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JGS 7415 1IndyCar CEO Mark Miles sat down with RACER at the recent Phoenix Open Test to discuss a variety of important topics facing the series as it heads into the 2018 season. In the first portion of a two-part interview, Miles opens with a deep dive on securing new TV and streaming broadcast deals.

With IndyCar's TV contracts set to expire at the end of the upcoming season, the quality and reach offered by the next contract is more important than anything Miles will accomplish this year.

"I'm very focused right now on finishing our media negotiations for what'll happen after this season," he said. "And I'm encouraged – very encouraged, frankly – by the prospects for doing many of the things we sought out to achieve so that we have a better foundation for more fans watching IndyCar, both on linear broadcasters, and we'll be, I hope, moving forward on an over-the-top (streaming) offering as well. And that's so important as media changes and as we focus on keeping our fans and growing more and younger fans at the same time.

"That's such an important foundation for the next title sponsor and other sponsorships we want to attract to the series, that our team owners want to attract to their cars and that our promoters want to attract to their venues, so we've got lots of work to do. That's never going to stop, but I feel like we've got more positive things to sell than [at any time in] my five-year tenure, anyway."

LAT Davis SONO 2014 1920Miles and IndyCar's executive team have been negotiating with broadcasters for more than a year, and with the constant evolution of digital services like Amazon Prime and Netflix, a desire for flexibility is driving the conversations.

Nearing the end of a 10-year contract with NBCSN, the changing nature of digital delivery has Miles looking at shorter agreements to ensure IndyCar can adapt to wherever the broadcasting market is headed.

"Well, first I'd say, I think I was involved in my first television negotiation for the 1987 Pan-American games, so I've been an observer and sometime participant of the media market in the States and globally for what's getting to be a long time, and I've never seen the disruption (with digital) and the rate of change, even in the same ZIP code, as what it is now," he said.

"Nobody can tell what things are going to look like in, really, only a few years. Change is a constant and the pace of change is accelerating. One just needs to look at the media marketplace and see the mergers and the new configurations and the investments that others are making to know that. So our bias has been to go shorter, and that's because I just don't think anybody can crystal ball what [the next] 10 years looks like."

"I think [the contract's] got to be shorter rather than longer. I don't think it'll even be five years, and we just need to keep as much flexibility as possible. That's how you deal with the dynamism in the marketplace. It gets much more complicated, even for a short-term deal, than simply going short, and that has to do with how good a deal can we make now.

"If we were just bowled away by everything, we might be interested in going a little bit longer, but not long, and we're in the place now where we're having, I'd say, probably two a day discussions with finalists for the rights, and – on a linear basis – some of those, you can't have those conversations without talking about what you want to do over-the-top."

LAT levitt ELK16 04665Compared to the point in time when initial discussions began, the process of negotiating with the big linear and streaming players has continued to move more in the direction of finding key over-the-top solutions than securing a big TV contract with streaming as a secondary, add-on component.

Although this fact might not come as a surprise for IndyCar's younger viewers, its core demographic – older males who consume the races through network or cable television – will need to embrace the continual shift toward streaming presentation.

"So, first, you have to understand the aspirations of perspective linear partners from an over-the-top perspective," Miles added. "Let's just give one example of that. Disney, ABC, ESPN, all those things, on their platforms, are an interesting case study where different investments have been made that are serious.

"ESPN is very serious about soon launching their over-the-top platform – as they have seen a continuation of cord cutting and skinnier bundles and all that goes with that, they've understood how important it is that they play in the over-the-top space and take it seriously. So, no longer do I think in their case, that that is a defensive matter, but really part of their future in a serious way.

"ESPN Plus will get launched, probably before we get to Indianapolis, and it's a big investment, a very serious undertaking for them. NBC, for example, has NBC Gold. They're probably a little more flexible about how we might approach them for a linear deal and what over-the-top arrangements might be made, but everything is connected to everything else."

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Hopes for IndyCar's next over-the-top partner to flood the series with riches beyond measure have also passed.

"I thought a year ago that disruptive players like Amazon Prime and Facebook and even Twitter would be making a market more by now than they are," he said. "They have kind of not really jumped in, in live sports to the extent that one might've thought, but it can't be very far away.

"So in the near term, I don't think it's a big bonanza. I know there were people who thought Amazon has more money than Fort Knox and they can have their way with anything, and maybe they could, but they're not doing that yet. I don't think there's an economic strategy outcome in the next two, three years, which is a game changer financially.

"It really boils down to the details and the discussions with the linear guys and how you can marry that with those over-the-top possibilities that are out there and readily available. All this, again, argues for relatively shorter [contracts] rather than longer."

Catch the rest of the conversation, including Miles' odds on whether IndyCar's broadcast and streaming contracts will be held by the same host, in Part 1 of the interview below:

18DAY2nk07342My sister hates racing. She can play soccer with the best of them, manage an NHL team from her living room, and has a comfortable life of associating with guy friends over worrying about clothes and cocktails.

But racing? If she's not making a comparison to watching cereal float around a toilet bowl, then she's trying to get someone to change the channel.

Here's the kicker: my sister would ask how Danica Patrick was doing.

It is complicated and yet perfect at the same time, because that's what Patrick's NASCAR legacy is: complicated.

Classified 35th in the Daytona 500 after being involved in one of the many big accidents, Patrick has officially exited NASCAR stage left. For those who believe Patrick's career was full of bad luck, it was fitting that the end came through being caught up in an incident not of her own doing.

Alternatively, it was just another unremarkable day for a driver who, when came to on-track performance at least, did unremarkable things during her five full NASCAR seasons.

No wins and just seven top-10 finishes. Sixty-four laps led in 191 starts. Never finished higher than 24th in points.

lat levitt d500 0213 08396Although Patrick went out with a whimper, she came in with a bang. Patrick became the first female to win a pole in NASCAR's premier series when she topped the board for the 2013 Daytona 500 (pictured above). She is also the only woman to lead laps in the Daytona 500 (also in 2013), and with an eighth-place effort (yes, in 2013), the highest-finishing female.

Analyzing her overall body of work in the sport, those Cup numbers, as well as 61 Xfinity Series starts with seven top-10s, one top five and one pole, you might ask, what did she really do? For all the fanfare and media attention that constantly enveloped Patrick, there was little that warranted it when it came down to the business of delivering on track.

"What I came to [realize] in the end was, I'm honored there was disappointment," said Patrick in a recent ESPN story. "I'm disappointed because it meant you expected more, and I did too, right? You saw me through my eyes. You saw the potential. You hoped for what I hoped for and believed it was possible."

Yet as one of the world's most recognizable athletes, Patrick did make an impact in NASCAR. See, I told you it was complicated.

Saluting Patrick ahead of her final race in the driver/crew chief meeting this past Sunday, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O'Donnell also used the word 'impact'. You hear that same word associated with her name all through the garage, and in the press.

Since the first NASCAR national series race that Patrick ran in 2010, there have been eyeballs on her, and subsequently on the sport. Plus, she brought a pre-established fan base with her from IndyCar; fans who were going to watch her regardless of what she drove.

Over time, however, Patrick became a role model and a superstar for NASCAR's younger fans, and undoubtedly for little girls. When making my way down pit road before a race, I knew I could count on seeing young girls standing by Patrick's car. They just wanted to see the No.10, and perhaps even be lucky enough to get a glimpse of the driver. Those who did would smile as if at Disney World. And the young fans, boy or girl, who were ever lucky enough to come across Patrick in the garage or at an appearance, had their day made by getting a hug.


Johnson is just one of many who have taken to social media to express what Patrick has meant to them and motorsports. NASCAR president Brent Dewar responded to Patrick's goodbye tweet with, "Thank you Danica!!"

"NASCAR's most successful female" is how Mike Joy repeatedly referred to Patrick during Speedweeks. And Daytona 500 honorary starter, actress Charlize Theron, provided an idea of how Patrick has been an attraction outside of the racing world.

She's incredible, and to have her be part of this, as a woman, that just seems pretty incredible," Theron said. "For me to be able to witness her last race, that feels very special to be here today, too. The girl in me secretly is, obviously, cheering for her as well.

"I just love that even my kids were really impressed that a girl was racing cars today, too. They think that's such a good thing, and we need more of that, and hopefully, we'll have more of that enter this culture, which only makes it better and richer."

My sister may not have been converted to a die-hard race fan because of Patrick, but Patrick made her aware enough to pay attention when a race was on – and even buy a Patrick hat at one point. Just last year she asked me to get her to a race to experience the garage area, and one of her first stops was Patrick's hauler and car.

Now that Patrick is gone, what she did or didn't do on the track will be forgotten by many. But my sister and everyone like her will remember that she was here.

article fleet 1 1000x600Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced today that Fleet Cost & Care (FCC), makers of fleet management software solutions NexGen and Atom, will make its debut as a primary sponsor on Graham Rahal's No.15 Honda-powered IndyCar at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9. FCC has been an associate sponsor for the team's Verizon IndyCar Series program since 2016.

In 2017, the FCC logo appeared on Rahal's car at St. Petersburg, Long Beach, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Detroit, Road America, Mid-Ohio and Sonoma as well as on Oriol Servia's No.16 entry at the Indianapolis 500. For 2018, the company will be featured on the No. 15 entry at all 17 races.

"The expanding commitment that the men and women of Fleet Cost & Care are giving RLL is tremendous," said Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with former late night talk show host David Letterman and Mi-Jack co-owner Michael Lanigan. "Just as their software helps companies save time, ensure safety, improve data accuracy, and just work smarter, their support of our program allows us to compete at the highest levels with the ultimate goal of winning the championship. We are proud of our Fleet Cost & Care partnership and look forward to growing our business together for years to come."

"As Fleet Cost & Care celebrates our 25th anniversary we could not be more excited to grow our relationship with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing," added Fleet Cost & Care President Jeff Curran. "Being a sponsor of a team with the history of success and professionalism that RLL enjoys gives us great pride. We are looking forward to a great 2018 season and many more to come."

Renault2Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul says his team must improve in every aspect after launching its 2018 car.

Last year was the first season with a Renault-designed car since its return to the sport in 2016, with the previous year's chassis having been developed by Lotus. Renault moved up to sixth place from ninth in the constructors' championship and showed strong improvement throughout the season, with the team targeting further progress with the R.S.18 that it launched on Tuesday.

Abiteboul says the driver line-up of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz will prove crucial to the team's hopes of moving further up the grid, but challenges Renault to show a step forward in avery area.

"We have everything to be positive about this year," Abiteboul said. "We have two very talented and ambitious drivers. Last year Nico gave us exactly what we needed with his experience, knowledge and ability to lead both on and off track. Carlos joined us at the end of the season and he brought something fresh, and he scored points to help us in the Constructors' battle. Without that we wouldn't have finished where we finished.

"Our headline target is to show continued progression through results. We want to be able to showcase our progression in every regard; power unit, chassis, operations, drivers. Everything must improve and we must continue to grow.

"We want to demonstrate this in many different ways, from the teams we will be directly racing against, to the gap to the leaders, including also our fan base and the respect that our team will inspire in our way we behave on and off track."

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With Renault announcing that the new power unit "has realized a very strong program on the dyno," Hulkenberg admits he is eager to get behind the wheel of the new car in Barcelona next week.

"When I have visited Enstone and seen everything going on with the development of the R.S.18, I'm very enthused about the season ahead," Hulkenberg said. "Add that to the news from Viry about the development of the power unit and everything looks and sounds good; it's all positive and there are exciting times ahead.

"I'm feeling positive and optimistic in myself. We're in a good position. For this year we want to build on the good platform of last season. 2017 was about bedding in, now I want to get ready to go. I get a good feeling – we have put the work in over the winter and hard work usually pays off. I'm eager to get out there. Put me in the car."

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Sauber18Sauber technical director Jorg Zander has described the team's 2018 car as having a "much different" car philosophy including a new aerodynamic concept.

The C37 was launched on Tuesday and features a similar nose design to one employed by Force India in recent years. There are also obvious aerodynamic additions to the Halo and a complex air intake arrangement above the driver's head, all of which Zander says are part of a new approach compared to last season's car.

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"It is great to finally reveal the C37 today," Zander said. "The 2018 challenger is the result of the hard work that everyone in the factory has put in over the last few months. Speaking about the C37, the car philosophy is much different to that of the C36. The aerodynamic concept has changed significantly, and the C37 has several new features in comparison to its predecessor.

"We are positive that the new concept offers us more opportunities and will help us to make improvements during the course of the season."

Zander added that he expects to see a step forward from the new Ferrari power unit too, with the 2017 car having used a year-old engine as the team struggled and scored just five points last season.

"The 2018 Ferrari engine will also give us a boost in terms of our performance. We hope that we will make progress with the C37 and that we are more competitive compared to 2017."

The C37 is the first car that Zander has been heavily involved in the design of, with the technical director having only joined Sauber from Audi at the end of 2016 when last year's car was already a long way into its development.

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Renault became the fifth team to unveil its new car for the 2018 Formula 1 season, launching the R.S.18 online on Tuesday.

The car is the third chassis produced at Enstone since Renault's return to F1 as a full constructor in 2016, with the team describing the car as "a progression and refinement of the concepts developed during the 2017 season. It includes an improved suspension concept and greater aerodynamic downforce".

With the team having shown strong car development during 2017 while also undergoing further expansion of its workforce and facilities, Renault Sport Racing president Jerome Stoll is confident the latest car will see the French constructor continue to close the gap to the top three teams.

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"Renault Sport Formula 1 Team's ambition is clearly to uphold the outstanding record of the past and the 2017 season has confirmed we are on the right track," Stoll said. "We are a team on the rise. We have two very talented drivers who are hungry for results. Enstone is regenerated and the workforce has already increased by more than 35 percent.

"Our investment has so far been successfully translated to the track as we rose from ninth to sixth in the Constructors' Championship in 2017 and ended the year with the fourth-fastest car.

"The success of the program in just two years is testament to the resilient plan laid down early in the creation of the team and the strong job done by Cyril [Abiteboul] and the entire Renault Sport Racing teams. I am convinced year three will take us one step closer to the long-term aim: winning races and challenging for championships."

Renault Sport Racing's managing director Abiteboul says the improvement during 2017 was clear to see, and gives the team momentum heading into the new season.

"Last year was successful in many ways," Abiteboul said. "It was the second year in our rebuilding and a further step towards our long-term plans and aims. 2016 was all about recruiting, investing, bringing in new sponsors, new talents and building our brand.

"Over the past year I've seen progression in many areas: ninth to sixth in the standings – in many races we were often the fourth-fastest team on the grid. This is a testament to our drive, commitment and adherence to a very ambitious plan. It was a quantified progression towards what we want to become and challenging the top teams."

Renault will retain a driver line-up of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz in 2018, while also promoting F2 rookie Jack Aitken to the role of third and reserve driver and recruiting Russian F2 race-winner Artem Markelov as test and development driver.

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AlfaRomeo Side Low

Sauber has launched its 2018 car; the C37 carrying the Alfa Romeo livery displayed by the team in December.

The new car is the first as part of a title partnership with Alfa Romeo that upgrades the team to the latest Ferrari power unit after having previously run year-old engines. Sauber's design features a similar nose style to the Force India as well as additional aerodynamic additions to the Halo as part of what the team describes as a "new technical approach."

Team principal Frederic Vasseur says the C37 needs to move Sauber into the midfield after finishing last in the constructors' championship last season.

"I am very much looking forward to the 2018 season, and to seeing Marcus [Ericsson] and Charles [Leclerc] on track," Vasseur said. "We have put lots of effort and hard work into the C37 over the last few months, and it is fantastic to be launching the new car today.

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"I am convinced that Marcus and Charles form the perfect driver line-up, with one being an experienced driver and one a promising rookie. Marcus is going into his fourth season with us. He is a valuable part of the team, and we benefit from his experience and precise technical feedback. As for Charles, he has proven his talent in prior categories and deserves to be on the Formula 1 grid this season."

"Our target ahead of 2018 is clear: We have to catch up with the field and continue improving our performance during the course of the season. We have put lots of energy and commitment into the development of the C37. I want to thank our partners and fans for their continuous support.

"The return of Alfa Romeo to Formula 1 sets another milestone in the team's history, and I am proud that such a historical brand has chosen us for their return to the sport. We are eager to start the 2018 season as the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team."

In the build-up to the launch, Sauber also announced a number of new partners, with Richard Mille, Carrera, Kappa and Claro joining the team.

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lepage 180128 day 17867The time deficit in qualifying for the Rolex 24 At Daytona told the story of how far out of the Balance of Performance window BMW's brand-new M8 GTE model was living.

The pair of BMW Team RLL entries, a distant eighth and ninth in a GT Le Mans class with only nine cars, were more than 1.1 seconds adrift from the pole-winning Corvette. Any questions of sandbagging were answered in the race when the Nos. 24 and 25 BMWs were between 1.0s and 1.2s slower than the best managed by the GTLM Fords and Ferrari. Hope for a decent debut was lost well before the race.

Just as the BoP for the Fords erred heavily in the positive direction, the BMWs sank like rocks over 24 hours as their BoP settings relegated the twin-turbo V8-powered machines to the bottom of the GTLM pile.

The surprising BoP variances in IMSA's popular, manufacturer-rich GT class left BMW wholly unimpressed throughout the event. Its desire for corrective measures was expressed in a rather direct statement that was handed out to select members of the press in the final hours of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener:

"BMW and IMSA have been working together for years in a very positive and constructive manner. The BoP system is an integral part of global sports car racing including the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. BMW and IMSA will continue productive and open talks and have agreed to find an appropriate BoP assessment for the upcoming events stating with Sebring, allowing the BMW M8 GTE to show its performance for the benefit of the series, BMW and all of our fans."

Asked to explain how IMSA planned on working with BMW to improve its ability to compete with other GTLM models during this week's test at Sebring, series competition VP Simon Hodgson provided RACER with the following statement:

"IMSA's standard postrace analysis following the Rolex 24 At Daytona involves test curriculums for the Sebring test that can be applied to all manufacturers in a controlled environment. This follows the process that was introduced at Daytona in December. Following [this] week's test at Sebring, IMSA will continue to have discussions with all manufacturers as we work towards establishing appropriate class BoPs for upcoming events starting with the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring."

RD 18 24 1912Looking at the BoP tables issued for the start of testing on Tuesday, the BMWs have lost boost at three points below 4500rpms, which suggests IMSA believes its initial acceleration was more than adequate.

At nine different boost intervals from 5000-7500rpms, the BMWs have received an increase, with the biggest jumps made from 6750-7500rpm, which would suggest top speed – and the related ability to stay close to other GTLM cars to attempt passes under braking – is where the Daytona deficit was found.

At the Rolex 24, BMW and Corvette were tied for the slowest GTLM models in a straight line. The best achieved in the class, a pass through the traps nearing Turn 1 at 183.830mph by the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, was followed by Ford, Porsche, and then the No.24 BMW and No.4 Corvette at the same 182.193mph. The sister No.25 BMW set the slowest traps speed among the nine GTLM entries at 180.983mph.

Fans of GTLM and the BMW Team RLL entries will have an interesting time following the testing action this week in Sebring as increased scrutiny is applied from the brand to ensure competitive balance is restored.

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