Highway To The Danger Zone

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I’m going to take a ride into the danger zone (100 bonus points for the movie reference haha!!). IndyCar is heading into Fontana with only 6 races left and some have already started to look ahead to the 2016 schedule. Whenever you start talking about next year’s schedule, it’s an emotional roller coaster. As an example, I did a story about this late last year using references from Racer Magazine. This tweet prompted me to write this story

I really hope this isn’t the last race at Fontana. Let’s be honest, this June date is absolutely horrible for race fans in California. How many of you would like to bake in a sea of aluminum with temps in the 100’s? The bleachers will be empty and the tv rating will be in the .2 to .3 range like most of the races on the schedule. Ratings don’t seem to doom a race as IndyCar continues to survive year after year. The key to this race’s survival for the 2016 schedule is MAVTV’s continuing sponsorship of this race. My suggestion would be to use social media to thank @MAVTV for their continued sponsorship. Their sponsorship basically pays IndyCar’s sanctioning fee to come and race. If there is no title sponsor, there is no race because 20,000-30,000 fans out of 92,000 available seats will not come close for Auto Club Speedway to break even.

Milwaukee has been on the bubble before and it was rescued by Andretti Sports Marketing. ASM has gone above and beyond to grow this race. Heck, they’ve brought a street race atmosphere to the Milwaukee Mile by providing entertaining options for every demographic. Despite their effort, attendance has not sold out and is usually 3/4’s full, with a seating capacity of around 40,000. ASM has increased sponsorship at the track and is fortunate that ABC Supply is the title sponsor but if ASM isn’t making money, they could be out the door after 2015.

NOLA was a disaster of a race due to the monsoon. Drainage was an issue at the track and fans who attended, felt like drenched poodles all weekend. Now it seems like we have another issue like they had at the GP of Baltimore where entities aren’t paying anyone. This race doesn’t seem like it has a snowballs chance to be on the 2016 schedule and I would say that’s a definite. How financially sound is Pocono to be on the 2016 schedule? ABC Supply is the title sponsor, which will pay for IndyCar’s sanctioning fee, but will enough fans come out to the race for everyone involved to make money?

So what would Plan B look like? Road America has been thrown out once again as possibly being added to the dangerzoneschedule. Has there been a year that this race hasn’t been talked about as a possibility ad nauseum? I’ll believe it when I see it. If it replaces Milwaukee, I’ll be upset. I’d like to see both on the schedule. Are there any viable oval options? If the Series isn’t careful, fans will be left with Indy and Texas as the only two ovals on the schedule. It seems like it’s much easier to add a road/street event than an oval. How does the Series add races to the front of the schedule so that it starts in February? We already know that the season ending race will be the GP of Boston on Labor Day weekend. The Series needs to expand this schedule not only for the fans, but for the team employees. I really feel for these people that bust their butt during the season and then wonder if they will have a job after the season ending race at Sonoma. I believe this is why you see teams like Andretti Autosport diversifying as a way to retain employees. AA is involved with Formula E, the MRTI and Global RallyCross. The smaller teams are at a huge disadvantage as they just don’t have the sponsorship to diversify. This allows the bigger teams to poach the best talent away from the smaller teams.

There are no easy answers to these questions. Miles and company make the big bucks to figure these things out. So far, I’d say they haven’t made much headway. I’d like to hear your thoughts if you’re brave enough to enter the danger zone with me. Twitter: @davidindycar @Open_Wheels You can also comment on our Facebook page.

Tony Tellez

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