IndyCar: On-Track passes up, popularity down

–by Mark Cipolloni–

The NTT IndyCar Series cannot catch a break, it would seem.

Despite an exciting two opening races of the 2023 season, TV viewership is down 14.4% and the percent of TV viewers in the all important 18-49 year old bracket are down 28.1%.

When you lose over 1/4 of your most important fans (18-49 years old) in one year, alarm bells should be going off at 16th and Georgetown.

The PPG 375 had 26 lead changes, the most at Texas since 2000. Overall, there were 1,070 on-track passes, 609 more than in 2022 and the second-highest total since INDYCAR began tracking that statistic in 2006.

The on-track product does not appear to be the problem, the racing is always close when the cars are ‘spec.’  All the teams use 13-year old cars and the only real variable between teams are the shocks, the engineer and the drivers.

Therefore, the racing has to be close, and it is.

IndyCar TV Rating Data

Event 2022 Network 2022 Rating 2022 Viewers 2022 18-49 2023 Rating 2023 Viewers 2023 18-49  Total Viewers % Chg  18-49 Viewers %Chg
St. Petersburg GP NBC 0.89 1,405,000 337,000 0.76 1,189,000 216,000 -15.37% -35.91%
Texas PPG 375 NBC 0.62 954,000 211,000 0.53 830,000 178,000 -13.00% -15.64%
Totals 2,359,000 548,000 2,019,000 394,000 -14.4% -28.1%
Texas PPG 375 crowd just before race start. Photo via Twitter.  Seeing grandstands this empty is the #1 cause of IndyCar’s decline.  New potential fans do not want to be involved with a sport that appears to have one foot in the grave, and when you see such a sparse crowd despite the free ticket giveaway involving Pato O’Ward, it’s clear something needs to change.

So what is the problem?

It’s the same problem IndyCar has had for 50 years. The series puts so much focus on the Indy 500, the rest of the series is almost an afterthought.

If we were marketing geniuses, we might have the answer.

We don’t.

That’s not our job, but I’ll try because I want IndyCar to grow.

As much as the egos in IndyCar would never agree to it, we feel that IndyCar would gain countless new fans worldwide and some serious exposure, by trying to be the support series race at the three USA F1 races, plus the Mexico and Canadian GPs.

OK I said it, and I’ll say it again – IndyCar should be the ‘Saturday’ race at the following F1 events:

Miami GP – Miami Gardens, FL
Canadian GP – Montreal, Canada
USGP at COTA – Austin, Texas
Mexican GP – Mexico City, Mexico
Las Vegas GP – Las Vegas, NV

And I’ll even go you one better, in my opinion, the Long Beach GP should become an F1 race (it would be FREAKING HUGE) with IndyCar running as the Saturday race.

Yes, the USA is big enough to support four F1 races, thank you.

Right about now I could imagine the IndyCar brass has smoke coming out of their ears reading this.

That’s OK, somebody had to say it.

Given the TV viewership drop, the even larger 18-49 year old viewership drop, and the sparse crowd in Texas last Sunday, something needs to be done and riding on the coattails of the biggest motorsports series in the world (by a wide margin) can’t be a bad thing.

What’s in it for Formula 1?

The North American F1 races would all benefit from having a really strong race on Saturday before the GP and they would not have to fly in the F2 cars, teams and drivers as support events.

The race organizers would sell even more grandstand tickets, suites and concession sales.

F1 fans attending the F1 races would thoroughly enjoy watching the IndyCar race, and we suspect a good percentage of those in attendance and watching on TV would also become fans of IndyCar. And the next year, the race organizer would sell even more tickets.

It’s really a win-win scenario for all involved if the IndyCar brass would take off their rose colored glasses, take a deep breath, and think outside the box.


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