IndyCar-NASCAR $20M deal has one big drawback

May 18, 2010
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One thing bothers me about Randy Bernard’s proposal to offer $20 million to the driver who can win the IndyCar Series’ Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.

Moving the start of the Indy 500 up two hours to 11 a.m.

I’m an early riser, so moving the race start up a couple of hours isn’t the point for me.

The point is the Indianapolis 500 is supposed to be The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The Greatest Spectacle doesn’t adjust its schedule for others. It should be the other way around.

After all, you don’t kick-off the Super Bowl at 11 a.m. If anything, the race ought to be moved into a more prime-time slot.

I know an earlier start time at Indianapolis is essential to make sure NASCAR drivers racing at Indy can jet down to Charlotte in time for NASCAR’s night race.

But NASCAR, if it wants to seriously be apart of this deal, should adjust its race schedule.

I always thought NASCAR having one of its bigger races on the same day as the Indianapolis 500 was a bit of a slap in the face to everything IndyCar. I also think both series would benefit big-time by giving NASCAR drivers a legitimate shot at competing for the Borg-Warner Trophy.

The last time I checked Nielsen's TV viewer numbers, the Indy 500 still attracted a mighty big worldwide audience.

Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick racing alongside Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick. What gearhead wouldn’t tune in?

More importantly, such a crossover at Indy would generate attention with mainstream sports outlets and fans. When was the last time the Indianapolis 500 grabbed the ESPN lead? Not sure? You’re not alone.

And reaching a more mainstream audience, according to Team Ganassi Managing Director Mike Hull, is the most important task for the IndyCar Series.

IndyCar isn't the only ones watching their fortunes fade. NASCAR is in the early phases of its own decline. And if they're not careful, NASCAR officials will find themselves in DefCon 5 faster than you can say "What in tarnation?" All U.S. motorsports would benefit from this crossover.

I think Harvick got it right when he called on NASCAR to move the Coca-Cola 600 to Saturday night.

“I think if [Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Bruton Smith is] really realistic about it then he should move his race to Saturday night,” Harvick said. “Move your race to Saturday night and put your money where your mouth is after that. Give everybody a realistic shot at it. Move the Coke 600 to Saturday night and let Tony Stewart and Juan (Pablo) Montoya and Casey Mears and all these guys that really ... it’s not a show if you don’t give everybody a realistic shot. That way those guys can really prepare for it and be in the cars at the right time and then give them a fair shot.”

Mari Hulman George, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway chairwoman, had not approved the $20 million deal. Bernard, who became the IndyCar Series’ new CEO last month, obviously, is a big champion of the proposal. After all, the former Pro Bull Riders boss, gave life to the idea.

Racing sources said an announcement on the deal could come as soon as this month—dually at Charlotte and Indianapolis.

Lots of tradition has been rung out of the month of May in Indianapolis. It could be argued that some of those changes are necessary to fortify open-wheel. And I wouldn’t necessarily disagree.

But moving the start time further from prime time to accommodate NASCAR? Playing second fiddle to fendered cars?

That’s not a tradition I would imagine many in IndyCar would support.

  • Who cares?
    Do these clowns honestly think that ordinary, average, hard-working Americans who struggle everyday just to pay the rentm the food bill, and keep shoes on their kid's feet in a permanently changing economy of an eroding middle-class, care a hoot whether some already-set-for-life race car driver earns an extra $20 Million? Even John Andretti said he thinks that is not enough for the Jeff Grodon's and Jimmie Johnson's of the world to compete. What does that tell you?

    It just goes to show how out of touch, even Bernard, people in the racing world are. Spoiled brats, wasting enormous sums of money, on cars going around in circles. People who are just getting by do not identify with that. What they do identify with is the hard-charging race car driver who lives down the street and races when he/she is not busy trying to make ends meet. The Tom Bigelow's of the world who drove trucks between Indy 500's. Or the Memo Gidley's who showed up in an old pickup truck. Corporate jet glitter boys earning some spare side cash trying to win two races is a farce. No wonder this sport is dying. And that includes NA$CAR.
    • Indy 500
      As far as starting at 11:00 AM, other sporting events start early. The Ryder Cup, Formula 1, and the Olympics all start early. The drawback is people will miss church. However, the Indy 500 is only once a year.
    • FREE Beer Tomorrow
      I think it's a stupid idea. This is nothing more than a pathetic gamble by the speedway to get publicity.

      Good lord, is the sport THAT goof'ed up that we have to resort to NASCAR BRIBERY now to generate interest?

      Look, just move the Brickyard 400 to Memorial Day and call it the Indy 500. Speedway management is fixing things that don't need fixing....while leaving the broken parts un-fixed. Looks like ex-Cart owners win again!

    • What?
      Well, the average hard-working American certainly doesn't have a problem with cheering for NFL football players making $15 million or more per year. And what does Peyton Manning get for winning a Super Bowl? A 5-figure check and a ring. If the competition is good, people will tune in. And it stands to reason if you bring in more good racers, the competition will improve and the story lines will be more intriguing.
    • 11 AM
      Wasn't the 500 at 11 AM forever and ever until they moved it back a few years ago?

      I am very fond of the idea of moving the 600 to Saturday.
      • So you want some Tradition. There You Go. 11am Start
        You're right it was.
      • Ok, what am I missing here? For how many years did Indy start at 11:00am? It wasn't until 2005 or so that they moved it to noon and then when we changed time zones it moved to 1pm. I am not really sure where moving back to 11am is changing tradition. It is actually going back to tradition.

        I prefered the early start time. It allows more time to run the race if there is a rain delay.

        To Burl, how much more out of touch can you be? First, I am not sure of any fan who has an issue with their driver winning millions. Why else are the purses so big? Do you remember the Winston Million? Did fans pray their driver would not win it? I remember the armored car running around the track with the back door open spewing out fake dollars. People will love it because it is like the Triple Crown, it is something that is difficult to do and if accomplished, would crown the driver as one of the best drivers ever. If this goes through, this will be huge. The only reason I would imagine you would not see some of the NASCAR stars trying this is if they feel it takes away from a championship run. But I am betting you will see several including some big names try it. Besides the money, the fame will be too much for drivers to resist.

        I can understand NASCARs reluctance to move the 600 back, it starts at 5pm and runs 5 hours. I am not sure a 11pm or midnight finish time is going to be good for attendance or ratings.
      • Racing
        Life long fan....Racing is about two things speed and money. In both groups speed has been put back.......1996 Indy and 1986 in speeds are gone so why not let the money become an issue.....Foyt did win DAytona and every thing why not Sam? Or Dario? or better yet Sara ........? Lets plates / stock Indy / could be great...$20 million at play remember Million Dollar Bill.? That was great......
      • Indy 500
        I have no problem with the 11:00 a.m. start. It's the historic time, and we can't watch the race on TV until evening anyway.
      • Definately
        Move the stock car race to Saturday night. Excellent idea. Better yet, trade or move the 600 mile race date from Charlotte to Chicago or Michigan. That way fans could attend both. More $$$.
      • Re: Who Cares?
        Burl Hatterley -- Well Said!!
      • time(s) change
        You are correct, over the years, there have been time changes to the race's start. This isn't solely about tradition. It's about marketing and positioning the race where it will gain the biggest audience. That's what sponsors want, right? The old start time was in place because the race took much longer years ago. Now, I think it's time to position The Greatest Spectacle where it should be if it's to remain the Greatest Spectacle. And that's in prime time, or at least closer to prime time. An 11 a.m. start time costs the race and series the entire western part of the U.S. No one in California is going to watch at 8 a.m. That can't make sense for the IndyCar Series. I would argue that the IMS and IndyCar Series should position this race as the jewel that it is. Not jockey the time around to conform to NASCAR's schedule. Thanks for reading.
      • No it Ain't
        This isn't the same as Daytona...or LeMans or Indy OR Foyt.

        As for 11AM's insignificant because traditions are being sacrificed left and right for saving of face by the speedway.

        Look, IF Indy was the great place it once was ALL racers from everywhere would be there. STOP FOOLING YOURSELVES with this get rich quick scheme. Most IRL owners can barely afford ONE car no less other one-offs by interloping NASCAR drivers wanting "the double".

        Don't you all see what this is doing? Greatest Spectacle....and we're worried about start time? COME ON....this whole NASCAR DOUBLE GIMMICK tarnishes the great race even FURTHER. How much more will all of you Indy placefans allow this keep happening until there's nothing left? Where's the dignity once proudly displayed by 500 fans....or AOW fans for that matter?
      • I am so glad the haters prove me right again and again. I knew they would be off their rockers on this one.

        It is funny to hear the haters talk about gimmicks when that is what racing is all about. From the first race, it has been about creating gimmicks, or marketing if you want to use a more pc word, to get good drivers to run your track, to get people to come watch the races and later to get viewers. The best race promoters, the best track owners are the best gimmick men out there. Create contests, create concerts, create reasons for people to come to your event.


        One of the best marketing ploys you could have is touting the $20 mil for either race. It is no different then the triple crown in horse racing. Win all three races and you go down in history. Win Indy and Charlotte on the same day, 1,100 miles, and you will be famous. You will do something that few will ever be able to do. It speaks to the showman and the ego of every race car driver. You will get your ratings, guaranteed.

      • one major problem
        Honda is the sole engine supplier for Indycar series. All the NASCAR teams have engines provided by Toyota, Chevy, Ford, or Dodge. I don't think these engine manufaturers really want there drivers to cross over to drive a Honda powered vehicle, even if it is in a different series.
      • Off their rockers?
        Desperation. The IRL and the 500 are in desperation mode. $644 Million dollar IRL hole and they want to throw more money down it. Hey, they more they throw, the faster it'll all go to Hades.

        Rather than fixing the 9 year old ugly IRL cars to make the racing better and appeal to the eyes, instead they seek a partnership with NASCAR, whose once-champion Rusty Wallace said he "wouldn't get out of an electric chair to race in of them IRL cars". And he said it during an ABC broadcast of an IRL event. Journo Ed Hinton published a report saying NASCAR head honcho Bill France Jr. took the speedway to the cleaners.

        And the haters are to blame? This NASCAR stunt just takes the focus off the bigger problems that face the IRL condensed ring circus. THE IRL racing stinks.

        The PURISTS know the truth....the speedway is gambling that the great unwashed don't. That's a bad bet that will do more harm than good. Kepp deflecting ImAn.

      • Hinton article
      • Forget NA$CAR
        If the new guy at IRL can't put his league at the front of the line he'll face the same fate as Tony George. He MUST quit worrying about NASCAR and figure out how to make open wheel racing exciting again.
      • $$$ Talks
        You said "The Greatest Spectacle doesn't adjust for others..." Well it has several times, especially moving it up to Noon (1 ET) just to satisfy TV. 11 is okay, had been for years.
      • Chief,

        Enough digging through your archives of hate to regurguate old articles. it is beneath you. well maybe not since you have pulled this several times.

        I do like that you are not making up numbers to the nearest $1 mil. I am sure you studied the IRL financials to come up with that one. of course most numbers I have seen in print peg that number at about 1/3 of what you claim. You got that link to Fred Nation telling how much has been lost?

        You said a few weeks ago you were over it. Obviously not. Obviously whatever personal issue you have with TG, the track or the series still eats at you. Truly sad. Man up and get over it.

        cart killed itself, you said so yourself. move on. If you do not like the IRL, watch F1, or NASCAR or NHRA. Something so you quit obsessing over something you cannot change.
      • Football is Football Racing is Racing
        Matt, you make a good point, accept: Comparing Football and Auto Racing is Apples and Oranges. Racing fans have always been a different breed, even if they too, enjoy Football. It was always about the grit, grease, and the everyman, even if at the end of the day, that "everyman" or "everywoman", was essentially an athlete part or full time in the sport of auto racing. Maybe the USAC Sprint Car racer or the IMSA sports car guy down the street was well-known and made a heck of a living, but he/she still had to go out and work for it. So if they had a big payday, you were happy for them. Now, as I said, these clowns expect us to get excited about a multi-millionaire who gets another $20 million. As John Andretti said, that is another coporate jet. Back when Big wan Indy, the pay day kept him out of a truck the rest of the season. Dominic Dobson said it paid the mortgage for the year and kept on racing hard. $20 million to win two races in the same day. There was a time when real race car drivers would have ran two those two races nuts out and full throttle if all they got was a the bottle of milk and a blue ribbon, maybe a check to pay for tires at the next race. No, I am not out of touch. The people in racing are. And so are a few here.
      • Chief
        MCL closed??? Big back in there for some salmon patties ol'fella. Times are passing you by
      • IndyNascar
        The "500" should start at 11:00 on MONDAY! If you value tradition, race on Memorial Day.
        The "500" should be the "open" championship of racing accomodating the greatest drivers in the world. Make it the richest race by far again and dare the drivers of F-1 and Nascar to come and see if they can even compete.
      • John Sorg
        That's my point John, thank you for eloquently phrasing it.

        Make racers worldwide want to be there...not some parasitic offer just for glomming onto NASCAR for interest.

        Remember the faux Tony Stewart BS on Fill the Field Day a couple of years ago? Sad pathetic excuse for publicity by the speedway. This NASCAR deal is no different.
      • its another irl stunt
        its another irl stunt abc will never move race to 11 olclock because no won will watch if they wanted nascar driver they would have move the race to saturday any way they should move race to saturday because saturday has became good rating day look at the kentucky derby. ford gm toyato will never make one of there driver race indycar. dodge will thou that what brad crashski said ford did alow king to race the indy 500 with john but that far as it will go for ford brad crashski said 600 is harder than 500 and he is right 600 is a longer race and there is 43 cars nascar car is a tank or muscle car indycar is true sportcar i guest racing wise but indy 500 is harder because is not normal race 600 is a normal race... bernard is another clown like terry angstadt both with no motorsport background will keep ruin indycar. hey brad you want to race a indycar tough guy take eddie gossage money for texas indycar race cup race is off on the day indycar race at texas
      • End of Indy
        the reason the Indy 500 doesn't warrant headlines is because the sport is no longer relevant. Yes NASCAR is also declining, but the average American fan can still relate to the sport. And sponsors will always favor NASCAR because the advertising on the hood will always trump a tiny ad on a tiny open wheel car.
      • Give me a break
        Anthony, first, where has NASCAR even commented on this stunt, much less endorsed it? Bruton Smith is the owner of the Charlotte Speedway, not an official in NASCAR. I would think you would know this.

        Second, with one brief exception due to track construction, the 600 has always been run on the last Sunday in May. The Indy 500 hasn't.

        Third, worldwide TV rating for the Indy 500??? Very few people in the US care about the Indy 500 anymore, much less the world. If the Indy 500 had a world-wide following, they wouldn't be running those tied old spec cars again this year and those standard-issue crate motors.

        Anthony, if you ever venture out of Central Indiana, you'll find that the Indy 500 doesn't mean too much anymore.

        Randy Bernard isn't besotted with Indy-fever out of habit like so many in Central Indiana. He understands that the Indy 500 is damaged goods. It's probably good for the Indy 500 to have someone in charge that can see the reality of just how insignificant the Indy 500 has become.
      • We have seen what happens in this day in age when you open up racing to all comers with no regard to dollars. You either run yourself into the ground like cart did, or you end up like F1 with the extreme haves and have nots in a series that is only able to be run by the mega rich.

      • What the point IMAn?
        Hasn't the CART/CCWs cream risen to the top of the IRL? That doesn't count when applied to the IRL regulars who will always be the have nots?

        Wasn't that what the IRL was designed to prevent....the Penske's and Ganassi's from winning everything? Is it a coincidence they both run in NASCAR too (the only ones)?

        Maybe the IRL is about to run itself into the ground, huh...using your analogy. Or, keeping the IRL 500 bush league is ok as long as the speedway is in control. HYPOCRITE.
      • irl ego is killing series
        why are they look down on nascar they need acept nascar nascar must be doing some thing right that why they are number one motorsport in america the need add double fale restart one green white checker and a lucky dog indy 500 is still number one race in world
      • The point is really rather simple. There are two extremes for racing. Either limited rules, and bring whatever you want, or extreme spec racing. Indy used to be pretty unlimited well into the 70's. This is as evidenced by engines such as turbines and diesels and cars like roadsters and 6 wheelers running the track. Could this happen today? Hard to tell, costs would be ridiculous though.

        The other variant would be strict spec with heavy regulations on testing and tuning.

        Most racing is in the middle. Cart showed that having unlimited budgets is tough to pull off. IRL has shown that cost containment through spec is feasible, but is it the most enjoyable racing? It does have close finishes and wheel to wheel action which is what appeals to me without the fakery and trickery of NASCAR. Unlike F1 which measures final margins of victory by minutes instead of 100ths of seconds and passing is more likely in the pits then on the track.

        So what kind of racing do you want?
      • Indy/NASCAR Bonus
        The problem with the bonus is that it makes you dependent on what NASCAR does. If it goes forward, the "500" needs to be the second race.

        If they do go forward, then add $5 mil each year till someone wins it.
      • IRL a group of whiners
        Well Indy Car has become no better than watching children driving bubble boats around the pond anyway. Penalties for not letting someone pass you, penalties for looking at someone wrong, it is about the most boring form of racing in existence now.

        If NASCAR were nto able to draw five times as many fans to each race, do it for twice as many races each year, and bring in 10 times the television revenue, then maybe the IRL could dictate something.

        There is a reason that women's golf has more people watching it in tv than the IRL! The sport has become a sport for whiners who don;t even want to race any more!

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