INDIANAPOLIS – There’s no question about it, the NTT IndyCar Series is still on a rise. Attendance and ratings just keep growing and growing. I mean, just look at this past season as a prime example.
In came a new TV network provider in NBC Sports. In came a new entitlement sponsor in NTT Data. In came a new season finale (Laguna Seca). So much change, but so much growth.
NBC Sports’ first year as the exclusive media partner of INDYCAR resulted in a 9% viewership increase for the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season vs. 2018, according to data from the Nielsen company and digital data from Adobe Analytics.
The 16 races in 2019 averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 1.105 million viewers across NBC, NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, up 9% vs. 2018 (1.011 million on ABC, NBCSN, digital). Eight races were broadcast on NBC this season vs. five network-broadcast exposures last year on ABC. NBCSN televised eight races this year as compared to 11 last year.
The season was punctuated by the first-ever Indianapolis 500 on NBC. With a thrilling finish and 300,000+ fans in attendance, the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” averaged a TAD of 5.475 million viewers, up 11% vs. the 2018 race (TV-only 4.913 million, ABC). Excluding the Indy 500, the seven remaining races broadcast on NBC averaged a TAD of 929,000 viewers, up 3% vs. ABC’s four non-Indy 500 races last year (906,000).
That’s a win.
Then, you have a new car that was debuted last season. The car was what Jay Frye says gave them their identity back. It was vintage Indy Car with better racing.
The NTT IndyCar Series certainly had close racing in the recently completed 17-race season, and the proof is in the finishes.
On six occasions, the race winner’s margin was less than one second, the most for a season over the past five years. Thirteen of the 15 races that finished under green – or 86.6 percent of the time – the winning margin was less than three seconds, again the most over a five-year span. Two tracks – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway – also established Indy car records for closest margin of victory this season. Scott Dixon nipped Chip Ganassi Racing rookie teammate Felix Rosenqvist by 0.0934 of a second at Mid-Ohio while Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato edged Ed Carpenter of Ed Carpenter Racing by 0.0399 of a second at WWT Raceway.
Last year, there was only one finish of less than a second: Sato’s 0.6084-second victory over Ryan Hunter-Reay at Portland International Raceway. Also, there were only six finishes where the winning margin was less than three seconds.
Races that end under caution do not have an established margin of victory. That means this year’s races at Toronto and Pocono were not factored in.
Margin of victory less than 1 second:
Margin of victory less than 3 seconds:
Now, more changes come for the future. An Aeroscreen will debut for the 2020 season. The first on track test went off without a hitch on Wednesday from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 2021, the series will have a new engine formula which will produce hybrid engines but more horsepower and even lower downforce. You think the racing is good now, just wait for another two more years.
“To me this is a total industry-changing driver safety solution,” Frye said on Wednesday from IMS. “So we couldn’t be more proud of this. This to me is a game changer. This is big. The aero kit was obviously very cool. We got our identity back. We like the way it races, all that type of stuff, less downforce, more horsepower, that’s the direction, that’s all good. But I think this is something that will really change the complexion of the sport for a long time to come, so this is big.”
IndyCar is leading the way in this revolution. NASCAR is doing the complete opposite. Their cars are going with less horsepower and higher downforce. It’s the exact opposite as IndyCar’s formula.
Formula One has a halo but not this safety device that some officials say that they need to take a look at.
IndyCar is leading the charge on this and doing so with rising numbers.