The new year is upon the motorsports industry and indications are favorable going into the next season. This month we will review the trends from last year and how they will keep that momentum going forward.

This year started with uncertainty over racing schedules and whether fans would be allowed to watch races in person. Over the next few months, testing protocols and vaccine initiatives were established with drivers and teams taking part of public awareness campaigns.

Postponements occurred and events were cancelled or moved to alternate venues as certain regions flared up and limited foreign visitors.  The result was a different calender with non-traditional competition formats.

Flexibility was key. Motorsports and its partners responded based on lessons learned over the previous twelve months. Sponsorship and broadcast contracts were fulfilled and financial obligations honored.

By the middle of the year, tracks began removing restrictions.  Thus, the second half of the season seemed closer to normal by most standards.

The overall results from a scheduling perspective have been viewed as positive.  All dates and venues were fair game as they experimented and invoked change.  Traditionalists were uneasy as established markets and dates were no longer assured.  As the metrics rolled in for attendance and ratings, it was clear changes had positive impacts.

Cost initiatives also kept moving forward.  Long a barrier to entry and hurdle to getting into the winners circles, officials recognized they had to do something.  They gathered the stakeholders and made bold moves. The result were spec chassis and interchangeable parts.  Indications from testing are that the competitive balance will be restored and financial playing field leveled.

There is change in team ownership not seen in many years.  New entities view business opportunities in motorsports on par with other professional sports.  The availability of financial capital, stability of rules packages and existing owners seeking exit transitions as prices are rising.

The new breed of owners is embracing non-traditional media opportunities on and off the track.  Viewed as digital partnerships with entertainment celebrities and they look to solid generate revenue numbers.

Sports betting is bringing new engagement.  The establishment of fantasy sports leagues and its growth over the last three decades has been the primary catalyst.  Legalization and the expansion of gambling in the last two years is phenomenal. Casinos are locating sports books at tracks and mobile devices bring betting to the grandstands.  These companies are signing sponsorship agreements throughout the industry.

Media companies continue to delve deeper into sports.  Rights holders spend higher fees on their contracts even renewing deals earlier and extending terms.

Viewership platforms are diverging with on-demand and streaming driving expansion.  The development of content by non-traditional players is brilliant.  Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” is the primary driver behind the incredible rise of Formula One worldwide popularity.

The industry behind the sport is healthy.  Shutdowns, supply shortages and rising prices are part of the storyline.  Trade shows led by SEMA and PRI gave companies the occasion to meet with their customer base.  Cautious optimism was the underlying theme.

The outlook is bright.  Motorsports, faced the challenges and adapted. That’s what racers do best.  This along with solid economic fundamentals will make next season competitive on and off the track.