The RACER Mailbag, May 3

The RACER Mailbag, May 3


The RACER Mailbag, May 3

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Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.

Q: I have to say that I enjoyed the first episode of “100 Days to Indy.” I think they are off to a good start. Not sure if going against the NFL draft was a great idea. I’ve got to ask, are you going to be in future episodes? If there is a journalist that needs to be on there, it’s you. The others that are on there don’t report anything near what you do for us. Hope you’re involved in it somehow.

Eric, London, OH

MARSHALL PRUETT: Kind of you to say. No, I’m not involved in any capacity. I am, however, a producer on an upcoming documentary about someone in IndyCar that’s due out later this year, and that’s been a great experience.

100 Days is a perfectly enjoyable docuseries for fans who get to see some extra behind-the-scenes content, but as I’ve been told many times, it’s not for you, or me, or any of the existing audience. Also, since the demise of NBCSN’s IndyCar 360 many moons ago, fans have been starved for docu-style IndyCar programming between races for ages, so 100 Days was always going to be a hit with diehards.

But, and I can’t stress this enough, as IndyCar and IMS said repeatedly when 100 Days was announced, this exercise is to attract new and younger fans, not to entertain the fans it already has. If current fans are pleased, that’s great, but that’s not the reason the docuseries was commissioned.

IndyCar’s main fan, based on its demographic data, is a 60ish-year-old man, and that’s the big worry in terms of sustainability. Launching the 100 Days project, which is done in partnership between Penske Entertainment and CW/VICE, and features Penske Entertainment as the co-producer, makes total sense as a recruitment tool to court the TikTok generation.

So, yes, for IndyCar fans, six hours of extra content on the nation’s fifth-largest network is a bonus. But I don’t care if we like it; that’s not why it exists. We need this to succeed to ensure IndyCar has a long future stocked with new and younger fans. It’s a crucial project, which everyone knows and that’s the reason why every IndyCar team and driver have turned into non-stop promotion departments through their social media accounts to try and get people to tune into 100 Days. I’ve never seen a coordinated push like this between a series and its paddock; it’s truly impressive.

The question we’ll be asking over the coming weeks and months is whether 100 Days served its primary objective of bringing in next-generation followers. It’s the only thing that matters.

Based on the rating numbers from Ep. 1, going up against the NFL Draft, NBA playoffs, and NHL playoffs was the dumbest decision they could have made. Per the Nielsen data, 100 Days was the lowest-rated show among all prime time network offerings last Thursday, and it was last by an unfortunately wide margin. Its lead-in show on the CW, “Walker,” had 542,000 viewers from 8-9pm. From 9-10, 100 Days had 189,000 viewers, which means it lost 65 percent of its Walker audience.

It was also last in every age demographic — 18-34, 18-48, 25-54 — that mattered Thursday night, which is depressing for those of us who care. I really hope the majority of the 189,000 viewers weren’t IndyCar fans, because if that’s the case, we’re in trouble. The re-air Sunday night on the CW had an uptick to 196,000 viewers, and I’d have to assume that wasn’t the same 189,000 from its premiere, so that would be positive. I’m also told the re-air delivered a younger demographic than the premiere, so that’s another positive.

I don’t have data for it — I’ve asked — and hope that the CW’s highly touted streaming audience, a powerful youth-based segment that only consumes the network’s content via its app, put up big numbers for Ep. 1 and will return to boost the numbers through streaming in Ep. 2, and so on.

As disappointing as the debut’s Nielsen ratings were, I’m sure they’ll improve with each new episode. It’s going to take time to establish 100 Days as something newcomers will learn about and hopefully get into the habit of consuming. Tomorrow’s episode features Pato and Colton, which is as good a hook as you could bait for the demographic IndyCar’s chasing. Fingers crossed.

IndyCar’s foray into the docuseries world seems to have been reasonably well-received by the Mailbag clan so far. Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

Q: The guy you were trying to remember who tried running without a rear wing back in the ’80s was Tom Sneva. I can’t tell you exactly where or when, but that guy would try anything to go a little bit faster.

Alan Hummel

MP: Thanks, Alan. Indeed it was, at Michigan in 1984. I found a photo of it in the archives I was given by a friend years ago (below) and there’s no rear wing on his Indy car.

MP Archives

Q: This question is from my 9-year-old about the Indy 500 flyover. He respectfully requests that you ask whoever is responsible for scheduling the flyover the following question. I would also appreciate it so I do not have to say “I don’t know” every single day from February until May… From Landon: “Why doesn’t the B2 stealth bomber do the flyovers anymore? Or at least something cool like the F22/F35? Can you please ask the Air Force to fly those over this year? Thank you!”

Landon, age 9

MP: That’s a great question, Landon. I wouldn’t think IndyCar or the Speedway decides which planes the Air Force uses, but hopefully they can put in a special request for you.

Q: Not a question, but more of a suggestion for the executives at IndyCar and Speedway Motorsports. I’m glad the current Nashville street circuit needs to find a new home. While economics, and infrastructure, would obviously drive everything, I would love to see the city’s IndyCar race move to the complex where Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville is located. How cool it would be for the renovations to the area to be set up to include a street circuit, which would feature a loop around the historic short track (once renovated by Speedway Motorsports, assuming all of the approvals go through as needed)? To me, it would be a win-win for all involved and add another piece of history to a legendary complex which is set to be a fixture and economic driver in the city for years to come.

Kevin, Milton, PA

MP: You’ve just made every IndyCar race engineer have a panic attack as they considered what they’d have to do to come up with a setup for the world’s first short-oval street circuit.

Kidding aside, I love the idea. What a unique layout. Might be the best one I’ve heard in years.