Skip to content

Walker: Getting fans “re-ignited” is IndyCar’s biggest challenge

May 19, 2013, 4:10 PM EDT

Indianapolis 500 Getty Images

Five years after open-wheel racing unified in North America, the IZOD IndyCar Series continues to face a uphill climb in regards to growing its mainstream presence. The split between the series (then known as the Indy Racing League) and Champ Car that lasted from 1996 to 2008 had a disastrous impact on the sport, causing many longtime fans to abandon it and helping to accelerate NASCAR’s rise to prominence as the country’s most popular form of racing.

Not that everything is grim for IndyCar, which boasts a diverse driver grid and schedule of tracks as well as perhaps the best racing product in the whole of motorsports today. But Derrick Walker, the sport’s new head of racing competition, realizes that many challenges are still to be contended with — and getting the fans back is the biggest one of all.

“There are a number of challenges and I’m not sure if there’s any one ahead of the others, but if I had to pick one, I’d say the biggest challenge we’ve got is to get the fans re-ignited with what we’re doing,” Walker said in an interview with NBC Sports Network’s Marty Snider during this afternoon’s Bump Day proceedings.

“We need to appeal to a bigger fan base and we’ve got to get some of those fans who have gone off to some other sport or have choices that they didn’t have before and now have them — they don’t all tune in when we want them, so we’ve got to find a way to connect with the fans…We’re charged with that responsibility: Get the fans back.”

As for his potential impact on the series’ current relationship with its teams, Walker hopes to have more positive dialogue with them as well as the entirety of the sport’s partners. The sport’s off-track headlines have sometimes had a tendency to overshadow positives achieved on the track, and Walker recognizes that such a situation can’t exist going forward.

“The team owners have not felt the love, shall we say, for a number of years,” said Walker, who is still the team manager for “500” pole sitter Ed Carpenter’s squad through the month of May. “So hopefully I can bridge that gap…We can’t do it in a vacuum. We’ve got to be all together and we’ve got to get behind a common purpose, a common goal.

“That’s what the fans want. They don’t want us to be out there duking it out while they’re losing interest. They want us all together — unite the series across the board.”

Latest Posts
  1. NASCAR AMERICA: Parity among Chase teams in Eliminator Round (VIDEO)

    Oct 20, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Geico 500 Getty Images

    Six different teams are represented among the eight remaining Chasers, and NASCAR’s post-season is starting to resemble another familiar tournament. NASCAR AMERICA’s Kyle Petty and Jeff Burton discuss.

  2. NASCAR AMERICA: Is Ryan Newman’s Chase status up in the air? (VIDEO)

    Oct 20, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT

    Hollywood Casino 400 - Practice Getty Images

    Newman, one of the “Eliminator 8,” may be penalized tomorrow by NASCAR after his car was found to be too low following Sunday’s race at Talladega. Nate Ryan has more on the situation.

  3. Everything you need to know about the 2014 Chasers at Martinsville

    Oct 20, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered By Kroger Getty Images

    Notes and numbers to keep in mind as the 8 remaining Chasers prepare to begin the Eliminator Round.

  4. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 7 p.m. ET recaps Talladega

    Oct 20, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    nascar america

    Recapping Talladega on NASCAR AMERICA.

  5. Despite elimination, Kyle Busch’s crew chief says Chase format is fair

    Oct 20, 2014, 6:01 PM EDT

    Geico 500 Getty Images

    A great post-season for Busch was erased by a mid-race crash on Sunday at Talladega, but crew chief Dave Rogers says there’s no point in blaming the rules of the new Chase.

  6. Remembering racing legend Raymond Beadle: ‘Once upon a time, I was the best at what I did’

    Oct 20, 2014, 3:50 PM EDT

    Raymond Beadle, who passed away Monday at the age of 70. (Photo courtesy Dave Rieff, ESPN) Raymond Beadle, who passed away Monday at the age of 70. (Photo courtesy Dave Rieff, ESPN)

    They say they always do things bigger in Texas, and that phrase would perfectly describe legendary former drag racer and NASCAR team owner Raymond Beadle.

  7. Doug Coby earns second NASCAR Whelen Mods title in three years

    Oct 20, 2014, 3:07 PM EDT

    NASCAR Whelen Modfiied Tour - Sunoco World Series 150 presented by Xtra Mart  - Thompson Getty Images

    Coby finishes 17th in the season finale at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway, but earns the 2014 series title by 22 points over race winner Ryan Preece.

  8. 3-time NHRA champ, NASCAR team owner Raymond Beadle dead at 70

    Oct 20, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Photo courtesy: BlueMaxRacing.net Photo courtesy: BlueMaxRacing.net

    Beadle helped bring the “Blue Max” brand to prominence in drag racing, and guided NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace to his lone Winston Cup title.

  9. DTM champion Marco Wittmann to test for Toro Rosso

    Oct 20, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    WittmannDTM Getty Images

    DTM champion will test for Toro Rosso.

  10. Penske’s dream season still alive in Sprint Cup

    Oct 20, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    PenskeDega Getty Images

    Both of Team Penske’s drivers advance to Eliminator round of Chase, which saves the ignominy of one of the winningest drivers this year going home.

  11. FIA creates accident panel to investigate Jules Bianchi crash

    Oct 20, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ENG-SILVERSTONE Getty Images

    The organization says it will make a full presentation on its findings during the next World Motor Sport Council meeting in December.

  12. Weekend wrap: Brad Keselowski rises up to Talladega challenge

    Oct 20, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT

    Geico 500 Getty Images

    Love him or loathe him, Keselowski deserves respect for coming through in the clutch like he did on Sunday.

  13. Besides Cassill, several others score season-bests at Talladega

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

    WaltripDega2 Getty Images

    After Cassill, Kvapil’s sixth leads a quartet of more surprise drivers in top-20 Sunday at Talladega.

  14. Daniel Ricciardo makes a trip to Supercross in Las Vegas (PHOTOS)

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:20 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore - Qualifying Getty Images

    Ricciardo comes to the U.S. early for Supercross.

  15. The irony of a winless driver winning a title in the new Chase still exists

    Oct 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    NewmanKenseth Getty Images

    A potential nightmare situation for Sprint Cup’s new Chase still exists, in the form of two as-yet winless drivers still battling for a title in 2014.

  16. Landon Cassill posts career-best fourth place at Talladega

    Oct 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    CassillDega2

    Career day for Landon Cassill ends not only with his first Cup top-five, but first top-10.

Video from NASCAR America

Terry Labonte's milestone race
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. B. Keselowski (1878)
  2. K. Busch (1800)
  3. J. McMurray (1235)
  4. T. Stewart (1179)
  5. J. Gordon (1049)