Seems the scuttlebutt on the 2013 season places the parking lot race in Houston later into October while keeping Fontana in the same time slot. Mistake.
One thing we have heard from IndyCar management is the need to have an Iconic finale, and as it had been originally pondered, a finale that IndyCar owned as its own. Indeed the Vegas experiment was exactly that, a bold foray into a series created race that would be an Iconic jewel to close the season. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.
I tend to believe that Rome wasn’t built in a day, some things need time to come into their own, but you still have to be observant enough to spot potential, and wise enough to nurture it. The race at Fontana for 500 miles has the potential to be everything IndyCar could ever dream of for a finale. Fast, with multiple grooves at a locale not too far removed from some sexy real estate and at a race distance that lets storylines play out and harkens back memories of the sport’s most important event.
But as great as the race was, some things need some improvement, and primarily that begins in the stands. The crowd, estimated at 25-30k by the LATimes looked miniscule in the massive grandstands that ring the main straightaway. While that crowd at Iowa would look huge, it looked pretty lonely at Fontana. The truth is you can’t claim something is a big deal if the house is more than half empty.
Unlike Homestead where you never really had optimism that more people would ever show up no matter what effort might be tried or Vegas that seemed to pin expectations for a crowd on tourists purchasing plane tickets, Fontana has the second largest US DMA at hand. The people are already there. But getting them to come is the challenge.
And In Typical JP Style (No Bitching w/o positive suggestions)…Here’s some thoughts towards filling those red and yellow seats:
Capitalizing on Positive word of mouth. I tend to believe that Product trumps Promotion. Recommendation weighs more than hype. At the day job, I have been exposed to some of the thinking that goes into movie promotion and some of it applies here. If a studio believes they have a dog on their hands they will over promote a movie to get everyone out to see it the first weekend of release before consumers all start talking to each other and realize what a rotten tomato it was. When a studio thinks they have gold on their hands, they promote enough to gain awareness and then trust that when the first viewers see it, their positive reaction to it and the positive word of mouth they spread will manifest itself in box office gains in subsequent weekends. I have to imagine people in the stands were entertained as much as we were at home. For those who bought tickets, offer a renewal package that features discount pricing for additional seats purchased for next year’s race, help them share the fun with friends.
Cross Promote with Long Beach. The second biggest event on the IndyCar schedule happens an hour and fifteen minutes to your west. Get both promoters in the room and get a plan together to promote a ticket plan that includes admission to BOTH events. Perhaps a buy one event and get General Admission to the other for an additional $20. Let this deal reciprocate Long Beach into Fontana, and then Fontana into Long Beach the following year.
Tinker with the date. If it’s 105 degrees on September 15 and you aren’t up against a Fall Cup date at the same track, run this thing when it cools down a bit. The week after Houston would be ideal. The newly available mid September date gives you another chance to fit another Oval into the schedule. Kentucky or Michigan? Perhaps Gateway, Memphis or Rockingham if you are looking for a smaller house to fill. Kentucky, Michigan or Gateway could potentially be paired with a ticket promotion tied to Indy 500 tickets in the same way as I suggest pairing Long Beach and Fontana.
Find a Mexican Driver. Ponder what Toronto would be without James Hinchcliffe…If you are not familiar with the Demographics of Southern California…A Mexican driver would move the needle here. Perhaps Memo Rojas in the vacant car at G2 or perhaps someone give Esteban Gutierrez’s GP2 backers a call. Neither of these guys are schleps. Rojas is a series champion from Grand Am and Gutierrez won the GP2 sprint race at Hungary earlier this summer. If you are a multicultural series, then use that multiculturalism to grow the scope and size of your fan base.
Apply the Pizzaz. Throw a car Parade in the OC, Hold a party in Hollywood, persuade some A -listers to make the trip. These ideas are nothing new, they have been used at Long Beach and Vegas in the Past. They could have an impact here.
50,000 in short order is not out of the question here. Commitment and dedication to the cause will drive the bus and build an iconic event.