St. Pete - Saturday - Mark Miles availability notes

Story posted - Mar 23 2013 12:39 PM

By Joe Berkemeier

Mark Miles came in for the assembled media and held court for around 15 minutes earlier today.

First questions were around Tony George being re-added to the board of Hulman and Company. Miles admitted what is now known - that Hulman & Company had their required board meetings here on Thursday and Friday. From Miles' perspective, George was never too far from the board, and it made sense to re-add him to the board now that his conflict of interest (trying to buy INDYCAR) was no longer present.

Miles has met with several team owners this weekend - it sounds like the owners are searching for clarity from INDYCAR as far as how Miles will grow the sport. Several of the topics the owners are asking about are the same ones that Boston Consulting Group has identified as key - how do you get more fan engagement or higher TV ratings? How will the schedule be determined? How can marketing and promotion be better?

Aero kits were mentioned and while there was not a firm commitment to actually having aero kits, it did sound like the direction has been given that INDYCAR needs to introduce innovation without raising costs. Of course, that's easier said that done, and there are multiple ways of doing that, each with different costs to different parties. Miles does think that increasing speed (while keeping the cars safe) will be a hook for fans.

In regards to the search for the next INDYCAR CEO, Miles warned that there might not be just one person. It could well be two people - one in charge of the competition side, one in charge of the commercial side. Or it could be one person in charge of INDYCAR and one person in charge of IMS. The outcome might be determined by the skill sets of the person they find. They are hoping to identify the person(s) before the Indy 500.

Curt Cavin reports the leading candidate for the competition side is a familiar one - Derrick Walker, who currently is the General Manager of Ed Carpenter Racing.

Much of the work that Boston Consulting Group has been around how INDYCAR and IMS could perhaps work better together if they were all under one roof. Right now, there is INDYCAR on the south side of 16th Street in Indianapolis and IMS on the north side of 16th Street. They are staffed identical, and it would appear likely there will be some consolidation of shared operations between IMS and INDYCAR.

Miles shot down the idea of breaking the contract with NBC Sports Network - "that's not the way I think you do business" - but he does think that the Formula One races on in the morning before INDYCAR events will help increase ratings. Miles also says that relatively small increases in ratings would help the teams and league quite a bit - it's not like they have to go from .5 to 4 to make a difference.

A proposed race in Calgary was something that Miles said had not been discussed with INDYCAR, but a second race in Brazil does sound like a possibility, as INDYCAR has relationships with people in Brazil who have been working on a second race for a few years.

Miles also talked about a trip to see the movie "Turbo" in Los Angeles. The movie is almost finished pending some final animation and musical changes. "Turbo" is reportedly testing better than expected with all age groups, so it's a big opportunity to INDYCAR to capitalize on what could well be a popular movie. The movie will end up in theatres around the Toronto race.

The purpose of the trip was to figure out cross-promotional opportunities between Dreamworks and INDYCAR. One specific item mentioned was INDYCAR investigating if it was cost-effective to buy movie advertisements to promote INDYCAR - Miles doesn't think it's possible to just buy advertisements to run in front of only screenings of Turbo. Still, at least INDYCAR knows who they need to contact if they go down that route.

It was my first interaction with Mark Miles, and he definitely held his own with the media and wasn't flustered by 20-some people around him firing questions. He was not overly specific, but wasn't vague in a way that made you feel like he had no clue what he was talking about. As Miles said during one point, he admitted he knew less about racing than the assembled media, but it sounds like Miles has a plan for getting the right people who do in the right situation.

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