Tuesday, February 9, 2010

ARCA is Laughing, and IndyCar Knows Why

Well, the ratings for Danica's stock car debut are out.  Keep in mind that the race was on SPEED TV, and that ARCA is a third tier stock car series (fourth tier if you include the NASCAR trucks).  Keep all of that in mind when you hear that, "SPEED coverage of the ARCA Racing Series season opener from Daytona scored a Nielsen Household Rating of 2.30 (1,723,000 households), a 59-percent increase over last year's 1.45 (1,062,000 households)."  The quote is from the ARCA press release available here.

We all knew Danica would provide a bump to stock car ratings, even for ARCA races, but every IndyCar fan reading this just spit out their drink and said, "A 2.30?  On SPEED!?"  Yes, a 2.30.  Yes, on SPEED.  I know.

But that isn't what should really tick off an IndyCar fan.  You should really be ticked off that last year's ARCA race from Daytona drew a 1.45 rating.  Right now, if I offered the IRL a guaranteed 1.45 rating for all of the non-Indy ovals, would they take it?  You'd better believe it.  Nice.

As Pressdog says here, this is made even more frustrating by the lack of IndyCar racing for another month plus, and then it'll be four straight road and street courses before they finally get to Kansas.  Fantastic.

Just to throw out another depressing idea, let's say the IRL took NASCAR up on the rumored offer to run at Phoenix during the Cup weekend in a few weeks.  Let's say they came to an agreement to make it a twin-lead billing, with IndyCar running on Saturday night.  It actually would be a perfectly-timed season opener.  And let's say that Danica did the double, running both the Nationwide and IndyCar races.

True of False: That IndyCar race would be the highest-rated IRL race ever, excluding the Indy 500.

I say true.  It might also be the best-attended oval race ever for the IRL that wasn't held at Indy or Texas.

So the next big question is whether the IRL (and new CEO Randy Bernard) can make this happen for 2011.  Because it really need to happen.  It really really needs to happen.  I'm feeling bullish on IndyCar racing right now.  This could be the type of event that gains a ton of mind-share for the IZOD IndyCar Series.


The SpeedGeek said...

My understanding is that the Phoenix offer is for a Thursday, not a Saturday. That's before the Cup haulers even pull into town. That's not going to pull in any eyes, not at the track, and not on TV. NASCAR is the 800 lb. gorilla in the room in that situation, and they don't want to play with IndyCar in any way that will benefit IndyCar.

Better to try to negotiate some other sort of deal with tracks, maybe a road-oval combination with ALMS at Phoenix (which would be dire for the ALMS race, but just spitballing here) with IndyCar on the oval, or the same at California (again, not ideal), or just every road course that IndyCar goes to. ALMS is going to get humbled this year by awful car counts. It'll be in their (and IndyCar's) best interests to sit down for 2011 and make their schedules match up almost exactly. IndyCar headlines on Sunday at Road America, Road Atlanta (for Petit Le Mans), Mid-Ohio, Long Beach, and The Glen, plus a Saturday morning IndyCar race before Sebring. ALMS headlines at Sebring and maybe Laguna. People will come out for open wheel/ALMS combo weekends, I can tell you from personal experience.

This is a long shot, and there are a lot of egos involved that will have to come down several notches, but NASCAR is never EVER going to lend a hand to IndyCar, unless they're getting 90% of the benefit.

Fred Hurley said...

See, I think the idea of a big Danica-fest at Phoenix would be huge for them, and I wonder if that's enough to push IndyCar onto the Saturday schedule.

Either way, it's a bit of a moot point, since in order to strike while Danica is still new to stock cars, they would need to have put a deal together well before now.

I do think if Danica continues to look competent in a stock car, they should try to do this next year. I'm not convinced NASCAR isn't nervous enough to jump on it, if it ramps up the Danicamania to 11.

Edward said...

I hear what you're saying, Fred, but the Speedgeek is correct. The offer made to IndyCar was to run PIR on Thursday. Exactly how would that help IndyCar?

I'm not saying that you are completely wrong-it might be worth a try just to see what happens-but I don't agree with your sunny point of view regarding NASCAR's willingness to do so. NASCAR has absolutely no reason to do anything to help IndyCar-if that were the case then wouldn't it follow that the offer would be for something other than the "graveyard" Thursday night shift?

I believe that Speedgeek has the better, more practical idea, and that is to run IndyCar in combination weekends with ALMS. While there are certain tracks this might not work on-Sebring is too bumpy, Le Mans is a nice fantasy but unlikely to happen and Mosport won't with Toronto on the schedule-it might not be a bad idea to consider the possibility of sharing race weekends with ALMS. Certainly far better than trying to work with an entity that is actively trying to put you out of business.

JP said...

The phoenix Idea is a good one, but existing political realities make it unlikely. The only thing that could change the equation is a sponsor willing to write a fat check to put their name on the IICS portion of the event. I suggested a week or two ago on trackside that GoDaddy might have an interest in doing so. ISC would get the $, IICS would get the attention and ratings at a venue it wants to be at and GODaddy would get more over the top exposure for their corporate media darling.

Edward said...

JP is correct as that would probably be the only way something like that would occur.

Let me bring up another point, Fred, as to why I don't think this will work. A couple of weeks ago, the Rolex 24 at Daytona was ran. In that race were several NASCAR drivers, including Jimmie Johnson-who totaled the #99 Gainsco Insurance car in a practice session that was considered an early favourite to win the race. I don't recall seeing ISC-which owns Grand Am, the sanctioning body of the Rolex 24-doing a whole lot to promote the race. If ISC won't promote a race-the biggest race of the year-in a series that it owns, featuring some of their biggest star drivers of its main series-why would they do so for a competing series?

Tom G. said...

That 1.45 rating for last years ARCA race just made me throw up in my mouth a little.

You raise and interesting scenario, however I agree with the Speedgeek, NASCAR will only do something in the interests of NASCAR. Regarding the Phoenix scenario, Indycar is the weak player and NASCAR holds all the cards.

I think a better option is for Indycar to try to lure NASCAR stars into competing in the 500. If that means moving the race start time, or day, around, so be it. It would require them to open things up on the engine front, to allow guys like Stewart the option of bringing a "Chevy" powered car to Indy. Yeah, maybe NASCAR scores some benefit there too, but it would bring a heck of a lot more attention to the 500 to see Jimmie Johnson, or Jeff Gordon taking the start.

It used to be that the Indy 500 drew the best drivers in the world to the start each year. F1 guys, and NASCAR guys came to run the race as a one off, against the regular Indycar drivers. But we have to admit it hasn't been that way in 30 years. Sure, the top names in Indycar like Dixon, Kanaan, etc. are top notch, but seeing folks like Marty Roth, and Milka take the start in what is supposed to be The Greatest Spectacle in Racing is downright embarrassing. The average American can only name 1 Indycar driver, and she's quickly becoming the competition's hottest marketing property.