Ah, IndyCar. You had a great season last year: multiple winners, a great come-from-behind champion, an Indy 500 for the ages, and fantastic racing at every kind of circuit. The only thing left to do was capitalize on the energy and momentum. Sure, the TV ratings were stagnant, but good things happened. Now all that was left was to use that on-track success to build up to the new, compressed season on the horizon. Ready, set, wait a minute. Where did that energy go?
It seems every form of autosport is using the offseason to, at the very least, make some sort of news. Good or bad, it is the responsibility of the series to put its face in front of the public. Let’s review the news for some of the popular racing series:
IndyCar Series: *crickets*
Now, that is a completely unfair comparison. News has happened in IndyCar. Three time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti announced his retirement from racing. The Grand Prix of Indianapolis, a road course race at IMS was confirmed. A significant change in qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 has been floated and will most likely be announced soon. Do you notice any connections among those three items? The focus of all of them was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Yes, Franchitti was a series champion but will forever be known as an Indianapolis 500 winner. Yes, the series has another race, but it is inextricably linked to the 500 and IMS. Yes, the change in qualifications at the 500 will put the action, and the series, on national television, but it is still the 500. The big question is the value of the 500 vs the value of the sponsorless IndyCar Series. The IndyCar Series is what has to worry about crickets.
Off-season promotion of the series has been relatively non-existent. As was the case the previous year with Ryan Hunter-Reay, series champion Scott Dixon has been next to invisible. Why is this the case? When the 2014 season ends on Labor Day, will the series go dark for six months. I don’t think hibernation is in the best interest of the series.
Yes, IndyCar has been abysmal at promoting the series the past two years. That is a reflection of leadership and vision at the highest levels. At this point and at this time, the series should be given a pass on the lack of PR for the upcoming year. Any change of leadership and philosophy brings with it an institutional inertia that cannot be avoided. Change, and the difference it brings, takes time. But the fact is IndyCar fans are getting just a little tired of waiting. You are on the clock, Mr. O’Donnell.