SBD/March 15, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Underfunded IndyCar Drivers Question $5M Bonus For Season Finale

Tracy feels $5M would be better
served helping underfunded drivers
Drivers Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon currently are all without rides in the Izod IndyCar Series despite the season opener being just 12 days away, and with IndyCar "fronting a $5 million bonus if a driver from another series wins the season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway," Tracy wondered if that money "wouldn't be better served helping underfunded drivers," according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard responded to Tracy's criticism, saying, "I'd like to say, 'Paul, if you could sell the tickets, I wouldn't have to do this.' But our drivers have not been able to create the credibility they need." Bernard did add that he is "optimistic the trio still would race" in the season opener in St. Petersburg. Driver Helio Castroneves said, "Maybe don't have a $5 million race but a $1 (million)-$2 million race and have those millions to build teams and give opportunities to others." Ryan notes it "might be unfair to suggest IndyCar has $5 million lying around." But even if it did, Bernard said that the series "wouldn't be subsidizing its stars." Discussing the season finale at LVMS, Bernard added, "I'm going to guess we've already received $1 million of exposure. When was the last time you heard talk about IndyCar on network TV in a NASCAR race? It's re-energizing" (USA TODAY, 3/15). Bernard noted that he is "looking for a significant boost in TV ratings" for the LVMS race. Last year's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway "drew a paltry 0.3 rating" on Versus. This year's race will be on ABC, "which usually draws about a 1.0 for its race broadcasts." Bernard: "If we can't do a 1.5 to 2.0 rating on network TV I'd consider it a failure" (AL.com, 3/14).

VERSUS DONE STREAMING: Bernard indicated that "in an effort to increase television ratings, the live streaming of Izod IndyCar sessions for events held on Versus will not continue" this year. SPEEDTV.com's Marshall Pruett noted while the "exact figures for live streaming viewership in 2009 and 2010 have not been released, Versus/Comcast apparently felt the potential Nielsen Rating gain warranted a change in live streaming permissions." With 12 of IndyCar's 17 races scheduled to air on Versus, Bernard said that his "next step will be to inquire within ABC to learn what options exist, if any, to provide streaming content during the five events held on its network" (SPEEDTV.com, 3/12).
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