An Evolution: Thoughts on the NTT Sponsorship

 

We’ve come a long way from Northern Lights and Pep Boys. Izod got off to a decent start as a title sponsor, but slowed down quickly and left early. Verizon was a great partner although their track activation slowed after three years. Indycar’s new title sponsor, NTT, is a great match for the series. I’m sure there was some financial consideration, but the technological advances NTT can provide for the paddock, the series, and the fans will take all of Indycar to another level.  NTT will continue the technological evolutionary path the series has chosen to take.

It was amazing how quickly this deal came together. This would not have happened in the old days of Indycar. Naming a sponsor before the season begins keeps Indycar’s credibility as a serious major racing series intact.

NTT spends $4 billion annually on research and development. I’m excited to see what the new mobile app  will look like given that level of investment.

The new sponsor and the new television deal with NBC has Indycar set for an incredible 2019.

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Felix Rosenqvist in the NTT Data car at Sebring Tuesday afternoon. NTT Data will continue to sponsor the Chip Ganassi Racing Team entry.  Photo: Vincent Anderson

Logo Blues

Indycar fans can always find a cloud in every silver lining. I saw a lot of complaints about the logo on social media yesterday.  I don’t have a problem with it. I think it is less clunky than the Verizon logo. It has a hint of the old USAC badge. The curves help as well.

Indycar just landed what looks to be a terrific sponsor that can help grow the series and some fans just want to bash the logo. No professional sports league has a logo that blows me away and I wasn’t expecting one here. Let’s enjoy this terrific get for the series.

Notes

Miles mentioned that this sponsorship continues pursuit of Indycar as a global brand. Is this a hint at more international races? Pretty sure Australia will happen in 2020. Is a race in Japan also in line for a return?

Robin Miller of Racer Magazine wrote an interesting piece on how the deal came together. Here is the link:

MILLER: How IndyCar found its new sponsor

Gateway Still Gets It

On Twitter yesterday,  Gateway president Chris Blair is doing what Indycar isn’t. He has offered fans who have a Chili Bowl Nationals Monday-Friday ticket stub free general admission to Coors Light Pole Night the night before Indycar’s Bommarito 500k.

Indycar has long needed a presence at the Chili Bowl. This is a great move by the best promoter in the series.

 

 

 

 

 

NBC Network Races- Some Quick Thoughts

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag this morning, we now know which eight races will be on NBC network. I expected some of these and I am also disappointed by what is missing from the network lineup.

The network races- Indy GP, Indy 500, Detroit doubleheader, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Portland, and Laguna Seca.

Of course both races at IMS were expected, and I was pretty sure Road America and Laguna Seca would be on the network. I’m surprised the opener at St. Pete is not a network race. I’m also disappointed that one of the night ovals at Iowa or Gateway didn’t make the network. I never liked the idea of showing the Detroit doubleheader on NBC.

Showing the doubleheader the week after Indy means half the network schedule is taken in a three week stretch.  With Road America following three weeks later, that leaves just three more spots for the rest of the season.

The biggest surprise to me is that Long Beach isn’t on the network. Having the crown Jewel of street races not on the network is a shock.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled that nearly half the schedule is on the over the air network. Maybe next season some better choices can be made.

I’m very excited to see how NBC covers the 500. If it’s anything near their Kentucky Derby coverage, it will be fantastic.

So welcome NBC and NBC Sports. I wish we didn’t have to wait until May to get the first network race.

Bondurant School Closes; Tracks Begin Ticket Renewals; Return to Surfer’s Paradise? Wickens News

Autosport reports this afternoon the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving has shut its doors.  Bondurant began a school for race drivers in the early 60’s after an injury during a race ended his driving career. Bill Shaw, Wilbur’s son, was an instructor at the school.

Celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise Tim Allen, and Nicholas Cage attended the driving school.  A huge number of racing drivers also took instruction there. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Rick Mears were some of the many racing starts who honed their craft at the Bondurant School.

The Chandler, Arizona, site was also the venue for the Road to Indy shootout, which now needs to find another location soon. The shootout is scheduled for December 8 and 9.

Portland, St. Pete Ticket Renewal Periods Begin

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and The Grand Prix of Portland have opened ticket renewal periods. Fans who purchased tickets last year can renew or change seat locations before the general public sale begins.

Contact:

tickets@gpstpete.com

pir@portlanoregon.gov

Miles Flying to Australia

Mark Miles is flying to Australia to investigate the possibility of Indycar returning to Surfer’s Paradise. The premiere of Queensland, Annasacia Palaszaczuk,  expressed interest in hosting an  Indycar race during Will Power’s trip to his homeland.  Power referred her to Miles.

Surfer’s Paradise was always a fun race to watch, especially when it was the season opener.

Norman Returns to Andretti Indy Lights Ride

Ryan Norman has re-signed with Andretti Autosport for a third season in Indy Lights. Norman showed marked improvement last year. He won the pole for the Freedom 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and won the race at Gateway Motorsports Park after a spirited duel with Colton Herta.

Wickens Loses the Back Brace

In a new Instagram video from Robert Wickens, he discards the back brace he has worn virtually since he was injured. Here is the link to the video:

 

 

 

Change Coming to ECR- New Driver, Team Partnership; Vasser-Sullivan Expands to IMSA

An announcement should come tomorrow (Wednesday) regard Ed Carpenter racing’s car 20 for 2019. Jordan King will not return to the road/street course schedule in the Fuzzy’s car. The team is expected to announce a partnership with Scuderis Corsa, which fielded Oriol Servia in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Ed Jones, who drove for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018, will be introduced as the driver of the shared ride. Ed Carpenter will drive the 20 on all ovals. Jones will drive a third car in the 2019 500.

The partnership with Corsa puts Oriol Servia on the sidelines once again. Servia was instrumental in getting Scuderia Corsa to the 500 last season and was looking to drive for them in a full season effort in 2019. Servia would be a good candidate for the second seat at Carlin.

The Carlin seat is one of two still open. Schmidt=Peterson has an open seat while Robert Wickens continues his recovery.

I will follow up tomorrow afternoon on the details after the announcement.

Vasser-Sullivan Joins Lexus  in IMSA

Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan, who joined forces with Dale Coyne Racing for Sebastien Bourdais’ ride, announced their entry into IMSA. They will field a Lexus in the GT Daytona class. No driver has been named. Vasser said this will not affect the Indycar portion of their program. Indycar owners have been expanding into IMSA at quite a clip lately.

Will Bourdais continue to drive foir Ganassi in the endurance races or will he switch to the Vasser-Sullivan ride?

Comings and Goings- The Indycar Grid Adds More Youth, and Other Notes

Chip Ganassi has never been known for his patience with drivers. Ask Darren Manning and Ed Jones. Jones was the latest one year and out at Ganassi as Felix Rosenqvist will drive the 10 car with continued support from NTT Data. To be fair, Jones did not have a bad season with eight Top tens and two podiums. It was just not as good a season as the team had hoped. He did not take many points away from Dixon’s championship rivals. 2019 will be the third consecutive season a new driver has been in car 10.

Rosenqvist won three races in 10 starts in Indy Lights in 2016, then spent 2018 in Formula E. He won twice and finished sixth in the standings. Rosenqvist does have talent and will be a strong contender for Rookie of the Year. The rookie class is quite deep with Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta already in the field.

C. J. O’Donnell to Leave at the End of the Year

C. J. O’Donnell,  Indycar’s chief marketing officer since November 2013, will leave his position at the end of the calendar year. In his five years with the series, O’Donnell and his team has grown the fan base, adding 1 million followers to Indycar social media platforms, increased television viewership by 23% and helped attendance at races grow. I had the good fortune to meet him at Long Beach a few years ago. I wish him well in his future endeavors. O’Donnell and Jay Frye are two of the best hires Indycar has made in recent years.

Coyne Fills Second Seat

Yes, it is October 1 as I write this. No, that is no a typo. Dale Coyne Racing announced today Santino Ferrucci will drive the number 19 car full time in 2019. He and Sebastien Bourdais in the 18 mean Coyne has both drivers signed about as early as I can remember. This should help with their off season testing.

Ferrucci drove four races for  Coyne in 2018, the double header at detroit and the final two races at Portland and Sonoma. He finished 11th at Sonoma. Ferrucci had been pursuing an F1 career in Europe but was suspended for on track incidents at a race in early July. There have been no issues during his brief time in Indycar.

I’m interested to see how he does over the course of a season. He has done fairly well as far as keeping the car on course. Ferrucci was hit from behind in the second Detroit race after a clean Race 1.

Seats Still Open

Three full time  rides from 2018 still need drivers. The 23 Carlin car, the Schmidt 7 (6 is reserved for Robert Wickens), and the Carpenter 20 road/street ride. Charlie Kimball, who drove the 23 for Carlin last season, reportedly does not have a full year budget and may drive the car part time. Schmidt has offered his open seat to a couple of drivers who have turned it down. Carpenter would like to re-sign Jordan King, but there has not been any news about that lately.

Carlin and Rahal Letterman Lanigan have talked about adding a third car, which could be good news for Ed Jones. Dreyer and Reinbold Racing may be close to running a part time schedule, including the Indianapolis 500. Sage Karam would likely drive.

Dragon Speed and Scuderia Corsa are still consdering their options.

Of course everyone is awaiting a decision from McLaren. I’m trying to keep my expectations low and hope to be pleasantly surprised. When they do announce their plans, I think I’ll be grateful that I gave up Track Forum a while ago.

Running the 1?

Unless sponsor PNC Bank insists on having the 1 on the car they back, look for Scott Dixon to carry the number 9 again next season. Ganassi and Dixon have been reluctant to put the number 1 on their cars following a championship. They did one year and that year did not go well.

I think the champion should not have an option and should be required to run the number 1. This is another point on which the series will not listen to me.

Mid Ohio Qualifying Day

Welcome to Day 2 at Mid Ohio. Indycar practices at 10 am and then qualifying begins at 1:35. The qualifying session will be carried live on NBCSN beginning at 1:30.

Drivers are hoping for an uninterrupted practice session this morning. Scott Dixon said last night that he was hampered by the red flags in really finding speed.in yesterday’s start and stop sessions.

The track has added some new features this year. First, the main entrance road up to the infield bridge has been repaved.  A new Victory podium has been built. There is a new digital scoring pylon located in turn 6, which doubles as a Verizon cell tower. See the photos below.

I will be back here later with some quick thoughts on qualifying. My full report on the day will appear on Wildrieradiosports.com later tonight. I also posted my Day 1 summary on wildfire last night. Check it out.

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The new Victory Lane Podium at Mid Ohio
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The scoring pylon and cell tower

Good Morning from Iowa

Welcome to Iowa Speedway for Indycar’s race weekend. This could be a pivotal weekend in the future of this event. Will the decent temperatures improve attendance? How will the new cars race here? Will Iowa return to a Saturday night race next year? If so, will the date change? We will have the answers to the first two questions by tomorrow afternoon. The last two will take a while.

I will have a qualifying wrapup later tonight. During the day I will be tweet updating. Follow along on @PitWindow.