IndyCar, Boston, and Labor Day
The Verizon IndyCar Series has a recent history of races that almost happened. Brazil, China, Ft. Lauderdale, and Providence come to mind. All were well-intentioned, of course, but somehow the organizers could not quite pull it all together. The most recent name to be mentioned is Boston. They do know a little something about hosting big races.
Boston is a big event city, with the Boston Marathon and its 35,000 participants serving as a benchmark. When you add in the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and Patriots, it is easy to say Boston is the biggest of big league cities. IndyCar connecting to this vibe is a huge benefit.
According to a recent article in the Boston Herald, the race would be run in the Seaport District, presumably using the Boston Convention and Exposition Center as a hub. The revitalized area in South Boston is a happening place, home to museums, hotels, and restaurants. Basically, this is the only place in town with the necessary infrastructure to host the race and not screw up the notoriously bad traffic of the city to the point where the natives would rebel.
The article mentions a Labor Day date. That date would satisfy Hulman & Co. chief Mark Miles’ dream of a season ending race where the champion is crowned on Labor Day in front a big crowd. If the season is going to end on Labor Day, this is the place to do it. Boston checks all the boxes for the season finale.
There would be a big crowd. If there wasn’t, at least the television viewers wouldn’t be able to tell. Certainly, the VIP chalets around the track would be sold out. The empty seats at the season-ending oval race at Fontana don’t really paint a picture of a thriving series celebrating a championship. Boston is big time. Crowning the champion there makes sense because it would not be just another race. Miles is on record saying he wants to own Memorial Day and Labor Day. This is where you own Labor Day.
The time zone is right. Ending the season with an evening race in California is brutal, and not just because the setting sun is in the drivers’ eyes. No one on the East Coast watches, and the East Coast, whether the fans like it or not, is the center of the sports broadcasting universe. There is a reason that crazy Bill Walton gets away with his stream-of-consciousness ranting on ESPN’s Pac 12 basketball broadcasts: no one watches it. Yes, the East Coast sports elite look down on the flyover country of the Midwest. Yes, the East Coast sports elite marginalize the Verizon IndyCar Series. But the series still needs to curry favor and get on their radar. If that means ending the season on Labor Day so you are the biggest show in town before the NFL starts, then IndyCar needs to grit its teeth, smile, and put on a great show. The product will sell itself once people see it.
If the Verizon IndyCar Series is going end its season on Labor Day, then they have to own it. The teams and drivers need to be on board and pretend to be excited about the Labor Day event as the season-ender. It is worth noting that Mark Miles went out of his way to make the point that he may have been unclear about wanting to have multiple races in the late winter season after the Super Bowl, and that he certainly wants to build the schedule on the front end. Right. You can also read that as the team owners and sponsors letting Miles know that the season has to be longer in terms of duration to justify spending marketing money. Miles is no dummy. He knows that the push-back to a Labor Day end of the season is real and must be dealt with by an earlier start to the season. Miles has drawn his line in the sand. The season ends on Labor Day.
In a perfect racing world, the Verizon IndyCar Series would start in February and end in October. Everyone would be sated with the best open-wheel racing on the planet. In our imperfect world, though, the series needs to do what it can with what it has. They need to be successful on the stage they control and build from there. Boston is center stage and the series needs to be on it. Hopefully, the Hub won’t be another city given the hook and pulled offstage before IndyCar can get its show on the road.