How IndyCar Is Like Trump: A Study In Showmanship

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IndyCar and The Donald share a number of things in common. They’re showy, worth billions of dollars, carrying momentum into 2016 and seeking the pinnacle of American success.

“How can they compare a racing series to a celebrity presidential candidate?” you’re probably asking yourself. The answer is with a great deal of alcohol and cabin fever while on a snowy getaway to the mountains. So, we’re chalking it up to the thin, wispy air and the booze having an unhinging effect upon the brain. Yeah, that’s it. But (half) seriously, you may be surprised at just how similar the two are.

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Photo from Indy Race Reviewer

Undeniably, IndyCar and The Donald are both big proponents of fence building – and, crucially, making other people pay for it. Trump’s will be on the border with Mexico while IndyCar’s resides at IMS, a billion-plus dollar corporation currently refurbishing the Speedway with Indiana taxpayer dollars. It’s all in preparation for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in the latter instance, and due to 50 years of mass immigration in the former. People are lining up to pay for the construction of one wall, as ticket sales for the race are moving briskly. At the other wall, too, all sorts of people are lining up, though they’re not exactly paying customers – or waiting until Memorial Day to pay a visit.

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The two share another fundamental element in common and that’s dependence upon television ratings. Without television, both Trump and IndyCar would effectively cease to exist. Then pray tell, whatever would Marco do for a living? And Trump’s sons? Continue reading

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Paging Dr. Miles: IndyCar’s Health Status, Stat

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Sorry about the long wait and hope you found the waiting room and reams of bureaucratic paperwork not too disagreeable. Now that you’ve showed up and filled out the requisite forms, your doctor appointment will be in two months. We’re kidding, it’s just that IndyCar and healthcare both get our hearts to racing and we dislike seeing either in decline. The three metrics of IndyCar’s health we’ll examine under the microscope today are attendance, viewership and sponsorship. So remove your shirt and breathe deeply.

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To our semi-trained eyes, attendance was generally down this year at many IndyCar events with some hopeful exceptions like Indianapolis. It’s a difficult subject to find much information on believe you me, as few tracks give much of an indication attendance-wise. So we’re left with aerials on tv, media speculation and bloggers’ grousing. Yippie!

Attendance it seems is more closely guarded than the most sensitive state secrets in this Snowden era of laxity and leaking. A lot of open aluminum showed up on broadcasts however, and attendance is down all across motorsports. Interestingly major league baseball and even both kinds of football have seen fewer fanatics at the gates this year.

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Viewership on television for 2014 was reportedly up over 30% on NBCSN & double digits for ABC races this year over last year. Of course those figures can be misleading because last year’s numbers were fairly horrible. On a related note, we’re told this is the season of recovery for the U.S. economy – for the sixth year in a row now. Yeah, right. Still it’s a tentatively positive sign so we’ll take it and hope that it bodes well for the future of IndyCar.

As fans, let’s all make a pledge to go to at least one IndyCar race next year, shall we? Provided of course any of us can still afford it by then. For any of you forward looking individuals considering scouting some European locations, we make an excellent tour guide service during the off season.

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Sponsorship ideally includes profitability but it’s much more than that, entailing marketing, exposure, cross-promotions and the like. Essentially it’s all about money. A classic scene from Casino comes to mind, where Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone discuss “sponsorship” just prior to an intensely intimate moment on the couch. You know, right before everything in Vegas turns tits up.

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A focus of sponsorship should be the long term health of the client, in this case our beloved artistry on wheels. IndyCar’s sponsorship overall still seems middling, even though they’ve brought in a platoon of new folks for the express purpose of improving and a big name title sponsor like Verizon. It just feels a little trailer-ish, you know?

2014 may be paying off for the series itself, but it’s not so rosy everywhere in IndyCarLand. While IMS and IndyCar reported profits for this year and a few races had title sponsors, many teams continue to seek adequate funding. The teams are without question the lifeblood of the sport. We’ve pointed out the loss of some pretty big sponsors by certain teams recently like Red Bull and National Guard, as well as the addition of some new ones including Novonordisk and UFD.

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Sports Business Daily quoted Mark Miles as saying IMS and IndyCar “had a very good year” in 2014 for the first time in a while. Perhaps they sold a lot of baking soda at Clabber Girl, because the above metrics weren’t that much better than last year’s, truth be told. Miles credited consolidation, the abbreviated schedule and new strategies for the success. Well and good for IMS and the series, but what about the effects on individual teams? After all, without strong thriving teams and the 500 IMS is simply a glorified motorbike track that like so many other venues hosts one so-so N@$C@R race a year.