Q: The new NBC Sports Gold package is worth every penny. High quality broadcast of every session, and on-demand access as soon as the live viewing is over. I don’t understand why people are complaining so much about it. The TV access we have is the same as it has been, with the exception of the network races on NBC instead of ABC. Cable races are the same place they have been for a decade already. I think the people complaining about the Gold package and the $50 fee need to realize they are doing more damage than good. I’m sure it sounds quite appealing to potential sponsors when the fans are loudly stating that a $50 purchase is out of their price range. What they hear is the fans are cheap bastards and aren’t going to benefit us, so why bother? I get it, not everyone has the extra money. But at some point, you have to realize you might not be the target demographic for potential sponsors, and your actions are damaging the sport you claim to love.
If you want to complain about something TV-related, complain about Danica joining the 500 broadcast. Can we get a Danica-free stream on the Gold package, please? She ruined the last Champ Car telecast. I have still not forgiven her. No broadcasting skills. Um, well, can we at least get Parker Johnstone on the telecast? He is broadcast gold, and has a perfect vocabulary.
Paul in Ellenton, FL
RM: I understand that Canadians are miffed and confused about Sportsnet’s many options and having to pay more for IndyCar than ever before. But I don’t like it when DirecTV tacks on another $10 a month charge for who knows what, so I’ve got two options – pay it or quit it. I wrote that column with Mark Miles and Stephen Starks to try and explain how the TV game works because I didn’t understand it. And it appears that the bottom line is that IndyCar isn’t as popular in Canada as it was in the Tracy/Carpentier/Moore/Tagliani days, and there aren’t many outlets bidding for it. Danica will be fine, she’s got many stories and opinions about Indy, and Mike Tirico will bring out the best in her.
Q: What is your take on The Captain looking for a guaranteed position for full-timers? I have great respect for the man, but surely disagree with him on this! It would seem to dilute the already watered-down qualifying, at least in my mind. While I’m at it, I agree with you regarding the whining going on regarding the television fiasco. It’s time to realize that times change and the days of freebies have ended. IndyCar is worth supporting, and I’ll continue to do so. I hope you continue to feel better and you’re in my prayers. Only 67 days to go!
Rand from Michigan
RM: If there are only 34-35 cars I said start them all, and I understand guaranteeing your regulars a place in the biggest race of the year. You think NASCAR would run Daytona without Kyle Busch, or F1 would run Monaco without Lewis Hamilton? Sure, back in the day when there were 50-60 cars going for 33 spots, making the show was as dramatic as the race many Mays, and R.P. missing with both cars in 1995 still stands as the most amazing day in IMS qualifying history. But those days are long gone, and when last place pays $200,000 (a third of the field gets that paltry sum) what’s the big deal about sending one or two cars home? Do you think last year’s race was better because Hinch wasn’t in it? I get that bumping is a part of Indy’s tradition, and qualifying for Indianapolis always held a much higher stature than making any other race in the world, but let’s be sensible in this sponsor-challenged world. Guaranteeing your 24 full-timers a spot today is good business, and it isn’t like 24/9 back in the IRL days because that was open warfare. If we have 36-37 cars this year then fine, some people won’t make it and the agony of missing the show will be televised on NBC.
Q: Great to see you looking well on NBCSN again! Hey, how can the self-proclaimed “greatest drivers in the world” in NASCAR have professional-looking starts and IndyCar drivers can’t do the same? We need standing starts or discipline from IndyCar officials. The start at St. Petersburg is just the latest, and I’m sure COTA will be next. Year after year, race after race.
Donald McElvain, Polson, Montana
RM: NASCAR starts are at least 50-70 mph slower so they should be able to stay lined up, but I didn’t see anything wrong with St. Pete – I thought it was a good start and Rosenqvist managed to jump into second. I’d prefer a standing start at Long Beach and Toronto to get everyone on the same patch of ground, because coming off a tight turn is always going to string people out.
Q: A couple weeks ago you commented on IndyCar prize money. I was more than shocked at the $30K first place money – really? By comparison, the LPGA women’s professional golf series money for an average event pays $200-250k for first and 10th place money is $30k. The LPGA isn’t a TV ratings blockbuster, and the money pales to the men who are at $1 million-plus first-place money for every tournament. Thirty thousand to win? Man, that sounds like tow money support given the $1 million-plus to run a race. What gives? Is the TV viewership for IndyCar that small?
CD, Beer Hill, PA
RM: If you get the pole and led the most laps I think you can make $50,000, but the problem is that the Leader’s Circle takes most of the purse money and IndyCar hasn’t found a way to replenish it, so the mechanics really get screwed, as do drivers racing for a percentage. The Indy 500 purse has been the same for a decade, and when you see a driver get a check for $400,000 at the banquet, just remember that $200,000 goes right to the car owner for the LC payment.
Q: Regarding Ryley Weir’s question in the March 20th Mailbag about sponsorship, I have a question for you and the other NBC broadcast folks. One thing that I have always noticed about IndyCar broadcasts over the years is that the announcers seldom mention the sponsors of the cars. (Unlike NASCAR in its heyday where you always heard them refer to the “No. 24 Dupont/ Pepsi Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon in Turn 2.” I quit watching NASCAR a couple of years ago so I’m not sure if they still adhere to this.)
In IndyCar the most prevalent sponsor-reference seems to be tied to the intro of the in-car cameras at the beginning of the race. Given that IndyCar, and the individual team sponsors, now have a much higher profile on the NBC platform, wouldn’t it make sense to promote the team sponsors just a bit by referencing them when pointing out the performance of the driver? It might spur those sponsors to put some ads on the NBC platforms, or even entice some new ones to join the series. It also would have the benefit of helping new, casual fans of open-wheel lock onto the car during the telecast by referring to them by their paint scheme, like “…running fifth, Bourdais, in the Sealmaster Honda…”. Seems to be a synergistic no-brainer to me.
Royal Richardson, Chester, NH
RM: I know we always try to give every driver a little love during the broadcast and showing the car’s signage is part of that, but naming the sponsor ad nauseam is too much like the driver reeling off all his sponsors before he answers a question. That’s almost insulting. I guess one mention a race would be OK, but I don’t know that it makes or breaks any deals. Target got a lot of exposure with Zanardi and Montoya, but mostly because they won so many races and led so many laps, and Target had national TV commercials. Not because announcers referred to the Target car. I get your message, but I don’t see it happening.