Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The One-Day Show Conundrum

Show up, practice, qualify, race, go home.

Plain and simple. From local short tracks to major NASCAR touring divisions, the one-day show format is used frequently to save teams and tracks costs. For fans the pro of having every session within hours of each other is balanced by the con of only one chance of seeing on track action and if it doesn't fit into your schedule, then there is always next year.

For IndyCar, oval events are at a crossroads. Great racing but difficulty filling seats. Ticket prices and timing play a role into at attendance but more has to be done at oval events for fans to feel they are getting enough bang for their buck.

Iowa for example had no on-track action before the IndyCar race started close to 8:00 p.m. local time.  Instead of spreading practice and qualifying over two days, condense it to one, with practice sessions and qualifying spread out throughout the afternoon with a support series leading into the race.

An argument against one-day shows is a local newspaper would not have qualifying results to use to promote the race. The general thinking being a two-day show gives a race two days in the paper and gives the race more publicity in the local market. The news world has changed as the paper is declining and the web has taken over the throne of where people go for their news.

For races to succeed in today's IndyCar, the series and race promoters can't rely on old school ways like the paper and hoping someone's interest is piqued by a short blurb on qualifying. Getting people to buy tickets and through the gates needs a more hands-on approach. Instead of a day or two of practice, disperse the entire field of IndyCar drivers around the local market the day or two prior to a race, shaking hands, kissing babies and interacting with people. Hit local hot spots. Have a few drivers signing autographs at a local mall, have a couple do events in association with local radio stations, go to local colleges with some free t-shirts, free tickets and free paddock passes. College kids like free stuff, trust me.

It's about getting fans of all ages. About a year ago, the animated-movie Turbo premiered. It's great to be shooting at a younger fan base but that is a long-term process. Reaping the benefits from Turbo won't come to fruition until the child is much older. A package for a family of four is a great start though. Back to the college kid idea. Offer a student ticket for college kids and try to bring that snake-pit party like atmosphere to each race. As a college kid, I speak for most of us saying we are not rich but always looking for a good time if the price is right.

IndyCar should make sure the series is as interested in the local market as they would like the local market to be interested with IndyCar. If the drivers can create a connection with the local people, the people will become interested. You can wave ads for a race all in someones face but that won't do nearly as well of job drawing people as someone getting a chance to have conversation with Simon Pagenaud or seeing the energetic personality of Josef Newgarden.

Other series make the one-day shows work. Tonight, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series runs at Eldora with practice, qualifying, heats and the main event all in one night and will have a crowd similar to one IndyCar draws at Texas about six weeks ago. AMA Supercross is coming off an all-time high year for attendance, packing Major League Baseball and National Football League stadiums and every AMA Supercross event is a one-day show with practice, heats and main events for both the 250cc and 450cc classes. Supercross is doing something right and IndyCar should took notes.

As much as people think IndyCar's oval schedule is teetering on extinction, take a moment to stop and think how many ovals are on the IndyCar schedule? Now, think how many street courses (not street course race, just street courses) are on the IndyCar schedule? Finally, think how many road courses are on the IndyCar schedule? If you break it down into the three categories, ovals lead the way at six followed by five street courses and four road courses. Doubleheaders balloon the amount of street course races to eight but realize there are more ovals than street courses on the IndyCar schedule. IndyCar needs to keep their six oval races alive while trying to grow to eight or nine with another short track or two and a return to a bigger track such as Michigan or Kentucky. Easier said than done, I know.

One-day shows might help oval events. Nothing is a guarantee but IndyCar is in the position where they at least have to give it a shot.