• How committed are you to keep running combined events with the new United SportsCar Racing series and with the Pirelli World Challenge? In my opinion, they should be partners, not rivals.
DW: They are partners in a way, because we're all trying to make racing a success in this country, and when we compete at an event together, we all benefit and the fans love it. It actually comes down to the promoter of each race to decide whether he can make more money by running the various series on separate dates or running one massive weekend of racing and then approach the racing series accordingly. In the second case, more often than not, we will say, “Yes, that makes sense for us,” and we then include that as one of the dates on our schedule.
Having USCR and PWC joining us on the same weekend is great, so now that ALMS and Grand-Am are merging, I would love to see the USCR at Long Beach, for example. That Saturday evening race has become a nice tradition, and adds value for the Long Beach fans.
• I am constantly dumbfounded by the lack of scoring and timing information on TV during IndyCar races. The race in Texas on ABC failed to display the final results as the cars passed the finish line; we had to wait until after a commercial break. That type of info is basic. The information given during a Formula 1 race is the gold standard and IndyCar severely lags behind.
I understand this is a TV issue, not so much a series issue but the two should be working hand in hand. Can we get a window into the type of information the crews use? Sector times? Pit lane times? Fastest lap info? Car-to-car intervals? Car track mapping? Many IndyCar fans can only attend one or two races each year, so the rest is on TV, therefore a larger focus should be spent on TV production.
DW: I don't disagree! It's up to the TV producer to show all the relevant information, and if we can help supply him or her with the information that the fans want, we will do that. I think for now, the hardcore fans should also watch the live timing and scoring data online at indycar.com.
• Why doesn't IndyCar promote the relevancy of the new IndyCar?
DW: Because we're missing the boat. Seriously, there's no excuse.
• Will you be making live coverage of the races available to Canada? We have to pay to watch the races that are on NBC Sports. Proper TV coverage needs to be available in order for the fan base to grow.
DW: Yeah, not the first time I've heard this about Canada and other places, actually. I don't know the answer, but I suspect it's a TV network issue regarding distribution. At the end of the day, it comes down to whether the channels see that distribution makes financial sense for them. But it's troubling, and I will continue to research ways to improve this.
• On the issue of the small TV ratings for the Indy 500, my idea of the cause is plain and simple – commercials. I witnessed a single Indy 500 commercial on ABC, and it was a five-second promo of an aerial shot of the field going down the front stretch with depressing piano music in the background. On the other hand, Formula 1 has probably the best commercials I have ever seen. They're upbeat and do a good job captivating the younger crowds.
DW: I sympathize with Henry. Racing is a hard enough sell without wasting the opportunities we do get. Again, we're in the hands of the producers to make more entertaining commercials. It's up to the TV channels to work harder at getting better TV spots that captivate the audience, and they've got to put these juiced-up ads in the right spot to grab the attention of viewers that will be turned on by the race. You know how the Superbowl attracts an audience that doesn't normally follow the NFL? Well, that's how the Indy 500 used to be – and to a certain extent, still is – but we must aim for seriously big TV figures once more. If they like what they see at Indy, a percentage of those casual fans will then also start following the subsequent races in the IndyCar season and become firmer fans.
• What is the plan to attract more sponsors not only for teams but for the races? Any specific marketing plans in mind?
DW: As mentioned earlier, the marketing plan we currently have is – to be kind – not enough. We need to add more people to the team and invest in the future, not only in the competition side but also the TV and marketing side. Mark Miles is busy re-organizing the group and focusing on a new plan, and from my perspective, that can't come soon enough. It all comes down to resources, and IndyCar doesn't have a bottomless pit in terms of investment capital, but the positive is that it is well understood within IndyCar what we need to do. Reinvestment in the marketing and communications side of IndyCar is one of Mark's top priorities, I know that, because I've been in enough meetings with him that I'm aware of what his objectives are. We recognize that we've had stalemate in certain areas for way too long.
• Formula 1 promotes its races; IndyCar just puts on races. Ft. Lauderdale is a perfect example. This is the perfect city to have a street race but you'll sign a last-minute deal to have the race and there won't be any time to promote it and everyone will wonder why no one shows up. Contrast that with New Jersey where the F1 race has been talked about for several years. One is a race and one is an event. Until you change the perception of IndyCar, you will have low attendance.
• Please consider placing more ads around cities that host racing events. I live in Southern California and I had not seen any advertisements for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. A large amount of the population would be interested in the event if they knew about it.
DW: The fans may be surprised to learn that a lot of the marketing of events comes from the sponsors and from the event promoters themselves. Formula 1 has quite an advantage in the sense that manufacturers have heavily invested in the teams, and for every dollar they put into the technological investment, they spend maybe four more marketing the fact that they're involved. Therefore, F1 per se, does not need to do its own marketing: it's done for them by manufacturers, sponsors and circuit promoters.
Well, we need more sponsors in the series and they, too, will market their involvement but to get them; we also need more fans, too, because let's face it, that's why they spend money in the sport – to get your attention to see their products. IndyCar itself also does not have enough investors. So it's a team effort to grow this branch of the sport by energizing the fan base, and all those involved have to increase their investment in the marketing side.