Overheard in Long Beach – Friday (Update)

UPDATE #2

Houston promoter Mike Lanigan is clearly not happy with his event's television situation.

Below, you will see our Friday update from this year's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, when AR1 reported that there were talks behind the scenes to get more IndyCar races on network television. While you're at it recall Brian Carroccio's interview with Long Beach promoter Jim Michaelian from this past March.

Now, check out this AP article from today where Houston promoter Mike Lanigan tells Jenna Fryer that "we're told that they're may or may not be a change with who IndyCar is going to deal with," in regards to the series' television partner. Lanigan does concede that "it's NBC Sports for next year," but is not willing to say much beyond that.

This is interesting, particularly when you consider that NBC Sports' contract with IndyCar is through 2018. And when you then take into account what Michaelian told Brian C. about Mark Miles working on an "over-the-air" broadcast deal for Long Beach and AR1 President Mark C. reporting that Long Beach would possibly be on network next year.

IndyCar would be wise to get its second most prestigious event – Long Beach – on network television.

Now, everyone assumes that this would mean ABC. But this is where things get interesting.

Next year's Long Beach race is April 19th, which is also the opening weekend for the NBA Playoffs. For those of you who don't know, the NBA is an ABC/ESPN property and there is traditionally a West Coast playoff game on ABC that usually conflicts with Long Beach. This would explain why Long Beach has for many years not been an ABC race.

But if Miles is working to get Long Beach on network, and that network can't be ABC (no chance ABC gives up an NBA playoff game for IndyCar), could it be that Miles is working to get more races on NBC network? To do that Miles would have to negotiate out from under ABC having exclusive network rights to the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Hard to say, as no one is giving a direct answer. Of course, AR1 has long outlined the uphill battle IndyCar is facing on NBC Sports. Recall. Brian C's two-part article from January, 2013.

However, given Mark C's report from Long Beach, Brian's interview with Michaelian, and now Fryer's talk with Lanigan, something seems to clearly be happening behind the scenes to extricate IndyCar from its less-than-ideal television deal.

What exactly is that? We'll continue to follow the story here at AR1.

AR1 Staff

04/11/14 A busy day here in beautiful Long Beach, California where the annual rite to spring in southern California is highlighted by the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The Friday crowd was one of the biggest that we can remember. We hear 100% of the hospitality suites are sold out and ticket sales are 5% higher than last year. Some of the grandstands are noticeably smaller on the front straight but others are definitely larger. It appears they moved seats to an area just past the S/F line so fans can get a better view of the standing start on Sunday. Jim Michaelian is always thinking.

Rumor has it that the GP will add another race to be run the weekend prior to the big weekend. While we know what racing series it will be, we are sworn to secrecy. Suffice it to say the series has never raced at Long Beach before.

An IndyCar fans tells F1 to 'Pook Off'

Some people are still talking about F1 coming back to Long Beach, but it remains to be seen. Cost will be an issue. It seems some fans don't want F1 back – see photo to right.

Roger Griffiths is at Long Beach but despite being announced as the new Technical Director for all of Andretti Autosport, he was still wearing a Honda HPD shirt on Friday.

Spotted Jim McGee taking in all the action on Friday. McGee was wearing a Boston Red Sox hat and was in town for the Mario Andretti RRDC event last night.

And now for the big news we promised you. Readers of AR1.com know how much we have ridiculed IndyCar about their TV package, claiming over and over it was the noose around IndyCar's neck. Well rumor has it they are listening. According to word on the street, Mark Miles is negotiating to put all the races up to and including the Indy 500 on ABC next year, and we hear he is negotiating with NBC to put the rest of the races (after Indy) on NBC network TV, a big improvement over NBC Sports Network. In fact we are assured that the Long Beach race will definitely be on ABC starting in 2015.

If this rumor is true, this will have a bigger positive impact on IndyCar then even the Verizon sponsorship announcement. Once IndyCar can deliver consistent 1.0 and higher TV ratings many more sponsors will be knocking on the door of the series and teams.

Look for Houston to get upgraded safety fencing this year and the grandstand where Dario Franchitti had his horrific accident last year has been moved to another location. We also hear that the bumpy turn 1 will be repaved with new concrete this year. With the race being in the heat of June don't expect many fans to show up. Rumor has it they considered making it a night race but the lighting cost was too high.

We hear they cannot move the race to March because of this big rodeo in town and April has the Houston Open PGA golf tournament. And it cannot be in February because IndyCar will be racing overseas in February – Brazil and at least one other country. Well they had better find a way to move the race to January thru March or we predict it won't be survive in the summer heat. The paying customer won't put up with that heat.

Did you know that starting in 2017 IMSA will have new cars for the Prototype Class of the Tudor USCC series. The Daytona Prototypes will be retired as well as the current P2 cars. The new prototype class will be in line with the P2 LeMans class and feature closed cockpit cars. They will be eligible to compete at the 24 Hours of LeMans.

Talked to EJ Viso but he says he still does not have a deal together to return to IndyCar. We hear a rumor that he might drive for Dale Coyne at Indy but he denied it when we asked him. Speaking of Dale Coyne, we spotted him talking to JR Hildebrand and rumor has it JR might do some oval races for Coyne.

Kyle Petty was elated to win the pole for the Pro Celebrity race. In the post qualifying interview he said that his father told him that Al Unser Jr. was one open wheel driver who he thought could have had a great career in NASCAR.

Spoke to Paul Tracy and he said he tried to put a deal together to do some IndyCar races but there is no money. He will be in the NBC Sport Network booth for about 6 races, including this one. He has moved his family from Las Vegas to Scottsdale, Arizona.

Word in the IndyCar paddock is that if Cosworth gets back into F1 it will not be with Ford, but another manufacturer.

Oriol Servia hopes a four-race stint in a second Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car becoming a multi-year opportunity.

Servia, 39, will make his 192nd Indy car start in the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in the No. 16 Honda-powered car as a teammate to the No. 15 National Guard entry driven by Graham Rahal. In 12 starts on the temporary street course dating to 2000, Servia has a best finish of second (2007) among five top 10s.

The Los Angeles resident competed in 12 races last season for Panther Racing, with Long Beach among his four top-10 finishes. Long Beach is the start of four consecutive races for Servia, who drove for the team in the 2009 Indianapolis 500. He aims for something long term.

“I’m looking at this opportunity as one I’ve never had – to build a program that I can take the profit off the build in Year 2 and 3," said Servia, who will have Eddie Jones as his race engineer. “If we put the team together and we start getting successful as we should, there’s no reason why we cannot find proper sponsorship that will allow us to have two or three good seasons together. That’s what you need to challenge the top teams year after year. Like any other sport, you need continuity to beat the top teams. It takes time to get the best out of each other, so I hope we’re being stronger and longer." Mark C. reporting from Long Beach

04/11/14 AR1.com is live on site at Long Beach and there is plenty of inside IndyCar news to report on. Check back later for our full report and some big behind the scene news for IndyCar. And we do mean big. Mark C. Reporting from Long Beach

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