Indy 500 "Hits The Jackpot," But Can IndyCar Sustain Momentum Throughout The Season?
The Izod IndyCar Series "hit the jackpot" with an Indianapolis 500 that featured a record number of lead changes, "a thrilling final dash for the trophy, a popular podium finish and 500 miles of racing under a blistering sun," according to Jenna Fryer of the AP. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said, "We couldn't have asked for anything better for our marquee event. ... Hopefully, people liked what they saw, learned what we already know and will come back for more this season." Fryer noted there is "enough buzz now that IndyCar is optimistic its fans will tune in" for Sunday's Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti said, "I hope people watch the other races and see what we do week in and week out. The crowds have been good, and obviously we need to keep working on the TV thing, keep pushing on that. But we've had some cracking races this year. I think they've all been pretty good" (AP, 5/28). SI.com's Bruce Martin wrote while the other races on the IndyCar schedule "draw interest locally, the fans that come don't necessarily pay attention for the rest of the year." Martin: "The tremendous racing fans saw at last Sunday's Indy 500 is emblematic of IndyCar racing as a whole. So, why can't the momentum continue?" One of the "major problems with IndyCar is the television package." Martin noted the majority of IndyCar races are on the NBC Sports Network, and while the production and telecasts of the series on the net "have been solid, the ratings have been horrendous" (SI.com, 5/29).
BANNER DAY: Weighing in on whether the Indianapolis 500 or NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 was the better race on Sunday, ESPN.com's Terry Blount wrote, "The Indy 500 wasn't just the best race of the day. It was the best race of the year, anywhere, and easily the best Indy 500 overall in more than a decade." ESPN.com's Ed Hinton: "Any fan out there who watched both races knows it was Indy by a landslide." Hinton added with a record 35 lead changes among 10 drivers, IndyCar "should have NASCAR hearing footsteps in the competitive racing department." ESPN.com's David Newton wrote, "The finish alone made the Indy 500 better. What every spectator wants is a great finish, two cars battling for the win, driving on edge to reach the checkered flag. That's what Takuma Sato provided when he dove inside for the lead on Dario Franchitti, taking out himself and almost the race winner" (ESPN.com, 5/29).
DOMESTIC ISSUE: CNBC's Darren Rovell noted the “greatest challenge” Bernard currently has “might be listening to the wishes of sponsors who want to go international, while he hopes to keep the sports’ base in United States.” Bernard said, “We are North American open-wheel racing and I never want to take our eyes off that. We’d like to see a minimum of 16 events here in North America and then add (2-4) events international -- Brazil, China -- markets that are very important for our sponsors. That’s why you’re seeing us make these aggressive moves to Brazil and China" (“CNBC Sports Biz: Game On!,” NBC Sports Network, 5/25).
SOMEONE GUNNING FOR BERNARD? In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin reports Bernard in a tweet last night "said someone in the Izod IndyCar Series is trying to get him fired." Bernard wrote, "It is true that an owner is calling others trying to get me fired. I have had several owners confirm this. disappointing." He did not identify the owner, except saying that it "wasn't Roger Penske." Bernard has been IndyCar CEO since March '10 (INDYSTAR.com, 5/30).