This week specifically there were two big things and two seemingly small/unseen/unrecognized things that all went a long way in proving IndyCar is really solidifying this most important yet somewhat invisible measurement, one IndyCar hasn’t held this strongly for quite some time:
Credibility is simply how one is perceived directly as a result of their presentation and resume. Any smart marketer will tell you that the most important thing any product, service or entity needs is credibility, and that the more of it you have, the easier it is to sell, partner or expand. You basically equate credibility to two things: performance and presentation, and right now IndyCar has them growing in spades. How do we know? Let’s look at the 4 events from this week cited above (keeping in mind they are just 4 of many things):
Credibility With Outside Entities: Those fabulous Super Cars and the NFL Media Party have been HUGE. I can’t state this one enough: the NFL has NEVER before this allowed another sports entity to partner NFL logos with their product. The Super Bowl visits a lot of cities and has plenty opportunities to put its logos on other things, I’m sure they get pitched on it all the time. For some reason IndyCar was the first one to get in, and I guarantee you it wasn’t because the NFL got lazy with saying “no.” On top of the Super Cars, the NFL also held its annual Super Bowl media party at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week. Again, something the NFL had total say in, and could have done anywhere, but the reason IndyCar and IMS were asked/allowed to participate is because the NFL trusted IndyCar to perform to the level and standards they needed.
Credibility with Outside Media: All in this week Ellen DeGeneres used IMS as a backdrop to her show, Graham Rahal was on a CBS Super Bowl roundup show, and Marco Andretti was on a fabulously hilarious sketch for Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night show. And this is a full two months away from any kind of racing and on 3 channels that do not have IndyCar races (though NBC obviously connects to NBCSports). That’s 3 A-list networks and two very A-list TV shows that wanted to work with IndyCar.
Credibility Inside Motorsports: I’m not sure if you heard, but a fellow named Rubens Barichello was testing an IndyCar earlier this week. Rubens has 19 years in Formula One, he’s easily the most popular current driver in South America, and he’s not exactly the type of guy who tries out an IndyCar out of boredom or by random happenstance. He could test out cars in any series he wants right now, but because of his best friend Tony Kanaan helping build that credibility up for IndyCar, Rubens is willing to give it a shot. That in itself has a domino effect on fans (at the last count Rubens ad over 1.6 million followers on twitter) because Rubens himself has credibility and brand and standards, people who associate those things with Rubens will associate them to IndyCar by default. That means more people might be willing to check out a race, follow the series or be pressed to learn more about it… and that is the kind of growth IndyCar is looking for, something from outside their normal sandbox.
But while Rubens was the big cannonball splash this week for IndyCar news within the motorsports driver circle, there was a 2nd small thing this week that has mostly been missed that I think may say more volumes about the state of the Series credibility within motorsports.
Dean Stoneman: I will be testing for @FollowAndretti down in Houston for 2 days next week. This is such a great opportunity & I thank all @FollowAndretti
Stoneman is, he’s a young upcoming British driver, he won Formula 2 in 2010 and afterwards signed to the ISR team in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series to become teammates with Daniel Ricciardo (who is now in F1). Unfortunately before the season began, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. So Stoneman had to take the 2011 season off, but very fortunately he’s beaten the disease, and he’s ready to go racing again. Stoneman’s team in Renault 3.5 held his ride for him in 2012 if he wanted to return, but it now looks Stoneman is going to continue his career with Indy Lights.
Some might say this is nothing new, that European racers always come over when their money or opportunity runs out over there (and they would be right to a certain degree because it has happened before). But Stoneman is not a mid/back-pack journeyman racer; in his last 4 years of racing between Renault 2.0 and F2 his championship finishes have been 1st, 4th, 4th and 2nd with 13 poles won and 15 race wins. I’m not saying he’s guaranteed to set the world on fire, but as far as scouting goes, he's near being a slouch.
Personally I think he would be a huge steal for Andretti Autosport to land, but more importantly as the Series, it just shows that magic measurement of credibility that more and more drivers are looking at IndyCar as a wanted career path.
But before you start writing me angry comments, let’s be clear, 4 small little things do not a great credibility make. But a credibility resume takes into account everything, and those 4 things both big and small just got added to it. It’s not just when good or bad things happen singularly, it’s also how things are reacted to and learned from and how they all look together. While internet trolls would like to point out the few things that have gone wrong and pretend they are the only things that happened, they refuse to acknowledge the numerous things gone right and the things the Series is encouragingly showing it has learned from what went wrong.
We know that things are going right, we know the credibility is looking good these days, because without it, none of the above 4 things happen, because those 4 things above happened after someone evaluated the overall accumulation of credibility that many people remain unaware of… the forest through the trees.