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EMBURY: Another Sporting Event Will Not Boost INDYCAR Ratings

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It sounded good on paper. A hot shot American driver from the Verizon IndyCar Series, taking over the circuit’s Twitter account to cover a major sporting event. Now on first glance and based on what was going on in the world of auto racing this past weekend, it should been a lock as to where Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing driver Charlie Kimball could and probably should have been located.

Even though he was not partaking in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, you’d think Kimball would have been trackside tweeting about his team, Chip Ganassi Racing, four-car effort in the event. You’d also think he’d be talking about his IndyCar Series teammates Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, and rival Sebastien Bourdais contributing to the team’s GT LeMans Division victory.           

Unfortunately, Kimball was not at the Daytona International Speedway as several current and former IndyCar Series pilots were this weekend. Instead, he was at the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend festivities in Los Angeles, California, nearly on the other side of the United States, covering the event for IndyCar’s Twitter account. 

Now, this is not a knock at the sport of ice hockey, a past time primarily supported by many IndyCar racing fans north of the 49th parallel. However, it seems to me to be a lesser help to the short term and long term health of open-wheel racing to support something that appears to have zero ties to racing.

Sure, the National Hockey League is featured on the NBC Sports Network, a channel that shows a majority of the events on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule and indeed at one point the league sponsored a truck on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (1997 and 1998 driven by Lance Norick). However, I don’t see how any helpful ties could be created.

For one, not once during the Skills Competition Saturday, nor during the 3-on-3 tournament on Sunday did NBCSN or NBC mention anything about television coverage of the upcoming Verizon IndyCar Series season. If that trade-off had been featured, the move for Kimball to cover the NHL’s big weekend for INDYCAR promotion purposes would have made sense.

Based on that fact and several others, the logical move would have been for Kimball to focus directly on the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which would have a perfect segue into the Verizon IndyCar Series opener also in the state of Florida. A racing event, which is likely to feature several of the same drivers that were running at Daytona on Saturday and Sunday. Also, with the track drawing perhaps one of its largest crowds in recent years, despite harsh temperatures and rainy conditions, it would have been the perfect hook for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Unfortunately, I think it is safe to say here that the media relations and promotions side of INDYCAR, did not take the right fork in the road this past weekend and most definitely missed a golden opportunity to extend the reach of the circuit. With the sport not in perfect health at this time, INDYCAR needs to find more sure fire means to boost awareness (the race track for one), rather than appearing at a non-racing entity. In my opinion, the tactic they chose to use is like throwing a hail mary pass which nine times out of ten will not be caught.

Stay tuned for more of my Verizon IndyCar Series takes on the next edition of Embury’s Outlook.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

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Matt Embury

An auto racing writer for over five years, Matt Embury's interest in auto racing was influenced from his father's side of the family. His first recollection of live racing attendance was in the early 1990s watching winged sprint car action at Butler Motor Speedway in Michigan with his uncle and dad. A major follower of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Matt has attended six previous Indianapolis 500s and rates Tony Kanaan's long awaited victory in the 2013 edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing as his favorite memory. Outside of following auto racing, Matt is an avid fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish athletics program and can often be seen at home games throughout the season or running the audio controls on several ND-related radio programs. A native of Springboro, Ohio, Matt now resides in Mishawaka, Indiana.