INDYCAR race promoters brought up to speed on season plans

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INDYCAR started its engines for the upcoming Verizon IndyCar Series season earlier this week by showing event promoters what’s next for the sport.

Among the highlights of the gathering in St. Petersburg, Florida – site of the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in just over seven weeks – were: the scope of the “NEXT” marketing campaign, which debuted Jan. 1, and the timeline for the new look for the cars in 2018.

Those in attendance Tuesday at the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel included representatives from nearly all of INDYCAR’s race promoters. Presenters included Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations; C.J. O’Donnell, Hulman Motorsports chief marketing officer; and Robby Greene, IMS Productions president and chief operating officer. Sam Flood, executive producer for INDYCAR television partner NBC Sports, also made a presentation.

“A small part of (the agenda) is reviewing last year, making sure our promoters have all the information we have about acceptance in the marketplace (and) growth in the marketplace so they can incorporate it into their sales strategies,” Miles said. “They have (seen) the new marketing materials, broadcast and electronic (details) and heard a little bit more details about our approach to the co-op program, (where) we put in some money to help with their advertising and marketing.

“They heard from Jay about (competition plans for) this year and next year in terms of the (new-look) car. We heard from Sam Flood about how NBC and NBCSN look at INDYCAR compared to other sports and motorsport and also some of the commercial opportunities and (event) sponsors can get in the broadcast.”

Miles described the response as “all good.”

“We’ve done this now annually for at least a few years,” he said. “It gets everyone going and gives them a level set for planning for this year.”

The meeting preceded INDYCAR’s annual winter meeting with drivers and team personnel today in Indianapolis.

Event promoters and INDYCAR officials also heard from St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, whose city will host an Indy car race for the 14th year March 10-12. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be INDYCAR’s season-opening race for the seventh consecutive year. The City of St. Petersburg has a contract with Green Savoree Racing Promotions to stage the event through 2020.

“As we always are about the race, we can’t believe it’s already coming here (on the calendar),” Kriseman said. “We look forward to this every year. It’s a huge event for our city.

“We like to think of our city as an international city and this race fits in so perfectly with who we are. It’s an international event. People come from all over the world to participate in the event: the drivers. People come from all over the world to view the event: spectators. We love it.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series begins on-track action Feb. 10-11 with an open test at Phoenix International Raceway, an oval track that will host the season’s fourth race April 28-29. It is after the open test that INDYCAR officials plan to reveal more details about the look of the car and its universal aero kit for 2018.

INDYCAR unveiled conceptual car drawings last week at the North American International Auto show in Detroit.

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