Bobby Rahal Says Job 1 for IndyCar is Getting the Right TV Package

Jackson Wheeler
10 Min Read


  • Bobby Rahal says a new TV deal is what’s going to keep the sport healthy because the teams will be able to stay the course.
  • Rahal would also like to see a third engine manufacturer enter the series, one that “has real capability and has a tradition of winning.”
  • The team owner also likes his team’s chances for a rebound at Indianapolis this season.

IndyCar driving great and longtime team owner Bobby Rahal recently sat down with Autoweek for an exclusive, wide-ranging discussion on a variety of racing issues. Part 1 was primarily about Formula 1. Part 2 here is more about IndyCar and its future in North America:

Autoweek: A couple of weeks ago, NASCAR announced a massive nearly $8 billion TV package that will bring in a great deal of money for teams. Will IndyCar, which is in the final year of its current deal with NBC in 2024, ever get a big TV deal that would finally allow teams to share TV revenue?

Bobby Rahal: “Ever is a long time and the Indianapolis 500 is still the biggest race in the world. I think that’s Job 1 for IndyCar, to go out and get the right television package. You look at NASCAR and Formula 1, much of their revenue comes from television rights. That’s Job 1 with IndyCar because the racing’s better than anything else that I know of, we’ve got great venues like Nashville, Long Beach, Indy, St. Pete.

The venues are certainly world class and the racing is certainly world class, the competitiveness of it. So the television rights should reflect that. That’s Job 1 in my mind for IndyCar, to get the right not just television package but streaming package. That’s what’s going to keep it healthy because the teams will be able to stay the course, regardless of what the sponsorship world may look like.”

Autoweek: What is the 2024 season going to be like for IndyCar? It’s continuing to grow and become more popular; it will introduce the long-awaited hybrid engine in the second half of the season and the competition is as close as it’s ever been.

Bobby Rahal: “It’s going to be super-competitive again. There’s a lot of strong teams in the series, people are spending a lot of money. It’s a strong market for good mechanics and good engineers, things like that.

The challenge is going to be as great next year as it’s ever been and I think the racing is going to show that again, super-super competitive. We’ve not had mechanical unreliability in this series for many years, and that’s what’s made it so good. When I first started in (IndyCar) in 1982, probably half the cars wouldn’t finish a race. That just doesn’t happen anymore. We’ve got to make sure everything’s right to introduce this new technology and sometime after (the Indy 500) is when we’ll do that.

Autoweek: There was a recent media report that claimed Honda, one of the two engine manufacturers in IndyCar, may pull out of the series after the 2026 season unless costs are brought down or IndyCar finally succeeds in bringing in a third engine manufacturer. Not to mention you campaign Honda’s in IndyCar and you also own a Honda auto dealership. What are your thoughts about Honda reportedly considering leaving the series?

Bobby Rahal: “Honda has been part of this (hybrid) engine development thing for over a year, so it’s not like there hasn’t been any involvement there. They know full well, better than anybody, probably what the situation is. I would seriously doubt Honda would leave. They’ve been a stalwart of the series since the IRL since 2000 when Chevrolet pulled out, they stepped up and filled the gap. I can’t imagine that they would leave.

Companies make decisions for all kinds of reasons. Honda said it was going to pull out of Formula 1 a few years ago, and then Red Bull goes out and wins the world championship twice with Honda power. Then Honda changed its mind and decided to stay in (F1). I’m a doubter (that Honda will leave IndyCar). I think (having Honda in IndyCar) does add a lot of value to Honda’s business and (for him as) a Honda dealer. I believe that.”

auto aug 12 ntt indycar series gallagher grand prix

One of the hot rumors in IndyCar is that Honda is considering ending its participation in the series after 2026.

Icon Sportswire//Getty Images

Autoweek: What are your thoughts on IndyCar finally attracting a third engine manufacturer, something they’ve been chasing for years? Can IndyCar finally secure a third manufacturer, which would bring down costs considerably?

Bobby Rahal: “I’d love to see Toyota. Apparently, it was pretty close a year or two ago. I’d love to see a company like that who has real capability and has a tradition of winning. To have the Toyota name, IndyCar would be tremendous.

As for Ford, we were a Ford team for a number of years back during the height of CART. They also owned Cosworth Engineering at the time, which was one of the greatest engine engineering companies in the history of motor racing. Ford would be great, but I don’t think Edsel (former Ford Chairman Edsel Ford II) is a fan from what I can tell, which is a shame.

If you look at the history of Ford and racing in IndyCar, Ford won Indianapolis in 1965 with Jimmy Clark. That was the start to a long relationship with the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway. It’d be great if they came in. It’s a shame they’re not.”

auto aug 11 ntt indycar series gallagher grand prix

Graham Rahal, left, and Bobby Rahal, right, had a roller-coaster season in 2023, to say the least.

Icon Sportswire//Getty Images

Autoweek: Let’s talk about your team in 2024. You have one of your strongest lineups in years. You re-signed Graham, you have Christian (Lundgaard) and you recently signed Pietro Fittipaldi to drive your third car. Graham still has a few years left in his tank, Christian won last year and Pietro could be a pleasant surprise. Can you talk about Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for 2024?

Bobby Rahal: “We had a horrible (Indy) 500 last year, and after that race, I told my guys that we needed a plan as to how we’re going to right that wrong and how we’re gonna perform in 2024.

I’m cautiously optimistic about the results so far that look good. But obviously we’re not here to have the kind of race that we had this last year. And I think you saw that halfway through (last season, when overall team performance and race results significantly improved), particularly on the street and road courses, when we were as good or better than anybody else.

We had four pole positions, which was as many as Penske and I think as many as McLaren, and we had three cars and Christian won, Graham really kind of got robbed by the yellow flag at the Indy Grand Prix in the fall and led most of the race and had a pole at Portland as well. I think the pace on the road courses and on the street circuits is pretty good. We’re not gonna take anything for granted. Clearly, our focus is on the 500 this year to a large extent, and I feel good, I think we’re going to be strong.”

Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on X (formerly Twitter) @JerryBonkowski

Share This Article
Follow:
Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
Leave a comment