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France: IndyCar’s a friend to NASCAR, but needs to stand on its own

Jul 26, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT

Brian France AP

NASCAR CEO Brian France called IndyCar “a friend” to NASCAR, but dismissed the idea IndyCar could ever run with the Sprint Cup or Nationwide Series on the same weekend.

The answers were from a wide-ranging interview with the Indianapolis Star‘s Curt Cavin ahead of this weekend’s Brickyard 400.

“We consider it a friend (not a foe). We can’t win when other people lose,” said France. “We would prefer to see a healthy IndyCar Series.

“I know we’ll help them significantly by moving to NBC and the NBC Sports Network. We’ll give a lot of visibility to that network and that in turn will be good for them. Our hope is that they will get stronger because we run at a number of the same venues and if they can contribute to those venues that need all kinds of capital and improvements, (that) would be a win for us.”

So, in that respect, a rising tide lifts all boats from a broadcast standpoint, and in theory should be good for all parties in 2015 and beyond.

As for the sharing weekend question?

“No. Nationwide is significantly ahead of the Indy Racing League in terms of its television ratings and attendance and everything else with the exception, obviously, of the Indy 500. We wouldn’t want to mix that. They have to stand on their own, and we have to stand on our own,” he said.

My only issue with that quote is that now, INDYCAR is the term for the sanctioning body, not Indy Racing League. My question here is, would France be concerned that the NASCAR brand would be damaged by racing at a track where its cars are significantly slower?

They’re two different types of racing; enjoy each as they are.

  1. bmcgrath2 - Jul 26, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    Couldn’t agree more Tony. Two completely different forms of racing. Lets not politicize whether they should join together or help each other out. Why can’t we just enjoy each of them as they are?

    • indycaraw - Jul 26, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      I completely agree.

  2. indycaraw - Jul 26, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Unfortunately, the reality is that NASCAR will do everything in their power to bury INDYCAR by dictating a schedule that won’t be advantageous to IndyCar. Do you think that France calling it the “Indy Racing League” was a mistake? It minimizes the IndyCar brand.

    NASCAR remembers being the Little Dog on the porch in the days when IndyCar was the Big Dog! NASCAR has no intention of allowing IndyCar to regain the throne that they were able to steal while the egos in IndyCar battled it out. It was years before IndyCar got their heads out of the sand long enough to notice that NASCAR had passed then up, and by then it was too late. With a string of terrible leadership, IndyCar has not been able to recover.

    NASCAR coming to NBC Sports is good for the network, but the truth is that F1 and IndyCar have different audiences, so it doesn’t really affect the fan base for either of those two sanctioning bodies. IndyCar will not gain anything by NASCAR coming to the network, and neither will F1. If anything, IndyCar has a lot to lose.

    The reality is that there is simply not a big crossover audience, and NASCAR fans are not likely to watch IndyCar of F1. In addition, studies have shown that people are no longer “faithful” to a network as they were in the past. People watch what they want, when they want, on whichever network they want.

    I really believe that IndyCar stands a chance if they can focus on their brand and stop worrying about NASCAR. They are not a threat, and they are not an ally. IndyCar should focus 100% of their efforts on re-building their brand. They would do well to create stories, create rivalries, and build on what they have. Stay inside their own bubble and make it happen.

    With regard to the schedule once NASCAR comes on board…..IndyCar should hire the very best negotiators they can afford for what is bound to be an epic battle. This will be a defining moment for IndyCar, and they need to come out winners.

    • bmcgrath2 - Jul 26, 2013 at 4:14 PM

      You make some very good points. I am a diehard stock car guy, but I truly respect and I am trying to commit myself to catching as many Indycar races as possible. I attempted to get into open wheel before, but I became wrapped up in the confusion of the CART / IRL split, and never completely understood the sport afterwards. To this day, can somebody explain the difference between a Champ Car and an Indycar? Were they the same? Why were their two sanctioning bodies and series?

      In regards to Indycar rebuilding their brand, I really like what they are doing as far the street circuits, weekend “doubleheader” races, bringing back Pocono to the schedule, etc. But one thing they really need help with is promoting their drivers on a broader scale.

      • snoopyo - Jul 30, 2013 at 1:31 AM

        Agree 100 percent they need to market the drivers Hinch is a character and should be easy to market RHR is the defending series champion and he is American I am glad he won the ESPY and finally got some recognition. Will Power is a guy thats great with the fans he has had some funny comments he has a cool name plus giving the double middle finger salute at Loudon was great

  3. indycaraw - Jul 26, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    In answer to at least part of your question, there were two sanctioning bodies because of a massive ego clash. Below is part of what is on Wikipedia:

    ****************************************************************************
    ……In 1991, Tony George, President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, approached the CART board of directors, proposing a new board consisting of representatives of the series’ tracks, team owners and suppliers. Rebuffed by some members of the CART board, George took a non-voting position on the CART board.

    George later expressed his concerns (similar to Kenopensky’s) about restrictive engine leases and capricious rule enforcements (e.g. the banning of the carbon fiber tub introduced by March in 1990, ostensibly for safety reasons, until the two more popular CART chassis manufacturers – Penske and Lola – could catch up). As well as the lack of American drivers in the series (there were only ten in 1996), a lack of opportunities for American drivers such as Jeff Gordon, CART’s move to include more road racing on the schedule, and escalating costs.

    George also wanted a greater voice for the Indianapolis 500, held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Although it was clearly CART’s flagship event, the Indy 500 was treated as any other race on the schedule, and also awarded the same amount of driver’s points.

    George resigned from the CART Board of Directors and formed a new racing series, the Indy Racing League, in 1994 using the building blocks of the Indy 500 / USAC faction as its foundation. With its first race in 1996, the IRL initially included an all-oval schedule, all races on US soil, and mostly American drivers. George all but shut out CART regulars from the 500 by guaranteeing the top 25 drivers in IRL points a spot in the race, leaving only eight of the thirty-three grid positions available to CART regulars. This was known as the “25/8 Rule.”

    In March 1996, CART filed a lawsuit against the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an effort to protect their license to the IndyCar mark which the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had attempted to terminate. In April, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway filed a countersuit against CART to prevent them from further use of the mark. Eventually a settlement was reached in which CART agreed to give up the use of the IndyCar mark following the 1996 season and the IRL could not use the name before the end of the 2002 season.
    **********************************************************************************

    In the end, Tony ended up not being able to make his “perfect world” series happen and was unable to keep costs down, or to hire mostly American Drivers. He failed. By severing open wheel racing, he caused irreparable damage. Simultaneously, NASCAR was on the rise, and their fan base was growing in leaps and bounds. This was not only based on a perfect storm created by the IndyCar/Champ Car team owners, and Tony George, but NASCAR was smart enough to see it, and take advantage of it. They were in the right place at the right time, AND managed to be brilliant about each and every move they made. Not to trivialize it, but it reminds me of the IKEA commercial where the lady gets in the car after shopping and screams at her husband to “drive the car, drive the car” because she is certain IKEA will wake up and see they made a mistake. IndyCar never woke up. They went from being on top of NASCAR in a big way, to getting passed, and they never even knowing it happened.

    IndyCar used to sell out at Michigan, Laguna Seca, Phoenix, Elkhart, Vancouver, and many more around the country. Hotel rooms were impossible to find, restaurants were sold out, and it used to take 3-4-5 hours to get out of the tracks. Until Mark Miles started, IndyCar didn’t give a lot of credibility to their own history (other than the Speedway) because it was history that belonged to Champ Car/IndyCar, not Tony George/Indycar. I think it’s a huge part of who there are – and is important for their staff to know so they have hope that they can get back to that place. Not that they have to try to recreate the past, but they should use it to rebuilt the empire.

    Mark Miles has been terrific for the IndyCar series, and my hope is that he continues to put the right people in charge of other areas that need help. They need experienced executive management in place to negotiate the NBC deal, or I fear they’ll get eaten alive. They have one great guy – but they need a team.

    There is another article out there that quotes a guy basically throwing in the towel now that NASCAR will be on board at NBC. He even suggested mid-week racing for IndyCar. It concerns me that key team members would throw in the towel before negotiating has even begun. Tells me there is a water leak in that area they need to PLUG if you know what I mean!

    We watch NASCAR quite often, even though we prefer IndyCar. We watched ElDora on Wednesday, and I thought it was terrific. Was really proud of Tony and the hard work he put into the event. But NASCAR seems to embrace their history – much like IndyCar should (more than once a year at the speedway) and for that I give them a thumbs up.

    I hope that helps. There are certainly two sides to every story, but at this point, I just want IndyCar to succeed, I could care less about the “sides.” They’ll never beat the giant if they waive the white towel in defeat. And there is more than enough room for both NASCAR and IndyCar to succeed. Once everyone at IndyCar believes that, they actually stand a chance!

    • snoopyo - Jul 27, 2013 at 12:06 PM

      The 25/8 rule was the big factor and when drivers like Andretti, Unser Jr. Rahal, Fittipadli with there big fan bases were kept out of the 500 fans of those drivers and the CART series were ticked at TG.There were young Americans on the rise named Vasser and Herta.TG was influenced by many people to start the irl such as people from usac, Bill France, John Cooper a longtime friend of the France family and others. Tony wanted American dirt track drivers at the speedway but the game had changed and dirt tracks was not the way to go to get there anymore. CART was a major powerhouse seen in many countries on TV with tons of money. CART and the speedway were at odds for a long time and usac the sanctioning body kept changing engine rules left and right especially after the 1994 500 to the Mercedes push rod engine.

  4. bmcgrath2 - Jul 27, 2013 at 1:20 AM

    I think IndyCar’s overall success is trending up, as they now have a legitimate broadcasting partner in NBC willing to take them to the next step. Will ABC be televising anymore races next year?

  5. snoopyo - Jul 27, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    Nascar is not a friend to INDYCAR they never have been and never will be. When INDYCAR raced at the tracks the France family owned they did nothing to help those races and INDYCAR left those tracks..ABC will be televising some races next year the INDY 500 they have a deal with even though ABC does a pitiful job with the broacadcast. Someone needs to tell Brian France its not the Indy racing league anymore its the Izod INDYCAR series which tells me right there how France shows interest in INDYCAR when he can’t call the series by its proper name. Brian France said back in May when Kurt Busch tested at INDY Busch said he would like to do the double if the times would change and France said that its not on his radar.

    • lesovuls - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:51 PM

      Sup snoopy, you made it. NAPCAR is the enemy , they told TG they had his back and sat back and watched as TG destroyed American open wheel racing. Before the split, NAPCAR wasn’t on the map. I remember watching races on TV with packed stands ,big sponsors and great races. Its great watching NAPCAR crumble and seeing Indycar rise from TG’s ashes. Alot of it has to be pointed towards Randy Bernard. Snoopy you see the stands at Brickyard, where those all Princess Sparkle Ponys fans dressed as aluminum seats?

      • snoopyo - Jul 30, 2013 at 1:25 AM

        Les good to hear from ya. Back in the early 90s when CART went to Surfers Paradise Jean Marie Belestre of F1 said there was going to be a war between CART and F1 for going onto what F1 felt was there turf. American open wheel racing was growing worldwide especially in 1993 when Nigel I do nothing wrong Mansell decided to come over which really drew the interest from all of Europe and Senna had tested a Penske car twice. I use to go to Michigan every year and it was packed traffic getting in use to take a long time but I hope they can keep moving forward Randy had some good ideas with the doubleheaders because Toronto seemed to have a big success and I was so glad to see Pocono back I wish it would be a 500 mile race. I hope they bring back Road America and get Phoenix as well. I didn’t watch the Brickyard saw highlights and there was a lot of empty stands I think the people of central Indiana have made it clear the last few years that the 500 is what they care about most.

  6. bmcgrath2 - Jul 30, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    NASCAR doesn’t need IMS, and IMS doesn’t need NASCAR. As a diehard stock car racing fan, I don’t know how much longer I can handle this race. In fact, i hate this race. Stock cars do not belong there. No draw at the gate, no passing, and its a total snooze fest. Watching Eldora on Wednesday was great, but then this crap race on Sunday was like getting both ends of the spectrum for excitement.

    • indycarseries500 - Jul 30, 2013 at 10:04 AM

      Disagree on both counts, there is a prestige NASCAR and especially thier sponsors enjoy going to Indianapolis and I’m sure the Speedway loves having 80-100,000 people walking through the gates in late July.

    • snoopyo - Jul 30, 2013 at 11:58 AM

      bmcgrath2 Its sounds like many stock car fans feel the way you do, now I don’t watch stock cars but know people that do and they feel that the Brickyard is one of the worst races of the year. It seems that some cars are suited for certain tracks I am an oval fan first( I like road/street courses also) but I have never been big on the INDYCAR’s racing on 1.5 mile ovals because I feel those tracks are not designed for them. I am glad Pocono is back still have Milwaukee which needs to be there and I hope Fontana is able to stay.

    • Tony DiZinno - Jul 30, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      Believe it or not, the thing that needs NASCAR at IMS the most is INDYCAR… which benefits greatly from the revenue this event continues to provide. It’s funny because 80K-100K at IMS looks a ghost town, but is still a huge draw for a modern day live sporting event on site.

      • lesovuls - Jul 30, 2013 at 10:30 PM

        The revenue isn’t going to amount to much if the fans are not liking the product. Me and Snoopy are castaways from ESPN boards, and boy the NAPCAR fans have had it with the racing, the car,lack of passing, and being force feed Princess Sparkle Pony’s articles about nothing(please don’t follow that road). I”ll admit I love the road/street races(the user name),but starting to like the ovals more and more. Liking the ovals because most of them have been excellent races. Indycar didn’t need to throw a debris caution to bunch the field up for a 1 lap restart. Indycar has made great strides to improve Indycar. Thats what NAPCAR needs a revamp to improve their product. I know I couldn’t sit through a 4 hour Indycar pre -race show,so not sure how any diehard stock car fan could.

      • kitnamania13 - Jul 31, 2013 at 5:03 PM

        What benefits Indycar about having NASCAR show up at Indy is that NASCAR doesn’t put asses in seats and doesn’t put on a good race there. The worse NASCAR looks at that track, the better Indycar looks by comparison. They had a great race with a lot of fans for the Indy 492.5.

      • midtec2005 - Jul 31, 2013 at 5:54 PM

        Hey, I’m a castoff from espn too ;)

        I made the decision a few months ago to boycott them completely. They have zero respect for my 2 favorite sports (this and soccer). So they don’t need to get my viewership on their sites and TV. ESPN is extremely biased towards sports they have paid to broadcast.

      • bmcgrath2 - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:02 AM

        lesovuls, why continue to slam NASCAR, and act condescending towards the fans, like me? Yes, I don’t like stock car racing at IMS. Does that mean I have “had it with the racing” as a whole? No.

        You are a proud Indycar fan, who is obviously proud to be a castaway. Yes, we get it. I am happy for you. I am glad there fans of Indycar like you, and I am glad there are fans of NASCAR, and all forms of motorsport, like me. Without the fans, motorsports would be nothing but material for the history books.

      • lesovuls - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:33 PM

        @bmc, maybe you don’t understand, back in 95′ CART or open wheel was huge,bigger than Nascar and closing in on F1. Tony George started IRL and Nascar was going to help Tony destroy open wheel racing. Open wheel was split into IRL(TG’s series )and CART/Champ Car. The fan base was divided and we lost big sponsors and big crowds at the track. Nascar all along knew they could come in and swoop up all the big time sponsorship/tv ratings. All Nascar had to do was tell TG “We got your back Tony”. Indycar has been on a lifeline ever since, but with Randy Bernard’s help Indycar is on it’s way back. So bmc what are your thoughts on G/W/C? The debris cautions? Hearing about Danica in 30th place all race long? Do you watch the 4 hour pre race show?

  7. midtec2005 - Jul 30, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    “My question here is, would France be concerned that the NASCAR brand would be damaged by racing at a track where its cars are significantly slower?”

    I think you hit the nail on the head, Tony. The NASCAR races would be a bore after the Indycar race.

  8. crush22 - Jul 30, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    France’s gut is about the size of France.
    Try mixing in a salad every now and then fat boy.

  9. snoopyo - Aug 1, 2013 at 12:22 AM

    midtec I remember you being on ESPN and I always wondered what happened to you and its good talking racing with you again. Yeah ESPN ran us all off but the last comment I made on there I blasted Terry Blount and said he was a terrible writer and he should never be allowed to write about INDYCAR ever again. I have enjoyed reading Tony DiZinno’s articles since I been on here and nbcsports has so many articles about our great sport.

    • Tony DiZinno - Aug 1, 2013 at 12:36 AM

      Thanks for the kind words, and the support, snoopyo. Welcome aboard!

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