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IndyCar Series rolling dice in Las Vegas

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IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard said series-run promotional efforts for the open-wheel series’ Oct. 16 season finale in Las Vegas are paying off in a big way.

Bernard predicts 70,000 fans will attend the race, and added that 117 of 121 luxury suites have been sold for the event, dubbed the IndyCar Series World championship.

The suites, Bernard said, are selling for between $22,000 and $35,000, and he expects the remaining inventory to be sold out by Friday.

Series officials have tried to lure fans to Las Vegas this year by offering a free ticket to anyone who has attended one of the other 16 races this season. Bernard said drawing a good crowd is key for series and team sponsors that pay most of the bills.

This is the first time the series has been to Las Vegas since it merged with its former open-wheel rival, the Champ Car series.

“We have all the [open-wheel] drivers here now, so that’s why we’re calling it a world championship,” Bernard said Tuesday from Las Vegas. “There’s a real buzz building about the race here. I’m very optimistic about this weekend.”

Bernard tried to lure drivers from other series to come to the race to take on IndyCar’s best. Despite offering a $5 million prize for any non-regular series driver who could come and win the race, he got a limited response. Bernard settled on offering a bonus to Dan Wheldon, who won the Indianapolis 500 this year, but does not have a full-time ride.

If Wheldon wins in Las Vegas, he has agreed to split his $5 million prize with a fan, whose name has been selected in a drawing. Bernard declined to say who the fan was, because a background check needed to be done before an announcement was made.

For the first time this year, IndyCar officials in Las Vegas are renting the track and handling all promotions and operations for the race. Other than the Indianapolis 500, there have only been one or two other races in its history that the IndyCar Series or Indy Racing League has taken over, Bernard said.

Normally, a track operator pays a sanctioning fee to the series and is in charge of promoting and operating the event. In exchange, the track operator and/or promoter would keep a big share of event revenue.

In this set-up, IndyCar will get to keep all of the profits—if there are any—or shoulder all of the losses.

“Taking control of a race like this is a big gamble for the series, but I think it’s one they feel they have to take to build the fan base,” said Tim Frost, president of a Chicago-based motorsports business consultancy.

Bernard is undaunted.

“Las Vegas is such a great market, we just felt this was the market to try it in,” Bernard said. “This is kind of a test for us. One of the big reasons we’re doing this is because we know a lot of our sponsors want to come to Las Vegas because it’s a great place to bring clients and market their business.”

IndyCar officials have bought 1,600 radio and television ads as well as numerous billboard spots to promote the event in the Las Vegas area, Bernard said. Series officials also are advertising the event in Indianapolis and other racing hotbeds.

And the IndyCar Series made a deal with Las Vegas officials to shut down the famous strip on Thursday night so all 34 cars in the race can run laps up and down the strip. There also will be two two-seaters and a pace car running parade laps.

IndyCar officials expect tens of thousands of spectators to turn out for the Thursday event, which will kick off at 6:45 p.m. in front of the Bellagio Hotel and culminate at 8 p.m. with a concert featuring Lupe Fiasco.

IndyCar officials have hired 100 Las Vegas police officers as well as private security personnel to marshal the event on the strip.

On Friday, series officials will host a celebrity blackjack tournament featuring its drivers playing alongside other famous athletes.

With the series introducing a new chassis and engine next season, Bernard said it’s an especially important time to build momentum.

More than 50 2012 Dallara chassis have already been ordered, and Bernard said he expects between 25 and 27 full-time cars to be lined up for next season. Bernard also said engine maker Lotus will announce its first team partnerships soon—likely this weekend in Las Vegas.

“We knew we had to end this season on a high note going into a year where we’re introducing our new car,” Bernard said. “We think we’re on our way. This [Las Vegas] race is going to be a great race.”
 

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  • Punto
    Mario....

    The Las Vegas race perfectly accentuated my point yesterday. The ignorance of IRL killed Dan Wheldon yesterday. Everyone is to blame.

    I'm angry because nothing will change to make it better, for everybody....because it's apparent folks like yourself can't see anything wrong. That's tragic.
  • Fear Not Chief
    Chief--Don't lose any sleep over my knowledge base of Indy Cars. I can assure you it is quite extensive but that has nothing to do with this conversation. I watch all forms of racing because they are unique and interesting in their own way. I'm sorry that you don't like Indy Car and it doesn't appear you really like anything. It must be a real downer being so negative all the time??
  • Hey Randy
    Apparently, you were the only one who thought this race was a good idea. All the drivers and owners interviewed knew there was going to be carnage because indycars do not belong on that track. Unbelievable carnage is what your big idea produced.
  • Hey Randy
    What does it tell you when no one in your picoscule fanbase wants to pay for a ticket to your shizzle? buhbye,,,,,you rilly tried rill hard
  • i mean ugly new car
    nhl has good rating on vs
  • you don't know what competition is
    Mario....I fear you have no idea what you are talking about.

    Every angle, tweek, adjustment, engine, chassis, push to pass, etc is REGULATED. THE sport aspect has long been gone with the IRL spec.

    This momentum racing you are so jazzed about is a joke. The 0.0000001 sec finishes are bogus because they were running 0.0000001 apart all day. Cars so identically prepared that flat-out they still can't pass each other. It's manufactured and phoney.

    But, I'm glad you enjoy it.
  • Chief-see 15 Years later
    In case you have not noticed the majority of races/titles in all forms of racing are won by the haves as the have nots generally struggle to be competitive. (Jimmy Johnson/Michael Schumacher) You must not have watched Ed Carpenter at Kentucky last week. Sure it would be great if more ovals can stay on the circuit. Sure I wish there was a bigger fan base. But hey, the racing is very competitive and I enjoy watching it. Same applies to you as Burl--If you don't like it go watch curling and stay out of the conversation until you have something constructive to say.
  • Less ovals...is that your racing?
    So you support oval jettisoning like lemmings off a cliff? You support Detroit strret racing and Balteemore concrete canyons with no passing and safety cars going the wrong way on a hot track? You support 15K crowds at Milwaukee, NH and kentucky? Is that YOUR racing, in 9 year old chassis, all races won by either a Penske or a Ganassi since 2001? You lay claim to that?
    • 15 years later
      Burl--anything that gets so much angst from someone like you must have some traction or why else would you bother to be so negative. Everyone thought Indy Car was dead when the split happened 15 years ago. Racing has ALWAYS been a niche sport. Go watch curling or something and let us enjoy our racing
    • Please go away
      Burl: Please call me the next time you posted something that you haven't already posted 1000.

      We get it.

      You don't like IndyCar.

      We have something in common.

      I don't like you.

      But I do feel sorry for you.

    • What ever became of the Facebook tie-in's?
      You know, CARTown? Wasn't this supposed to lite the fuse of social media in favor of the IMS and IRL?

      What happened?
    • country club is back in town
      detroit gp will save irl and the new ugly duck car too yeah more street joke and natural terrain road track
    • Trouble is...
      ...that no matter what Randy does, no matter what glitzy PR schemes he pulls off, or what angle he takes in pulling a race off, anywhere, the sport is not popular. It will NOT be popular. Ever. It's days are past.

      The Indy 500 still has some, I said "some" level of intrigue, but not as much. It could possibly still make it. Non-sports fans recognize the name "Indianapolis 500" and associate it with tradition, history, color, and excitement, so some tune in. It is not a MAJOR event anymore, but a relatively big one. It MIGHT make it.

      Beyond that, the sport is nothing. Nine out ten people are not even aware it is going on. It is so niche it is impossible to describe. But a good place to start is 0.1 TV ratings and 15,000 crowds in 100,000 seat facilities.

      I applaud Randy for trying. But he is trying to sell VCR's to 21st Century teenagers.

      Game over. And no matter what he tries, people have moved on, or never did care to begin with.

      Lastly, Dario and Power come off like nerds. Geeky. Contrived. Fact. What a hard sell, those two goofs. It is all bad. Very bad.

      Game over. Sport dead. Done. Again, to reiterate, people, the masses, all but a tiny, tiny, core audience of maybe 250,000 to 300,000 in a nation of over 300 million are even aware there is an IndyCar Series.

      Deal with it. It's over.
      • Good Reporting
        Anthony, I have called you out, (perhaps harshly at times)for disagreements with the way an article was constructed, but this was well balanced and a model article.
      • Breaking New Ground
        Kudos to Randy Bernard for his out of the box presentation of the event. The old model of charging a sanctioning fee no longer works, particularly on ovals. Bernard is on record as saying they do not have to sell one ticket to turn a profit on the event. It is the same model he rolled out in many PBR markets. If this is a future trend, the profit potential is intriguing.

        See you in Vegas!
      • Smoke and mirrors
        If break even at Milwaukee is 40K at $40 per ticket (about $1.6M)....don't forget the $1.5M sanction fee......

        And 121 trackside suites at avg $26K per suite adds up to $3.5M....yet, tickets are free...and there is no sanction fee....

        And you have to pay for track rental, advertising, security, insurance, concerts and events etc....all by yourself...

        Hmmmmm, that's quite a roll of the dice alright. If this thing doesn't lose a million, I'll eat my hat.

      • Buzz buzz buzz
        Great to see the promotion end of this thing from Bernard. The series has been stuck too long in a stodgy mode and this is the kind of buzz and excitement that is needed if the IRL is ever to get moving and grow. Good luck in Vegas.
      • All In
        Thanks Anthony. Great article and great unbiased reporting. I fly out Friday and will certainly be on hand. Going to be a hell of a good time. Great way to cap off a great season.

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