So it's $5 million for an outside driver to take a shot at Vegas, but there's also been talk of offering $20 million for any NASCAR driver to try to win the Indy 500 and Coke 600 in the same day. With the Indy 500 start time moved back, do you think you will have any takers?
“That's a great question and I may have let my mouth overload my thoughts on that. We're trying to work through a few of the hurdles on that. And I hope I don't have to eat my words because I'd rather do things. If I say it, I want to do it. It will be a disappointment if we can't. This is an important place where we can accomplish the same thing. If you look at the history and tradition of open-wheel racing, it's about having the best drivers in the world. And that's all we're doing here. We're saying, ‘Hey we want the best drivers in the world. If you're one of them, come on.'”
To follow up to the $5 million bonus, it would seem in that way not only would you need to get drivers interested in that sort of thing, but you would need the cooperation of fellow sanctioning bodies and series. There was a NASCAR executive who Tweeted there is no double [bonus] but the 600 can stand on it; how do you feel about that? Does there need to be more cooperation in motorsports to have events like this and have that sort of crossover, and are you discouraged that you haven't gotten a warmer reception from other series on that front?
“I'm a firm believer that all boats rise on a high tide. I thought it was great that it was called a Cinderella story last weekend at the Daytona 500. I thought it was great you saw viewership up by 17 percent. We have already defined our sport as the fastest, most versatile racecars and drivers in the world, that differentiates us from NASCAR and F1 and everyone else and we have our own genre.
“We think we reach a different demographic with our ovals than road and street courses. We are going to provide our sponsors great demographics and certain genres that we think are very powerful and from a fan base, we all have to have the same mission, whatever series you're involved, whether it's NHRA or rally – you have to entertain, you have to give them great competition and you have to give them great value. If they deliver on all three of those things, I'm a big believer that you'll grow.”
How would you characterize the relationship of IndyCar to NASCAR since you've taken over during your tenure and the relationship of IndyCar with other series? Is there a sense of cooperation that is growing that you're trying to foster?
“That's a great question, and I like to be transparent; I've had several conversations with [NASCAR president] Mike Helton. I was with [NASCAR chairman and CEO] Brian France down in Texas when they did our twin race announcement. I always wish there was more communication. I want to work with them, whether it's SCCA or NHRA or USAC. I think it's important that we all try to work together and grow motorsports. That's first and foremost and I think that one of the things that we have all failed on for the past 10 years is to grow our audience age; it's continued to increase over the past 10 years and it should be all of our responsibilities to figure out ways on how we deliver more youth and bring our age back.”
Has the distance of the race been decided?
“200 laps, 300 miles.”
Let's say we have got a couple of teams that are battling for the championship – they are going to want to focus all of their energies on having their driver win the title, so how difficult will it be for them to maybe make a car available for somebody to do this challenge?
“Well, great question, I know Mike wants a shot at this, too; but what I'm going to say is that last year we saw a rating at Homestead of 0.3, 0.4. There wasn't one team owner who was happy with that. It's the best‑kept secret in motorsports in my opinion. It's our job – we have to get our ratings up. This year being on ABC, we need to focus on that.
“We know in the mid 1990s, we lost 15 to 20 million fans during the [IRL/CART] divorce, and in my opinion, that's low‑lying fruit. They were once passionate about open-wheel racing. We must get them back.
“I think by offering things like this, it's really showcasing our sport and saying, ‘Hey, we're back.' What Mike and IZOD have been able to do, their lifestyle of pop culture, how they have been able to focus on the 18‑ to 34‑year‑old, it was very impressive to see Versus up 40 percent on that demographic and we were the only sport on their network with double-digit growth. We have been able to see what the power of a great title sponsor can deliver to the series, as well.
“So I think that it's very important that we keep our overall mission intact and we have to be very articulate on our strategy. I think this is right in line with what we need to do in order to grow our audience.”
MIKE KELLY: "You know, I have heard this [why would teams make cars available?] in the conversation. It's the end of the season, the teams will know where they stand in equipment, $5 million does cover a lot of problems, and it's tempting for those to know that they can win.
"More importantly, though, Randy was just hitting on it – we do understand the business of marketing. This is a business model, what's good for the series is good for the teams is good for the sponsor is good for the drivers is good for the teams is good for the series; they are all connected.
And Randy has taken a step out here – you are not going to have all the answers when you are innovating and doing things new for the first time. But he's taken a step out there and is saying, 'Listen, this will draw traffic and fans and improve ratings and that will improve your chances of building sponsorship,' which all teams badly need. It's teams that are clearly below Roger and Chip that need the sponsors to drive even greater competition, bring new blood into the sport. It's good for everybody. So I think they understand their responsibility in that whole mix and I think they take it very serious."