IndyCar running out of venues to replace its failing races (8th Update)

Plummeting TV ratings are costing IndyCar races, sponsors and fans
Plummeting TV ratings are costing IndyCar races, sponsors and fans

UPDATE Now Texas Motor Speedway is asking IndyCar to reduce its sanction fee or there will not be any more IndyCar races at TMS. To replace Texas IndyCar could look to COTA or regurgitate other previous failed races at Richmond and Kentucky.

And, as we have said in the past, the Pocono race has low attendance and the only thing keeping it alive is the ABC Supply race sponsorship. Once ABC Supply realizes they are getting such little exposure with the minuscule NBCSN TV ratings, it's questionable weather they will stick around.

Mark Miles denied that Sonoma's problems generating an IndyCar crowd in that region meant Laguna would have the same issue once the race's novelty had dissipated.

"To me it's about whether the management team can pull together the right sponsors and the right promotion of the event," said Miles.

Well Mr. Miles, when you put many IndyCar races on NBCSN with its minuscule TV ratings and hence near zero exposure for sponsors, track management cannot find a sponsor for the race, the race the loses money, and the race soon disappears. This isn't rocket science yet you signed another three year deal with NBCSN.

With all tracks looking to negotiate a lower sanction fee with IndyCar, the 'Family' will begin to lose more and more money on IndyCar, prompting those offers from Liberty to buy IndyCar and the Speedway, as a package, to look increasingly attractive.

Laguna Seca dust bowl
Laguna Seca dust bowl

07/13/18 Well as predicted, Sonoma does not want to pay IndyCar the amount of sanction fee they want (cannot make any money with Go-Pro sponsorship gone), so they are forced to regurgitate another previously failed venue – Laguna Seca – see story

Great circuit, but can't draw a crowd for the IndyCar because they do not know how to do it the right way.

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca announced on Twitter Friday that it expects to be added to the ’19 IndyCar calendar, while Sonoma Raceway announced it will not return to the IndyCar schedule if the series adds another race in Northern California.

IndyCar is putting together its ’19 schedule and has been known to be looking at returning to Laguna Seca. That prompted Sonoma President & GM Steve Page to publicly say he did not think there was enough room for both of the tracks on the series calendar. An approval vote is expected from the Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to approve the race at Laguna Seca.

Carb Day concert at Indy
Carb Day concert at Indy

07/11/18 With TV ratings plummeting IndyCar is getting even more desperate to replace the races on its calendar that are failing, and they are many. Now comes word in this Racer article that IndyCar is considering a return to Laguna Seca. Are they crazy? It was a ghost town the last time they were there and nearby Sonoma, which is still on the schedule, is an annual ghost town event. If they run two races in the SF Bay area (with its small IndyCar fanbase after Tony George destroyed the sport) they're both likely to fail miserably.

Many race promoters today still think the old model of promoting a race works – runs some radio and print ads, a few billboards, and they will come. Well they "ain't coming."

How does COTA draw so many fans for its F1 race outside of Austin? When were Texans ever in love with F1? They weren't. Unless your event has a special atmosphere, like a Road America with its beauty, speed and campgrounds, proper race promotion and big name concerts draw the fans – this year it's Brittany Spears and Bruno Mars for the USGP at COTA. It works. Long Beach and the Indy 500 have concerts and this contributes to the success of both events.

Would Laguna Seca or Sonoma ever invest the money it would take on Brittany Spears and Bruno Mars for an IndyCar race? Of course not. The IndyCar races at these marginal venues — that also includes Iowa, Texas, Toronto, Portland, and already failed joints like Watkins Glen, Fontana, Richmond, Michigan, Nashville, Kentucky, etc. — eventually cease, or will cease to exist, because the promoters at these tracks are not willing to make the investment needed in today's racing-unfriendly environment to go outside the box that worked in the past. Think small and you will remain small.

As we have said on this page in the past, they would fill Watkins Glen to capacity and beyond if they held an IndyCar race on Labor Day weekend and brought in Brittany Spears and Bruno Mars (or any big-name draw) and sold combined concert and race tickets to college students in NY state (we listed all the colleges previously below). It would be a huge college party weekend and expose many young people to IndyCar. Would ISC (NASCAR) ever do that for IndyCar? Of course not.

And there, dear readers, lies the problem.

What's the solution?

IndyCar needs to be sold immediately to someone like a Liberty Media (see related rumor) who have the resources to rent a Watkins Glen (and other venues from IndyCar unfriendly promoters) and do as we suggest – self promote the event and make the investment in star talent – and they will come. This isn't rocket science.

It can't happen soon enough.

Empty grandstands at last Richmond race in 2009. What will be different this time - same pro NASCAR anti IndyCar promoter
Empty grandstands at last Richmond race in 2009. What will be different this time – same pro-NASCAR anti IndyCar promoter?

06/26/18 Homestead-Miami Speedway has confirmed that it has had recent talks with IndyCar, while Richmond Raceway did not deny talks, amid both tracks being mentioned as ISC venues that could host a race with the series in '19. ISM Raceway will drop its IndyCar race amid attendance issues, and track President Bryan Sperber indicated that IndyCar and track owner ISC were discussing possibly shifting the date to another of ISC’s 13 venues next year. Sources close to ISC and IndyCar then indicated over the weekend that Homestead and Richmond were among the top possibilities.

Homestead in its statement told THE DAILY: “We have had recent conversations with representatives from IndyCar, which we do from time to time. At this point, it is nothing more than that." For its part, Richmond — which is wrapping up a $30M renovation this fall and is likely eyeing added events to help generate further ROI on the revamp — said, “We are always open to talking with sanctioning bodies about events, but nothing to report right now." Adam Stern/SBD

How many times will IndyCar regurgitate failed venues? The venue needs a pro-IndyCar promoter. ISC is anti-IndyCar. While they will deny it, they do not promote IndyCar races properly to make them work. The idea of what can be done at Watkins Glen (below) is a prime example of them not caring to have success with an IndyCar race.

And American fans are losing interest with oval racing. Look at the plummeting NASCAR attendance and IndyCar oval attendance. Why are they regurgitating more failed oval venues?

Watkins Glen as huge potential. Road America has proven that IndyCar fans like road course races better – just need a promoter like George Bruggenthies at Road America who cares to make it work. It was a dead event and now it is a huge success. The problem with Watkins Glen was never the venue, but the promoter….ISC.

IndyCar has failed so many times at Homestead with meager crowds
IndyCar has failed so many times at Homestead with meager crowds

06/24/18 Word in the Road America paddock is that IndyCar and ISC will regurgitate a race at Homestead (which has already failed twice) in April to replace Phoenix.

The race should run back-to-back with St. Petersburg in March so fans from the north can catch two races over a week's span in sunny and warm Florida.

They will make teams take their entire entourage to Florida once, go back home to Indy and then come all the way back down to Florida a few weeks later. And the weather is better in the Miami area in March. Bring a big concert in for the race and capture some of the college spring break crowd.

But that would make too much sense so IndyCar will never do it.

06/24/18 “We gave it our best shot at Phoenix for three years and so did [track president] Bryan Sperber and his people but we just didn’t feel like the prospects for growth were there," Mark Miles told RACER, after IndyCar served as the co-promoter for three years.

“It’s too bad it didn’t work out but I’m excited about our schedule for 2019 and we’ll have 17 events and a good mix."

So the question is what previously failed venue will they regurgitate through. ISC has two Cup races at most of their track so that won't work for IndyCar. Homestead is a possibility and it should be scheduled back-to-back with St. Petersburg so fans can catch both races and vacation in Florida for the week. Will Homestead draw a decent crowd. Of course not. American fans are losing interest with oval track racing. Even NASCAR is hurting.

Concert at USGP
Concert at USGP

06/23/18 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, you are on to something big here. Here are a list of colleges within driving distance of Watkins Glen. If you bring in some big concerts Labor Day weekend the kids (just as they return to school) will show up in droves to the track. Offer some bus service for those who don't have cars. Have concerts Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday right after the IndyCar race. One has to be a big name draw like Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars. The Glen will have to turn people away and they will setup tents and camp all weekend (provide them free pup tents) all over the hillsides. Many of these kids will become IndyCar fans after seeing IndyCar for the first time in their life.

1) Binghamton University, 2)Buffalo State College, 3) Clarkson University, 4) Cornell University, 5) Hobart and William Smith Colleges, 6 ) Rochester Institute of Technology, 7) St. Lawrence University, 8) SUNY Brockport, 9) SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, 10) SUNY Fredonia, 11) SUNY Oswego, 12) SUNY Plattsburgh, 13) SUNY Potsdam, 14) SUNY Cortland, 15) SUNY Geneseo, 16) Syracuse University, 17) University at Albany, 18) University at Buffalo.

Many of the kids would stay Sunday night and party some more and use Labor Day Monday to return to school. DO NOT give up on WATKINS GLEN. It can work and be huge for IndyCar. It just needs the right race promoter. Forget ISC, rent the track and hire a proper race promoter. Adam Seigel

The IndyCar race at Watkins Glen was spectacular but ISC, the promoter, only cares about NASCAR
The IndyCar race at Watkins Glen was spectacular but ISC, the promoter, only cares about NASCAR

06/22/18 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today with the announcement IndyCar won't be back at Phoenix. We predicted it would fail when they announced it and of course it did. Pocono is next. The market cannot support two Cup races and an IndyCar race in the span of 11 weeks.

What old race will they regurgitate back around next only to fail again?

The only reason why Watkins Glen failed is because ISC owns the facility. All IndyCar races fail at ISC facilities because ISC only cares about NASCAR and does not properly promote the IndyCar race. The Labor Day weekend was perfect for IndyCar but the promoter never bothered to market the race to all the colleges in NY State as a party weekend complete with a big name concert. It would be huge but ISC does not car.

06/15/18 Since the mid-1990's IndyCar's schedule has been ever evolving as one race after another fail. 2019 is shaping as another reduction in races as Phoenix, Pocono and Sonoma are hanging on by the slimmest of margins and Detroit is facing strong opposition from the tree huggers.

While we expect Detroit to remain on the schedule, we're not so sure about the others.

And IndyCar is running out of venues to replace these failing races.

Diehard fans throw out names like Laguna Seca, Michigan and Fontana – all of which have little chance of succeeding.

IndyCar will throw some meat to the media Wolf's and drum up some new rumors of international venues, that of course will not materialize, they never do.

But the media is so desperate for new successful venues they'll swallow it all whole.

With IndyCar needing to replace Verizon's title sponsorship and Penngrade Indy 500 sponsorship, with plummeting TV ratings, and with the minuscule Indy Lights field, some might ask if the wheels are falling off IndyCar.

We're not ready to draw that conclusion…….yet.

So what venue has the best chance of landing a new IndyCar race given the state of the series?

There are none that we can think of that will be successful until NASCAR is sold, including ISC's tracks, and new race promoters who want IndyCar to succeed take over.

IndyCar puts on a far better show than NASCAR at tracks like Fontana, Michigan and Watkins Glen, but will never be promoted properly while these tracks want only NASCAR to succeed. They will never promote an IndyCar race heavily under the current owners.

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