IndyCar Series, Speedway projecting big revenue increases

IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials are projecting 20-percent to 25-percent increases in ticket and sponsorship sales this year over last.

Expanded activities during May at the IMS will be a major driver for much of the growth, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles said.

For the first time, May at the Brickyard will start with an IndyCar road race. It will also include a new qualifying format which Miles and IMS President Doug Boles hope will draw more people than years past. A concert featuring country star Jason Aldean on May 24—the night before the Indianapolis 500—also is expected to boost ticket revenue.

The IndyCar road race is expected to draw more than 40,000 spectators and the Aldean concert should pack in at least 20,000. Hosting those events will carry considerable operational expenses, so it’s unclear how much they will net Hulman & Co., the parent of the IndyCar Series and IMS.

Miles has voiced optimism that the new ventures will be profitable in addition to adding juice to the headline event—the Indianapolis 500.

IndyCar’s new title sponsorship deal with Verizon—which annually pays $5 million in cash and another $5 million for advertising and promotion—added another significant bump to Hulman revenue. It’s not clear, though, if the Verizon title deal will ultimately be worth more than the Izod title deal it replaced. When the Izod pact was signed in 2010, IndyCar officials said it was worth $10 million annually. Part of that was cash and part was for advertising and promotion.

IndyCar officials said another major sponsorship is being finalized this month and should further bolster the fortunes of the series, which hasn’t made a profit since its formation in 1996. Sources close to the series said Miles and his staff are in serious discussions about a title sponsorship deal for the inaugural road race, Grand Prix of Indianapolis, which is set for May 10 at IMS. The race marks the first time IndyCars have raced around the track’s serpentine road course, which was originally built for Formula One racing.

Miles’ sales staff has remained aggressive. Series officials are developing an ad campaign called Rivals to highlight IndyCar on-track competition. Those ads will run during races on ABC and NBC Sports Network, and at least eight IndyCar race promoters have pledged to use them in their markets. The last five seconds of those TV sports can be customized with individual ticket sales information.

In addition to the TV ads, IndyCar also will run print and digital ads this year. Series officials estimate the campaign will carry a $10 million media value this year.

Already, Miles has turned his attention to next year and is putting finishing touches on the 2015 schedule. That would be a major accomplishment for a series which has had a habit of rolling out its schedule long after its season ended.

Miles has interest in adding up to three international races to start next season and is especially keen to get back to Brazil, where he says there is a ready market for open-wheel racing. Several of the series biggest stars—including Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan—are Brazilian.

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