MONTEREY, Calif. — What could be more entertaining in an NBC Sports Group cross-promotion of the NTT IndyCar Series and NASCAR than to have Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud reenacting his cinematic Jean Girard character from the 2006 “Talladega Nights” movie?
The amusing Frenchman teamed up with Team Penske NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney, which included a cameo from Roger Penske, in a hilarious video this week.
As NTT IndyCar Series and NBC Sports Group executives discussed the optimistic state of the series and their television partnership on Friday at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca, the Pagenaud-Blaney video was mentioned as another entertaining effort to attract more fans to motorsports.
The advantage of cross-promotion started in January, when NBC Sports Group publicized during NFL playoff broadcasts the NTT IndyCar Series and the much-anticipated first production of May’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, a race won by Pagenaud. INDYCAR and NBC Sports Group entered into a multi-year television agreement this season, which will include Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.
Mark Miles, Chief Executive Officer of Hulman & Co., which owns INDYCAR and IMS, was joined Friday by Jay Frye, INDYCAR President, as well as NBC Sports Group’s Jon Miller, President of Programming, and Sam Flood, Executive Producer. (Flood and Miller are pictured below.)
“The average total audience delivery, total audience delivery for the series was 1,129,000 viewers for races through the first 15,” Miles said of NBC Sports Group’s broadcasts. “That doesn't include the (recent) Portland (race) data, which will contribute meaningfully, or here at Laguna Seca, both of which as you know are on NBC network. Season to date, 11 races have posted growth over their comparable race viewership numbers last year, which we think is terrific. And NBC's inaugural Indy 500 had total audience delivery of about five and a half million people, 11 percent year over year, which is a great accomplishment and something that these guys to my right and their team worked very, very hard to make happen.
“We've been really pleased with this partnership, proud of the partnership. It's worked from our perspective really well, and to be able to report the results that bear that out is the proof in the pudding.”
As the Pagenaud-Blaney-Penske video showed, the importance of exploring cross-promotion continues.
“We were thrilled that he agreed to do it,” Flood said of Penske’s involvement. “It’s one of those special things and the kind of guy he is to jump on board and make it even bigger because we had a plan B if Roger couldn't do it, and when we got the confirmation, we knew we had something special that was going to happen.”
Pagenaud, one of four contenders for the 2019 championship to be decided in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, is shown sipping tea in Gasoline Alley at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Enter an inquisitive and proud American Blaney for an amusing interaction, in which the drivers argue which form of motorsports is most compelling. Enter Penske, who reminds both who work for him to, “Cut it out! We gotta go win some races!"
“A lot of fun, a lot of great response to it, and that's things we couldn't have done in the past,” Flood said. “I think that's part of us leaning in as NBC in trying to grow all of motorsports, and it's important that every form of racing gets attention, and that's what we're pushing, as you know all too well.”
Miles reported that 97 percent of the series’ sponsorships are in place for 2020, so the goal now is to sell for 2021.
Frye reiterated plans are in place to implement a new Indy car protective aero screen for 2020, a project partnered by Red Bull Advanced Technologies that’s been in the works since 2016. The next steps are tests at IMS on Oct. 2, Barber Motorsports Park (Alabama) on Oct. 7 and Richmond on Oct. 15.
"We talked earlier about data doesn't drive, drivers drive, so it's going to be to that point,” Frye said. “Now, we've got it to where we think all the data shows it's going to be great.
“The clarity, the visuals, we went through a lot of the process already, but it's never been on the track. The track is the final sign-off.”
INDYCAR concludes its 17-race season with the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday. Television coverage will begin on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET (11:30 a.m. PT local) with the green flag scheduled for 3:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m. local). Live radio broadcasts will be available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 205, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).