Time for IndyCar Series to prove it can market drivers

April 25, 2013
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Help is on the way. That’s an old and tired refrain in sports, but it just might be true this May for the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500.

Speedway and IndyCar Series officials appear to have two drivers—both fresh faces—to hype next month. Whether those two are the saviors of IndyCar is up for debate, but series officials need to at least try to use them to bolster the open-wheel series.

First is Takuma Sato, who won the Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday. No, Sato hasn’t been on ESPN nor any other prime time national show all that much since becoming the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race. But he is getting lots of attention in his native land, and he provides series officials an opportunity to raise the IndyCar profile overseas.

NHK, Japan’s most-watched TV network, devoted a long segment early in its national news broadcast Monday to Sato, who drives for racing legend A.J. Foyt.

Sato was the main story on Yahoo Japan Monday and on the front page of all the major Tokyo newspapers (a first for IndyCar racing since Danica Patrick won at Twin Ring Motegi in 2008). “Likes” and Facebook comments on the main Indycar.com story shot up tenfold after Sato’s victory, series officials said.

Japanese exclamations of “long life!” and “hurrah!” arose.

“We all did banzai when Taku received checker flag,” said Japan’s GAORA Sports TV director, Keiichi Inamine, whose network broadcast the race live early in the morning. “We took photo with all members in our studio.”

Sato said he has been inundated with media requests from Japan since his victory. Sato’s association with four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Foyt is gaining traction here in the United States as well.

Foyt, despite recent back surgery, has to be smiling pretty broadly. The biggest state-side story this May could be American upstart Conor Daly, who was hired by Foyt last month to race at Indianapolis.

It will be Daly’s first Indy 500, but the son of former racer and WISH-TV Channel 8 race analyst Derek Daly has been racing almost since he could walk and has won at every level at which he’s competed. Racing fans know Daly well and there’s much intrigue to see if the Indianapolis native can work his magic at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Daly is being honored today at Heritage Christian High School, where he graduated in 2010. He’s likely to get much support from this market, and if he’s able to do what many think he can behind the wheel of an IndyCar, he could catch the attention of a larger audience of more casual race fans that flock to Indianapolis each year.

Which is good news for the series. Daly is an ideal ambassador. He’s the perfect mix of professionalism, wit and charm. While he has expressed a desire to race in Formula One, and has shown glimpses of the skill it would take him to get there, he’s also said he’ll consider a career in IndyCar.

Driver promotion and marketing hasn’t exactly been a strong suit of the series since it was founded in 1996. With the likes of Patrick, Sam Hornish and a handful of others, series officials have certainly had their opportunities.

New Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles has promised to do for IndyCar what he did for tennis players as CEO for the ATP Tour. This May is a first glimpse for race fans to see if Miles is ready to make good or simply flame out.

  • It is this bad
    Sato is big news in Japan. That is great if the Indianapolis 500 was held at Motegi. Daly, the new Hildebrand that never was who replaced the Hunter-Reay that never was, might consider an IndyCar career. Wow. That will really bring in the fans, cheering for a driver who has no IndyCar starts, who MIGHT, if he kinda wants to, think about, if it sort of fits into his plans, maybe making a career out of it and becoming another Rick Mears or A J Foyt. You know, Conor Daly, household name. But everything will be ok. Sato is getting big press in Japan. BIG press. That surely has folks in Peoria and Pacoima really taking notice. I'll bet Indy scores a 10.0 with everyone anticipating the Sato-Daly duel to the finish. It is OVER.
  • Positive News
    Burl, what is over? Can't wait for May. Should be another exciting race like last year.
  • Sadly Pathetic
    Wow Anthony, this story is really grasping at straws. No one cares about Hunter-Reay or even knows who he is. FAILURE for Mark Miles #1. Sato? FAILURE for Mark Miles #2. Conor Daly? FAILURE for Mark Miles #3. Seriously....how is ANYBODY gonna market that mess? Seriously, that's all you got? If anything INDYCAR has PROVEN it can't market drivers or past winners or anything! Dario goes for 4, Helio goes for 4...those are the story lines! When was the last time Indy had TWO 3 time winners going for 4x and it's not even pegged as "promotable" by an Indianapolis business publication? EVERYTHING is a mess. And where is the series...hiding in Brazil in the weeks leading up to the 500. On a street course no less. You all must have tenderloin-itis in your brains. Seriously, Mark miles, I could do a WAYYY better job than you. Way better.
  • Thanks Burl!!!
    Thanks for reading and tuning in Burl. You are obviously a huge IndyCar fan since you have read and commented on multiple IndyCar articles this week. We need more diehards like you. Keep up the good work!!!!
  • Yes, it's fans like Burl
    who are responsible for the 27% drop in ratings last year, and the 20% drop in ratings last week. Keep up the great work there, SUPERFANS of the .1rl... :rolleyes:
    • Keep reading and watching boys!
      I love how everyone hates IndyCar so much that they go out of their way to post comments. Keep reading , watching and clicking - those all drive numbers to IndyCar. I smell a viewing party for Brazil at Burl's house. Let me know we are meeting up.
    • The Thrill In Brazil
      No doubt, hordes of sports fans will be tuning in to see if Takuma Sato can make it two-in-a-row going in to the Month of May, or, rather the Two Weeks of May, as it now stands.
    • Sato was Here
      Domo arigato Mr. Takuma Sato.
    • Party is at Lino's
      Have they suspended the viewing parties at Lino's yet? $10 is too rich for many place fans who could watch at home if they had cable or satellite TV in their mom's basement. IndySo, this is the best part of Indy fandom...watching it flail-about in the wind. It's a train-wreck of epic AOW proportions...and AOW fans and advocates need not even watch the dull races with the clown cars they drive. It's a joke!
    • Lots of Fans Here!
      'Time for IndyCar Series to prove it can market drivers.' Prove to who, exactly? Judging by the meandering, obsessive, barely literate, predictable responses of the peanut gallery not them. I am thoroughly enjoying the season thus far and the racing is great. There are several potential marketable personalities in IndyCar, as evidenced by the plethora of commentary about them by the most knowledgable 'fans' in the comment sections. The fact they sound like they are in the fourth grade matters little. What matters is that they continue to pay attention. Once they stop is when we should worry.
    • You know it is almost over...
      ...when that is all Dispicable has. Weak. Very weak. You used to be a good debate, Dispicable. Now you are a reflection of the series you so desperately fight for: Irrelevant and ineffectual. If the series has "marketable" drivers, they would market them. They trotted out J R. Hildebrand and all he did was crash his car and then blew out a knee trying to prove he was "an athlete." Dismissed. They trotted out Hunter-Reay and all he did was actually win a championship and get to be all car number one for a year. But turns out he just wasn't Izod-ish enough to keep them interested and well, nobody cares about an IndyCar Championship anymore, anyhow. Soooo....Sato-Mania solidifies the series in a nation they no longer race and young Daly is sort of like the new poor-man's Rahal. Oh, it is just too good to make up. Hollywood couldn't do it and make it seem real. Hey, does Tero Palmroth have a kid they could market?
    • Too bad...
      ...about Panther-DRR eh, Discipeless? I guess Oriol Servia was not one of the more marketable drivers. Would that be it? Maybe they can look up Rafa Matos and see if he can save the team. I always thought Rafa-Fever was the answer in the Heartland anyhow. Shame. Shame. Shame. I guess that big 'ol sponsor-spend wasn't enough to save a team that has been around since 2000. I thought things were getting better, no? Wait! I know. A long-standing team folding shop after Indy doesn't reflect the target demos, roll-out insiders, key inspirationals or whatever you make up.
    • Best Time of the Year
      LOL. You can always tell it's May because the desperation of the kiddies becomes ferocious. False rumors, bitter criticism, 'end-of-the-world' screeching...all really pathetic. Why not grow up and watch? It's obvious you do.
    • Not anymore
      I won't watch. Cars too ugly, series not nimble, IMS couldn't market snowshoes to Eskimos. Fact. Here's another fact....0.18 tv ratings...40% drops in tv viewers. No recognizable drivers. It's got everything!
    • Huh?
      Including freakishly hypocritical children.
    • If 2012 was so great, where's the beef?
      Test patterns get higher ratings. Fact. Why aren't the fans flocking for RHR, Vaultier, Daly and Sato? The great racing has allegedly returned....things that make ya go hmmmmm.
      • Lordy, they have problems
        If Indycar is banking on the 'interests' of guys like Burl, Chief and some others as fans then it is way worse than originally thought. You'd also think media insiders that know all about those new content delivery systems would know how easy it is to keep up with the sport's issues without watching anything that would be considered constructive fan building or positive. There are sites, blogs, forums that are full of all kinds of ranges of people from ex-fan haters to not so positive but hanging-on fans to fans of racing no matter what to the track/event fans that don't seem to care about the racing so long as the 500 goes on. I just don't believe IZOD or anyone else is going to start counting on all of that as interested potential clients due to our sponsorship. But what do I know...I've only worked in advertising and PR my entire life.
      • 25/8
        It's May already? LOL. You can tell it's getting close to the 8 days in May because the ride buying field fillers are coming out, Jourdain, the Lozier brothers. I'd love to see Jimmy Kite, Buzz Calkins, Scott Harrington, Dr. Jack and Tyce Carlson join in. LMAO
      • Fresh Trip Down Memory Lane
        Not me. I pine for the days of cart legends Hubert Stromberger, Billy Harvey, Jay Hill, Nicola Marozzo, Jose Carlos Romano and Giuppona Franca. You know, since they were stars n' cars. Those were the good old days before Tony ruined everything. LOL.
      • Hot Tuna
        Hey bro, you better get over to your blog and write up a reaction piece to Unka Bernie gonna come in and buy up Long Beach. Zak Brown (the future IRL savior) is getting a piece of the action. Is Zak pro-IRL or is he pro-$$$ for Zak Brown? Things that make ya go HMMMMMMM....
      • The EIGHT Days of May
        Hey chubby, when CART was at the speedway at least they had the WHOLE month of May. You IRL saviors got it down to EIGHT days now. Condensingly grate! Hard to believe then 45+ car and driver combos were the norm. AHH well, you get what you pay $800 million for. Hahahaha...
      • It's MAY!!!
        And guess what all the buzz is about in the auto racing world today? YES! NASCAR hits 214 MPH at the Speedway. Where's Indycar? YES! On it's way through customs into South America. Mark Miles, you blew another one. You need help bro? Yeah, I know blah blah blah 100+ years etc. But, how can you let NASCAR steal ANY thunder? IMS is pathetic.
        • F1?
          Sato's name likely has more recognition globally than any other driver in the 500. He is an F1 veteran racing for seven years at the top tier of global motorsports. Though, he raced for loser teams. This is a step in the right direction, remember when F1 world champions came to the US to race in CART? Until that happens again, the IRL is going to be a back maker to F1 and NASCAR. Open wheel has been a train wreck since Tony drove the split.
        • Explain to me..
          why haters like Chief continue to comment on open-wheel racing. We know you do not think much of the league, the individuals running the show, the cars, etc, etc. So why comment? Shed some light on ultimately what is your point?
        • F(orget) 1
          What Curt fails to understand is NOBODY cares who Takuma Sato is in Pacoima, California, Peoria, Illinois, or Pawtucket, Rhode Island. And NOBODY cares about Formula Fagehdaboudit. The Indianapolis 500 was an institutional, monumental event long before Clark and Hill showed up, and for a long time after. Believe me, folks didn't show up because Fittipaldi and Mansell were at IMS. Fact is, they roundly boo Emerson. Those guys were curiosities to Peter and Pam from Peoria. They came to watch The Gas Man, The Flyin' Hawaiian, Super Tex, and J.R. Lonestar. They knew who Steve Chassey and Tom Bigelow were too, because they saw them race at places like Winchester and Salem. The sportier types knew who Hurley Heywood and Al Holbert were. People came to Indy to watch American muscle hustle. Nobody cares about a 5'4", 120 lbs Japanese Formula One reject who drives a bulbous go-kart on city streets and in South America. IMS and the IndyCar Sreies are losers because of the Sato's, not in spite of them. The Sato's and Sebastian's of the racing world may be big names in Portugal but not Peoria. NA$CAR knows. Formula Faghedaboudit rates a ZERO with mainstream America. Get over yourself, Curt. Nobody on Mainstreet cares.
        • Mediocrity doesn't sell
          That's a direct quote from Randy Bernard...reflecting what he's learned in business, from the Billings Gazette. 0.18 tv ratings don't mean a thing, does it? Why? I am a fan of AOW....that's why I post my opinions here. With nothing but the hope the powers that be listen to this single solitary fan....I only want the best for the sport.
        • Best Buddies
          Chief is correct. He (we) wants the best for the sport. That means being honest and direct. Unlike Baghdad Bob-ish Disciple, we're just-the-facts-ma'm guys. The truth hurts. We accept that. But the facts cannot be drowned out by the wishful thinking, and desperate flailing about by the likes of Discipe. This sport is in deep poop-a-doo. Deep. The IndyCar Series, starting with the Sag, and right on through the Cowboy, and now the tennis court-slayer, have made Indy Car-style racing almost entirely irrelvant on the American sporting landscape. On May 1, they allowed NA$CAR Americans to "tire test" and turn laps at near Indy Car speeds, while the bulbous go-karts, piloted by the likes of household names Tristan Vaultier and Justin Wilson, were off to South America to go 90 miles per hour on beat up, third-world streets.The phrase "214 miles per hour on the backstretch" should be associated with Opening Day at IMS for IndyCar. Doh! On and on it goes. One dumbluck moe after the other and 0.18 TV ratings to prove NOBODY cares about Wannabee-F1. The Indianapolis 500 was all gas and guts, loud, brightly colored, fast, masculine and American, with just a dash of International flavor to make it a world-wide vent. Now it is just a race meet for amateurs and rich kid ride buyers, playing all AJ Foyt and Bill Vukovich is fake race cars.
        • Word out of Brazil..
          ...the early TV number is said to be "test-pattern." Let's see if that is true. I'll bet it is. This sport is almost dead. And word outof IMS is there are many tickets available. This sport is almost dead.
        • Embargo?
          Strange...no Indycar TV ratings from Brazil. Why now is Jenna Fryer and the PressDog so silent on the matter? I allege the Speedway has asked them to not reveal them. BRAZIL = 0.000 TV ratings. Awesome! Now, with Zip Lines!
        • Another race, another huge drop in ratings
          Seems it's getting harder to find out how low the .1rl's ratings can go... _________ Per Mr. Pressdog: " IndyCar race from Brazil on May 5 drew a 0.20 TV rating with 224,000 viewers on NBC Sports Network... Last year's race in Brazil generated a 0.33 TV rating with 348,000 viewers." ______________ They done fixed things GOOD!!!
        • 50% off
          Yes....in 2010 Brazil had a 0.4. Man, the trend is DOWNWARD. Indycar tv ratings have fallen 50 percent. But remember, Dipsicle tells us these rating never sold a tv sponsorship. How could they?
        • The Indianapolis Tire Test
          Got out there Sunday and for two hours this morning. Call it dead. The atmosphere there was tire test. Where is the beef? The Indy 500 is to Indianapolis waht Burger Chef is to Indianapolis. Call it done. I may not go again after this year's race. Already have the tickets. But I must say, the cars are ugly, the pay drivers nobody, and the stands aluminum. It is a sorry series and IMS is in sorry shape, physically and in terms of atmosphere. No more practice or quals for Burl. See you (and plenty of aluminum) on Race Day.

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