Should IndyCar try a mid-week prime-time race?

IndyCar TV ratings are at record lows since Tony George started the IRL, split the sport and nearly killed it. And it has been a struggle to win back the fan base given the monopoly that the family down in Daytona Beach have on USA motorsports.

And high TV ratings on weekends when there are so much other sports programming on TV to watch and so many channels that broadcast sports, is a real challenge.

IndyCar simply does not have enough hardcore fans like NASCAR that would watch a NASCAR race and bring fairly high TV ratings even though its pouring rain and there is not going to be a race. They sit in front of the TV hoping to get a glimpse of their heroes standing under an umbrella.

So what’s the answer?

Some have suggested IndyCar try a midweek night race where they are not up against a hundred different sporting events on TV.

It sounds like such a simple answer. Schedule a race a year in prime time under the lights during the week. What would be better?

But can it really be done?

The problem is a midweek race will require a track willing to put its budget on the line (how many fans would show up), and it will take a television network willing to upset the planned weeknight prime-time lineup. I'm not talking about a cable channel, I'm talking ABC or NBC network TV.

IndyCar will need to find a willing track operator who is not selling a lot of tickets anyway.

Tracks depend on people to spend two or three days at the track, not one night. Many of their ticket holders come from areas where they couldn't just drive in and out on a weekday (especially compared to a college or pro football game). They’d likely need to spend one night, and they likely would miss two days of work.

No track wants to give up that potential ticket revenue to serve as the experiment for a weekday race. Unlike a football team with eight home games, tracks only have one or two prime opportunities to make money. The track operator would want a break on the sanction fee from IndyCar. And the television network may want money for impacting a weeknight prime-time lineup.

If IndyCar is serious about wanting to try a mid-week race to see if it brings in a huge TV rating, it has to be prepared to risk some of its money. It cannot all be on the race promoter.

Giving back money isn't exactly a sound financial philosophy. But it would be worth a shot at a track where camping isn’t as prevalent and it's really only a 1-day race day crowd anyway. Think Iowa, Fontana and Texas where the track is a ghost town until race day. Street events bring in revenue to a promoter all three days. Oval tracks don't. IndyCar fans have better things to do with their lives then to sit in aluminum grandstands and watch cars drone around in circles in practice and qualifying under the blazing sun.

No easy solutions exist to having a weeknight IndyCar race. But at some point, where there’s a will, there should be a way to try the experiment because if it does work, and IndyCar lands a big TV number, it could be something they do once or twice a year.

TV ratings are King. Just ask NASCAR.

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