Q: Going back to the Toronto race, with Pagenaud low on fuel and Newgarden pounding the wall and losing time each lap, what do you think the chances are that Power’s run into the tires near the end was Penske team strategy to get a yellow and to help both his teammates finish the race and not lose positions?
Paul Fitzgerald, Indianapolis
RM: I think a few teams raised their eyebrows, and IndyCar looked at the replays but determined nothing sinister had happened.
Q: I had the chance to watch the final two Formula E races in Brooklyn and I was very impressed. The cars were very fast and cool looking, but they sounded like hair dryers going by at 180 mph. Attendance was fantastic and the VIP hospitality (called the Emotion Lounge) was packed, even though a VIP ticket was $2k each. Everyone I spoke with was blown away with the speed and action on the track.
There seems to be a lot of international attention to this sport while not so much here in the States, based on the huge number of international media at their press conference. No joke, there must have been 400 press in Saturday’s post-race press conference. While walking the pits I saw Michael Andretti, who has a two-car team, sporting his BMW swag. I noticed that Penske has its name on a car, and Katherine Legge was driving one the Jaguar E series cars for Bobby Rahal. So my question to you is, what the future of Formula E as it pertains to IndyCar?
George S, Indy
RM: I don’t know that it has any future with IndyCar. I think our fans like race cars that make noise. I get that all these manufacturers are gung-ho, and I hope that Michael and Bob are making money, and I’m happy Dario is the TV analyst, but I have zero interest. And I don’t think the American motorsports media cares, either. I guess it’s an acquired taste – like soccer.
Q: Please pass along to Jerry Laake that with his budget, he can do both a two-seater ride and a nice e-racing setup. My wife and I did the standard two-seater last year (driven by Kyle Kaiser and Juan Piedrahita) and it was exhilarating. While I’m sure a ride with Mario is marginally better and certainly cooler to talk about, is it worth an extra $2500? That’s subjective, and maybe for Jerry it is, but for me it would not be. Also, by joining IndyCar Nation, the two-seater ride is half off (i.e., $250), and it offers opportunities for two-seater rides and hot laps at races throughout the year. Just some additional options to consider.
Justin in Indy
RM: Thanks for this info Justin, hope Jerry sees it.
Q: The world has changed. Consumers have an abundance of entertainment options. Movie theaters struggle because they’re competing with 70″ 4k TV’s and cheap THX sound in people’s living rooms. Some have adjusted by offering La-Z Boys and food/booze service and it seems to be working well. In racing, venues are still doing the same thing the last 50 years. Metal bleachers in the baking sun, a 10-minute line for a $5 bottle of water then another line for a $8 hot dog or $10 beer. Audiences have those same 4k TVs in the comfort of their living room, so what’s the appeal of sunburn, dehydration, and a bruised posterior?
Take Indy. You can show up day of the race and sit anywhere but Turn 1. B & E Stands are sold out every year. The view of the action is only a little better than Turn 3 (arguably because of start/finish and pit out), but with the shade it’s not torture or a three-mile hike. If you’re out there in row RR, it’s 30 minutes round-trip to visit the latrine and grab a tenderloin. It also doesn’t help that our cell phones (the oxygen of modern life) are useless 90% of the time.
Compare attending IndyCar to PGA. Sure, a third of their attendees wander around on GA tickets, but the other two-thirds are in hospitality or premium access tents. And they don’t cost $600-$2500/person to get into. You mentioned MLB. Game times, cover, better/more accessible food options, decent seats with backs, cell repeaters, etc., all make for a better fan and social experience. And parking isn’t two miles away from your seat. Ditto for NFL, NBA, and NCAA events.
Could a key to improving race attendance in 2020+ be giving fans willing to shell out $150-200 on race day a better option? Like PGA, offer them proper seats, or even standing viewing areas with shade, bars, food, some counters and high tops, CCTV, and easy access to bio breaks. How do we get the series and promoters to start thinking differently? Start with the seating, then look at other areas of fan experience that may be more in line with the 21st century consumer experience.
RM: Thanks for a thoughtful piece about some of the challenges of getting today’s 25-45 crowd to an auto race. IndyCar and USAC have an old guard that needs replenishing, and I’m not sure it’s feasible. What fans endure today to attend a race compared to going to an NFL, NBA or baseball game requires a different mindset. In our instant-gratification world, racing is a day-long commitment that takes patience as much as passion, and it’s so much easier to watch on TV or on your phone. I’m glad we still have fans that need the real thing, but I’m afraid it’s a dying breed.