The next time anyone from IMS or NBC brags about what a great job they are doing with IndyCar or how devoted to it they remain, call them on it. They are lying. Saturday night was the 25th time IndyCars have raced at Texas Motor Speedway. Up until a couple of days before the event no one could say with certainty on what NBC cable channel the race would air. The lack of any serious cross promotion was evident. There was plenty of promotion for horse racing (plenty of slack there…it was a possible triple crown winner), Formula One and hockey. Hardly any for IndyCar.
Nowhere is the bias more evident that the following two examples:
- Formula One gets practice, qualifying, races and ancillary programming EVERY time. In addition, qualifications and races get re-airs. Yesterday on the same day. IndyCar? Races. Once.
- NBC aired a ‘36’ special that covered the Kurt Busch ‘double.’ As usual it was very well done. What got promoted in original airing of the show? Not IndyCar’s upcoming event in Houston. Formula One in Austria and NASCAR in 2015 did make the cut, however. (06/10/14 update: NBCSN DID re-air the Texas race. At 1:00am.)
The most frustrating part of this obvious lack of respect is that IMS seems content not to do anything about it despite recently employing new vice presidents that are supposedly experienced in these areas. So what results? 0.4 overnights in prime time and no serious effort to expand IndyCar reach beyond Indianapolis except for corporate supported street events or heavily funded foreign forays. Disgusting. This lack of promotional effort combined with micromanagement of specs that are already as spec as one can get is why over 25 Texas races attendance has slipped from six-figure crowds on the edge of their seats to less than half that today mostly with ‘why am I here/it sure is hot’ looks on their faces.
It is apparent IndyCar is unable/unwilling to learn from history. This is ESPN being repeated all over again. The booth crew (which also changes a lot, seemingly whimsically) was uninspiring and often insulting. Brian Till sounded lost. Bell and Tracy discussed, among other things, how fast Paul Tracy drove on the track in 2001 (that ended well) or how Mikhail Aleshin reminds them of Nigel Mansell (who never raced at Texas). The dreaded words ‘pack racing’ were spoken. Where is the recognition for IndyCar drivers that actually put that venue on the IndyCar map? Boat? Dismore? Sharp? Ray? Hornish? Those were some of the drivers who set the bar for excitement. That era conveniently gets skipped every time. That is what happens when the people on the air are all former CART employees who stuck with that mostly to their bitter ends.
I love IndyCar but the level of frustration fans must occur is precisely why so many have simply walked away. To lose Texas would have been unthinkable even a couple of years ago, but given the known proclivities of those now in charge the fear it goes away is palpable. That thought is disgusting.