Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 23 No. 23
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

‘We ... turned the corner’: IndyCar, IMS on track for finishing in black

The IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway are on track to be profitable for the first time in more than five years.
 
The series and track, which are owned by Hulman & Co., have been losing money for years, but a combination of eliminating some positions and generating new revenue through increases in ticket and sponsorship sales helped the company’s Hulman Motorsports division return to profitability.

Miles
“We had a very good year and turned the corner,” said Mark Miles, Hulman & Co. CEO, who declined to discuss specifics regarding the company’s financial performance.

IndyCar also posted a 12 percent increase in viewership across ABC and NBC Sports Network. It finished the season averaging 1.07 million viewers for 17 race telecasts, up from 953,000 average viewers for 19 telecasts last season.

The company’s improved financial performance comes less than two years after Miles was named CEO. He restructured the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, creating a joint sales and marketing staff. He also pushed for an overhaul of IndyCar’s schedule that resulted in a shortened season and a new race in May at IMS.

The changes helped drive this season’s increase in ticket sales. The Grand Prix of Indianapolis, a new event held in early May, attracted more than 30,000 spectators and helped drive a 30 percent increase in paid attendance for IndyCar-related events at IMS. Later that month, the track hosted qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, a concert by country musician Jason Aldean and the Indy 500. Ticket sales for qualifying were down slightly, but the concert was a new and separately ticketed event, which helped boost ticket sales. The Indy 500 saw ticket sales increase approximately 8 percent from a year ago, Miles said.

The sponsorship sales increases followed a change in the way IMS and IndyCar sold partnerships. Historically, the series and track sold separate sponsorship packages, but Miles created a single sales group last year that began selling packages that included assets from both the series and the track. That group, which is led by Jay Frye, landed Verizon as the new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series prior to the season. It later added deals with Angie’s List and Tag Heuer.

Miles said those deals combined with the increases in ticket sales helped boost total revenue this year by 25 percent at Hulman Motorsports.

“We feel good about the organizational changes made to bring in outside talent and consolidate the commercial side of racing between IMS and IndyCar,” Miles said. “It’s fair to say that there were great opportunities in front of us if we executed the right strategy.”

Hulman Motorsports made two other changes before the season with an eye toward improving IndyCar’s TV viewership. The first was to shorten and condense the season so that the sport ended Labor Day weekend before the NFL season began.

A year ago, IndyCar raced Sept. 1 and took three weeks off before racing again. It didn’t finish the season until Oct. 19. This year it held two fewer races and never took more than a week off between March and August.

Miles credited ending the season early with helping IndyCar post its second-most-viewed season on NBC Sports Network, which has been televising the sport since 2006. NBC Sports Network averaged 378,000 viewers for 12 races, up 34 percent from last season, when the cable net had three races air against football games.

The second change was to shift ABC’s coverage of the sport to the start of the season and have it cover every race in May. That move helped ABC’s average viewership rise to 2.42 million viewers from 2.14 million viewers a year ago.

“We’re moving forward with continuity among the two broadcast partners,” Miles said. “Ideally, it will be clearer for fans now to know where to watch [races] and when.”

Miles is focused on improving Hulman Motorsports’ financial results in the future by adding two to four international races in the coming years. The series has been in talks with potential promoters in Brazil and the Middle East. He also hopes to increase its sanction fees and continue to add new sponsors.