a weekend event when there is no real 'major' city to engage.  

Michigan Speedway is a prime example.  For the most part, it's out in the middle of nowhere.  Sure there are many wonderful little towns that surround these tracks, but nowhere near the population density one finds in a big city.  However, Motegi is able to attract a big crowd to its remote track on the top of a mountain, and Michigan certainly attracts a big crowd for its Winston Cup races, so what's the secret?

There's no really easy answer.  Michigan and other remote tracks work well for NASCAR partially because NASCAR has a big RV camper following.  Families pack up the kids into the RV after work on Friday, and it's off to the races for a weekend family outing.  The kids are fed NASCAR and the joys of camping at an early age.  However, what we have observed is the camaraderie that develops between the families that are parked in the campgrounds all weekend.  They make friends with their weekend neighbors and its that camaraderie that gets them through what might otherwise be boring downtime.

And while not all NASCAR fans are 'campers,' it can certainly be argued that they are the heart and soul of NASCAR.   From what we can tell, a large percentage of CART's fans idea of camping out is spending a night in the Hyatt hotel.  And while there is always an exception to the rule, one can argue that this helps NASCAR races to succeed at remote tracks whereby CART fails.

Recognizing this difference, what does a track promoter do differently for the CART fan to replace the camaraderie that is present within the overnight camper NASCAR crowd?  There is no easy answer to this one, but from where we sit, a promoter has to do a lot more to make a CART fan feel like the trip was worth the price.

Road courses, with their inherent natural beauty, give the attendee the feeling like they are spending a day out with mother nature mixed with the sweet sounds of 17,000 RPM engines and burnt methanol.  Fans can walk around the circuit, viewing the action from various vantage points, and break for the shade of the tree on a hot blistering day.  Compare that to sitting in an aluminum grandstand at Michigan in 95 degree heat all day and it's easy to see how critical it is to do something extra special for these fans......but what?

Getting the fan to an event is one thing.  Getting them to come back is a whole different story.  This past weekends race at Michigan doesn't get any better, yet as a fan, would you want to sit in 95 degree heat for four hours, or sit in your air-conditioned living room sipping a cold beer watching the race on TV?  That's the dilemma CART and tracks like MIS are faced with.

There has to be more than just a race to keep the fans coming back the next time.  This is where an oval track promoter has to get creative.  If it's a night race, a huge fireworks display can be done after each days activities.  If it's a day race why not have a really big carnival the week leading up to the race right at the track, so families from all the surrounding small towns come to the track each night.  The race weekend can be the culmination of the big week with big prize drawings and the drivers present at the carnival to sign autographs at night.  

Who wouldn't want to try and dunk Michael Andretti dressed as a clown into the water throwing softballs?  It would be a wonderful way for the drivers to 'connect' with the fans.  Would a NASCAR driver do it?  You bet he would!  There are many other examples besides a carnival, one just needs to be a bit creative.

So instead of the race activities ending at days end, and the fans scattering too Tim-Buck-Two, the race track becomes a central focal point for the entire region.  The 24-hours of LeMans is a prime example of successfully mixing a carnival with a race.  Another example of excellent promotion and getting a bang for the fan's buck, Pocono is having a major country star give a concert after both NASCAR races this year.

A carnival is one idea where a track promoter can actually make back some money spent on promotion.  Promotion, what a novel idea.  From what we heard in Michigan, there was very little promotion done for last weekends CART race.  More promotion happens when the race has a big consumer product company as the race sponsor.  Michigan had none and ISC didn't spend much of their own money to promote the CART race.  Perhaps that's because they have become complacent from promoting Winston Cup races, which almost sell themselves.  

Or perhaps ISC didn't really want CART to succeed at MIS because it wanted to do business with the IRL in the future.  Whatever the reason, there was very little promotion done and no real reason for a fan to spend $95 for a prime grandstand seat to sit in 95 degree heat for four hours and then drive an hour to their hotel each night.

The bottom line is promotion.  Those promoters who spend the money (or their sponsors money) to properly promote a race, see the return in higher ticket sales, whereby those that don't, fail.  Not only does the track lose money, but CART gets a 'loser' image running a race before empty grandstands.  It's a lose-lose situation, and one that can be avoided.

CART should not sign any contracts with a track unless a solid race sponsor is onboard.  There is a direct correlation between having a big race sponsor and having a successful event.  Here are some examples of good and bad CART race sponsorships.  Not that any sponsor is bad, but it's one thing to say you are sponsoring a race, and quite another to really go all out and do it right.

Monterrey -- Excellent -- Tecate 
Long Beach -- Excellent --Toyota/Texaco 
Nazareth -- Fair -- Bosch/none 
Detroit -- Poor -- Tenneco Automotive 
Cleveland - fair to poor -- Marconi 
Portland -- Very good -- G.I. Joe's/Budweiser 
Toronto -- Excellent -- Molson 
Chicago -- Excellent -- Target 

Michigan -- Poor -- Harrahs
Japan -- Excellent -- Honda/Firestone

I think you get the picture.

Where does CART go from here?
Like everything in our lifetimes, there are always some difficult choices to make and sometimes it appears no matter what decision you make, someone won't be happy.  It's at those times it's best to follow some simple advice - "When in doubt, always do what's right."  As CART strengthens its series by jettisoning its weakest races and adding more popular ones, it has some hard choices to make, and in the end of the day, some people are not going to be happy.  In general, many people don't deal with change very well, and we don't consider that a virtue.

At no time in its history has CART had to make so many hard choices on particular venues.  Does CART keep on racing at tracks with tradition like Michigan, Detroit, Nazareth, etc. where crowds are poor, the local fans have no interest in a CART race and the promoters are losing their shirts, or do they go to venues like Miami, Mexico City, etc that will have stellar crowds, fans who are really into the race and promoters who are actually willing to promote a race like Molstar does in Toronto, Vancouver and soon to be Montreal?

Although we likely won't make any friends with the Michigan folks, we will tell it like we see it -  having seen the lack of promotion by ISC at Michigan Speedway for years, and the lack of the 'party' atmosphere and poor attendance, CART should kick up their heels, brush the dust off their boots, and move on.  Sunday mornings Toledo, Ohio Blade had an interesting observation in their MIS souvenir edition - "The growth of open-wheel racing at Michigan has been stagnate, with the exception of 1996, when CART initiated the first and last US 500 to compete against the Indy 500 on the same day.  That crowd was announced at 110,879.  According to CART car owners and other devotees, it was the only Indy car race at Michigan that was properly promoted.  Crowds since have averaged in the 50,000 to 60,000 range [and this year down to 40,000]."  After you finish reading this article, we urge you to read this Autosport article by Gordon Kirby whereby he gives example of just how poorly ISC promoted their CART race at Michigan.  It's rather alarming.

We saw the same lack of heavy promotion by ISC at Nazareth and Homestead, and although if you talk to the PR folks from the tracks they will tell you we did a lot.  In fact, having talked to people who live near Michigan Speedway, Nazareth, Homestead, and before that New Hampshire, Phoenix and other races that have not worked for CART, inevitably lack of serious promotion always comes up.

If any promoter wants to see how to promote a CART race well, we suggest they pay a visit to Toronto in the weeks leading up to the Molson Indy Toronto.  Molstar promotes the race heavily throughout the Toronto area and when you arrive at the circuit you know you are at a great event.  The atmosphere is electric.

Although we won't mention any names, there are other existing CART races that don't deserve a race in our book.  If a F1 promoter did that poor of a job of promotion, Bernie Ecclestone would have given them the boot years ago.  In fact, Bernie would give them the boot for other things as well, including poor media facilities, lack of safety, tardiness, and garage amenities.

However, it's not always the promoters or CART's fault.  Sometimes a market is totally over saturated with too much racing or too much of sports in general.  In that case sometimes it's just better to move on.  There are plenty of other venues where CART can draw a huge crowd with a great atmosphere, some begging for a CART date.  On the horizon are Washington DC, New York City, Malaysia, China, San Francisco, Miami, Sebring, Road Atlanta, Montreal, Denver, Mexico City and more.

CART is in a very good position now to pick and choose its venues carefully.  CART should never sign any agreements with tracks unless a big sponsor is part of the deal to ensure the money is there to properly promote an event.  The contract should spell out the minimum to be spent on race promotion.  In addition, the promoter must have the wherewithal to really promote a race and CART should help them as much as possible.  To see a spectacular race like CART's Michigan 500 fail, due in part because of CART's failure to promote its own series, and ISC's almost complete lack of serious promotion, is a travesty of great proportion.  Shame on both sides!

As they say, it takes two to tango.  The CART community had better start doing its part, and race promoters had better start doing theirs.  There's really no secret to success in any business, it usually comes down to hard work, creativity, and just plain old common sense.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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