Why IndyCar's new docuseries is publicity that it deserves and wishes - Motor Informed
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Why IndyCar’s new docuseries is publicity that it deserves and wishes

Throughout this offseason, one thing calling itself the IndyCar Drivers Affiliation despatched a letter to 5 very senior members of Penske Leisure, asking for IndyCar to step up its advertising and marketing. It was, by most accounts, an ill-conceived and ill-constructed missive from a free band of drivers, and apparently it went down like a cup of chilly vomit with these on the high.

On the very least, it got here throughout as a completely pointless effort to level out the apparent – that IndyCar deserves to be extra widespread – and appeared to pay little heed to the truth that there are folks working lengthy hours making an attempt to enhance the state of affairs. Those that expressly wished to not have their identify related to the letter included veterans and relative newbies. The rationale for his or her reluctance was a perception that it might have been way more constructive to collate the drivers’ concepts, current them to Penske Leisure after which decide to serving to remodel the advertising and marketing ideas into actuality.

A part of the irritation from the IndyCar fits on this event was that behind the scenes, unbeknown to nearly all of drivers, there have been already plans in place to make a giant step in advertising and marketing the sequence. On Thursday this week, IndyCar introduced a six-part docudrama commencing in spring entitled 100 Days to Indy that may air on the CW Community.

Produced by Penske Leisure and VICE Media Group, the six-part sequence will chronicle the beginning of the 2023 season and the build-up to the 500. Penske Leisure president and CEO Mark Miles described Indy as “an unrivalled spectacle fuelled by formidable, fearless and charming personalities”, including that the documentary would deliver the drama “to a more moderen and younger viewers”.

Miles is true to be enthusiastic: this is an enormous deal. In the previous few months, The CW turned 75 p.c owned by Nexstar, the most important TV station proprietor within the USA. If this sequence converts informal viewers into IndyCar followers, and new-found followers into die-hard followers, then it might be a giant acquire for IndyCar, in the identical manner that 4 seasons of Drive to Survive is alleged to have boosted System 1 curiosity within the USA. If 100 Days to Indy really catches gentle, it will likely be a giant acquire for Nexstar, so it’s not inconceivable that there might be follow-up sequence that are pushed to larger audiences but.

After all, Nexstar won’t be in a mad sprint to spice up viewing figures of IndyCar’s race service NBC Sports activities since NBC is owned by rival Comcast, however it might be really a mark of progress by IndyCar if, the subsequent time its TV contract is up for renewal, there’s a bidding conflict to cowl its races… One can dream.

It is hoped that the new show will help IndyCar personalities to reach new audiences

It’s hoped that the brand new present will assist IndyCar personalities to succeed in new audiences

Picture by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Workforce Penske’s 2017 and 2019 IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden is thrilled that IndyCar has one other platform, and that it received’t be a case of simply preaching to the transformed.

“We have now to inform the story of IndyCar, clarify why people who find themselves already followers of it are so into it,” he tells Autosport. “This sequence will drive us to try this, and it’ll hopefully pull in new folks, create new followers.”

When it comes to comparisons to DTS, which has now run 4 seasons of 10 episodes every, Newgarden believes the six-part 100 Days to Indy is “a great place to begin”.

He says: “It’s going to be very speedy, not quite a lot of wait time to see this content material. It’s going to start out just about once we start testing for the 2023 season so that you’re going to see quite a lot of content material constructed round how we begin our season, how the primary couple of races go, how we put together for Indy, after which Indy itself. It’s most likely not going to be precisely the identical as different content material packages like Drive to Survive however it will likely be uniquely IndyCar.”

That, absolutely, is vital – being uniquely IndyCar. And provided that the sequence’ major USP is variety of tracks, it’s useful that the 5 races main as much as the 107th working of the Indianapolis 500, from which VICE might be garnering footage, embody highway programs, avenue programs and an oval.

“Yeah, that’s crucial,” says Newgarden, “and we should present the intricacies of our sport. I imply, I’m excited that we might attract a brand new viewers, however I’m additionally completely satisfied that we’re going to have the ability to showcase extra of the secrets and techniques of our sport, ones that even quite a lot of present IndyCar followers don’t admire.

“As a result of after I take into consideration IndyCar, I take into consideration the secretiveness round looking for a bonus and never letting anybody see the small print of that. Everybody right here is so explicit about that, so I believe this docuseries goes to be nice about opening that up.

“For only one instance, fuel-saving: I do know lots of people say that sounds boring however in actuality it’s actually fascinating and tough to do nicely, particularly throughout a portfolio of various kinds of racecourse. Going quick whereas saving gasoline is such a giant a part of our racing, and explaining how with the ability to try this opens up new methods for the staff is the form of element I hope we are able to get into.”

Newgarden hopes the docuseries will shed light on hidden techniques like fuel-saving and make them more accessible

Newgarden hopes the docuseries will make clear hidden strategies like fuel-saving and make them extra accessible

Picture by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

DTS has been criticised for enhancing sure sequences to juice up the storylines, recommend ill-feeling that in fact was minimal or non-existent. And it’s the curse of any programme that claims to be a ‘behind-the-scenes look’ that it should overcome the skepticism of those that mechanically – and fairly rightly – query the authenticity of so-called actuality reveals. Newgarden reckons he received’t be suckered into hamming it up for the digicam.

“No, I believe my persona on digicam might be simply going to be me,” he smiles. “In the event that they select to showcase me, I’m simply going to be who I’m – fairly severe after I present up on the observe. I’m not going to vary. However truthfully, I don’t assume any of us might want to act completely different for the cameras. There’s sufficient variety between the personalities that if persons are simply themselves, the producers are going to have loads of attention-grabbing storylines.”

It is going to be intriguing to see if Newgarden, and the Workforce Penske atmosphere as an entire, can deal with the presence of intruders into hitherto non-public areas, because the crews search footage of debriefs, technique conferences, drivers’ conferences and so forth.

“We’ve had some expertise of this over time,” he says. “I perceive the dynamic of capturing the occasions of a weekend and having strangers in your area. This can most likely be extra intrusive, you’re proper, however that’s a part of the deal, and we’ve bought to be extra open to exhibiting what our sport is. I don’t assume there’s a simple solution to strategy this, however we should let folks in to indicate what’s occurring and nonetheless keep targeting the job at hand.”

The VICE squad’s mics and cameras might additionally present some irresistible footage of high-pressure moments on pitlane throughout race day, reminiscent of when an premature yellow throws everybody’s technique out the window, or when a staff simply fails to name in its driver in response to their rivals’ techniques, and instantly they get shuffled from a podium place to outdoors the highest 10.

“Yeah, it will likely be attention-grabbing to indicate the distinction between the nice calls and unhealthy calls,” says Newgarden. “It’s not nearly drivers. I believe the strategists and everybody on the pitstand are sometimes under-praised for the job that they’ve accomplished.

“Seeing these guys in actual time, coping with the stress, making an attempt to orchestrate one thing like a sudden technique change, adjusting on the fly… heck, it’s fascinating even from the place I’m sitting. Yeah, this 100 Days to Indy ought to have the ability to give folks a greater perspective of what it takes to win a race.”

The role played by engineers and strategists may also expose the nuances of winning races in IndyCar

The function performed by engineers and strategists may expose the nuances of profitable races in IndyCar

Picture by: Motorsport Images

When he says that these six episodes might be a great begin, Newgarden ealborates that he harbours ambitions of seeing it blossom into extra episodes and common sequence.

“I believe if we do a great job and we offer good entry and charming particulars about why the game is so tough and why it’s so enjoyable, and if we’re in a position to present the varied personalities, I don’t see why this could’t be a longterm factor that we increase down the highway,” he says. “I believe it’s what IndyCar deserves as a result of our racing is so good.”

Is the timing of this sequence good – in a 12 months when F1 might be increasing its attain to incorporate three races within the US? Newgarden says it’s, and insists he doesn’t fear over F1 encroaching on IndyCar territory.

“I’m of the opinion that F1 rising its presence right here is just a great factor for different open-wheel motorsports like us,” he states. “I watch different types of motorsport as a result of I’m a fan of all the pieces, and I get excited that there are extra followers of this model of racing.

“It looks like a pure factor for F1 followers to comply with IndyCar and IndyCar followers to comply with F1, and probably a few of these F1 followers would possibly come to love IndyCar extra, particularly if 100 Days to Indy offers us the prospect to indicate them why our department of the game is so good. So I believe a larger appreciation of F1 on this nation will work for IndyCar, too.”

Helio Castroneves – evergreen however now within the twilight of his IndyCar profession – is blessed with a persona round which you would base at the least half the sequence. For many who marvel if the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner’s ebullience is pretend, it isn’t. His former strategist and Penske staff president Tim Cindric admitted that again in 2000, he had doubts that Castroneves’ fixed enthusiasm was real, however swiftly realised it was – and that it by no means modified.

“I’m satisfied,” smiled Cindric, “that every morning Helio nonetheless jumps away from bed and punches the air and yells, ‘Sure! I’m a racing driver!’”

IndyCar’s bouncing Tigger would have much less attraction to documentary producers if he have been merely an occasional winner with a cheery outlook and a vulpine grin. As an alternative, Castroneves is among the greats. And the actual fact he needed to wait 12 years between his third and fourth Indy victories – reaching that almost all latest triumph as a part-timer for Meyer Shank Racing in 2021 after being solid apart by Workforce Penske – absolutely makes his story acutely interesting for a docuseries based mostly across the build-up to the 500. Does he anticipate to be the focus?

Castroneves will have no problem conveying excitement, disappointment and joie de vivre as he chases a record-breaking fifth Indy win

Castroneves can have no downside conveying pleasure, disappointment and joie de vivre as he chases a record-breaking fifth Indy win

Picture by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

“I… don’t assume I’ll be the main target, however I hope I’ll be on it,” he says earnestly, “as a result of I’d like to present the folks watching the present an understanding of the Indy 500. Everybody can have heard of it however not all of them will know sufficient to completely admire its which means, its historical past. So I believe it will likely be good to coach folks, so after they say that I’m going for win #5 which has by no means been accomplished, they are going to perceive the problem.

“I really feel like VICE and CW have so many tales and conditions they’ll cowl, it will likely be onerous for them to decide on which issues to go in-depth with over the six episodes. My staff proprietor Michael Shank – I do know he might be an attention-grabbing story to cowl, not solely due to what he has achieved but additionally due to him placing all the pieces on the road to construct this staff and achieve success.”

Requested if IndyCar wanted one thing like this a while in the past, Castroneves replies: “Positive, it’s at all times nice to have a community wanting to reveal your sport to extra folks – there’s no unhealthy time for that to occur. However it’s a must to take a look at the circumstances we had. I believe since Roger Penske took over IndyCar and the Speedway, that was at all times gonna assist, however then instantly we had the pandemic and rather a lot needed to be accomplished by Penske Leisure simply to maintain the sequence surviving.

“However now it has not solely survived however with this, we’ve entered a brand new chapter that I believe needs to be nice. I don’t see the destructive aspect.”

One destructive aspect for somebody extra camera-shy than Castroneves could be protection of blunt exchanges between drivers, engineers, staff managers and crew chiefs, plus the potential revelation of confidential data. However, like Newgarden, he believes protocols will be put in place to make sure video editors get what they want with out methods and technical insights being absolutely laid naked.

“I’m positive we’ll have some conversations away from the digicam about what we are able to say in entrance of the digicam,” he says. “However I don’t see it’s a giant problem. I imply, no matter they file received’t be seen on TV till some time after it was vital, so I believe we will be fairly open.

“I believe it’s going to be nice, truly, as a result of I can see somebody like Conor Daly actually being enjoyable in entrance of the digicam – if he’s one of many drivers on the present. Proper now, we don’t know who they’re going to give attention to, however I’d say they’d have loads of selections.

“However what? In the event that they ask my opinion, it shouldn’t simply be in regards to the drivers. It may be staff homeowners, staff managers, mechanics, who they offer publicity to. It’s solely six episodes proper now however I believe it may be increasingly.

Mechanics are unsung heroes who deserve recognition, and Castroneves believes coverage of their work may entice would-be crew members

Mechanics are unsung heroes who deserve recognition, and Castroneves believes protection of their work might entice would-be crew members

Picture by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

“I need youngsters to look at and never simply say, ‘Hey, I need to be an IndyCar driver.’ I need them to look at and say, ‘I need to be an IndyCar engineer, a truck driver, a mechanic, a strategist’… Workforce Penske has over 500 workers, at Meyer Shank, we’ve about 40 – we want extra folks all through the staff, in all of the completely different jobs. And it’s not simply us: this sport as an entire wants extra individuals who need to do that, and I hope this present could make IndyCar look engaging to the blokes who need to work in any function right here.

“You take a look at when Alex [Rossi] had his shunt in apply on Saturday at Barber this 12 months, and his crew needed to work so onerous with members from different Andretti automobiles to get that automobile rebuilt in time for qualifying. They have been heroes. It got here collectively very late, however they only bought out to pitlane on time, after which he certified within the Quick Six. That’s the form of unbelievable story to present the mechanics publicity, present how nicely they’ll carry out underneath unbelievable strain.”

Castroneves factors out that 100 Days to Indy might want to emphasise completely different features of the game than DTSbecause of the disparate natures of IndyCar and F1.

“I consider the explanation that Drive to Survive widespread is as a result of System 1 is thought for its exclusivity,” he observes, “so this sequence offers an inside look, and other people assume, ‘Holy crap, that is nice, we’re proper there the place we are able to’t usually be!’ IndyCar is extra open, so folks know a bit extra what it’s like, so the CW sequence wants to take a look at IndyCar from a unique angle to give attention to particulars.

“F1 blows everybody’s minds with its know-how, all of the automobiles are completely different; we have to emphasise how onerous IndyCar is when everybody has the identical automobile and really comparable engines, so it’s tiny little particulars in technical modifications, good technique and good driving that make the distinction right here. So for the 500, the 100 Days to Indy wants to indicate the blokes behind the scenes, preparation of the automobiles to present us the sting.

“We will take a look at issues like sim work, how they wrap the automobiles, how they work so onerous to cut back gaps in bodywork for much less aero drag…. all of the little issues that make a giant distinction on a giant quick oval.”

It’s onerous to know at this stage what VICE’s researchers determine will greatest captivate newbies, informal followers and addicts to IndyCar. However Castroneves is true to level out: “Lack of leisure is the least of our issues: on-track, we’ve an incredible product. Off-track, the producers can have so many selections.

The programme will show racing on all of the different types of circuit that IndyCar visits in its opening episodes, and there will be no shortage of storylines

The programme will present racing on the entire various kinds of circuit that IndyCar visits in its opening episodes, and there might be no scarcity of storylines

Picture by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

“Suppose what number of nationalities there are in IndyCar, what number of backgrounds – drivers and engineers who got here from System 1, drivers who got here up by way of the Street To Indy programme, drivers who have been on the European ladder however couldn’t discover cash to do F1.

“And since the motion is so good, on and off the observe, there’s no want so as to add drama, no must have drivers saying ‘I hate you’ or issues like that. It’s vital to indicate IndyCar ‘naturally’, if what I imply. Imagine me, our aggressive natures would be the drama; there might be sufficient leisure to get folks to tune in for the subsequent episode and the subsequent.

“Actually, I don’t consider six episodes is sufficient, so I actually hope this can be a success and so they determine to do extra.”

If it’s accomplished proper, let’s preserve the cameras rolling. From the morning after the 500, there might be 104 extra days to the season finale. “104 Days to IndyCar title showdown” isn’t fairly as catchy a title, however that’s a triviality that may be found out. Even earlier than the cameras roll on the primary six episodes, all the pieces is definitely in place for a must-see sequel, and that’s as a result of the fundamental IndyCar product is true. Now it’s time to convey that to the broader world. And that may even fulfill the ‘IndyCar Drivers Affiliation’…

Will the drivers' wishes for more episodes to continue the series beyond the Indy 500 be granted?

Will the drivers’ needs for extra episodes to proceed the sequence past the Indy 500 be granted?

Picture by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images




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