Q: Now that Hinch has a ride for the rest of the season, can someone please get Jon Beekhuis back onto the NBC broadcasts? I wasn’t surprised to hear that he was the victim of necessary budget cuts, but was still really disappointed. No offense to Bell, Tracy, and Hinch – who are all great commentators – but they can’t figure out strategy to save their lives.
Chris, San Francisco
RM: It’s not going to happen this season, and I doubt if anything changes for 2021.
Q: There has been a reference to Jon Beekhuis in the past two Mailbags with associated references in the comments section. Based upon the comments and FYI to you and anyone at NBC that cares, Mr. Beekhuis is very highly regarded by current IndyCar fans, and more so than some current reporters. We get that for whatever reason, whether his or NBC’s, he does not have a contract that gets him a reporting spot at every IndyCar race. While it’s a hackneyed phrase, it is what it is, I suppose. However, while it’s obviously not within your wheelhouse, in the interest of appealing to existing fans, you might want to pass a word to those in charge that it’s in their interest to get Mr. Beekhuis a steady gig in a series rather than passing him about due to circumstances mandated by uncontrollable events. Sorry, no question, just a suggestion.
Alfred N, Northern California
RM: I can tell you that Jon is also very respected in the IndyCar and television family and we all recognize his value, but short of a petition to NBC with 100,000 signatures, I don’t see his status changing in the future.
Q: How about doing interviews with retired drivers and crew chiefs? I’m not thinking about 30 minutes or longer, but rather shorter ones that could be shown during pre-race or rain delays. The content could include clips of what made them famous or noteworthy and what they are up to now. As an example, before I left New York State, I met Davy Jones and Roberto Guerrero. Jones was the lead instructor for an autocross setup at WGI for Jaguar. Guerrero and others were also instructors. Include interviews with fans before, during or after an event. I’m not talking about the 20s deals with Rutledge about name, where you are from and who’s your favorite driver. What I mean is something with more substance like what forms of motorsports they follow, how they see the current event unfolding, reactions to qualifying, etc. And certainly, as a long-time fan, I would be willing to volunteer to be the first!
Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA
RM: If we had a one hour pre-race show that might be possible, but usually it’s about 20 minutes of actual content and sometimes there is no pre-race show, so while we all enjoy reliving the past and hearing from former heroes, time just doesn’t allow it.
Q: I believe your comments concerning the future of the sport are well-founded. Next year is when we will really begin to really see the impact on sponsorship dollars after the government printing presses dry up and the free money disappears. I would be stunned if Ferrari agrees to join as an engine manufacturer, I would love to see it happen; hopefully I’m wrong. I know contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on – look at NHRA and Coca-Cola (Mello Yello) [https://racer.com/2020/09/21/nhra-files-lawsuit-against-coca-cola-over-sponsorship-termination/]; kinda of foretelling, I would think. My question is, what do you think the car count will be next year, my guess is 18-19? Also, I hope there are 24 cars next year and I can eat crow.
RM: I haven’t heard any horror stories yet about teams losing sponsors for 2021 (other than DHL being on the fence) but it’s still early so fingers crossed. I’m guessing somewhere between 22-24 full-timers next year, and that would be more than anyone could imagine.
Q: I know a lot is going to ride on what corporate sponsors will do in 2021. But it looks like we have some very talented drivers vying for a few seats next year. Helio, JPM, Daly, Karam, maybe an F1 defector, etc. It looks like Penske will have four cars with McLaughlin. Andretti would probably love to stay at five, but has three unsigned. Ganassi has Dixon and a road course J.J. program, and hoping he can find the money to fund the other two. Foyt has SeaBass. Rahal is looking in decent shape and has been running strong. Arrow McLaren SP is probably going to three cars. Throw in Coyne, DragonSpeed, Carlin, Ed Carpenter, and Meyer Shank, and there is the potential for a very full field next year. I have my fingers crossed and I’m hoping the sponsorship money comes through. The racing has been good and a lot has been learned this year about what is possible. How are things looking for 2021 from your seat?
RM: Ganassi is looking for funding for Jimmie Johnson’s effort but not his other three cars, they all seem to be set for 2021. You can count on Rossi, Herta and Marco, with Hinch likely becoming full-time, and then we’re waiting to see what happens with RHR. I had lunch with Jay Frye last week and as crazy as it might sound, there might be more than 23 full-timers in 2021.
Q: Regarding the Mailbag question from Phil Wolski last week, agree with you that IndyCar is a niche sport, but I am skeptical about how relevant Nielsen TV numbers are nowadays. Do Nielsen numbers take into consideration internet viewing? I haven’t watched a live race of any kind on TV in years. First there was TiVo, then DVRs as standard with a cable TV subscription. Now that I use Roku/YouTubeTV, I haven’t even had a cable TV subscription for two years. How relevant are the network TV ratings in the digital/wifi age? Other than some vague blabber about online viewers during the COVID iRacing stint, I’ve never heard anything about internet viewership. Sponsors and media people aren’t stupid, and since eyeballs equal money, somebody must have these online metrics. Can we get some insight?
Scott B, Gainesville, FL
RM: NBC Sports responded to the new way people watch live events and created: Total Audience Delivery (TAD), which incorporates average viewership across television and digital platforms. It now includes out-of-home viewing (OOH), too. But the Nielsen ratings still determine where advertisers spent their money and how much, at least for now.