Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

August 19, 2014

Milwaukee Mile: Great IndyCar Experience and Nice Weather for a Change…

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:57 am

PowerUpMilwaukee was fun. Kudos to the Andretti folks for attempting to reinvigorate that legendary venue. It is also on the schedule for next year as well. Tens of thousands of racing fans made their way into that great little flat track. In the fractured world of IndyCar, however, the usual cadre of blithering idiots tripped over themselves to screech about how bad they thought attendance along with usual predictions of the end being near, complete with television screen captures to support their ‘points.’ They even bitched about the brand of champagne drivers sprayed on each other on the podium (an act that always seems kind of gay wherever it is done. Thanks F-1).

That in turn led to the usual boilerplate crap such as ‘…ripping the cars and stars away from the defining event and creating a competing series with no-name drivers totally alienated the existing fans, devastated the mojo of the sport, and despite the series owners’ best efforts to rebuild it for the past 17 years, Indycar has never regained any kind of mass popularity whatsoever. But that’s just my opinion.’ Which are like rectal openings.

Youthful cart Enthusiast

Youthful cart Enthusiast

I continue to feel sorry for those who only got to experience IndyCar in the late 80s and early 90s. It was a fun time for sure, but it is too bad such folks were not around in the 60s or 70s. If they had been their philosophical orientation would certainly contain additional breadth.

For those interested in the future growth of IndyCar two potential paths exist going forward. Neither path includes (nor should it) going backward trying to recreate an owner-managed cart. After that group boycotted the Indianapolis Motor Speedway they died. That is not viable.

Much to the chagrin of lurking, obsessed cart enthusiasts and other IndyCar critics the most likely path going forward is basically what we have today. A series controlled by IMS operating with the same philosophies as always, remaining a niche in the sports world with little self-created opportunity to move up the sports and entertainment food chain. Their focus will always be the 500, and everything else will serve as promotion for the next 500. Not bad, but far from optimal in the minds of those who created a mid-90s fantasy world for themselves.

Hardly anyone who loves the sport believes that is enough. The second potential path is to do something truly bold. Sell the series to someone with the funding to grow it who is already successful operating businesses in the modern era. It must be someone who can leverage the technology of now, operate successfully and profitably and take no prisoners. As long as the centerpiece remains the Indianapolis 500 everything else should be fresh canvas to someone who is wealthy and creative.

Ideal kind of candidate? Not saying the examples below should be the ones, but anyone competing successfully in that type of ballpark would fit nicely. Mark Cuban. Steve Ballmer. That type of person.

….and then I woke up.

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21 Comments »

  1. (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

    Comment by TroyM — August 19, 2014 @ 12:14 pm | Reply

  2. The 15,000 to 18,000 who attended the race were treated to a rather boring, follow the leader “show”. Not hard to understand why the crowds for this event continue to dwindle. Even Michael Andretti and the CEO of ABC Supply expressed disappointment in the crowd. Par for the course in indy car, which sees fewer than 10% of indy 500 viewers tune in for any other race.
    Editor’s Note: Could be worse, I suppose. IndyCar could be out of business and have zero attendance or ratings. As it stands, however, the race was renewed for next year and DHL signed on for three more years with Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Evidently those with the ability to think do not share your cutesy pessimism.

    Comment by Bob Chinn — August 20, 2014 @ 5:01 am | Reply

    • If Indycar would leave some of these races on the same weekend for three years in a row you might see increases in attendance. How many races have they ruined by constantly changing the date every year? Kentucky comes to mind as its the local track here. But there are others. Terrible marketing.
      Editor’s Note: Agree wholeheartedly….but feel strongly that Pocono should be moved either away from 4th of July weekend.

      Comment by Bob F. — August 20, 2014 @ 12:38 pm | Reply

  3. Count Michael Andretti and the CEO as two of those pessimists, based on their comments concerning attendance. Great that the Mile gets another year but, absent gains in attendees and corporate sponsors, it won’t go past 2015. Unfortunate, as well, that the race promoters elect to ignore the Chicagoland area in their efforts to draw a respectable crowd. No advertising, no promotion, no profile, no buzz. And the weather was perfect, which could have resulted in a good walk up sale. Seems you get the paltry crowd you deserve when you don’t try to actually sell the race to potential fans.

    As for DHL, how much money are they spending on indy car and Andretti? Given the extraordinarily high cost of participating versus the very modest return, it would be interesting to know the actual numbers here.
    Editor’s Note: I am confident the folks at DHL are much more savvy about sponsorship and ROI than comment section contributors on the internet. Three years is a nice commitment. As for attendance those prone toward the usual pessimism automatically interpret empty seats as sure signs of doom. In reality such chicken littles are as clueless about that as they are about how (and what) television ratings are used in such commerce. Those of us actually in the crowd in person had a great time with tens of thousands of others also in attendance. Personally I believe they ought to hold the race as part of the state fair but more effective promotion is necessary if filling more of the seats is the main barometer of success.

    Comment by Bob Chinn — August 20, 2014 @ 1:10 pm | Reply

  4. I, too, am confident that the folks at DHL are more savvy about sponsorship than “comment section contributors on the internet” (people like you and me). It was precisely for this reason that I wondered how much money they were spending on indy car, given the ROI (Return on investment).
    Editor’s Note: If you have no idea how much money they are spending on IndyCar how could you possibly have the slightest inkling about ROI? I’m just happy they are here unlike, say, FedEx, who told cart to take a hike before they imploded the first time.

    As for the attendance (and ratings, which I didn’t address), we’ve discussed for some time how dismally low they are, so I’m not sure what there really is to add at this point. I merely mentioned that there was no promotion for Milwaukee in Chicago and, given how low the crowd was, that seemed like a missed opportunity.
    Editor’s Note: ‘Low’ is at best a typically subjective dismissal that is common among darkly IndyCar obsessed on the Internet, many of whom who engage in really stupid looking Zapruder-film-level analysis of television screen shots. The phrase ‘get a life’ comes to mind in between guffaws from the adults. The reason I mentioned ratings is to cite the exact same combination of ignorance and pessimism as we get with attendance every single race. It’s as if IndyCar is the only entity with empty seats among the ones that are occupied. LOL.

    As for the State Fair, that event does quite well. Obviously, the good people of Wisconsin don’t want to mess that up.
    Editor’s Note: I’m assuming that is yet another cutesy instance of the snarkiness that typifies your little group, but as usual you miss the actual point.

    Comment by Bob Chinn — August 20, 2014 @ 4:01 pm | Reply

    • The ROI comment was generic to the series (and the dearth of sponsorship dollars), rather than the specifics of DHL’s deal (which is likely a B to B arrangement, given their business model). Again, neither of us know the numbers, which is precisely why I asked the question.
      Editor’s Note: I am not the right person to answer the question. What constitutes ‘dearth?’ What form of measurement are you using? What would not constitute a ‘dearth?’

      As for attendance in Milwaukee, attendees and viewers alike have made clear how low the crowd was (and Michael Andretti echoed those views with his frustrated commentary regarding attendance). Interestingly, Diane Hendricks hosted roughly 10% of the attendees as guests of ABC Supply. A great gesture by her (and her company), but that’s a huge chunk of the total crowd. And, with regard to the plethora do photos showing the grandstands, they don’t lie.
      Editor’s Note: I attended and thought the crowd was good. That is perspective of someone who was there and had a great time and not someone who who bases their condemnation on A) subjectivity and B) a television screen. Ignorance is bliss.

      As for television ratings, there’s little doubt they’ll be low. The long term data in support of this is clear.
      Editor’s Note: ‘Low’ by what measure? What is considered not ‘low’ for IndyCar?

      Finally, I think the State Fair people likely want to see the indy car race succeed on its own before pairing it with the Fair. One must realize that rescuing a struggling swimmer may result in getting pulled under, as well. Best to make sure that doesn’t happen.
      Editor’s Note: So your belief is that an IndyCar race would lessen the attendance for the fair? LOL.

      Comment by Bob Chinn — August 20, 2014 @ 4:43 pm | Reply

  5. “Dearth” essentially means scarcity, as in a scarcity of sponsors (a rather constant phenomenon over the last nearly two decades).
    Editor’s Note: If I wanted a definition of the word ‘dearth’ it’s easy to look up. You failed to answer my original questions: What constitutes ‘dearth?’ What form of measurement are you using? What would not constitute a ‘dearth?’ So instead of broad, subjective generalities try giving specific answers. Thanks.

    Glad you’re happy with the crowd. Interestingly, both the promoter and the Chairperson of the title sponsor do not share your view and were not happy to see two of every three seats empty.
    Editor’s Note: The same sources also cited increased ticket sales and more bodies than last year; i.e., pointed in the right direction. I feel kind of sorry for those who tried to leave quickly; the egress was really slow. That is what happens when there is what is often referred to as a ‘crowd.’

    As for television ratings, “low” is likely best defined by both total viewers as well as in comparison with virtually any other nationally televised (or, often, regionally televised) sport. College, “amateur” or professional. “Low” as in very few people watch.
    Editor’s Note: Would it surprise you to learn that ratings for IndyCar exceed the vast majority of sports programming on cable television, and that OTA ratings are also better than most? I know that pesky little fact does not fit into the quaint ‘sky is falling’ hysteria based completely on rampant ignorance of the subject matter, but there are sports entities and even entire networks that are not rated and still manage hundreds of millions of ad sales revenue annually. My advice for those who like to sit on the edge of their seats waiting for 12+ overnights as if they know what such numbers actually mean is simply to educate yourselves. As it currently stands almost 100% of those so screeching appear to be the single most willfully ignorant human beings on earth to those of us actually engaged in such commerce.

    Is it your belief that the indy car race would bolster attendance for the Fair? If so, I’d be most interested to understand how you’ve arrived at that conclusion.
    Editor’s Note: Have you ever been to the fairgrounds? Are you aware of the proximity of the track to events and parking? Are you cognizant of the number of people who attend that fair during its run? If nothing else having something else to do besides a race is likely to increase interest and attendance. Knowing IndyCar, however, even marketing to a captive audience might be challenging.

    Comment by Bob Chinn — August 20, 2014 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

  6. “Dearth” indicates a relative few sponsors compared to when the sport was recognized as a major one. It also indicates that it is a declining trend. Sorry I wasn’t more clear with that fact.
    Editor’s Note: You remain as vague, unclear and obtuse as ever. You also continue to fail answering my original questions: What constitutes ‘dearth?’ What form of measurement are you using? What would not constitute a ‘dearth?’ When you say ‘recognized as a major one’ are you referring to a brief period of the existence of cart when tobacco money funded much of the hype of that era? Is this ‘declining’ of which you speak unique to IndyCar? Try answering a question without subjective generalization.

    Again, both Michael Andretti and Diane Hendricks were crystal clear in their disappointment regarding the fact that two of every three seats were empty. Both were quoted in broadly available publications attesting to their views.
    Editor’s Note: Please provide attribution. Those same officials clearly indicated ticket sales and attendance rose.

    Please show verifiable proof to support your assertion that indy car ratings exceed the vast majority of sports ratings on cable, and that are similarly better than most on OTA.
    Editor’s Note: Step 1: Gather a list of cable networks that carry sports. You can even limit it to sports cable networks if you want. Step 2: Construct a grid (like a real television executive) of all the networks and all of their programming over time. A year is a good time frame. Feel free to use Excel. It’s a handy tool, and if you do not know how to operate it any number of local community colleges can teach you. Step 3: Find the ratings for each program. Use 12+ overnights if you want; that is probably all you will be able to find given the proprietary nature of such audience measurement. Given the sleuthing power of those obsessed with 12+ overnights it should not be difficult and will cost you only time, something you seem to have plenty of. Here is a helpful hint: Should you be unable to find any ratings chances are either the network or the program is unrated, meaning their audience is too ‘low’ to be measured or the network itself is not. You will find a lot of that. Step 4: Construct a similar grid of OTA networks, then insert all sports programming. Again, 12+ overnights are fine considering you will most likely be unable to access the ratings data used in the commerce of national advertising sales. Helpful hint: Many of the big ticket sports such as major stick n’ ball and even NASCAR will usually exceed IndyCar. But do us both a favor and look at all the sports carried OTA. Not just subjectively cherry-picked ones. Once you take those steps honestly and without prejudice you will see what I already know and do not need to prove. It is obvious to those of us who actually understand the business.

    Suggesting something is “likely” to increase attendance isn’t proof in any way. Please demonstrate that your assertion regarding Fair attendance would be bolstered by an indy car race. By the way, any competent marketing firm would have data to support such a belief. Thanks.
    Editor’s Note: See the answer to this question the last time you asked it. If you consider the questions I asked in that response (unanswered as usual) you may begin to understand the answer. I am not a marketing firm and so rely on common sense having attended but the state fair and the IndyCar event. Perhaps you should apply same.

    Comment by Bob Chinn — August 21, 2014 @ 12:03 am | Reply

  7. One need only look at the empty side pods and sparse entertainment areas to draw a conclusion that there are a dearth of sponsors in the series.
    Editor’s Note: Hmmm. Odd. I did not notice many empty sidepods. I see you are also equating entertainment areas with sponsorship. As to the dearth issue, still no intelligent answers to the questions about what constitutes ‘dearth,’ or the form of measurement used….and most important what would not constitute a ‘dearth.’ Only vague generalization. I have found that your conclusions rarely accurately reflect reality. You just talk in circles.

    Again, both MA and DH were quoted in easily accessible publications. The internet is your friend here.
    Editor’s Note: I do not doubt that speculation. I also lend credence to the words of the same people that ticket sales and attendance were up over last year, and that the event has been renewed for 2015.

    Since you made the specific assertions regarding television ratings, it’s really up to you to provide support for them (if, in fact, you’re able). Or not.
    Editor’s Note: As previously stated, the proof is out there ripe for the picking. All that is required is the legwork. Because my profession centers specifically in the area of ad sales commerce in national cable television networks I already know what the numbers are and what they show. Citing numbers, networks and programming in a public forum would constitute a confidentiality breach that I am not willing to jeopardize my career over. That said all you need is a spreadsheet and the same type of forensic sleuthing your type devote toward IndyCar after every event. It appears you remain content simply to write in generalized, non-specific, obtuse fashion, inventing conclusions along the way to support a position that continually places IndyCar near death. I get it and admire your spunk. Why let laziness or ignorance stand in the way of an agenda, right?

    Again, please share any support for your assertion that indy car would help, rather than hinder, WSF attendance. There’s really no evidence to support your position. Thanks.
    Editor’s Note: Perhaps my previous observation eluded your grasp as well. I do not have a ‘position.’ I have an ‘opinion.’ That opinion was formulated using a concept called ‘common sense.’ You have also attempted to twist the opinion into something not originally opined. My assertion was not that IndyCar would help rather than hinder WSF attendance. WSF already draws great crowds on the days it is open on its own. My opinion is that IndyCar should leverage the great attendance during the WSF by scheduling the IndyCar event during the fair when lots of folks are there anyway. In other words it is my opinion that IndyCar attendance would be helped, not the other way around. We clear?

    Comment by Bob Chinn — August 21, 2014 @ 12:08 pm | Reply

  8. (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

    Comment by Willy Pheistergache — August 21, 2014 @ 1:47 pm | Reply

  9. (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

    Comment by Willy Pheistergache — August 21, 2014 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

  10. As I’ve repeatedly stated, common sense and a thoughtful observation of side pods shows a dearth of sponsors. Those of us who actually attend races understand this fact.
    Editor’s Note: I’ll defer to your factual and detailed bulletproof analysis of the topic in order not to prolong this cutesy little kiddie game in which you are engaged. I will just ignore the fact that although I have missed just three events thus far this season I have seen one, count ‘em, one blank sidepod the entire year, just like all recent years. Perhaps I will also change the definition of the word ‘dearth’ to be a bit more broad to suit your prejudice. LOL

    Michael Andretti and Diane Hendricks both expressed frustration regarding the attendance and general support for the race. Again, that’s simply a fact.
    Editor’s Note: And, in case you missed it the first four times or so, I did not disagree, although it’s kind of creepy you are now sort of psychoanalyzing the perceived emotions of Michael Andretti and Diane Hendricks. I merely added they also stated ticket sales and attendance were up, and that it is a step in the right direction (note: I did not even add they were ‘gleeful’ or anything like that). Can you let me know how many times you intend to say the same thing repeatedly for no apparent reason?

    Your unwillingness and / or inability to support your assertion regarding indy car television ratings on cable and OTA is noted. As a result, however (and since you raised the topic and then couldn’t support your position with data), the credibility of the assertion is clearly in question.
    Editor’s Note: Something I do not mind is having my credibility questioned by OCD afflicted comment responders on my blog. I told you what the numbers show then generously provided step by step instructions on how to gather the data that proves the point. If you are concerned about challenging the reality, go do the legwork and stop complaining about things you do not understand; e.g., credibility. It just makes you look more foolish than usual. Unless you already know the results and that I am correct (as usual). I suspect based on your modus operandi that you will not follow my generously provided step by step instructions and instead will continue the childish behavior that has no point (and evidently no end).

    As originally stated, there’s really no sound reason for the WSF to include the indy car race in its schedule. The Fair does great on its own, and there’s no evidence whatsoever that a race would enhance that. To the contrary, there are solid reasons (very likely already considered by the WSF officials) as to why a race would hurt the Fair. Thus, indy car has not been invited to run during Fair time. Again, when you go to rescue a drowning swimmer, there’s a danger of being pulled under. There’s little doubt that the WSF officials understand this with respect to indy car. Hope that clarifies it for you. Enjoyed the chat.
    Editor’s Note: Well you took that in an entirely different direction. Here’s some free advice from an adult. Listening is just as important as talking. Try it sometime. A good start would be comprehending what has already been written four or five times above.

    Comment by Bob Chinn — August 21, 2014 @ 2:46 pm | Reply

  11. (Repetitive, OCD-like, pointless restatement of previous five comments relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

    Comment by Bob Chinn — August 21, 2014 @ 4:49 pm | Reply

  12. Sell the series? There’s no value there, so why would anyone in their right mind pay anything for it? Mark Cuban & Ballmer have already invested in sports operations that offer real value for their money. That’s why Ballmer just paid over 1 Billion for his NBA team-even in a “secondary” market the franchise will continue to become more valuable.
    Editor’s Note: Will there ever come a day when you are finally able to comprehend what you think you read?

    Indycar? Attendance is now approximately half of what it used to be, when those awful owners had control.
    Editor’s Note: Attendance for the vast majority of sport and entertainment offerings was much better than now 20 to 25 years ago when the world was fundamentally different. Attendance is actually not half of what it was. That is yet another concocted myth by disenfranchised cart enthusiasts who believe their mostly self imagined beliefs with the same fervency as an Islamic cleric in some sandy mud hut village in the middle east.

    A real success, that’s what the IMS controlled Indycar is. IF you’re happy (as you appear to be) with it limping along as a second, or third, or fourth tier sport. Right behind poker and barrel jumping.
    The proof is the pudding: IndyCar remains viable with sponsors, two national television contracts and one national radio deal, and on ongoing presense. cart as you children knew it killed themselved, twice. Grow up and try to make what we have better instead of acting like four year olds unable to buy whatever they want at Toy R Us.

    Comment by Olderfan — August 25, 2014 @ 4:08 am | Reply

    • (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

      Comment by Olderfan — August 25, 2014 @ 3:37 pm | Reply

  13. (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

    Comment by Olderfan — August 25, 2014 @ 6:47 pm | Reply

  14. Reading your blog post made me think about your two scenarios for IndyCar you outlined. And it struck me that the second one, where the series is independently owned and operated with the 500 as it’s centerpiece is pretty much what you had in the 80s and 90s, and appears to be what you advocate now. The only structural difference is instead of one owner, you had several, with most of them wealthy and successful business people like Penske, Pat Patrick, etc.

    Explain how your proposal is any different from what existed then, when the talk was about the racing and the cars and drivers, and not about the low attendance and lousy TV ratings.
    Editor’s Note: I want to make it clear that I do not advocate an owner-owned series. I do advocate a series owned independent of IMS but also independent of owners. When too beholden to either IMS or team ownership the end result is not promising. Find someone who can completely invigorate the sport and make it more relevant in 2014.

    Comment by Skeptical1 — August 26, 2014 @ 4:36 pm | Reply

  15. (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

    Comment by J.B. — August 30, 2014 @ 11:30 pm | Reply

    • (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

      Comment by J.B. — August 30, 2014 @ 11:45 pm | Reply

  16. Your hope is in reality, completely pie in the sky. There isn’t a successful sports league in the country, and probably the world, that isn’t run and ultimately controlled by the owners.
    Editor’s Note: ….generally herded by organizations of professional managers.

    The owner run model has worked pretty successfully for any of the sports leagues that are mainstream today. Why you, or anyone else would think that any other model is viable is beyond me. History has shown that with proper management owner control works long term.
    Editor’s Note: Not in IndyCar. Far too many conflicts of interest. F-1 and NASCAR have owners who influence, but Bernie Eccelstone and the France family made them what they are.

    CART failed primarily due to poor management and ownership not putting a strong leadership team in place. But ownership in and of itself isn’t the problem. If it was the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, etc would look very different today and probably not nearly as successful and popular as they are today
    Editor’s Note: cart failed because they boycotted Indianapolis, the one event that gave them actual legitimacy.

    Just a follow up: without the teams having an ownership stake there is no incentive for the teams to either promote the overall sport ( regardless of what sport it is) and there is no path to create any significant value in the team itself.
    Editor’s Note: Motorsports entities that have benevolent dictatorships work well, although it looks like the same sort of futile mutiny is shaping up in NASCAR. It all boils down to greed.

    Ownership of an NFL team, for instance is highly valued not only because of the direct revenue generation through ticket sales and merchandise, along with media rights fees, but also the valuation of the franchise usually increases significantly during any given owners tenure. I’m sure that Jerry Jones, for example could sell the Cowboys for far more than it has cost him to buy and operate the team. Same for George Steinbrenner and the Yankees, the LA Lakers etc.
    The current structure of IndyCar doesn’t show any possibility of recovering capital outlays of the individual teams, much less profit from the sale of assets. Just look at John Barnes and Panther.
    Editor’s Note: You have to be an astute business person to make yourself successful in any sport.

    Ownership control is the only way to make it work. It’s ugly and messy at times, but it really is the only way forward.
    Editor’s Note: Not in IndyCar. Give them a bigger voice, get IMS out of the management business and find an independent entity that can make them richer.

    Comment by Skeptical1 — August 26, 2014 @ 10:44 pm | Reply

  17. We’ll agree to disagree on the “boycott” ( it wasn’t) but that’s water under the bridge. I have made it clear that proper management is required for any organization to work.

    Business acumen is a prerequisite for success in just about any endevor, although occasionally organizations and individuals get lucky, but that’s not the norm.

    The only “benevolent dictator” model in motorsports that has worked has been NASCAR, but it’s my belief that is only because there was no significant competition for the sport of stock car racing. It hasn’t worked out so well for their other racing properties; Grand Am, Daytona Super bike, Camping World Trucks all fail to draw significant interest from a paying spectators or ratings standpoint, and they operate pretty much as NASCAR’s Sprint Cup ( as a benevolent dictator setup.

    No other leagues that have been successful operate in that manner, and there really is no good reason to think that INDYCAR , or some version of it would not work with that ( ownership) model. But good management is the key. Neither the current Indycar/IMS management, or Tony George and the IRL before it gave any indication that they possess that strength.
    Editor’s Note: I actually do not believe we’re that far apart philosophically. I believe owners should have their viewpoints officially recognized, but management of a series needs to be completely independent of its participants as well as the people who run the marquee.

    Comment by Skeptical1 — August 28, 2014 @ 2:57 pm | Reply


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