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Sports Business

IndyCar-NASCAR $20M deal has one big drawback

May 18, 2010
KEYWORDS Sports Business

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.

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