Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Four IndyCar Ovals & U.S. Driver Participation

Blue - Texas Motor Speedway (June event)
Red - Kentucky Speedway
Orange - Chicagoland Speedway
Green - Kansas Speedway

Declining attendance and television ratings are serious concerns for the Indy Racing League. Market acceptance of the events at Kentucky, Chicagoland and Kansas has waned by every possible measure. The race at Texas remains viable, but attendance has clearly decreased.

These facts are not in dispute, although there is room for debate with regard to degree.

What role, if any, has declining participation by U.S. drivers had to do with the decrease in consumer acceptance? We can not be certain. However, it does appear that some correlation exists.



  1. "What role, if any, has declining participation by U.S. drivers had to do with the decrease in consumer acceptance? We can not be certain. However, it does appear that some correlation exists."

    Plenty!! The costs of owning and operating a racing car or team has a direct impact on a driver. If the driver can not provided a subside or sponsorship of some kind, the individual is place at a severe disadvantage. Drivers were once hired for their skills, now it is just so the team can pay the bills. Failing economics of scale are the reason IRL and other forms of racing are slowly dying. Novelty acts are not going to save Indy car racing. Getting back to basics just might! Try making the value to cost ratio work !

  2. Talking to people in advertising---the fan attachment to certain "stars", drives the advertising budgets more than you might think.

    The obvious one is "Tiger".

    Kyle Busch is another, as is Dale Jr. One you hate, but watch to see what he'll do, the other because of the aura his daddy had, (although Dale Sr. was Kyle before Kyle).

    I am not a "stick and ball guy", but fans follow their player and their accomplishments and misadventures--daily.

    If Briscoe, Scott, or Dario fell off the planet--it might be reported in National Geographic---but have Danica smack Marco for cutting her off and it would be on every channel. The next race would have better attendence and press coverage that would exceed anything seen in recent years.

    Advertisng is about product identification, and when you think of Peak do you think of the winner of the recent pole, or who is in every ad?

    American are sure everything American is better than anything else---so when a hockey team wins the olympics--it is still remembered.


  3. There's a couple other statistics I'd like to see included versus overall attendance (which is of secondary important) and TV audience (which is the prime issue):

    -Percentage of returning drivers (familiarity is important with building a fan base)
    -Comparison with earlier IRL efforts (Disney/Charlotte/Pikes Peak/Atlanta/etc) attendance/TV Ratings wise
    -Comparison with CART/CCWS for same things (US drivers/ratings/attendance)

    I've had a tough time tracking down some of those myself; maybe you have more info than I do?

  4. VirtualBalboa,

    I sure wish that I had more. Maybe we can piece things together over time.

    Citizen John has provided some good IRL stats from 2001. He also had some CART stuff from 1995. Check out the comments sections of the last six or seven posts. They should be there somewhere.

    Best Regards,


  5. "What role, if any, has declining participation by U.S. drivers had to do with the decrease in consumer acceptance? We can not be certain. However, it does appear that some correlation exists."

    As a corollary, ITV's F1 ratings were on a steady decline in the UK for over a decade until Lewis Hamilton's arrival. For 2007 viewership was up 40% from 2006 (2.5 million > 3.5 million).

    However relevant, golf had a similar experience. We saw a decline in viewership from what I'll term the Nicklaus era to the Faldo era followed by an increase into the Tiger era. Likewise with the LPGA, but instead of a Tiger showing up what's referred to as the 'Korean invasion' did, pulling viewership even lower, culminating with the LPGA introducing a mandatory English proficiency test for foreign players.

    My take is the American viewer prefers a dominant American iconic figure like a Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Dale Earnhardt Sr., et al, first and foremost. At the very least, said audience will settle for their native son's competitiveness, but will reject any product that shows American's taking a beating week in and week out.

    -Xenophobe John

  6. VirtualBalboa,

    The problem isn't so much the data, imho, but getting any sort of apples to apples comparison from what is out there. Example:

    In 1993 with 4 American drivers in the top 10 in points, CART's average viewership was 2.2 million.
    In 2003 with zero American's in the top 10, their viewership averaged 500k.
    Therefore, my old logic professor's head would explode if we conclude: the lack of 4 American's in the top 10 resulted in a 77% drop in viewership.

    There are so many factors like the split, loss of the 500, cable/network mix, channel continuity, overall changes in viewership patterns, graying demographics, etc., that reaching a meaningful inference impossible.


  7. I disagree, personally. I don't know that the answer will necessarily stare at you in the face, but reasonable inferences could be made if you have the data. I don't know of anything where a statistician could look at downward graphs and say, "well, its a clusterfuck!"

    I have a feeling there's something to this (not sure if its the total answer), but I'd like more info first. You have that, you have a case as to who is to blame, so to speak, and what should have been done before. Know that, and maybe we can learn from history...

  8. John and VirtualBalboa,

    Frankly, if I had the data, then I could do it. You would need to run a regression similar to those that hedge fund analysts use for stocks. The reliability of the data would not be great because you need 30 years of numbers to establish solid statistical significance.

    However, if you could figure out the Alpha and Beta, then you would have somewhere to go. Beta is the variability that is independent of the overall market.

    All TV ratings have decreased significantly since 1995. Think about it. That's when Windows 95 came out. Chances are that all of us were watching the tube rather than chatting here.

    IndyCar racing would certainly have a significant Beta. But I've never been able to aggregate enough data to create an applicable model.

    Best Regards,


  9. Note: for 1999, 2000 and 2002 I only have average cable ratings, noted as 'cable' instead of the particular network.


    Year (Races - Network/Cable)

    1996 (5 Races 5N/0C)
    2.20 ABC Disney World
    2.20 ABC Phoenix
    6.60 ABC Indy 500
    1.60 ABC New Hampshire
    1.40 ABC Las Vegas

    1997 (8 Races 7N/1C)
    1.80 ABC Disney World
    1.80 ABC Phoenix
    5.10 ABC Indy 500
    0.60 ESPN2 Texas
    1.40 ABC Pikes Peak
    1.00 CBS Charlotte
    1.40 ABC New Hampshire
    1.10 ABC Las Vegas

    1998 (11 Races 7N/4C)
    1.80 ABC Disney World
    1.90 ABC Phoenix
    5.50 ABC Indy 500
    0.40 TNN Texas
    1.30 CBS New Hampshire
    1.60 CBS Dover
    0.90 TNN Charlotte
    1.10 ABC Pikes Peak
    0.90 TNN Atlanta
    1.10 ABC Texas
    0.30 TNN Las Vegas

    1999 (11 Races 4N/7C)
    1.80 network Orlando
    0.54 cable Phoenix
    0.54 cable Charlotte
    5.50 network Indianapolis
    0.54 cable Ft. Worth
    0.54 cable PPIR
    0.54 cable Atlanta
    1.30 network Dover
    0.54 cable PPIR
    0.54 cable Las Vegas
    0.90 network Ft. Worth

    2000 (9 Races 5N/4C)
    0.61 cable Orlando
    1.70 network Phoenix
    1.30 network Las Vegas
    5.50 cable Indianapolis
    0.61 cable Ft. Worth
    1.00 network PPIR
    0.61 cable Atlanta
    0.61 cable Kentucky
    0.90 network Ft. Worth

    2001 (13 Races 7N/6C)
    1.00 ABC Phoenix
    0.80 ABC Homestead
    0.60 ESPN2 Atlanta
    5.80 ABC Indy 500
    0.60 ESPN2 Texas
    0.70 ABC Pikes Peak
    0.50 ESPN2 Richmond
    1.30 ABC Kansas
    0.60 ESPN2 Nashville
    1.10 ABC Kentucky
    0.40 ESPN2 Gateway
    1.10 ABC Chicago
    0.40 ESPN2 Texas

    2002 (15 Races 10N/5C)
    1.50 ABC Homestead
    1.20 ABC Phoenix
    0.47 cable Fontana
    1.10 ABC Nazareth
    4.40 ABC Indianapolis
    0.47 cable Ft. Worth
    0.47 cable PPIR
    1.00 ABC Richmond
    1.20 ABC Kansas
    0.47 cable Nashville
    1.20 ABC MIS
    0.90 ABC Kentucky
    0.47 cable Gateway
    1.10 ABC Joliet
    0.90 ABC Ft. Worth

    2003 (16 Races 10N/6C)
    1.80 ABC Homestead
    0.90 ABC Phoenix
    0.70 ABC Motegi
    4.60 ABC Indianapolis
    0.44 ESPN Ft. Worth
    0.70 ABC PPIR
    0.48 ESPN Richmond
    1.40 ABC Kansas
    0.32 ESPN2 Nashville
    1.00 ABC MIS
    0.70 ESPN Gateway
    0.80 ABC Kentucky
    0.55 ESPN Nazareth
    0.80 ABC Joliet
    0.60 ABC Fontana
    0.46 ESPN Ft. Worth

    2004 (16 Races 10N/6C)
    0.90 ESPN Homestead
    0.90 ABC Phoenix
    0.10 ESPN2 Motegi
    4.10 ABC Indianapolis
    0.40 ESPN Ft. Worth
    0.24 ESPN2 Richmond
    1.20 ABC Kansas
    0.50 ESPN2 Nashville
    0.80 ABC Milwaukee
    0.80 ABC MIS
    0.80 ABC Kentucky
    0.50 ABC PPIR
    0.90 ABC Nazareth
    0.80 ABC Joliet
    0.10 ESPN Fontana
    0.80 ABC Ft. Worth


  10. 2005 (17 Races 7N/10C)
    0.60 ESPN Homestead
    0.60 ABC Phoenix
    0.40 ESPN St. Petersburg
    0.50 ESPN Motegi
    6.80 ABC Indy 500
    1.00 ESPN Texas
    0.40 ESPN2 Richmond
    1.10 ESPN Kansas
    0.30 ESPN Nashville
    0.50 ESPN Milwaukee
    1.30 ABC Michigan
    0.90 ABC Kentucky
    0.80 ABC Pikes Peak
    0.60 ESPN Sonoma
    1.00 ABC Chicago
    0.70 ABC Watkins Glen
    0.60 ESPN Fontana

    2006 (14 Races 7N/7C)
    0.80 ABC Homestead
    0.30 ESPN St. Petersburg
    0.60 ESPN Motegi
    5.00 ABC Indy 500
    0.80 ABC Watkins Glen
    0.60 ESPN Texas
    0.40 ESPN2 Richmond
    1.20 ABC Kansas
    0.40 ESPN Nashville
    0.40 ESPN Milwaukee
    1.00 ABC Michigan
    0.80 ABC Kentucky
    0.60 ESPN Sonoma
    0.70 ABC Chicago

    2007 (17 Races 8N/9C)
    0.39 ESPN2 Homestead
    0.60 ESPN St. Petersburg
    0.40 ESPN Montegi
    0.30 ESPN2 Kansas
    4.30 ABC Indy 500
    1.00 ABC Milwaukee
    0.70 ESPN2 Texas
    1.10 ABC Iowa
    0.60 ESPN Richmond
    1.00 ABC Watkins Glen
    0.40 ESPN2 Nashville
    1.70 ABC Mid-Ohio
    0.28 ESPN2 Michigan
    0.60 ABC Kentucky
    0.60 ESPN Sonoma
    1.00 ABC Detroit
    0.90 ABC Chicago

    2008 (17 Races 7N/10C)
    0.80 ESPN2 Homestead
    0.42 ESPN St. Petersburg
    0.33 ESPN2 Motegi
    0.74 ESPN2 Kansas
    4.50 ABC Indy 500
    0.80 ABC Milwaukee
    1.00 ESPN2 Texas
    1.10 ABC Iowa
    0.90 ESPN Richmond
    1.10 ABC Watkins Glen
    0.50 ESPN Nashville
    1.30 ABC Mid-Ohio
    0.40 ESPN Edmonton
    0.43 ESPN2 Kentucky
    0.41 ESPN2 Sonoma
    0.90 ABC Detroit
    0.80 ABC Chicago

    2009 (17 Races 5N/12C)
    0.30 VS St. Pete
    0.50 VS Long Beach
    0.15 VS Kansas
    4.00 ABC Indy 500
    0.70 ABC Milwaukee
    0.36 VS Texas
    0.80 ABC Iowa
    0.22 VS Richmond
    0.87 ABC Watkins Glen
    1.00 ABC Toronto
    0.24 VS Edmonton
    0.14 VS Kentucky
    0.20 VS Mid-Ohio
    0.25 VS Sonoma
    0.24 VS Chicagoland
    0.14 VS Motegi
    ???? VS Homeste

  11. John,

    Thank you for providing this information. Give me some time to digest it.

    Best Regards,