SBD/October 14, 2011/Events and Attractions

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  • IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard Is Optimistic Race In Las Vegas Will Create More Fans

    IndyCar championship in Las Vegas successful in creating media buzz

    Izod IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard said that “series-run promotional efforts” for the Izod IndyCar World Championships in Las Vegas Sunday “are paying off in a big way,” according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Bernard predicts 70,000 fans "will attend the race, and added that 117 of 121 luxury suties have been sold for the event.” He said that the suites “are selling for between $22,000 and $35,000, and he expects the remaining inventory to be sold out” by Friday. Bernard said that attracting a "good crowd is key for series and team sponsors that pay most of the bills." Bernard: “There’s a real buzz building about the race here. I’m very optimistic about this weekend.” Schoettle noted Bernard tried to “lure drivers from other series to come to the race to take on IndyCar’s best" as part of the $5M Go Daddy IndyCar Challenge, but there was "limited response” despite the financial incentive. Bernard “settled on offering a bonus to Dan Wheldon, who won the Indianapolis 500 this year, but does not have a full-time ride.” Meanwhile, for the first time this year, IndyCar execs in Las Vegas “are renting the track and handling all promotions and operations for the race.” Bernard said that other than the Indianapolis 500, “there have only been one or two other races in its history that the IndyCar Series or Indy Racing League has taken over.” In this setup, IndyCar “will get to keep all of the profits -- if there are any -- or shoulder all of those loses.” Bernard said officials have “bought 1,600 radio and television ads as well as numerous billboard spots to promote the event in the Las Vegas area.” Series officials also are “advertising the event in Indianapolis and other racing hotbeds” (IBJ.com, 10/12).

    SELF PROMOTION: SPEEDTV’s Robin Miller noted Bernard “gave away 50,000 tickets to any fans supporting other races during this season” but he “secured plenty of financial support for his budget.” Honda is the presenting sponsor and Bernard also got “associates from Verizon, Fuzzy’s Vodka, APEX, the Las Vegas Visitors & Convention and MGM Grand Resorts” (SPEEDTV.com, 10/11). ESPN.com’s John Oreovicz wrote Bernard hopes that “the real winner on the day is the IndyCar Series.” The Las Vegas race is “essentially being self-promoted; IndyCar has rented the track and Bernard has secured a large number of secondary sponsors, though a title sponsor proved elusive.” With many oval track promoters “struggling to fill the stands and afford the sanction fee for an Indy car race, the self-promoted Vegas event is in many ways a trial run for a future oval track business model for Bernard and IndyCar.” Bernard: “I would like to think that every driver is going to benefit from this significantly if we can move the dial on the ratings. I think I even told someone I'd resign if we didn't triple the (television) rating.” He added, "If we can do that, every driver will see positive momentum, every team owner will, and the series will. We're here to do one thing, and that's continue to push viewership and our fan base upwards" (ESPN.com, 10/13). In California, Doug Krikorian wrote The Go Daddy IndyCar Challenge “is a marketing creation of Bernard calculated to stir IndyCar fan interest, which it certainly has done since thousands of people entered to be a part of it on the Internet” (Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM, 10/13).

    WE'RE HERE: The AP’s John Marshall writes IndyCar "made a splash" Thursday night in Las Vegas, as all 34 cars entered into Sunday's race went "onto the Las Vegas Strip for about 10 minutes of parade laps under the neon lights.” Driving alongside the regular traffic on Las Vegas Blvd., “each of the IndyCars passed in front of Ballys, sending out white smoke into the air with peel-outs before heading to the staging area.” The cars "tore down The Strip, dark shadows under the bright lights running a short circuit on the south end of the street.” Driver Dario Franchitti, who is leading the championship by 18 points over Will Power, said, “This is absolutely amazing. This is just what this series needs." Driver Simona de Silvestro said, "It is important for the series to have events like this. Hopefully, they'll have more like this. I think it's just going to attract more and more people outside of racing and that's a great thing" (AP, 10/13).

    BITTER RIVALS: The AP’s Jenna Fryer noted the Franchitti-Power rivalry “resembles something close to the animosity that lingers in NASCAR between Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch.” Franchitti is Johnson, with a "dominating reign, workmanlike approach and measured emotions,” while Power, “can't seem to get over the hump in pursuit of the championship and tends to let his emotions get the best of him.” This season alone, Power “referred to Alex Tagliani as ‘a wanker’ in a television interview, called Franchitti ‘princess’ in a Twitter rant, and picked up a $30,000 fine for a double-barreled obscene gesture directed at race control and aired during the live broadcast at New Hampshire.” Fryer: “There's no denying, though, that the antics and actions have helped IndyCar bring in eyeballs this year, even if some of the interest is in nothing more than the drama.” Driver Scott Dixon said, “It does seem to be whenever there is controversy or you are doing something outrageous, you get more coverage for that than you do for the racing. I guess that's what gets attention" (AP, 10/13).

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