IndyCar

Title sponsor & US TV schedule announced, Aussie return?

NTT has become IndyCar’s new title sponsor.

The Japanese telecom company replaces Verizon and in turn, expands its involvement in the series. One of the their subsidaries, NTT DATA, is already the sponsor of Felix Rosenqvist’s #10 Ganassi car.

Their history with the series begins in 2013, with Ganassi, when they were on Ryan Briscoe’s #8 car for the 500. They came onboard with team and driver full-time the following year. When Target reduced their involvement with The Chipster in 2015, they switched to the #10 car they currently sponsor, at the time driven by Tony Kanaan.

It’s a big coup for IndyCar. Not just because they’re a large company (they gross $110B annually) that will replace Verizon handsomely, but because they will also become the technology partner for IndyCar, Indianapolis and the 500. In this role they will work with the series to enhance the fan experience, such as the IndyCar app.

What’s more remarkable is that, according to Jay Frye, President of IndyCar, the whole process from phone call to deal “only took three months, and that just never happens”. Three months people! Big brownie points and a tip of the hat to Frye and everyone involved with this. Bravo!

Whilst we’re on the subject of sponsors, this week Bommarito Automotive Group announced this week they’ve extended their sponsorship of the Gateway race until 2021.

This is only good news. Gateway has been nothing but a success, with the two races we’ve had since coming back being both fantastic quality and well-attended. John Bommarito has been a Godsend for the series; he’s proved that you can make ovals work if you get your promotion right. If only it was the season finale… but Bravo anyway!

Moving on. Last week the series revealed which races would be on the main NBC network channel. They are the Indy GP, the 500 (obviously), Detroit, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Portland and Laguna.

Okay. Let’s get the positive bit done first. Indy 500, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Portland and Laguna – good job! The 500 needs no words as only an incompetent fool would not put it on free TV. Road America is the best road course in the States and the race is always a resounding success, both in terms of quality and attendance. Same can be said for Mid-Ohio; even without Honda’s influence it should be on the main channel. Portland is similar and the fact it’s the penultimate race makes it double the attraction.

Laguna is slightly different. The race itself we can’t be sure about because last time we were there with Champ Car it was pants. The only reason it’s the final race is because the team owners want their sponsors to have fine California wine at the last race. As I said in my opinion piece about the schedule, if I was running the show the sponsors would get stuffed; Laguna would be the penultimate race and, depending on the quality of the racing, might be behind the paywall.

Detroit is only on there because Chevrolet sponsor the event. If Honda get one on pay TV, Chevy have to too and since they only sponsor one event, there weren’t many options. What’s more annoying is that because Detroit is a double-header it’s technically two races, so it takes up an extra spot of the limited 8 races that are allowed on network TV.

Now we need to talk about the Indy GP. Again, you know I hate the Indy GP. It has no appeal for any racing fan whatsoever and the fact it’s the first race on network television this year is terrible. You know what the first race on network TV should have been? The first race of the season! St. Petersburg! Why, you might ask? Well, it’s better attended, has a better atmosphere, produces a better race, is a better circuit despite being a street course and actually feels like a championship race as opposed to a crappy Indianapolis 500 warm-up act. That’s why! It’s essential, if you have only 8 races to air on free TV, that the first race, last race and marquee race are among those 8.

So which races would I have on the main NBC channel? Well I wouldn’t change much. I’d keep the 500, Detroit, Road America, Mid-Ohio and Laguna for the right and wrong reasons that have been outlined. The two changes I’d make is to have St. Pete instead of the Indy GP, again for reasons I’ve already said, and Gateway instead of Portland. I know I said Portland was double the attraction and it is. The trouble is, Gateway is Gateway. Apart from anything else, IndyCar needs to market it’s ovals and Indianapolis is the only one scheduled for free TV this year. Gateway puts on a helluva show and they leave it out? How much of that fine Californian wine were they drinking?! Nearly Bravo.

Finally, some heartwarming news. We might be heading back to Australia next year. The story goes like this. Will Power met an Aussie politician and Surfers Paradise cropped up. She said we want it, Power said the drivers did too. So IndyCar had a meeting with the Aussie reps and all of a sudden Mark Miles is telling everybody we could be racing there next year in February! Whaaaaaaat?!

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love Surfers to be back next year as the curtain-raiser. I’m just flabbergasted at the simplicity of it all. But there genuinly seems to be interest, even though, according to Robin Miller, Queensland used to lose millions when CART was there. Fortunately because Aussie’s are awesome people, they didn’t care because the event was good for the local economy, as has been proven by the fact the V8s are running there at the moment with huge success.

The question is, when in February do they bring it back? Early February is Super Bowl territory and middle February is Daytona 500 territory. That would be fine if both events were on NBC but they aren’t. The other problem with doing it at that time of the month would be that it would leave a huge gap of three to four weeks to the next race. IndyCar has enough of those already. They can’t hold it in conjunction with current Supercars event either for the same reason (the last North American race is the middle of September, the V8 Aussie event is late October). But if it’s held at the end of February, that might just work. They need to be careful, so we’ll have to see if it’s Bravo or not.

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