NBC: The New Home
How will IndyCar’s new, all-NBC relationship influence its efforts to gain wider popularity through television and live streaming? More importantly for IndyCar’s teams, current sponsors, both auto manufacturers involved with the series, and countless companies on the outside looking in, will the deal deliver a vital lift in Nielsen ratings? NBC taking the reins sits atop the feel-good stories. Dialing up the viewership numbers, however, and in turn, increasing the value of sponsorships, it’s the only metric that matters.
Graham Rahal: Time Attack
Qualifying. Improvement. Those two words are key to Graham Rahal’s 13th season of Indy car competition. As good as the 30-year-old Ohioan happens to be at moving forward in any given race, he’s historically bad when it comes to getting the most out of a car in qualifying. It’s a well-known problem, and one that’s limited his ascension in the drivers’ championship to date. It’s also Rahal’s number one priority to overcome in 2019 and beyond.
If Rahal gives himself less work to do on Sundays, there’s every reason to believe he’ll be in the championship conversation. He and new race engineer Allen McDonald are a perfect fit to make it happen. IndyCar could have worse things to promote than a second-generation champion in the offseason…
The Harner Effect
The hiring of longtime Chip Ganassi Racing team manager Scott Harner won’t have an immediate impact on A.J. Foyt Racing, but it will certainly affect its future. A supreme team builder, Harner’s experience in bringing people together and helping them to perform is going to help the Foyt program get more from itself. And with his deep ties to the IndyCar community, more quality people will want to work alongside him in the years to come. It’s the right guy, joining a team at the right time.
Mark and Marco
We’re accustomed to talking up the rookie IndyCar drivers at the onset of each new season, so now it’s time to add a new IndyCar race engineer to the bunch. Mark Bryant, who engineered Pato O’Ward to a year of Indy Lights dominance, will look after Marco Andretti as the New Zealander learns the IndyCar ropes with the Pennsylvanian.
Remember O’Ward’s mercurial debut at Sonoma? That also served as Bryant’s debut as an IndyCar engineer, and if we’re highlighting future stars, the young Kiwi could be one to watch. If he and Marco can develop half the chemistry that propelled O’Ward to the front, Andretti’s in for a win or two this season.
One of the more interesting press releases to appear last week came with the SCCA announcing it has partnered with iRacing to create an eSports solution for its passionate club. The American amateur racing organization, which boasts more than 50,000 members, has created a 12-race virtual championship in affiliation with the Skip Barber Racing School. I mention this to illustrate how far the links between racing organizations and the eSports world extend — even the SCCA has a solution in place. After years of taking meetings and exploring ideas, IndyCar now lags behind a domestic club racing organization in the eSports space. It isn’t a good look.