As Mark Miles nears his one-year anniversary as CEO of Hulman & Co. — the parent organization of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway — he faces numerous concerns, real and perceived. He addressed some of them with Autoweek as the season came to a close.
Autoweek: There are numerous top-of-mind sponsor issues, including the departures of title sponsor Izod, and team sponsors GoDaddy, Hewlett-Packard and possibly the National Guard. How do you curb fears IndyCar is hurting?
Mark Miles: The Izod decision was made a very long time ago, but it wasn’t announced until recently because they wanted to get more value out of this year, and, as I’ve mentioned, we’re having encouraging conversations about new sponsors. The National Guard issue, as I understand it, is how they’re going to stay in IndyCar, not that they’re looking to get out, so I don’t think that should be in that question. GoDaddy made its decision, but Andretti’s team signed a new company for the sport [United Fiber & Data].
AW: Does losing Izod as the series’ title sponsor without having a replacement hurt IndyCar?
MM: There’s a [loss] because Izod will not be out there [promoting the sport], but if you are asking about our financials, we have deals that are done that have escalators for next year that more than offset Izod. We want to grow, but there’s not an economic [problem].
AW: In announcing IndyCar’s 2014 schedule, you said IndyCar is providing more to the fans. But the Brazil race is questionable at best and Baltimore has been canceled. And the season only spans five months. How is that providing more?
MM: It’s one less race next season, unless we run in Brazil at the end of the year in 2014, which is probably a longer shot than a sure bet. I’m thinking more about 2015, and this schedule is getting to that. We’ll have more racing in ’15, not less.
AW: You also stressed continuity and yet five of next year’s events will have completely new dates, four in different months. How is that continuity?
MM: There’s no way to make a major strategic change in the calendar without doing that, but I don’t expect [further changes]. We continue to expect to end the season on Labor Day weekend. Some [events] changed for next year because it becomes a domino effect.
AW: Finally, what is your assessment of your first year on the job?
MM: It is very much like what I would have expected. There were a number of things I thought we could do, that we could control, and I still believe that’s true, and maybe even more of it. I thought our racing was excellent; I think it’s been a dynamite year for the product, our competition. I thought we could make significant improvements in our ability to execute as an organization, top to bottom, and that’s true, and we will. I didn’t think there was such a thing as a [magic] bullet; there’s a lot of things we have to do to become more competitive, and I think we will. People worry more about the politics of the paddock than I ever do. We’ve got to do our job, but I’ve found our key stake-holders to be remarkably positive and supportive. AutoWeek