Two drastically different styles of racing took part this Sunday


Nowhere are NASCAR and IndyCar more pronounced in their differences than what each series provided this Sunday.

IndyCar had the early start to the day – an 11 a.m. ET race from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The race was the third of 10 street course races that make up the 19-race 2013 calendar, and is already being hailed as an instant classic.

You’d have to go back to “The Pass,” Alex Zanardi’s legendary move on Bryan Herta through Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s “Corkscrew” at the 1996 IndyCar race in Monterey, to find a last lap pass on a road or street course with such magnitude, gusto and guile as what James Hinchcliffe did to Takuma Sato in Brazil.

In terms of an entire road or street race, Sao Paulo’s plethora of passing, varying strategies and drama until the last corner of the race, events such as Long Beach 1998 (another Zanardi comeback) come to mind off the top of your head. But it’s hard to think of many quite of the caliber of what was witnessed at Sao Paulo.

By contrast, NASCAR was in Talladega, home to the inevitable “big one” accident, and a marathon for all involved given it was a 500-mile race to begin with, then interrupted by a three-and-a-half hour rain delay.

Denny Hamlin, who made his return to the cockpit after his injury before yielding to Brian Vickers, said in FOX’s Hollywood Hotel before the final “big one” of the day that with hot tempers, dark skies and barely more than a dozen laps to go, that, “This is a disaster waiting to happen.”

Hamlin was proven correct. Once Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and J.J. Yeley made contact, it precipitated the latest massive accident that so frequently occurs in restrictor plate races.

An upside of the restrictor plate races is that if you do survive the carnage, as an underdog team, you can get a decent result. Front Row Motorsports will steal this week’s early headlines with its shock 1-2 finish for David Ragan and David Gilliland, but Michael Waltrip (second start of the year), Regan Smith (underfunded Phoenix Racing) and Scott Speed (underfunded Leavine Family Racing) also scored top-10 finishes.

If you’re a connoisseur of both types of racing on offer, good on you. Right now, though, IndyCar’s street course product is hard to beat. Meanwhile, in Darlington next week, NASCAR returns to an oval where racing, rather than crashing, should take precedence.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”