Will new Ron Howard movie help or hurt IndyCar?

September 26, 2013
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Will the new Ron Howard movie be good for the IndyCar Series?

Will the movie titled Rush lead to a rush of  attention, and better yet ticket sales, for the U.S.-based open-wheel series?

There are two schools of thought on that.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles said “it’s a positive anytime we can have pop culture talking about auto racing.” He added that a group of IMS/IndyCar employees and drivers have seen a screening of the movie, and said they gave it rave reviews. Boles has not yet seen the movie.

“From everything I’ve heard, it’s an outstanding movie,” Boles said.

Sports marketers largely agree Rush will shine a positive light on all of open-wheel racing, including the IndyCar Series.

“A rising tide certainly lifts all boats,” said Larry DeGaris, director of academic sports marketing programs at the University of Indianapolis. “By all accounts this movie is well done, really polished. And seeing racing in that light can’t hurt.”

Critics are calling Rush, which opens nationally on Friday, one of Howard’s best works. That’s no small feat for the director of Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon and Backdraft.

ESPN.com’s K. Lee Davis opined that the movie should earn actor “Daniel Brühl an Oscar nomination, if not an outright win.”

Davis gushed that the movie “is sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. With race cars!”

But here’s the rub. The movie is not about IndyCar racing. It’s about Formula One, seen by many racing aficionados nationally and globally as IndyCar’s big open-wheel brother.

Rush is based on the true story of the 1976 F1 title battle between Englishman James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda. Not only is Brühl getting rave reviews for his portrayal of Lauda, but Chris Hemsworth is getting praise for his portrayal of Hunt.

Casual U.S. fans could certainly transfer the interest in racing spurred by this movie into an interest in the IndyCar Series, which is more accessible here, DeGaris said.

But, DeGaris added, “if the movie positions IndyCar as the junior circuit, or even puts that thought in people’s minds, that’s not such a great thing for IndyCar.”

The movie itself probably won’t directly infer that, but the fact that F1 is the focus of such a high-profile movie—and IndyCar is not and never has been—might point people in that direction.

And while Boles and everyone else involved in the IndyCar Series insist that F1 is not a competitor, television viewers can’t help but notice how much hype the series is getting on NBC's new sports channel. Maybe it’s my imagination, but NBC seems to be promoting F1 races more heavily than the IndyCar Series, which also airs a bulk of its races on the same cable channel.

The IndyCar Series (or Indy Racing League) was still two decades from forming in 1976. But IndyCar racing was certainly around in the 1970s. Many would argue that it was at its height then. Some would argue that U.S. open-wheel racing—of which the Indianapolis 500 stood as the crown jewel—during this period and even extending through the 1980s and early 1990s, was F1’s equal. Several F1 drivers crossed the pond to test themselves at Indianapolis.

But the IRL-CART split changed all that. At the same time F1 has continued to grow worldwide.

Hopefully, Rush won’t somehow drive that point home to moviegoers, who are more apt than ever these days to go home after the viewing and do a little research on the Internet. And hopefully the movie won’t drive fans from IndyCar to F1.


  • Huh?
    This is a bit of a stretch...do you really think the film with help or hurt IndyCar? Are there really two schools of thought debating this topic? Also, what the heck are you talking about in regards to a new Fox station promoting F1? F1 in the US is on the NBC Sports Network, not related to Fox Sports 1 in any way. The IZOD IndyCar Series airs the majority of its races on NBCNS as well. Maybe it's your imagination, indeed. You'd think an expert like yourself would know where F1 and IndyCar air in this country before tackling a hard-hitting story like this one. Did you get paid to write this? Seriously?
    • Indycar
      It is impossible for anything to hurt IndyCar more than IndyCar has hurt IndyCar.
    • maybe they should .....
      Maybe they should consider asking Hemsworth and the other gentleman to be the grand marshals next year at the parade and race?
    • add on
      Or how about adding Ron Howard to that mix.
    • Martin Prince mode: Save ME!!!!
      Save us Danica! CART traitors! Save us NBC!!! Save us GM! Save us Lotus! Save us Isod! Save us Audi! Save us Randy! Save us Vegas! Save us Dan! Oops, Dan's not here man... Save us Mark! Save us cartoon snail! Save us Mikey A!!! Save us taxpayers of Indiana! Save us, "A list" Hollywood movie about F1's real racers and real cars that has absolutely nothing to do with our laughably sorry bastardization of OWR!!!!___________________________________ Miles, get on the phone and talk to your guys in Hollywood about getting that movie about the 500's greatest hero, Salt Walther made. Maybe he can SAVE YOU!!!
    • My 2 cents
      Bring back the party and the speed, and you will bring back the fans. IMS, please send my consulting payment to captainobvious@commonsense.com
    • Corrected to NBC
      Sorry for the mix-up with Fox and NBC earlier. I know better, because I've reported hundreds of times that the NBC Sports Network cable channel carries the IndyCar Series. I got crossed up with another story I'm working on. No excuses though, and thanks, readers, for pointing out my blunder. And thanks most of all for reading The Score.
    • Fox?
      John, Where in the article does it mention Fox 1 ?
      • what hurts indycar
        Why would anyone think this will do much for indycar. The clowns that own it have been doing their very best to destroy it since 1996.
      • mweaver
        He obviously edited it to reflect NBC. I for one, am looking forward to the movie!
      • Fox
        Before the edit, it read: "And while Boles and everyone else involved in the IndyCar Series insist that F1 is not a competitor, television viewers can’t help but notice how much hype the series is getting on Fox’s new sports channel. Maybe it’s my imagination, but Fox seems to be promoting F1 races more heavily than the IndyCar Series, which also airs a bulk of its races on the same cable channel."
      • Things are so bad...
        ...that Indy Car hopes to catch a couple new fans from a movie made about an F1 rivalry from three decades ago. BBbbwwwwwaahhhhhaaaaaa!!!!!
      • Only people posting here
        know there might be some resemblance, like a snail and crapwagon
      • Right
        I remember when I read how Helio prancing around on Dancing with Stars was going to bring in a huge number of new fans to IndyCar racing. That worked out well too, didn't it.
      • So Many Stories...So Little Time
        Considering the absolute richness of IMS history and the compelling stories that have consistently unfolded over the decades I am surprised that a Ron Howard or other Hollywood type has never made a serious attempt to tell one of the dozens of stories on film. Wonder whether Ron Howard has ever had a conversation with Donald Davidson? The 76 F-1 season was compelling, but pales in comparison to some of the tales of 16th & Georgetown. Perhaps in our lifetimes.
        • There are monsters under the grandstands...
          You know there was a day not all that long ago when Indy fans were so sure of themselves they thought their track and race was The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Untouchable! Now they must wake at night and check to see if the dust bunnies under their beds have turned into NASCAR and F1 monsters that are coming to take their race and track. Really? From the Greatest to the...sloppy seconds.
        • Compelling stories
          Other than Penske not making the field in 1995, Montoya in 2000, the Penske romp in 2001 and 2002's "He passed me under yellow"-gate, what compelling stories would exist to tell? The scabs that filled-in in 1996? How they were abandoned for the CART elite and sold-out by Tony George in the early 2000's? Dan being assaulted by a fencepost? The great IMS board of directors puppet show at the hands of there masters, the former owners of CART/CCWS? Too many stories...poor Ron Howard, apparently he didn't pick the snail idea. Thank god...
        • auto racing is about cars
          If Indy Car racing would allow every team to build their own cars it would be much more interesting to us gear heads. I don't care who drives it, I like to see innovation and creativity in the cars. Look at Le Mans or F-1, they give the car people something to get interested in. I hate these cookie-cutter cars that are all the same. Remember the turbin, Novi, and Lotus battles? Great stuff! It appears the general public thought so too. (I know the argument about cost but there is no such thing as cheap racing anyway)
        • Indy Movie Idea
          If "Rush turns out to be a money-maker, maybe Ron Howard can make a movie about Disciple's public melt down at W. 16th and Georgetown when it is announced, as it will be, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 is the last one. Bwwwwwwaaaahhaaaaaaa!!!!!!
        • 1 million dollars
          that is all the league that never has can expect for a IZodless replacement
        • Won't the proceeds from Turbo
          Yeah...turbo, the movie. Won't the proceeds from that blockbuster that IMS even started a Hollywood office for, won't the proceeds be enough to sponsor the new IMS all-oval road race?
        • Burl is reporting
          over 100 million to show up in Houston because of the movie
        • Man
          if it weren't for this movie, Houston would have been 0.05 on the Nielsen scale. Thanks Opie. MorAns

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