NTT IndyCar Series team owner Dennis Reinbold has been pleasantly surprised by the value delivered by his driver Sage Karam after winning the opening round of the series’ iRacing Challenge.
Thanks to an increase in funding from longtime sponsor Wix Filters and the other commercial partners supporting the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevy Indy car, the team announced a part-time racing program for 2020 that included multiple rounds outside of the Indianapolis 500.
With sports at a standstill during the COVID-19 pandemic, DRR, Wix, along with the rest of the teams and sponsors in IndyCar have been forced to wait for a resumption of racing before traditional return-on-investment metric can be generated. But as Reinbold found after Karam won the American Red Cross Grand Prix at a virtual Watkins Glen, and witnessed with the stories featuring his No. 24 Chevy, and video clips shared across social media, his driver’s sim racing exploits offered ROI for DRR’s backers.
“I’ve heard great feedback from all of it,” Reinbold told RACER. “People are sitting at home pretty bored trying to look at what they can look at for entertainment, so this has been kind of a brilliant move to be able to come out and get exposure that you wouldn’t otherwise. Our sponsors definitely like it and have responded well to it.
“After the race on Saturday, my phone just kind of blew up and it’s like, wow. I was surprised at the reaction, frankly. I see the iRacing series as a valuable asset to have in your back pocket. You go out and you perform well and you get some exposure. The telecasts seem pretty realistic from a lot of perspectives. They had Townsend Bell and PT and Leigh Diffey calling it from their basement or wherever, but it came across very, very well. So it was fun to be a part of. The last few laps I got a little excited and it was like being at a real race. It’s like ‘OK, come on, Sage, hang on!’”
IndyCar reported more than 600,000 views of the Watkins Glen live streams and social media views were recorded by Monday, and with a meaningful audience size to offer, Reinbold says he used the information to demonstrate reach and marketing value to his sponsors just as he would after a real IndyCar race.
“We have done that and our marketing arm has been all about that — to try to connect those dots as best we can for Wix and all our partners,” Reinbold added. “Sage got on (ESPN) SportsCenter the night after and did a great job and all of that factors into it as well. As much exposure as you can get to try to justify our relationships while we’re delayed is a good thing. For now, this is probably the best we can do. I’m really looking forward to Saturday’s race at Barber and see what happens there.”
With the Barber race serving as the first IndyCar iRacing Challenge event to be aired on the NBCSN cable channel, a larger audience could be produced for sponsors in need of air time. Reinbold says that despite the welcome bump received for his sponsors, chasing new iRacing-only sponsors is of no interest.
“I’m sure there are some companies that might want to get involved with us, or maybe other teams, to get some exposure through iRacing since it’s going to be on NBCSN now, but we’re pretty locked into our sponsors that we’ve had and we do have,” he explained.
“There’s probably some good ratings we’ll have to show to sponsors, but it’s just a tough time to go out and do anything like bring on new sponsors that way right now. And more than anything, without the real racing to go do at the moment, we’re wanting to make sure we deliver for the sponsors we’ve got. That’s how we’re approaching it, anyway.”