IndyCar Continues to Bleed Fans and Viewers
On the last day of March, IndyCar kicked off their 2014 season. Held on the streets of St. Petersburg, it was an abysmal showing in terms of viewer numbers. According to Sports Media Watch, IndyCar’s opener earned a 0.6 rating on ABC, down 46% from 2012, (1.0). Granted, the race went against the NCAA Elite 8 games and NASCAR’s Sprint Cup race, but even Internet searches for IndyCar are down. If it keeps headed the way it’s going, the race series could be in serious trouble. This is a tragedy. IndyCar is America’s great open wheel series. The cars are beautiful; the drivers versatile enough to race both street courses and ovals in open wheel cars, which are some of the best rides in the biz. Also, the tracks and courses are, for the most part, exciting. So what happened, and what can IndyCar do about it? RELATED: See images of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Indy 500 Pace Car
Both F1 and NASCAR grew in popularity as IndyCar’s fell. The split between IndyCar and CART many years ago didn’t help, but IndyCar has issues that are more recent. The series has many other motorsport series to go up against, as well as other sports. The racing has also become boring and fairly predictable. St.Peterburg picked up right where the 2013 season left off, with Will Power taking a win. Last weekend’s event, aside from a pileup during the lap 82 restart, was a parade with little to no passing. Something an American audience has little patience for.
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Speaking of an American audience, the race itself received little advertising. Either that was yet another poor choice on the part of management, or the series is low on funds. Last year, they re-aired races on their YouTube channel, something that I haven’t seen yet in 2014. Another motorsport event took place last weekend in support of IndyCar, and that was The Pirelli World Challenge. They not only streamed their race live, but also had a replay of the race on their YouTube channel by Sunday night. Both airings were free to watch. So many people tried streaming the World Challenge race, the site crashed. Something that should have sent shivers down the spine of IndyCar.
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The Indy 500 is coming up in less than 40 days. We’ll sit through gimmicks like NASCAR drivers coming over and trying to attempt to race open wheel, as well as drivers racing at one of the greatest events in motorsport who haven’t competed in IndyCar since the 90’s, like Jacques Villeneuve. Gimmicks won’t solve long term issues. They only bring attention to that driver, and not to the overall improvement of a series. Luckily, IndyCar has been around for many years, and they do seem to have time on their side, however short. They’ve undergone some management changes over the break between seasons, and have changed rules, like going to single file restarts. There’s also talk of adding international races. This is a great idea, as they have international drivers and fans. International races would bring in more viewers and badly needed revenue.
The always thrilling Long Beach Grand Prix is tomorrow. Those of us who still love IndyCar racing and want to see open wheel events thrive in North America, should see some great racing. Let’s hope that IndyCar continues to restructure and make changes that bring more money, sponsors, and fans to such a great sport.
PHOTOS: See images of the 1946 Lincoln Continental Indy 500 Pace Car