Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

September 10, 2014

Improving IndyCar In An Off Season That Will Be Far Too Lengthy

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:52 pm

The problem with IndyCar is not that it will fail (despite the nearly continuous cacophony of doom and gloom by a small group whose sole mission in life is to position it as on its last legs); rather it is a perception of unmet expectations. I saw my first IndyCar turn a wheel in person in 1959. Each evolution of the sport since brought similar ‘end is near’ yelping. Yet here we are in 2014, over 100 years since the accepted beginning of Indy-style racing.  The sport itself remains compelling.

Factions of the IndyCar fan world and community are easily delineated. In general there are traditionalists who believe an American series centered around IndyCars should contain mostly Americans not imported from European formula ladders, a lot of ovals and an annual series of events that are scheduled consistently with the same teams and drivers that compete at Indy. There are also formula-centric enthusiasts who believe IndyCar’s ultimate potential is aspiring toward a Formula-1-like configuration including far-flung events worldwide and a non-oval orientation. There is nothing really wrong with either orientation. It all simply turns stupid when stereotypes begin flying.

In order to discuss the topic with any intelligence an honest look at actual reality is required. One point of nearly continuous debate involves television ratings. Ratings today are much lower than they were during the (your favorite era goes here) period of the past. The comical part about all the teeth gnashing is the preponderance of rampant ignorance about how ratings are actually used in the commerce of advertising sales vis-à-vis IndyCar. Breathless anticipation of 12+ overnights and sweeping predictions (usually of doom) that follow completely miss the point and makes almost anyone who attempts to form an argument on that basis look foolish to those engaged in such commerce.

NBCSNWhile the actual ratings used in such commerce remain somewhat relevant, especially on NBCSN, reliance on them for survival misses the point. The market has become far too fragmented for 20+ year old methods and practices. Most advertisers that run inside IndyCar programming do so at pre-negotiated rates based not on ratings numbers but on sponsorship obligations related to involvement in the series. Almost everything else either lands in IndyCar as part of a targeted mix of demographically similar programming or as ROS scheduled direct response. IndyCar makes money as the result of sponsorship commitment and NBCSN makes money derived from both sponsorship and spot revenue. Internet television experts always fail to recognize IndyCar is among the highest rated programming on NBCSN and that most programming on that and similar sports networks is not rated at all.

The real challenge going forward should not exclusively be attempting to get television ratings to rise. The only way that will actually happen is having every race telecast on OTA networks and even that is a finite proposition. As a matter of fact the best way to make all ratings rise is to enhance dissemination of the product by shamelessly exposing it on all currently available and emerging distribution channels, including serious use of the web. It must be made ‘hip’ again. Once they figure that out ratings will rise organically. IndyCar vaults contain well over 100 years of history and content, and sitting on it does not do the sport any good. Lawyers that demand a quarter or half a million or more for limited content use ensure continuation of the small IndyCar niche.

This is especially important given the inevitability that going forward NBCSN will devote 85% of its motorsport efforts and promotion to NASCAR, 10% or more to F-1 and 5% or less to IndyCar, along with special programming for both NASCAR and F-1 but nothing for IndyCar. Why so little? It is the cumulative result of not having people or processes in place capable of affecting such change combined with NFL-like arrogance at the highest levels. The NFL can get away with such arrogance because their popularity is widespread and pervasive. IndyCar must orient itself humbly and inside reality to grow. If they continue refusing to budge the small niche they currently occupy is the best for which anyone can hope.

Count EmIn the years following the post-IRL demise of CART critics loudly complained that IndyCar was not being run enough like a business, often chiding the ‘aw shucks’ modus operandi of the Hulman-George family rooted in decades past. That direction began to change toward a marketing/promotion-first stance when outsider Randy Bernard was brought aboard then shifted completely (foxes in the hen house at work again) toward a business first approach when Mark Miles was placed in charge of not only IndyCar but the entire Hulman-George business empire. The current failure to reach potential is not really the current business first orientation. It is the imbalance of business first against the purity and natural evolution of the sport, not to mention a complete lack of coherent promotion.

There is far too much reliance on rigid corporate structure as well as outside advice of consultants with no meaningful motorsports background, and precious little faith in racers who just want to race. If IndyCar is to reach its potential the balance between business and sport must be adjusted. Micromanagement that drives racers away; e.g., Beaux Barfield, must be scrutinized with objectivity. Motor racing, as Hemingway articulated decades ago, is one of only three sports (the rest being just games). The most extreme form of motor sports has been sanitized, homogenized and micromanaged into a format largely rejected by all but hardcore fans. Logical solution: LOOSEN UP, then let people know it is there.

If IndyCar employs high credentialed marketing professionals when will they actually begin marketing instead of merely crafting business-speak wordplay such as ‘…customized, synergistic promotional programs that leverage each other’s assets…’ and other such whimsy? IndyCar positions itself as diverse. Exploit it. Feature TWO ‘triple crowns’ per season. The first should emphasize diversity. $3 million dollars to anyone who can win Long Beach (street), Barber or Mid-Ohio (road) and Texas (high speed oval) in a season. The second should emphasize power and speed. $3 million dollars to anyone who wins Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana. Besides, what are the odds someone would actually accomplish that given the overall competitiveness of the series lately? Why not throw in a third ‘triple crown?’ Three foreign races and $3 million to a winner of all three. Who would need any sort of gimmicky ‘chase’ then?

Maintain meaningful contact with domestic race tracks. Plenty of new markets exist. Hillenburg’s Rockingham and Memphis Motorsports Park come to mind. Learn from your mistakes. The two biggest this season with respect to venues was the Pocono 500 on 4th of July weekend and Fontana on Labor Day weekend. When a logical place on the schedule is located for them bring a street festival atmosphere to each track and run something more than just IndyCars. Presentation at each of those tracks was uninspired, lazy and insulting. IndyCar invented oval presentation, something copied and perfected by NASCAR. Re-invent the genre for yourself and get serious about it.

Given the proclivity of current management to chase easy money it is understandable that far flung races in places like Dubai might seem attractive from a revenue generation standpoint. Those are the events that should be scheduled on the fringes of the season. Do not be afraid to run races at the beginning of football season. Just do not schedule races opposite football games.

Figure out a way to make the series and its ladders more inclusive to a greater number of participants. A goal should be 30 full time entries in IndyCar. Instead of poaching sponsorships why not participate in generation of it for teams?

If fans were an important component in series direction IndyCar could concoct ways of attracting more of them. It is time for IndyCar to put its money where its mouth is.

September 2, 2014

The IndyCar Season is Over Already!?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:58 pm

Hes a nutThe Disciple contingent returned east from the season finale in Fontana. We are disturbed the season ended so early despite the rationale. It is easy to understand the ratings threat posed by football, but there was none on Sunday afternoon. Creatively scheduling events for a month not to run at the same time as football would be a great way to approach the month of September and possibly much of October Mr. Miles. You know, when the weather is the nicest it will be all year.

Whenever we head west someone in the contingent always wants to hit fast food joints such as In-N-Out, El Pollo Loco, Del Taco and others, not to mention all the actual authentic Mexican fare. That is all well and good except it usually takes a week before many of us old timers are able to work up a normal bowel movement after consuming all that junk.

Speaking of intrusive, fetid, unwanted, semi-liquid fecal matter it is fairly certain actual racing fans will be subjected to inane, repetitive end is nigh pollution from the darkly IndyCar-obsessed for another few weeks, as it is for any IndyCar event. These are the children who believe 23,000 people are actually 2,300, and that overnight 12+ audience estimates they believe are ‘low’ portend certain doom for anything even remotely resembling MmmmSubwayIndyCar. Never mind such keyboard ‘fans’ do not attend races nor, they say, watch them on television. Yet it remains odd how they somehow know more about any given IndyCar topic than anyone else on earth. Oh, and Fontana has re-upped for another couple of years.

All of this discussion of crap-inducing rhetoric and food led to a realization that will serve as the wrap-up to the really short 2014 IndyCar season. IndyCar is Quiznos. NASCAR is Subway.

Quiznos was once very popular with over 5,000 retail locations. Their niche was higher quality and toasted buns, as well as an intriguing lineup of unique sandwiches. They also had a ‘secret sauce’ and much nicer facilities. Subway, which has essentially placed itself less than a mile from wherever you happen to be, is ubiquitous. Its bland, predictable offerings offer the same experience every time. Once through the ‘artist’ with highly processed cold cuts, fill ‘er up with veggies, then down the gullet. The end tip of the bread will always have the chewing consistency of a Goodyear racing tire.

Ten years ago Subway effectively neutralized Quiznos by adding TurboChef ovens for their own toasting, not to mention the $5 footlong deal. Quiznos had no idea how to react. What kind of shape is it in today? Just this week investors sued claiming previous management grossly overvalued the company. There are more out of business Quiznos locations than in business locations (around 2,100). There are essentially six menu offerings now; i.e., all spec. Quiznos, unlike any other food franchise, does not allow its franchisees to buy supplies directly from approved vendors. They must buy all supplies through Quiznos at a substantial markup. Instead of food costs between 25% and 30% they are at 38 or 39% right out of the gate. The pricing structure prevents the profitability necessary to open additional units. In actual fact a Subway franchisee can be more profitable with less volume.

DisgruntledThere are a whole lot of Panther Racing-like Quiznos franchisees who are livid both here and abroad who are walking away bitter from their businesses, and the number of franchisees continues to dwindle. Not so for Subway, who is still attempting to be on about every corner. Meanwhile, Subway has become the safe choice and plenty of new sub chains have arrived with better products than either Subway or Quiznos. Jimmy Johns, Firehouse, etc., are making life tougher.

Quiznos, like IndyCar, must begin to address its systemic problems.

For IndyCar the list of things to address is long:

-Create a franchise structure with a shifted balance that facilitates easier and faster profitability for franchisees and less gouging by the franchise.

-On a related note, figure out a way to increase the size of the field. 21 or 22 is a joke. There must be at least 28 entrants every single time. For Indy 40 legitimate entries should be trying for one of the 33 spots. Lights must also have at least 18 to 20 entrants every race to be taken seriously.

-Folks like Conor Daly and Sage Karam are Americans who did not come up through the USAC ranks per se, and could become American stars. That is something else IndyCar desperately needs. Most of the drivers and teams that fouled the sport for everyone have finally begun retiring. New team ownership is desperately needed. They need to address the challenge with the same determination Michael Andretti has.

-Maintain quality and safety but steer away from spec. Spec = bland from a perception standpoint, and perception can be the difference between someone either attending a race/watching it on television or just saying ‘screw it.’

-Have the marketing VPs hired from Ford and NASCAR and their staffs do some actual marketing. They will really need to do something over the next SEVEN months.

-Find a couple of more Verizons while you’re at it. Leverage Verizon to expand the brand on the Internet and using mobile devices.

-Don’t have races on holiday weekends except Indy.

-Work diligently on the way events are presented. If you are proud of what you do for street events devote the same amount of energy toward building natural terrain road courses and ovals. Fontana was even more of a joke this year than usual. IndyCars and a handful of local collector vintage cars is not enough to fill up a weekend. Do you really expect that kind of crappy presentation will draw anyone but diehards?

-Get creative on oval presentation. Reinvent it. Enter new markets not yet polluted by NASCAR. Memphis would be a nice start. Understand you must also co-exist with NASCAR. Richmond always drew well. Figure Phoenix out. Kentucky. Chicagoland. Reinvent the presentation and do more than send 22 cars out there after demanding a mil and a half.

Triple Crown-Triple Crown? Have AND PROMOTE two, preferably with a sponsor name attached. One for the big ovals: Indy, Pocono and Fontana. $2 million minimum prize (preferably 3 to match the number of events) to anyone who wins all three in a season. The second to represent series diversity: Texas oval, a natural terrain road course and Long Beach. $2 million minimum prize (preferably 3) to someone who wins all three in a season.

-Have IMS Productions/NBCSN/ESPNonABC/et al figure out a cutting edge way to make the cars look as fast as they actually are. Most of what is seen on television today fails to adequately display the sensation you get at the track.

-Incentivize all participants…teams, sponsors, manufacturers, fans….everybody.

-Offer reasonably priced team and series merchandise. Get away from the NASCAR sleaze style.

Off season-Improve the things already done well. Access to drivers and teams. Make more of an effort to take the Indy experience everywhere.

-While television ratings are still important dwelling on them and obsessing over tenths of percentage points missed the point. Propagate the brand by every means possible, especially social media. Do that right and everything else gets taken care of.

Seven months off is far too long. The risk of marginalization is extreme and many are worried the right people to pull it off are not employed there. We shall see after our really long hibernation.

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.

August 11, 2014

Challenging Week for Racing Fans

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:52 pm

Bad mistakeThe grand sport of auto racing made the national news this week for all the wrong reasons. The sprint car accident that claimed the life of aspiring racer Kevin Ward, Jr. in upstate New York before NASCAR ran at Watkins Glen touched off a firestorm. Still is. When I awakened from my slumber Sunday morning every initial report that arrived via my smart devices had already positioned Tony Stewart as a crazy race driver who mowed down another driver and killed him, and that video was out there. My imagination concocted a lurid visual picture of Tony Stewart as a mad man who aimed for the young Ward and took him out.

TonyThen I watched the video expecting the worst. What I saw was a fairly innocuous accident, a yellow, then cars slowing for it. Meantime Ward, completely uninjured, extracted himself from the cockpit and proceeded to run around his wrecked car and into the racing line to express his displeasure with Stewart when Tony came around.

The guy in front of Stewart barely avoided Ward, who was running down the middle of the track. Tony did not. It was oddly reminiscent of an accident in a cart race in Vancouver in 1990 in which a track worker wound up in front of Willy T. Ribbs’ left rear and also paid the ultimate price. Those in the know have indicated how difficult it is to see out of a winged sprint car under normal circumstances. Add in a dimly lit track and a driver in a black uniform with a black helmet running toward cars going about 80 and a recipe for disaster results.

It was a racing accident. The Zapruder-film-like frame by frame ‘analysts’ weighing in Stewart’s possible culpability have suggested Stewart may have intended to buzz Ward by getting close and goosing the throttle. That may be something we will never know, but either way Stewart has a conscience with which he will spend the rest of his career trying to put back into balance.

InsaneThe national media have played up the fact (and the video) of Tony Stewart being some kind of hot head to spice it all up. All the while the general reputation of NASCAR participants and race drivers in general of seeming like type-A redneck hooligans is enhanced. That is a shame. The one thing that would have presented the needless accident would have been Ward staying strapped into his car until the safety crews got there. The smart thing to do would have been to approach Stewart after he got out of his car after the race away from the track. That is fact. People will also forget that Tony Stewart is a race driver who does it because he loves every single part of it as much as possible. Asking him to give up the side trips is like asking a cart enthusiast that refuses to budge from 1995 to function as a non-developmentally challenged adult and lose the arrogance.

DanicaIt is easy to assume many more than usual tuned in to ESPN on Sunday to watch the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen. If so there were probably thrilled. It was a crash-fest on a road course red flagged twice to take care of barriers either ripped off their posts or smashed to smithereens. Using ARMCO barriers in accident-prone areas of the track is, to borrow a word from the president of the track, insane.

Some IndyCar fans pine for a return to either Watkins Glen or Road America, but the people who run the tracks disagree with the traditional IndyCar model of demanding 1.5 million or more to show up. They have a point considering neither IndyCar nor the tracks seem willing to promote events, and title sponsorship is challenging. Ever wonder why IndyCar seeks events in far flung corners of the world? Those folks are willing to cough up the bucks. My hope for 2015? That Pocono, Fontana or Texas do not  get screwed up, and add another oval such as Chicagoland back to the schedule.

July 30, 2014

Hey IndyCar Fans…Let’s Celebrate Stupidity Some More!

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 5:31 pm

Hot airI hear this a lot, mostly in derogatory fashion: ‘Anyone can blog.’ It is true, and I am guilty. I always attempt to have a point within a topic that has merit, however. Those who blog even occupy mainstream sites like SI. Their ‘Fansided’ subdivision employs a youthful blogger named Matt Schafer who posted a blog about ‘the split’ and the formation of the IRL twenty years ago. Like most youthful pundits who came of age during the ‘golden age’ of cart there is no discernible or honest recognition of history. There is only cart on a pedestal and the evil IRL/TonyGeorge that destroyed it. In typical fashion Tony George is positioned as the bumbling, incompetent clown/bad guy, an opinion formulated by almost religious belief (and with as much fervor) in the utopian paradise such folks have concocted for themselves. The nonsense typically spouted inevitably contains stereotypes passed along as gospel. Ignorance truly is bliss.

CenterAs long as folks continue choosing to pick that particular scab off and dumping salt into the wound (despite the lack of any real sense it makes in 2014 twenty years down the road) it is incumbent upon those of us who actually have seen the sport evolve with our own eyes for decades that preceded even the formation of cart to inject actual reality into what has become a laughable, mostly fictional re-hash of abject stupidity in a sort of Wikipedia-like frame of willful retardation.

First, any notion, real or implied, that had the IRL not been formed cart ratings and attendance would be as good/great (depending on the level of hype) in 2014 as they were in the early 90s is utter nonsense. That particular implication is one of the primary tenets of the youthful history myopians who rarely/never consider any other part of societal evolution in their disingenuous positioning.

Second, and equally misleading, is that cart ratings ‘challenged the Super Bowl.’ In 1979, the first year cart existed, the Super Bowl got a 46.3 rating with 76.2 million viewers, and it only rose from there. An entire cart season combined may have looked presentable but this continuing lie is egregious.  Another thing that occurred in 1979 was the infamous fight at the Daytona 500 between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison. That one event is widely considered the launch point for NASCAR’s national prominence. cart spent the rest of their existence looking up at NASCAR, although anyone who pays as much attention to NASCAR ratings and attendance these days as they do to those of IndyCar must now be having a chicken little field day.

Third, the notion that ‘Tony George dynamited the house that cart built’ remains utterly laughable. I believe most intelligent people can agree that Tony George was not an effective leader, much less one with the charisma needed to pull off what was intended. Worse, he was the victim of a lot of bad advice along the way. We can also agree that a desire to control the sport and much of its revenue potential through alignment with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was critical to his actions. If we assume, like most of the impressionable young bloggers, that the cart organization was superior in terms of talent, depth, equipment, business acumen, ratings, attendance, etc., and that Tony George was an incompetent fool borne of lucky sperm but with no business sense how can anyone capable of rational thought position Tony George as the mastermind of the destruction of cart? It makes no sense. That is akin to blaming a battered wife for causing the end of a marriage by filing for divorce.

cart business philosophyIn actual reality the demise of cart may have been inspired by Tony George, but the cause was not anything he did directly, including a ‘lockout.’ The root cause was rampant, repeated, ego-fueled arrogance combined with abject stupidity. cart itself forced all the milestone bad events the apologists continue whining about even today. It was not a murder. It was a suicide. Worse, individual survivors failed to learn from their own mistakes and self-destructed again. In the end it took Tony George to rescue these people from themselves at fire sale prices.

Fourth, why is the name ‘Roger Penske’ and the sponsor ‘Verizon’ misspelled in his piece? And when he refers to ‘Gene Haas’ as a potential leader of the series back then along with ‘Rodger’ Penske, Chip Ganassi, Paul Newman and Michael Andretti doesn’t he mean Carl Haas? Checking for accuracy not important?  Also, just because cart picked up a few aging Formula 1 drivers having contract disputes overseas did not make cart any sort of equal. Besides, Paul is pushing up daisies, Carl is pretty close, and Michael found his ownership calling after cart.

fartFinally I would encourage any youthful racing fan that enjoyed cart but remains unaware of any other evolutionary phase of IndyCar to educate yourselves with facts. Not hot air. The sordid tale with which your fascination centers is far more complex than the simplistic generalization expelled into the air like farts. It takes bigger brains than what most of you possess to formulate even a basic understanding.

Also remember that it is 2014 and the world is completely different in fundamental ways than it was in 1994. The fact that IndyCar is still around serves as testament to the commitment of IMS to the sport. Take golf, for example. That is a sport that is truly dying. Television ratings have plummeted over the past few years, an average of one golf course closes every 48 hours in the United States. Over half a million casual golfers no longer play. The only bright spots in the sport seem to be out of the box ideas such as 15-inch cups to speed up the game, ‘foot-golf’ with soccer balls, or driving ranges that double as sports bars and keep score, bowling-style, of drives and where they land. IndyCar must also think outside its box, and traditionalists in racing may be as stunned as traditionalists in golf. The ‘split’ has nothing to do with the evolution of the sport today. Why not blog about something that is important or relevant and stop crying over spilled milk your guys poured onto the floor?

July 29, 2014

Gentrification Around IMS and Speedway: Is It Enough?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:01 pm

Good StartNow that the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 for 2014 are in the books one polarizing part of Speedway’s redevelopment has begun: The dead ending of Georgetown Road where it meets 16th Street and Crawfordsville Road along with the addition of a modified roundabout to replace the confusing intersection at that junction of multiple roads.

Some folks like the idea. Many more despise it. Count me in the camp that likes it, although like a lot of other things the general approach seems half-assed. I remain fascinated by plans that pre-date this current effort. Before Tony Hulman passed away and for a long while after his death IMS actively purchased all the land it could adjacent to Georgetown Road between 16th and 30th streets. Some of the land was farmed and was snapped up at sometimes eye popping prices. Many of us remember the well-kept houses that lined Georgetown Road. Only a handful of such properties remain today. The original grand plan was simply to relocate Georgetown Road a little to the west so that IMS fences could also be moved west and allow much wider access when entering or leaving the race.

Do itThere has been vague talk about how to replace the portion of Georgetown Road that is being permanently shuttered but nothing definitive. There is even discussion about shutting 16th Street down next to the track and using the old railroad bed as sort of a replacement road around the southern portion of the track. The grand vision of a park-like buffer around the main part of the track makes a lot of sense, both aesthetically and to appease fear mongers who have convinced themselves and seem determined to convince everyone else that IMS is the number one terrorist target in the world.

As a property owner on the west side of the track this redevelopment is appealing. What is less appealing is what the effect of no Georgetown Road will have on residents who live along now quiet streets like Auburn. Will folks hell bent on getting from turn 4 to turn 1 outside the track decide to use Auburn now? How will such redevelopment manage the effects of recent in-migration of those lower on the socioeconomic scale who have brought with them higher amounts of crime, violence and the certainty of decreasing property values?

That corner of the world is as prime a candidate for meaningful gentrification as any, but is the work now progressing meaningful? There are many success stories thus far. Main Street in Speedway is realizing its potential. VacantSeveral run down businesses, hotels and other eyesores have been or are being removed. The intersection of I-465 and Crawfordsville Road is complete. There is simply so much more to do.

Is IMS willing to improve the property it now owns but essentially just allows to sit there? Will eminent domain be used to finish cleaning up eyesores? What are the plans to make traffic patterns around the entire track coherent? If I was the guy in charge of gentrification I would claim eminent domain in an area roughly bounded by 34th Street, Moeller Road, the Coke lot, Georgetown, 16th Street and Kessler Boulevard. I would then advocate a few things considered politically incorrect but filled with common sense, including bulldozing a large number of now ramshackle post-war National Homes, rehabilitating structures with historical merit and incentivizing a higher class of people to move in, remodel and act as magnets for those who have fled anything inside 465. Much of the west side of Indianapolis now positions itself as an ‘international cultural zone.’ It sounds good in theory but serves primarily as a flowery euphemism for ‘ghetto.’ A drive down 38th Street is like driving though bad parts of Detroit. Gentrification of the area around the track is essential, but it will never work long term unless the entire west side of Indianapolis is meaningfully improved and cleaned up.

July 21, 2014

Post Toronto IndyCar Hangover

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:17 pm

DerrickIt has taken a day to absorb what I saw on television after a relatively chilled and wet weekend north of the border. Primary goal: Remain objective. It is difficult. Initial thought: IndyCar stepped all over its own genitals on national television for hours, akin aesthetically to the debacle the dying remnants of cart foisted on racing fans back in ’01 in Texas. That is a bit harsh, which is why I waited.

Even two days later it all seems amateur in most ways. After several false starts and lots of hem-hawing between IndyCar, teams and drivers the first day was scrapped late. The television audience spent the day dealing with indecision, a fluid rule book, fluid start times and an impression of the participants as prima donnas who say they can race in rain but won’t. And it was not even rain, really. Mostly just mist.

My wife, who is not a race fan and does not know any of the personalities, happened to catch Derrick Walker on camera at one point and asked who ‘the doddering old man’ is. A visiting family friend told her he is the hand-picked IndyCar executive whose primary job is to kiss the backsides of every driver and team owner in IndyCar. From that standpoint he seems to be doing a great job.

Back in bizReality is, of course, much more complicated. Street circuits are basically the same crappy roads on which the public drives most of the year with jersey barriers set up. Marshall Pruett of Racer magazine tweeted a photo of the temporary fencing in turn one that was not attached to the barrier. Yeah, that is probably not potentially dangerous at all.

In other words the twisted abominations known as street circuits are city streets or parking lots that contain the same bumps, dips, pavement changes, manholes, etc., that everyone else encounters. Rain on a street course is not like rain on a natural terrain, purpose built circuit. Even the pace car spun. Their solution? Bag Saturday and run two shortened races on Sunday.

Winners were interesting. Sebastien Bourdais finally won in this iteration of IndyCar, and Mike Conway continued making Ed Carpenter look like as good an owner as he is an oval driver. In between however we had ‘shunts’ all over the place. At times it resembled Keystone Kops in race cars. Fortunately it is all now over and two actual racing tracks are next up.

PreferentialIf what people were subjected to on the air was not bad enough there were other subtle problems. The supposedly smart people at IndyCar should be dealing with this forcefully but are evidently oblivious. During the entire Saturday broadcast of IndyCar almost every segment included promotion for either Formula 1 or NASCAR-in-the-future, and occasionally promotion of IndyCar the next day. During the F-1 broadcast that preceded IndyCar I do not believe any IndyCar promotion occurred. If it did it was elusive. Certainly not every or every other segment. Why?

IndyCar cannot really afford to drop any television turds any more, but they did this weekend.

July 18, 2014

IndyCar At Toronto in 2014….Still Fun and Still There

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 9:33 pm

As the Verizon IndyCar Series heads north of the border for another doubleheader weekend an age old argument stills rears its ugly head. Instead of enjoying a really fun city and an interesting long term IndyCar event some ‘fans’ feel obligated to publicly piss and moan about how nothing is as good as it was before 1996. I do not get that. The world is twenty years beyond that point. The sport remains great despite its warts.

Internet guyOn one Internet forum, for example, one contributor named Dave took on one or more of the continually defensive, often arrogant, always myopic ‘cart-back-in-the-day’ enthusiasts who seem to live to squat on the Internet and spout off about the perceived superiority they believe it had over everything else no matter what.

Dave opined: ‘I’m not allowed to directly talk about my admiration for Tony George’s vision and how he tried to save a sport that was already in long term trouble (despite this alleged ‘golden era of the 1990s’) but if others are going to make subtle insinuations that the split caused the decline rather than street courses, foreign drivers and the greed of the cart teams, I’ll make my insinuations too.’

Sure enough, one of those overly defensive cart enthusiasts chimed right in. Oddly, it was another guy named Dave: ‘And what those who supported TG’s vision fail to realize is, it was nothing but a power grab by IMS that failed miserably and scorched the earth for open wheel racing in this country. If Tony George’s intentions truly was to make American open wheel short trackers relevant at IMS again, the formula would have been front engine tube framed race cars similar to a gold crown or silver crown race car. There would have been dirt tracks on the original IRL schedule as well. I’m sorry, but the cries that Tony was just trying to save the Indianapolis 500 from these horrible foreigners and road racers are ludicrous. There were other intentions there, just accept it.’

cart entusiastHere is what I find amusing about what has become sort of a standard response from that bunch. They automatically believe the ‘vision’ of Tony George was primarily to make short track drivers relevant at Indy again. As is the case nearly 100% of the time these people say anything, they are completely misguided and have usually deluded themselves into believing clumsily crafted stereotypes. In reality the ‘vision’ was simply to make IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 more inclusive to a wider variety of drivers from many disciplines at lower cost. It is fun when a Tony Stewart moves from short tracks to Indy cars and does well. Problem is most of that type are not in cars long before they meet the wall. Conversely there are many talented road racing drivers like Mike Conway who also fail on ovals. The key challenge is finding a diverse field from multiple disciplines who can take on a variety of circuits (while they last).

These types also like variations of the gut busting phrase ‘nothing but a power grab by IMS that failed miserably and scorched the earth for open wheel racing in this country.’ Delusional fiction aside, it was not all about a power grab although that was an element. Then youthful Anton was most interested in preserving the family farm and in particular the 500. Describing the effort as ‘failed miserably’ is subjective at best but generally completely delusional to lunatic levels. After all which series actually failed (and by failed I mean ceased to exist in bankruptcy), twice, and which one has been around for twenty years? Tony and his minions were not responsible for the majority of scorched earth. That happened when the egos of those running cart perceived the IRL as a threat rather than a companion and changed not only their spec but their schedule to be in direct conflict. If they wanted it dead all they had to do was show up en masse for the first three events in equipment they already had on conflicting dates that they made necessary and that would have been that.

AntonDave continued the party line by throwing in tube frame car and dirt track references. Evidently this is one of their quaint little tenets. As a lifelong IndyCar fan I love the modern-era rear engine machines, and appreciate all the evolution that has led to where we are. If I want to watch tube framed cars on dirt tracks I will go to Paragon or Eldora or someplace like that. I do not want IndyCar engines in the front, and I don’t want them on dirt.

Inevitably contributors such as Dave continue the stereotype they have concocted with phrases like ‘the cries that Tony was just trying to save the Indianapolis 500 from these horrible foreigners and road racers…’ The nonsense these folks foist gets funnier with each passing decade. Foreigners and road racers in and of themselves are not bad things. Definitely not ‘horrible.’ Never have Ciggiesbeen. But too many of them competing in a series based in America will never hold any interest to a mass audience domestically. Diversity is great but must expand.

Memo to those stuck in a 90’s time warp. Do you know what made cart great while it lasted? Two things: A) The Indianapolis 500 and B) Tobacco money. When they walked away from one and had the other legislated away the end result was predictable. Failure. Twice. Do you know why IndyCar is still around today? The Indianapolis 500. Do you know why IndyCar does not meet the utopian fantasy you believed you had in the early 90s? No tobacco money. It is basically that simple.

So where are we today? Racing on an increasing number of non-ovals with a field heavily populated by foreign road racers. Future success will involve the inclusion Tony George desired, a truly BALANCED slate of venues with renewed emphasis and presentation of oval racing, a strong Indianapolis 500 and meaningful sponsorship that leads to meaningful promotion.

So now it’s off to a street circuit. The doubleheaders are great ideas and this weekend will be lots of fun. If you’re going have fun and we’ll see you there!

July 15, 2014

IndyCar At Iowa: Thumbs Up!

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:24 pm

SponsoredWhat a grand and glorious short track IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway this past weekend! Despite interruption from thundershowers, the threat of weather more severe and a schedule that changed to conform to the bad weather they managed to get all 300 laps in despite a stoppage. When the track was green the racing pleased the fans.

Despite the bad weather they race was very well attended. Iowa is the kind of track that draws a lot of motor homes and various other campers, and those areas were full. The hospitality tent in turn one was also packed, probably from folks avoiding raindrops.

The track was built as a drivers track and remains unique in its configuration. It is almost as bumpy as a typical street circuit. Even the anemic field of barely over twenty cars provided great racing.

WhoAlexIt is always better in person but a review of the DVR playback on NBCSN occasionally sounded odd. Imagine Darrell Waltrip calling a Formula 1 race. That is the same kind of feeling I get when the F-1 team and Paul Tracy take the mic. A few examples of things that make me cringe include ‘safety car’ (it is a PACE CAR over here, fellows), ‘shunt’ to describe a wreck (what’s wrong with ‘he hit the wall’ or ‘he hit the fence’ or ‘he had a wreck?’), or the lack of the word ‘the’ when talking about a driver visiting THE hospital. Saying ‘he was in hospital’ is strange. And why is Nigel Mansell’s name brought up so regularly? He was a cart flash in the pan in the early 90s who won a championship but not Indy after a nice run in F-1. What relevance does he have today? He remains, after all, one of those nose-in-the-air types with regard to IndyCar after ’95 so who cares? At least they have eased up on the papal-appointment-to-sainthood of Alex Zanardi, who is most famous (other than the accident) for making an illegal pass. But I digress. Let’s talk about the drivers of today on the broadcasts, many of whom could eventually become legends.

The usual Mark David Chapman-type squatters here will no doubt pull their chicken-little attendance shtick eventually, but as we know their ignorance will not prevent them from portension of doom over what they stupidly consider ‘bad’ attendance because a few ticket holders did not show up after seeing the forecast.

Ryan Hunter-ReayOn a similar note Robin Miller offered a column in Racer in which he bemoans the lack of effort on behalf of IndyCar with regard to ovals and the presentation of them (which is embarrassing), something pointed out over and over on this blog. Job one of IndyCar is to ensure a balanced schedule, something that is rapidly shrinking away given the proclivities of those making decisions. Even the often acrimonious relationship that has evolved over time with ISC and SMI should not prevent IndyCar from getting creative. There are plenty of non-ISC/SMI ovals to consider more seriously. The two that might be fascinating are Memphis and Rockingham. Gateway, Nashville and others are simply waiting. IndyCar also needs to be back at Chicagoland and Kentucky. They could even get creative. Chicago in even years and Kentucky in odd years with consistent dates.

Off the soap box and on to the next event in Toronto. After Mid-Ohio the fabulous Milwaukee Mile will be back in a month. See you at the track!

July 10, 2014

Political Correctness Run Amok: Screwing Up The Opie & Anthony Franchise on SiriusXM

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:22 am

And now my first offering ever outside the sphere of auto racing. Please pardon and/or enjoy the diversion. There is life outside the track, and one of my lifelong love affairs has been with the field of radio broadcasting. The one aspect of life today that drives me more crazy than any other is the arbitrary outrage of subjectively enforced political correctness, usually driven by rampant hypocrites.

Bastard StepchildrenOver the 4th of July weekend Anthony Cumia of the Opie & Anthony radio show on SiriusXM was fired over a series of tweets subjectively perceived as racist. As the story goes some anonymous black woman took umbrage at ending up in the frame of scenery snapshots Anthony was shooting in Times Square. She let him have it. Anthony responded in kind. The lady eventually resorted to physical assault. Anthony walked away. Then tweeted. A lot. Some of the tweeted name calling contained harsh language, but nothing racist. You do not have to be a black woman to be called a ‘pig’ or a ‘cunt.’ Insensitive? Certainly. But fairly normal in life especially on the streets of New York.

Here is the problem. A verbal altercation on the streets of New York City should not lead to job loss. Tweets that contain colorful language about the verbal altercation also should not lead to job loss, particularly when you are paid to be controversial. But it did for Anthony and is suspicious on a number of levels.

Most people dismiss radio acts like Opie and Anthony or Howard Stern as ‘shock jocks.’ Anyone who does so misses the point. Within the frame of puerile, male-oriented humor there exists an intelligence that is actually very rare in media today, more so for Opie & Anthony (and Jim Norton) or Ron & Fez than Stern. Listeners who are capable of independent thought usually recognize thought provoking, insightful commentary that is always there to absorb, not to mention devilish humor that usually flies over the noggins of knee-jerkers. They are masters of their crafts. Many casual listeners are mentally or emotionally incapable of paying attention beyond talk of body parts or excretory functions and that is a waste of their brains.

WoofSiriusXM still advertises the Opie & Anthony channel/show on their web site, positioning it as ‘Intense, edgy talk and uncensored comedy.’ Anthony’s tweets could certainly be construed as intense, edgy and uncensored. But they fired him anyway for commentary that was not even on their airways. At best it is highly hypocritical. Then again capricious knee-jerking is hardly unusual for that organization. Many fans of O & A have begun cancelling their subscriptions to Sirius XM. I cancelled the three I had four years ago not to make any sort of statement, but because after Sirius ‘merged’ with XM and took over, firing approximately 80% of the highly creative group that made the XM platform the most unique, diversified, listenable form of radio anywhere, the product became indistinguishable from any other corporate radio station. Its only advantage was no commercials (except promos) on most of the music stations. The brutally unoriginal lackeys who took over for the displaced truly creative folks were more concerned about polishing Mel Karmizan’s rectum with their noses than presenting compelling radio. Not much has changed since Karmizan retired. Most everything that was anything on XM became bastard stepchildren on Sirius.

The Senior Vice President who made the call to dismiss Cumia is Patrick Reilly. Evidently he can overlook things that actually are racist on the very airwaves he supervises. Like many ‘songs’ on their ‘uncut’ hip-hop channel, or when Sirius star Howard Stern asks aloud whether Patrick Ewing eats with his feet. It would be nice if Mr. Reilly and his peers were honest people but they are not. Their behavior is truly disgraceful and makes a laughable mockery of what they claim to be. If Reilly and selected peers had a shred of integrity they would fire themselves. Perhaps someday someone will flesh out the agenda that led to the dismissal. I keep thinking this Anthony stunt is some elaborate publicity stunt, but the sheer lack of mental agility of suits in charge makes that highly unlikely.

It is not difficult to listen to Opie & Anthony or Ron & Fez when time allows. YouTube searches turn up lots of content, and it’s free. When you listen, actually listen. You will begin to understand how completely foolish SiriusXM looks. What a waste. And now back to our regularly scheduled racing talk.

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