SBD/January 12, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

IndyCar Rolls Out Bevy Of Changes To Improve At-Track Experience

IndyCar adding four LED scoreboards at street courses after low visibility during '10 season

The Izod IndyCar Series this year will add four LED leaderboards at street courses, reduce the minimum age for garage access to nine, and build a small portable stage that crew members can use to explain what fans see in the garage. The moves are part of a series of steps designed to improve the at-track experience for fans and raise awareness of drivers, said IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard. "We want to give our fans value,” Bernard said. “We want to say, 'We've had a tough eight years but give us a chance and let us show you our sport again.'" He said that leaderboards were not visible at street courses, so the series is adding four this year to showcase driver standings, individual drivers and sponsors. He said he wanted to lower the minimum age required for garage access from 18 to 9 years old, so that kids could "see and smell and hear the amazing cars." Bernard came up with the idea of building a portable stage that would go from garage-to-garage because as he walked around the garage last year, he wanted to know more about what crews were doing. The stage will have a 50-inch monitor and a sound system so that crew chiefs and crew members can stand on it and explain the work being done on a car. In addition to those enhancements, Bernard said the series will offer more elaborate driver introductions before each race. He added, "We want to get these drivers up more and make them bigger than life" (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal).

SHIFTING INTO A HIGHER GEAR: The AP reports during a State of IndyCar meeting yesterday in Indianapolis, Bernard revealed that "oval races will include double-file restarts" this season, giving the open-wheel series "a distinctly NASCAR flavor." Bernard: "I'm not afraid to steal an idea. It if works, great." Prior to the meeting, Bernard revealed that IndyCar plans to open an office in Santa Monica, and it "didn't take long for Hollywood style to meet Indianapolis." As the annual meeting began, "lights were dimmed, music was turned up and drivers walked in through fog." Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA" "blared when the first of seven American drivers took the stage." In addition, IndyCar yesterday also unveiled "two new slogans for this season." The series will use "Real Drivers, Real Racecars, Real Fast," while the Indianapolis 500 is being dubbed, "The most important race in history" (AP, 1/11).

A CHANGE IS GONNA COME? IMS Productions Senior VP & GM Robby Greene yesterday indicated that the series with "long and rich ties to ABC has been told, presumably by NBC, to 'hold off' on contract negotiations." In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin notes "IndyCar is tied to ABC" through the '12 season, but all that "means is that ABC would have the right of first refusal if another network wanted to televise races." Nobody "within the IndyCar community is looking to sever ties with ABC, which will broadcast five IndyCar races this season, including the Indianapolis 500, but having a second network involved would be beneficial." IndyCar's deal with Versus has "not been well-received by many companies looking to sponsor aspects of the series" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1/12).

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