Monday, February 1, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: Where is Your Purse?

The Race of the Year may have occurred at Daytona. Three classes came down to the final lap. You had gearbox issues, a fuel derby and a photo finish. Drivers got monkeys off their backs and a great start to the 2016 season. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Where is Your Purse?
Listening to Trackside from last week, Kevin Lee and Curt Cavin discussed the new presenting sponsor for the Indianapolis 500. When it came up about adding the money to the purse (start at the 18:00 mark), they brought up a good point that $5 million over three years isn't enough to make the purse for the race something to rave about.

However, the purses in IndyCar do need to be bolstered. I know "purses" don't really exist outside of the Indianapolis 500 because of the Leader Circle program but every race does pay bonuses for the top twelve finishers at each race. The "bonus" for winning a race is $30,000, an earth-shattering amount, right?

The only problem I had with the presenting sponsor deal was how low it was. It adds nothing to the purses. IndyCar and the Speedway should want the Indianapolis 500 to be an astronomical number that leaves people quivering in excitement when they hear how much it pays to win. While the Indianapolis 500 purse is still a healthy, it doesn't stand out and it doesn't draw drivers like flies. Last in the Indianapolis 500 once paid more than winning a Formula One grand prix. Now, Sebastian Vettel makes more after the first test day of the season than finishing last in the "500."

It's extremely unlikely for the "500" will pay more to finish last but it's bolstering what the winner makes and the top half of the field. I was hoping any sponsorship deal, whether it was title or presenting, would be enough to get the winner's share over than $3 million plateau (which has only happened once: 2009 with Hélio Castroneves). I want to see the Indianapolis 500 winner get $5 million. That's something people talk about. Why do people talk about Floyd Mayweather fights? It's not because they are thrilling, it's because he is making tens of millions of dollars, if not more.

The "500" aside, IndyCar in general needs to increase its purses. I like Leader Circle and I think it's smart to give the teams a foundation to start on but the "bonus" for winning a race has to be more than $30,000. The lack of money in IndyCar is the reason Sam Hornish, Jr., A.J. Allmendinger and Danica Patrick would all rather be mediocre in NASCAR than be in the top half, if not the top quarter of IndyCar. You make more running 23rd in NASCAR than running in the top five of IndyCar.

How is IndyCar going to raise purses? The series needs more exposure to attract more sponsors and get a larger television deal. As for the "500," it needs to take a playbook out of the Daytona International Speedway's playbook. The track took out the backstretch grandstands and but up billboards. As much as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wants to stay in the year 1950, white walls don't pay the bills. There is no reason why the walls are white. The walls should be covered in sponsorship because that is going to bring revenue into the track.

Forget Tony Hulman. If Tony Hulman were around today he would see that the climate of the early 21st century is a hell of a lot different and that 1950 business tactics won't work. He would see that white walls are wasted space and that a title sponsor could be tremendous and the Indianapolis 500 would still be the Indianapolis 500 even if a company spent $10 million a year on title sponsorship.

Tony Hulman isn't spinning around in his grave because of presenting sponsor, he is spinning in his grave because the Speedway has not kept up with the times and is scrambling to exist.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about the 24 Hours of Daytona but did you know...

Ryan Dungey won the AMA Supercross race from Oakland, his second consecutive victory.

Landry Norris, Guanyu Zhou and Pedro Piquet won the three Toyota Racing Series races from Hampton Downs Motorsports Park.

Coming Up This Weekend
Bathurst 12 Hour.
The first Formula E race of 2016, the Buenos Aires ePrix.
AMA Supercross will be in Phoenix.