CEO Mark Miles sees INDYCAR heading onward and upward

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AUSTIN, Texas – As INDYCAR moves full throttle into the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, Hulman & Company CEO Mark Miles reflected on his first drivers meeting back in 2013.

Miles is the CEO of both INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and is the architect of some very positive progress the series has enjoyed in recent years.

“I remember very well my first drivers meeting at Barber Motorsports Park,” Miles recalled. “I knew what I was going to say to them, but I had no idea what I was going to get back. Back in the corner of the room was Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan. All they wanted to talk about was TV. ‘How are you going to fix this TV problem?’

“It showed me that they were focused on the growth of the sport and had enough sense to understand we didn’t have the right platform the way the rights had been licensed. The commercial improvement of the series has been the highest priority of my time since 2013.”

Miles began looking at ways to create a better TV package. At that time, five races were televised over the air by longtime partner ABC with the remainder of the schedule on NBCSN. Because of the way the contracts were structured, ABC was the exclusive television provider of over the air network races but disappeared from the scene after the first weekend in June.

Miles wanted to get one network partner for all IndyCar races when the TV contract came up for renewal in 2018.

Meantime, NBC was showing a real interest in motorsports. The two sides negotiated a deal that brings the entire IndyCar Series schedule to NBC’s family of networks with eight events on NBC, including the 103rd Indianapolis 500. It will be the first time in 55 years that the Indy 500 has aired on a network other than ABC.

Nine races will be televised on NBCSN, creating a near 50-50 split between broadcast and cable. With the same TV crew working the entire schedule, the storylines of the season can be told from start to finish all by the same storytellers.

“The NBC deal will really bear fruit,” Miles said. “If we pulled all of our staff that is either marketing or communications or production in here, the level of work, the daily communications in detail and planning is unprecedented than what we have had in the last few years. It will pay off, I’m sure.”

Enhanced coverage of INDYCAR, including live practice and qualifications, is part of NBC Sports Gold’s INDYCAR Pass, a streaming service that can be purchased for $55 and includes a full video library of IndyCar content.

Miles has also been able to solidify IndyCar’s sponsorship base. Worldwide technological company NTT is the new series sponsor, replacing Verizon after a five-year run.

“NTT is not so much consumer-driven, but the company wakes up every morning to develop technology,” Miles said. “They are serious about seeing what they can do for us.”

Miles explains intramural elbowing under the rim for position between balancing the racing and the cars while others think it should be more about engaging fans.

“We can take more data off the cars and put it on our NTT App, that is available to everyone to download,” Miles said.

It doesn’t end there. In fact, it’s part of a longer list of new partners.

“The one that should be talked about more is Speedway,” Miles said of the large chain of gasoline and convenience stores owned by Marathon Oil. “On the IndyCar side of our street, they will supply the fuel. But from my perspective in building the series, this is an amazing company.

“It’s owned by Marathon, it’s Midwestern-based but is now very national with 4,000 retail/convenience store outlets that 2 million people a day go through. The strategy is to throw all of the ideas in May, not just in Indiana, but broadly, see what ideas work best and roll out those ideas and initiatives where we race, where they have a concentration of stores.”

Firestone has signed a longtime contract extension to remain the sole tire supplier of IndyCar. Firestone is also investing $17 million into a new race tire manufacturing facility in Akron, Ohio.

Gainbridge, an investment firm, has become the presenting sponsor for the Indianapolis 500 over the next five years with a reported price of $1.5 million per year.

“I couldn’t be happier about these additions, and I’m happy with the schedule we have put together for this year,” Miles said. “We want to make more of a crescendo at the end of the season. I’m delighted that NBC is going to air the final two races of the season at Portland and Laguna Seca.”

What about taking IndyCar overseas? There are some countries interested in hosting IndyCar races.

“We’d love to get to Australia because of its history and interest in IndyCar and the nostalgic yearning for those days,” Miles said. “We’ll see how that is going to work out.

“When Brazil gets its economy righted, there is a great fan base there. There is nothing happening at the moment, but when that economy is capable again, it would be a focus for us. Japan is tough because (of) my insistence on a strategy.”

Miles does not want to crown a champion abroad or have an international race after the season begins in March. He would be interested in a few international races in late January or early February.

“That’s why it won’t work in Japan,” Miles said. “There are some climates that don’t work in February, and Japan is one of them.”

He is also interested in a race in Mexico City as part of the regular championship schedule.

“Sooner or later, I hope we find a great place to race in Mexico,” Miles said.

There remains work to finish. One is a TV partner in Canada. Miles said a Canadian television partner will be finalized in time for the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 10. INDYCAR also took over its international licensing for TV rights, creating new partners in Europe and around the world.

“Hopefully, over time, there will be more engaged channels of communication for us,” Miles said. “It won’t all be linear. Some will be direct-to-consumer, but it will be very interesting.”

Every year, rumors begin to circulate that Miles is going to leave INDYCAR and run for mayor of Indianapolis or governor of Indiana. Miles laughs every time he hears that.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Miles emphasized. “I love growth. As long as I feel like we are making a difference and continue to grow the series, I’m interested.

“I’m not running for mayor. I’m not running for governor. I’m not running for anything, and that’s unequivocal.

“But I’m not staying home. This has been very fulfilling so far, and we are getting to the point where it’s going to get really interesting.”

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)