The NXT Big Marketing Mistake

Although I’ve been known to go off on the occasional rant on this site, I consider myself to be fairly rational and somewhat positive. I know a couple of friends and family members who might be spewing their coffee out about right now, but I normally don’t overreact to things – especially when it comes to moves made by IndyCar. Today might be an exception.

My degree is in marketing, which means I am able to detect BS when I see it. Yesterday, IndyCar sent out a press release that was filled with so much BS, I felt like I was knee-deep in the middle of an abandoned barn.

If you are a regular listener to Trackside, you’ll recall that they have been telling us for the last two to three weeks that Indy Lights was going to undergo a re-branding sometime in the near future, along with the Road to Indy ladder system. They were not sure what the new name for the ladder system would be, but it would not have the word “Indy” in the new moniker.

If they knew what the new name for Indy lights was, they didn’t let on – probably because they didn’t want to have to defend it, especially since Curt Cavin works for IMS.

If you haven’t seen the news yet, the junior series formerly known as Indy Lights is now known as INDY NXT by Firestone. I don’t know if it is pronounced Indy Next, or Indy N-X-T or what. At first, I thought it was a typo that was supposed to say NEXT; but realized it was NXT.


Being unsure how to pronounce it, I read and then re-read the press-release to see if there was any explanation for NXT. I thought maybe there was a pun or double-meaning there that I was missing. Maybe NXT actually stood for something, but there aren’t a ton of words in racing that start with the letter X. After trying to decipher code words, it finally dawned on me that perhaps NXT was a reference to the next generation of drivers. If that was the case, why not just call it IndyCar Next Gen? It’s a little too trendy for my liking, but at least you don’t stare at it and wonder what it means.

As I sorted through the press-release, I found no explanation at all of what NXT stands for. What I did find, however, was a collection of trendy marketing phrases and buzzwords that really amounted to nothing but gobbledygook.

I’ll paste a few of them here, just to give you a taste of what I’m talking about.

“The pathway to North America’s premier open-wheel racing series has a fresh, more youthful and energetic final level: INDY NXT by Firestone.”

“INDY NXT by Firestone will emphasize talent development, while extending racing’s reach and impact to a younger and emerging consumer audience.”

“INDY NXT provides opportunities for Firestone to engage with new audiences and develop and showcase our technology.”

“The 2023 season will provide an additional opportunity for a reset and a new mission to emerge, guided by an ethos that aims to inspire and relate to Generation Z and the young talent piloting race cars.”

Let’s remember, this is not a new series. These are the same cars and many of the same drivers who competed in Indy Lights this past season. But by saying that IndyCar “has a fresh, more youthful and energetic final level”; it gives the impression that the entire series has been reinvented. Not to say that Indy Lights was a pig, but this is the prime definition of putting lipstick on a pig. Nothing has changed except the name.

This is sort of like when Comcast had such a bad reputation as a cable company, they had to make up a non-word to change the name of their service to Xfinity. They spent probably millions on a new logo, signage and marketing to re-brand themselves as Xfinity. Did anything change? Of course not. They still provide the same bad customer service, but the name change was brought about to fool customers into thinking that some massive change had taken place internally.

That’s probably not a fair comparison, because Indy Lights did not have a bad on-track product. I’m not quite sure why a change was needed. Then again, I follow the credo in life that Change is Bad.

What was wrong with Indy Lights? It conveyed an image of a car that was lighter and probably smaller than an Indy car, but was still worthy of carrying the name Indy. That name had been around since 1986, when it was a developmental circuit to CART until 2001. The IRL was starting to eat away at the CART fan base and they formed the Infiniti Pro Series. When Nissan pulled away their support in 2006, it was known simply as the Indy Pro Series. After the reunification in 2008, it once again assumed the Indy Lights name – which remained until yesterday.

The careful wording on the press release gives the impression that this is a fresh new series. If that were the case, I’m assuming they would’ve outlined all of the new enhancements, instead of bombarding us with trite marketing slogans.

To be honest, I expected more out of Roger Penske, Penske Entertainment and the Penske brand than INDYCAR NXT. What kind of marketing geniuses did they have working on this? This is the kind of marketing effort I would expect from Gene Simmons – the man who gave us the not-so-iconic “I am Indy”.

If you’ve followed this site for a while, you know how stupid I think the IndyCar moniker in all upper-case is. I see it as trying to be like NASCAR. There’s one big difference – NASCAR is an actual acronym. It actually stands for something (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing).

What does INDYCAR stand for? Nothing! Some supposed marketing whiz just thought it looks more important in all-caps. That’s why I never mention the name of the sanctioning body or the series on this site in all-caps. It’s stupid. I always refer to them in print as IndyCar. Now the feeder series is in all caps, but I’m not following suit there either. From this point forward, they will always be referred to in print as Indy NXT on this site.

I’m not quite sure why Road to Indy and Indy Lights have had to be re-branded. It seems to me that there are bigger issues to attack in the offseason than this. But if Indy Lights was so bad in someone’s eyes, what made them think that Indy NXT was the way to go? Change is Bad!

George Phillips

11 Responses to “The NXT Big Marketing Mistake”

  1. Good RNT, share your sentiments.

  2. 100% agree George. To me, Indy Next sounds like the title of a local TV show after the morning news ends the broadcast Monday-Friday.

  3. Completely agree.

    I also spell it IndyCar.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    Definitely a solution in search of a problem. Given the low profile of the series, this won’t likely wind up being a significant black eye for Penske’s folks outside of the Indycar diehard community. Still, what an odd and unnecessary move for a series whose followers now and into any foreseeable future are pretty much entirely Indycar diehards.

    Since Firestone is spending money as the title sponsor of the series, I’m wondering if this was a change they pushed for or if they had to be convinced to agree to it. Why the logo says “Firestone Indy NXT” while all of the press text says “Indy NXT by Firestone” is another mystery.

  5. Mark Wick Says:

    At least whoever did this got you to write about a series you often say you don’t follow.

  6. i agree with BTS…two different titles
    makes little sense and more confusion.

  7. It sounds like the return of the Boston Consulting Group to high level decision making.

    • Totally agree.

      Not impressed by the direction of Indy F2 or whatever it’s called. What will the rebrand cost ? Would have preferred it spent on race purse.

      BRING BACK THE FREEDOM 100 !!!!!

  8. I vividly remember when Carlos Munoz ran double duty in the Freedom 100 and the Indianapolis 500, to finish 4th in the former (and it was close), and 2nd (!) in the latter.

    That’s how exciting of a Road to Indy the Indy Lights Series could be, and their “crown jewel”, the Freedom 100, has since been discontinued.
    It is still missed.

    And now: Indy Next. Sounds cool but kind of hollow when they don’t even race there.

    • Ken Parman Says:

      Strongly agree! I think IndyNXT sounds more like a WWE variation, but if they bring back the Freedom 100, then I don’t care what they call it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: