INSIGHT: So, you want to put on an IndyCar race?

Image by IndyCar

INSIGHT: So, you want to put on an IndyCar race?

Insights & Analysis

INSIGHT: So, you want to put on an IndyCar race?


Eddie Gossage tries to sell fans on the visceral thrills of seeing IndyCar in the flesh. Image by IndyCar

How do you convert that positivity into ticket sales?

EDDIE GOSSAGE: That’s a tough thing, because all sports are struggling with that. The competition with watching from home, where you’ve got your big screen, and there’s never a line for the bathroom, and concessions are cheaper…

The live sports world – in all sports – is trying to figure out what it is that fans want in a live experience. Nothing matches the live experience. TV slows down race cars – they look slower on television than they do in real life. And since speed is the calling card of IndyCar, there is nothing that can match being there in person. So we are trying with special promotions, and ticket packages – two for $79, and you get a scanner and two headsets with that so you can listen to the conversations (between drivers and pitwall) – things like that to try to make it affordable for the fans. We’re the only professional sports and entertainment venue in Dallas-Fort Worth that doesn’t charge for parking. The Dallas Cowboys charge $75 to park your car every game, whether that’s pre-season, regular season. We don’t do those things. We’re trying to make it affordable for fans, and families in particular, to come.

GENE HALLMAN: One of the interesting things over the past 10 years has been the growth in digital targeting of specific groups of people. When we first started, digital was in its infancy; we relied on a more traditional means of communicating our message. And we still rely on television, radio and outdoor, but the digital aspect has become so sophisticated.

We start six weeks out, targeting IndyCar fans in the eastern half of the United Staes. And we say, ‘if you’re an IndyCar fan, Barber Motorsports Park is a bucket list stop for you’. And then the message becomes one of a combination of great racing and a social event, because embedded within our event we have the Ferris wheel, the Kids’ Zone, we have a wine festival, and this year we’re going to have an art festival with 50 artists from across the state selling their artwork. Friday night, for the first time, we’re going to have a 5k on the track, and four or five of the drivers have said that they’ll run it. So what we’re doing is growing different elements of the event to hook in people who might not otherwise be inclined to come and watch an IndyCar event, because we believe that if they come and sample it, they’ll come back.

KEVIN SAVOREE: We have some pretty strict positions that we follow when we’re working through our race event strategy and we live by those, and those policies and procedures have served us well. Our job here in St Pete and Mid-Ohio and Toronto and now Portland for the second year is to create that local enthusiasm and bring fans out. We’ve got a great marketing and PR team, and they work so hard on getting the message out, and I believe that most of the teams, drivers, sponsors and so on understand that when they come to our venues, they’re going to see a great show.

We use a lot of metrics to measure what works and what doesn’t work, and our guys do a great job of that. It’s one of those things that’s part-science, part-art. It does vary from city to city; you just have to listen to those numbers and follow them.

Figuring out how to make an event work is part-science, part-art, says Kevin Savoree. Image by IndyCar

What about working with other races on a joint-ticket arrangement?

EDDIE GOSSAGE: Bobby Epstein [CEO, COTA] and I have talked about that. The thing is that their race is in the spring and our race is in the summer, so there is a pretty wide gap between the two. I’ll be honest, I think they’ve been working so hard getting things prepared for their first IndyCar race that we haven’t had the opportunity to talk about it again. But I know we’d be open to it, and in my conversations with Bobby, I think he’d be open to it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen down the road.

How viable would an IndyCar/NASCAR Cup double-header be? And at places where NASCAR wouldn’t work, what are the benefits of a double-billing with IMSA?

EDDIE GOSSAGE: IndyCar and NASCAR together would be very desirable. It would be exciting, and I’d want to try it. I’ve brought it up on a number of other occasions before and it’s been shot down by the folks at NASCAR. But I think there’s a different management running things at NASCAR now, and it’s something that I’m going to run up the flagpole again to see if there’s any interest. That would be a spectacular weekend. The argument has always been ‘this series doesn’t want to be compared to that series’, but I’ve never heard that. I’ve just been told no, we run NASCAR races, and that’s what we run on that weekend. But I think it’s still worth a shot, because I saw where [NASCAR President] Steve Phelps said that they’d be open to talking about it. I’ve got to be honest, when I read that I felt like he was talking to me because we’ve broached the subject so many times before.

JIM MICHAELIAN: In many ways it’s more important for us to run IndyCar and IMSA together now than ever before [ED: due to Acura’s arrival as the LBGP’s new title sponsor], because you have Honda’s involvement in IndyCar and Acura’s involvement in IMSA, so they both have a [racing] presence here. But equally important is that combination – open-wheel cars and high-performance sports cars is a very attractive package in southern California.

Those are all aspirational cars. Being able to showcase them, not just on the track, but in displays in the paddock, creates a really strong vibe here. And what makes that package so attractive to our fans is that when you throw that in with Robby Gordon’s trucks, and drifting, there is a whole menu of different types of racing vehicles – deliberately so. They look different, they sound different, the racing is different. We’re not sitting here and running… God bless them, but this is not the Road to Indy, and you’ve got half-size, three-quarter size, full-size, and they all look about the same. What we do here is different.

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