Unified IRL off to fast start

March 31, 2008
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indy300The early returns are good for the Indy Racing League. Attendance and television ratings at Saturday’s season opener in Miami were up and local media and fans raved about the on-track racing.

Although the series doesn’t disclose official attendance figures, several media outlets reported attendance at Miami-Homestead’s 65,000-seat speedway at or above 35,000. Attendance was up about 20 percent from last year, observers said. TV ratings calculated by New York-based Nielsen Media Research are also expected to be up, but those numbers won’t be tabulated until later today or tomorrow.

And 71 percent of nearly 5,000 viewers polled by a popular auto racing Web site rated the IRL’s season opener an A, while another 24 percent rated it a B.

The eight Champ Car drivers helped create one of the biggest opening day fields in recent IRL history, with 25 cars making the grid. If a practice crash hadn’t taken out Graham Rahal, it would have been 26.

“What [fans] saw wasn't the yawning Penske-Ganassi parade of past years, particularly last year, [with] races almost dull enough to be Formula One events,” said David J. Neal of the Miami Herald.

Before the race, IRL boss Tony George announced the series will get a new tagline: “I am Indy: One Series. All the Stars.” George appears to be borrowing a line from CART, which was known for “Cars and Stars.”

Despite the high praise, some sports marketers said IRL officials need to do a better job marketing their races in the weeks before the event if they are to realize the full potential of a unified open-wheel series.

What did you think of the race? And what can IRL do better?
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  • It was a decent race and there was an added level of intrigue as the Champ Car drivers participated in their first event. However, the absolute lack of promotion is baffling. The IRL has a couple drivers who are front and center in the public eye. Danica and her swimsuit issue, and Helio with his smooth moves.....yet we see nothing about the opening season race at Homestead. I didn't see a single commercial or print ad - trust me, I would have noticed. How the league expects better television ratings is beyond me. It seems they are leaving the track promotion up to the track owners - and for the viewing TV audience? They're lucky we even knew there was a race on.
  • Ratings just in from Nielsen indicate the IRL's first race earned a .56 rating, which was static from last year. IRL officials said a late start time plus going head-to-head with NCAA basketball games likely kept the rating from increasing. A .56 rating, means about 600,000 households nationwide tuned in to the race.
  • Indy Racing League officials need to get very aggressive with their marketing--especially grass roots marketing--in towns where races are hosted. In some of these cities, it's difficult to tell an IRL race is coming the week before the event. They need to buy up some billboards and go into every restaurant and bar within 30 miles of the track and leave a trail of IRL posters, banners, buttons, etc. etc. I believe that's what they call papering the town in NASCAR circles. I think it's a mistake to wait for sponsor promos to kick in. This series' marketing efforts needs a boost now. That will get the sponsors and fans rolling in.
  • I thought the race wasn't bad. Watching the leaders work through steady traffic was pretty neat and I'm glad that there weren't any serious accidents. I wasn't thrilled with the TV production. For spending so much time talking about the transition drivers, it would have helped if they could tell the audience a bit about them.

    I realize that the league should not do all of the promoting (hopefully, incoming sponsors can help in that regard) but going forward, they need to make sure that the series as a whole is promoted and that winning the championship is what one should strive for and be praised for. Winning Indianapolis is a very lucrative bonus. Also, make sure tracks do their job in promoting the race. If they aren't doing the job, either take away the date or promote it yourself.
  • The updated Nielsen ratings indicates the IRL's season opener earned a .8 rating, a record for it's season debut race.

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  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?

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