IndyCar: Power leads award winners during series championship celebration


Sunday night’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship celebration was a good one – it will air Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN after a re-air of Saturday night’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway at 8 p.m. ET. NBCSN lead commentator Leigh Diffey hosted the event.

Here’s the text recap from INDYCAR – I’ll put together more thoughts on the season, the celebration and in particular champion Will Power’s speech later in the week.

LOS ANGELES (Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014) – Less than 24 hours after winning the Verizon IndyCar Series championship, Will Power got his chance to celebrate.

Power – along with other drivers, teams and manufacturers – were recognized during the INDYCAR Championship Celebration at Club Nokia at the LA Live entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles.

Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR, presented Power and team owner Roger Penske with a $1 million championship bonus check and replicas of the Astor Challenge Cup, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship trophy.

“It’s still sinking in really,” said Power, a first-time series champion. “When you want something so bad for so long, it’s such a relief when you finally get it. It’s exactly that – a culmination of 15 years of hard work to get to this point.”

In addition to the championship bonus, Power accepted the Jostens Champions Award, a ring valued at $10,000. He also won the Sunoco Diamond Performance Award and its $75,000 prize for winning the most races and the Verizon P1 Award for scoring the most points among pole winners.

Matt Jonnson, chief mechanic for Power’s No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, accepted the Verizon IndyCar Series Chief Mechanic of the Year Award. Jon Bouslog of Team Penske accepted the Team Manager of the Year Award.

Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport – HVM accepted the $50,000 Verizon IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, while Jack Hawksworth won the Tony Renna Rising Star Award.

Charlie Kimball claimed the $25,000 TAG Heuer “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” Award for advancing the most cumulative places during the season. Juan Pablo Montoya was voted favorite driver by Verizon IndyCar Series fans.

Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports, accepted the manufacturer’s award on behalf of Chevrolet.

Helio Castroneves of Team Penske was honored as the second-place finisher in the championship while Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing was honored for finishing third.

Verizon IndyCar Series award winners:
Championship driver (Astor Challenge Cup): Will Power
Jostens Championship Driver Award (ring): Will Power
Championship team (Astor Challenge Cup): Verizon Team Penske
Championship team sponsors: Verizon
Championship team manager: Jon Bouslog
Chief Mechanic of the Year Award: Matt Jonnson
Sunoco Diamond Performance Award ($75,000): Will Power
Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award ($50,000): Carlos Munoz
TAG Heuer “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” Award ($25,000): Charlie Kimball
Second place championship driver: Helio Castroneves
Second place championship team: Team Penske
Third place championship driver: Scott Dixon
Third place championship team: Target Chip Ganassi Racing
Tony Renna Rising Star Award: Jack Hawksworth
Verizon P1 Award: Will Power
Manufacturers Championship: Chevrolet
Dan and Susie Wheldon “Make a Difference” Award ($1,000 charitable donation): Susie Wheldon
Verizon IndyCar Series Fan Favorite Driver: Juan Pablo Montoya

‘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.”