Mark Miles talks about the road ahead for IndyCar

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Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles may have given us an glimpse into IndyCar’s near-future yesterday at the 2013 Motorsports Marketing Forum in Las Vegas.

SportsBusiness Daily’s Josh Carpenter reports several interesting tidbits from Miles during his interview at the Forum, including the revelation of potential new international markets such as the Middle East, South Africa, India and parts of South America.

“There’s enormous opportunity,” Miles said about the subject according to Carpenter. “About a year’s time will tell if I’m right…When we started talking about it, the phones started ringing. I’m going from here to London pursuant to that. And there’s lots of interest now.

“We’ve got to have the right partners, they have to understand the economics and it has to make sense.”

Carpenter also tweeted yesterday that IndyCar’s had “three positive conversations” with potential title sponsors to replace IZOD, who chose in September to end their deal with the series at the conclusion of this past season.

Additionally, Miles said that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is “likely to try” adding an apron to the 2.5-mile oval to help boost the on-track product for its NASCAR events, including the Brickyard 400. IMS is set to receive a substantial amount of money for future upgrades, and it can be assumed that some of the money could go toward the apron project.

Where to start? Well, it’s a good thing for IndyCar that the title sponsorship has attracted at least some interest. On the other hand, you only had to scroll through the Twittersphere last night to see rampant skepticism about Miles’ plan for IndyCar global expansion.

To the observers in that boat, IndyCar’s minimal American presence beyond the Indianapolis 500 should be enough to stop Miles from having pipe dreams of international races and keep him focused on fixing things here at home. Except, apparently, it isn’t.

One figures Miles has at least read up on how the planned 2012 race in Qingdao, China crumbled and is taking extra care to find those “right partners” as he put it. If he can, it could all work out. Until then, he’ll have to deal with the naysayers.

As for the matter of re-installing the apron at IMS, that may be a good move on Miles’ part. The Speedway’s NASCAR events have suffered for various reasons over the years, but out of all of those, the most prominent is that the stock car racing simply isn’t very good there.

It may not completely solve the problem, but if an apron can provide some more instances of on-track passing, then at least we won’t feel like we’re watching a never-ending parade every summer.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”