Is the IndyCar Series going to be profitable this year?
IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard acknowledges that’s the question he hears more than any other since he took the reigns of the open-wheel series last March.
The answer to that question has changed.
In separate interviews last May, Bernard and Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus told me the series was likely to be self-sustaining, even profitable, by 2011.
At this month’s State of the Series address, Bernard said that’s not going to happen. It could happen if that was the No. 1 priority of series officials, but it’s not.
The issue became a hot-button topic after former series CEO Tony George said the series must be profitable by 2013 or there’d be no 2013 IndyCar Series season. Many motorsports insiders feel George’s inability to lead the series to profitability got him fired.
Sources close to the series said Bernard still has about a $12 million gap to bridge this year to reach profitability.
“Of course we want to make a profit,” Bernard told the crowd at this month’s gathering at the Westin Hotel. “Let me make it very clear, the most important thing we can do [this year] is not take short cuts.
Bernard thinks this year—the year of the Indianapolis 500 centennial and a year before the series unveils new chassis and engines—is a year to invest in building the brand of the series and its drivers. That would improve media, guest and corporate relations, and amp up television ratings and live race attendance. He has been flying coast-to-coast this off-season pumping up the series and working on deals. This week he is in Los Angeles trying to work some deals.
“I believe we could be profitable this year if we really wanted to,” Bernard said. “But this is no time to cut corners. We must lay a solid foundation for the future.”
Bernard is convinced that the increased exposure from the 100-year anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 will help him put the series in position to be profitable by 2012.
The 2011 series kicks off March 27 in St. Petersburg, Fla.