|Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dario Franchitti of Scotland is sprayed with champagne after winning the Honda Indy in Toronto on Sunday. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)
The Honda Indy Toronto may not have been an artistic success with its multitude of crashes, but it was a runaway hit for the Canadian television audience.
TSN, who televised the race in Canada, had its largest audience for the Toronto race in its 14 years of covering the event making the Honda Indy Toronto the most-watched IndyCar race ever on the all-sports network.
A TSN release noted preliminary data showed an average audience of 559,000 viewers watched the live coverage of the race.
“Overall, more than 1.2 million unique viewers tuned in,” the release said. “Audience levels peaked at 735,000 at 4:46 p.m. ET during the final laps of the race as Scotland’s Dario Franchitti survived a crash-filled event to claim the checkered flag.”
RANGER WINS NATIONWIDE RIDE
Winning the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Streets of Toronto 100 on Saturday had its rewards for Andrew Ranger.
The 24-year-old from Roxton Pond, Que., was added to the No. 67 Go Canada Racing team on Tuesday for this weekend’s NASCAR Nationwide New England 200 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Ranger will fill in for J.R. Fitzpatrick, who gets back in the No. 67 Ford Mustang in August at the Nationwide event in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Fitzpatrick will also be the driver of record for Go Canada Racing at the Nationwide NAPA 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal the week after Watkins Glen.
Team owner Steve Meehan said Ranger’s addition to the team is the first step in what he hopes will become a regular launching pad for young Canadian racers interested in pursuing a career in NASCAR.
“We are very excited about having Andrew in the car this weekend,” Meehan said. “We launched this team with the vision of creating an avenue for great Canadian drivers to showcase their talent. We are delighted to have Andrew Ranger team with our other great Canadian talent, J.R. Fitzpatrick. We are creating a solid, young Canadian team that we can build our future around.”
Ranger will be doing a double this week as he already was pencilled in to race in the NASCAR K&N East New England 125.
“I am really excited about competing in both the Nationwide and K&N race next weekend,” Ranger said. “I have two great teams behind me and I hope to deliver a solid result in both races.”
It is time for the bosses at the IZOD IndyCar Series to pay more than lip service to the fact that Canadian race fans are among their most loyal and vocal.
Canadian television ratings for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto shattered previous records for TSN.
And in the United States, the Toronto race garnered the highest-ever numbers for the VERSUS network’s coverage of IndyCar races in 56 U.S. markets.
In less than two weeks the series arrives in Edmonton and it is expected the huge Toronto audience will follow that race as well.
So the gripe here is that these numbers should light a fire under IndyCar and the promoters of the Honda Indy and to a lesser extent, the Edmonton Indy.
If millions of folks are tuning in to these races continent-wide, wouldn’t it be good business to up the level of promotion in the market where the race is being held?
In their third year of running the Honda Indy, Savoree, Green and company have managed to attract more fans to the track and, obviously to the race broadcast, but now is time to go all-in and make next year’s event the equal to what it was in its hay days.