Monday, January 25, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: The Pain of Exclusivity

The Eastern part of the United States was buried by snow. World Rally Championship kicked off their season with the famed Rallye Monte Carlo. A few championships were awarded in Malaysia. Supercross returned to Anaheim. There was more racing from New Zealand. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

The Pain of Exclusivity
With the IndyCar grid likely going to shrink a little in 2016, I started wondering, "What can IndyCar do so these team owners can make more money?"

Take CFH Racing. It is a race winning operation. It has kept the most promising and probably most marketable driver in IndyCar for another season. It was contending for a championship in the final race last year. Despite all this, it is a team scraping by and not entirely set for 2016. Josef Newgarden appears to be fine but it is the #20 Chevrolet that isn't set in stone and that's the car that has a company featured on the side pods in every race. Ed Carpenter said to Motorsport.com the team has yet to secure the budget to confirm the #20 will be full-time this season.

CFH Racing showed they could compete with the big boys but even that isn't enough to get sponsors on-board. While the #20 Chevrolet is a unique venture with Carpenter splitting the car on ovals and road/street circuits, it is a sponsor's dream as regardless who is in, it seems to find it's way to the front and get exposure. Mike Conway won twice in the #20 when he was Carpenter's partner in crime in 2014. Luca Filippi had a respectable season last year and finished second in CFH's 1-2 in Toronto.

CFH Racing isn't the only team that is struggling. Spencer Pigot, fresh off the Indy Lights championship, has only three with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Chip Ganassi Racing's fourth car is still up in the air after the team released Sage Karam and the Pennsylvanian has signed with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing to attempt the Indianapolis 500. All is quiet on Andretti Autosport's fourth seat. KV Racing has decided to save itself the headache of funding a second car and will focus solely on S├ębastien Bourdais in 2016.

I am sure IndyCar doesn't want its grid to shrink but without a change, teams will continue to hemorrhage money. What is the answer? What ever makes IndyCar more attractive to sponsors. NBCSN does a great job and while ratings have improved on the network, it still doesn't appear to be good enough for a sponsor to spend six or seven figures sponsoring a racecar. ABC doesn't appear interested in showing more races on network television and because IndyCar loves putting the word "exclusivity" in contracts, NBC can't show any races. ABC's exclusivity as network partner to IndyCar hampers the series and the teams. Not every IndyCar can be shown on network television; motorsports in the United States isn't a sport for network television, but if NBC could show three or four races and put IndyCar out there for more eyeballs to see, it could make the series a more desirable to sponsor. IndyCar needs to find a way to have ABC make a concession for the betterment of the series.

I am not sure how much of a difference three or four races would make but I can't help but think it would help a little bit and perhaps the extra races on network television will draw more fans not only to the NBCSN races but to the ABC races as well and grow the fan base as a whole.

Champions From the Weekend
The #8 Race Performance Oreca-Judd clinched the Asian Le Mans Series championship in LMP2 with a second place finish in the season finale at Sepang. Swiss driver Nicolas Leutwile ran all four races with Shinji Nakano and Oliver Webb splitting the four races evenly.

With a fourth place finish in GT, the #3 Clearwater Racing McLaren 650S GT3 took the title. Rob Bell, Weng Sun Mok and Keita Sawa ran all four races.

Winners From the Weekend
Did you know...

S├ębastien Ogier started his campaign for a third consecutive championship by winning Rallye Monte Carlo.

Antonio Giovinazzi and Sean Gelael won their second consecutive Asian Le Mans Series race as the #9 Jagonya Ayam with Eurasia Oreca-Nissan won at Sepang. The #1 DC Racing Ligier-Nissan of David Cheng, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent won in LMP3. Absolute Racing's #5 Audi R8 LMS of Christopher Mies, Jeffrey Lee and Alessio Picariello won in GT.

Jehan Daruvala, Pedro Piquet and Lando Norris split the Toyota Racing Series weekend from Teretonga Park.

Ryan Dungey won at Anaheim, his second consecutive Supercross victory.

Coming Up This Weekend
The 24 Hours of Daytona.
AMA Supercross heads north to Oakland.
Toyota Racing Series heads north to Hampton Downs Motorsports Park.