Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

July 8, 2014

IndyCar 500 Mile Race at Pocono: Thumbs Up

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

Pocono 500 AIt was a joyous weekend of IndyCar…the fastest 500 mile race in history. Pocono is one of those rare big tracks with personality. It is plopped into a scenic locale, is fan friendly and can provide great racing. Only two significant problems existed for my party, and one was not related to anything at the track.

The first problem is aesthetic. A 21 car field is too small for the venue. An Indy 500-sized field is best, and existing or potential teams should be properly incentivized to participate. Eight cars for Lights is a complete joke. Laughable.

The second problem has to do with I-80 East. From the point at which it merges with I-380 to the Delaware River (about 15 miles) it should never take 2 hours to drive. That is the problem with having the race late on a Sunday that is the last day of a long holiday weekend. Perhaps the series and the track should consider an alternate date.

Indycar at PoconoAnother general problem was the complete lack of any apparent marketing or coverage of the event. Both the track and IndyCar claimed promotion occurred but none was visible in either Philadelphia or New York coverage areas. Things that DID get plenty of coverage and promotion included a hot dog eating contest and the soap box derby. And NASCAR.

What a waste. The weather was Chamber of Commerce perfect and IndyCar put on a pretty good show. The crowd that looked so promising last year was smaller in 2014 despite strong walkup that clogged ticket windows on race day morning.

Before, during and after the race public proclamations by Brandon Igdalsky and IndyCar indicated both parties want to continue the event. No one has indicated whether the original deal will be honored, extended or modified. The race deserves promotion, a large number of teams and a purse that is commensurate with it being a leg of a ‘triple crown.’  In any event this race deserves a prominent place on the schedule and a primary focus should be making that happen. Just like Iowa, where IndyCar is headed next.

NASCARTThe other interesting piece of news that surfaced over the weekend was announcement by eight NASCAR teams that the owners have formed an organization to ‘have a voice’ in matters that NASCAR negotiates. This script is familiar. Benevolent dictatorships still rub owners, or ‘contractors’ as they are often characterized, the wrong way. All we need now is a plane crash to immobilize the top rung of the NASCAR management ladder, a coup d’état that puts owners in charge, a sport that completely changes, then some nascent France offspring to try and take it back. This does not bode well for peace and harmony and Big Bill is no longer around to enforce his will. Stock up on popcorn because this will be fun to watch.

July 3, 2014

Allowing Pocono To Wither Again For IndyCar Would Reinforce The Abject Stupidity That Has Dogged It For Decades

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 8:41 pm

Pocono CredentialsOne of the very best tracks in the world has a place on the IndyCar schedule today. The ‘tricky triangle’ at Pocono is a track that was built for IndyCars. The Cliff Notes version of history saw the IndyCars race there for years after it opened. Then the management of IndyCar pissed off the proprietors. For twenty four years there was no IndyCar event. NASCAR began enjoying two dates.

Fast forward to 2013. IndyCars, under new management in both camps, returned. The event last year was utterly wonderful. The track and the facility is unique, not owned by ISC or SMI, and is a great venue.

Attendance last year was very good, but leaving the track was a nightmare. Between race traffic and folks headed home from their 4th of July holidays a high degree of frustration was encountered. This year the race falls on the same holiday weekend and ominous public statements by the track warn of sub-par attendance expectations and even an attempt to dump the third year. Huh?

StupidityHere is a statement along with suggestions. It would be a travesty to lose this outstanding venue again so soon after getting it going. It is a big oval that provides great racing. Many fans are optimistic management on both sides will not insert their heads into their behinds and find a way/excuse to drop the event.

If this is the second leg of a ‘triple crown’ why not do something other than offer extra points? What about a huge financial incentive? There should be an Indy 500 type field in terms of participants. Not 22 or 23 entrants. Where is the promotion? I have been in New York and the Northeast for months and have seen no promotion. None. How are fans expected to attend if they do not know about it? It has become obvious that current IndyCar management has all but forgotten how to present an event on an oval. That is just not acceptable.

Above all, think about moving the date away from the fourth of July. Bad traffic experiences cause second thoughts for people who sit in their cars for hours after an event.

Why is it so difficult to remain an IndyCar fan? Mr. Miles and Mr. Igdalsky need to figure this out this weekend. This venue is an absolute necessity. Do not allow it to die. Oh, and it is very poor form to blame fans for slow ticket sales. The kind of potential fan that needs to sample can’t sample if they have no idea it exists.

June 30, 2014

Verizon IndyCar Series: Back in Business!

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 5:56 pm

Shell Pennzoil Grand Prix of HoustonThe Verizon IndyCar Series is back in business. Generally I dislike the principle of ‘doubleheaders’ as separate races, thinking it is a backdoor way to mask scheduling deficiencies. On the other hand when you have two events that turn out like night and day as was the case in Houston a strong case can be made for their validity.

Who might have imagined Dale Coyne’s second car winning and having a podium with three Colombians? Or that the podium would be swept on the dry day by two small teams? It was all very Winner 2compelling. One race in the wet (and rapidly drying) and one in the heat everyone expected. We even got to hear the legendary A.J. Foyt take the Lord’s name in vain on national television. That sometimes happens when there is an Andretti involved.

The DW-12 continues demonstrating that it is a race car strong enough for even stupid mistakes. My complaints remain relatively minor, including a continuing general disdain for temporary circuits in parking lots. Many folks are nearly orgasmic over the announcing job of Steve Matchett. I am not quite that effusive but his energy and enthusiasm is a welcome addition. There are fingernails on Tricky Trianglechalkboard moments; e.g., when did the ‘pace car’ become a ‘safety car?’ I wonder how close we are to changing the name of the series to ‘Verizon Formula Indy’ since we seem to be back on the ‘rival-to-Formula 1’ kick. And Paul Tracy? Not as robotic as Scott Goodyear but just about equal on the monotone scale.

Meanwhile we are preparing for an actual big oval race. 500 miles. Pocono. Big deal, right? The track is within driving distance of the largest population concentration in the country near the top media market. How much advertising has been seen? None by me. That is a real shame. The crowd last year was good, and I would like to believe it would improve in year two. If no one knows about it, however, how can that happen? My group is going again this year, and there will be at least six of us. The recent transformation of that track originally built for Indy cars is nothing short of miraculous. It is a unique, well managed, fan friendly legacy track. It is an outstanding way to spend a holiday weekend, and we hope to see a lot of our friends there.

June 26, 2014

Someone From Verizon IndyCar Series Marketing Speaks

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:35 pm

MalsherRacer’s Editor David Malsher published an interesting interview with C.J. O’Donnell, Chief Marketing Officer of Hulman Motorsports. The problem is many of us are left with that feeling one often gets an hour after eating Chinese food. Hunger. Full disclosure: I am a subscriber to the print edition of Racer and believe it is a must have item for any serious racing fan. Coverage, photography and content is all top notch.

That is why I am somewhat disappointed in the interview. My initial impression is that Malsher took sort of a mild Gordon Kirby-like approach to questioning (only without the hysterics and as blatant an agenda), but still allowed O’Donnell to answer most questions in a corporate-speak manner that is really long on sugar but preciously short on fiber.

So while observing IndyCar as ‘the greatest series no one knows about on either side of May,’ a snarky observation as part of a question that asks about priorities, O’Donnell discussed a methodical 5-year plan plus attendance and ratings gains through Detroit, all couched in hopeless generality. You could plug in any leader from Randy Bernard to Jeff Belskus over the past five years and get the exact same boilerplate, obfuscation-riddled buzzwords. Why not at least ask what the key milestones are for each year of the next five? Better yet, ask what specific steps are being taken to get media in general, but broadcast partners in particular, to actively promote the series on a season long basis instead of ignoring it wholesale. I might also have asked how Indy-based momentum is expected to continue with a three-week hole Racerin June and no significant sports competition.

Asking legitimate questions about what IMS learned from the re-vamped month of May is great. Positioning May as ‘dead in the water for some years’ as part of the question is the kind of gratuitous tripe one might stumble across on an IRL hate site. As usual the implication is that the 500 is the only sports or entertainment entity with unrealistic expectation problems in 2014. The problem is the expectations of those who spout such hyperbole are not always based in reality and are usually rooted somewhere in the late 80s or early 90s. Still. O’Donnell again let buzzwords fly, repeated Mark Miles sound bites, and congratulated the team on a great month. While C.J. was mentioning the second and third years my follow-up would have asked how qualifying will be tweaked, what changes to keep the month fresh are planned, and what steps are being taken to fill up the garages with race hopefuls to avoid another suspense-less field of 33 pre-ordained and micro-managed starters.

IMS SuitLater, in another postioning-statement-within-a-question, Malsher observed ‘oval track attendance has looked poor for all venues except Indy.’ Then, just as I had earlier observed about writer expectations, Malsher actually asked about ‘recapturing the mojo of the 80s and 90s.’ If it is that easy why not recapture the mojo of the late 60s and early 70s? That period was second to none in terms of innovation, speed, and consistent drive to advance beyond rules.

Jesus H. Christ. Is there not enough to worry about in 2014?

Oval attendance is poor at ovals but not non-ovals? At least O’Donnell disagreed. The thing he didn’t do was answer the question about how to increase attendance, other than increased points for ‘triple crown’ events. I might have asked why there is not a sponsored 5 or 10 million dollar prize for any triple crown winner. Can you imagine attendance at Fontana if, say RHR also won Pocono after Indy and was in line for the big bonus?

Malsher asked O’Donnell about series sponsors and observed not seeing as many. C.J. reinforced what Verizon, Honda and Chevrolet do and extolled the virtues of B2B relationships, but did not really address the underlying issue. When will more of them become involved?

I applaud the attempt at a potentially worthwhile interview but urge trying again. Next time ask questions without bias and frame them to extract specific answers untinged with flowery smokescreens.

June 25, 2014

What Does Soccer Have To Do With IndyCar?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 5:59 pm

SoccerIndyCar critics who squat on the Internet and continuously portend doom for the Verizon IndyCar Series seem to have concocted a brand new rant fashioned into a weapon with which to take swipes. The soccer World Cup being held in Brazil has been doing very well domestically in the television ratings 12+ overnight category. The big matches can draw anywhere from 10 to 25 million sets of eyeballs. It is well promoted, well positioned and has multiple network partners also engaged in heavy promotion.

Good for them. Many in the USA have hopped aboard a bandwagon that has had a huge worldwide presence for decades. My only involvement this year in the hoopla was eating lunch in a bar in New York City yesterday that had Uruguay and Italy on their big screens. About half the bar was Italian and the other half Uruguayan. Whenever something halfway exciting occurred one side or the other of the bar would shriek with delight. I just wanted my damned food and the check afterward. The only thing I found compelling and noteworthy (other than lousy service) was the fact that a stunningly gorgeous late-20-something Uruguayan woman was seated at the bar with a very loose fitting sleeveless shirt on and no bra underneath. I was continually distracted by a very nice looking breast that would emerge from the clothing with startling regularity.

Kickin itThe thing obsessed critics seem to be creaming their dungarees over are the high ratings for World Cup soccer, and how they are so much ‘better’ than those of IndyCar. How, even in the most stretched version of the alternate universe within which such kiddies dwell, did this become any sort of valid comparison? What happened to apples and apples instead of apples and bricks? Some of the same youngsters are even asking stupid questions like ‘what can IndyCar learn from the World Cup?’

Huh?

It is not difficult to come up with valid critique points for today’s IndyCar. But comparing it to soccer? Really? Comparing motor sports to a stick n’ ball sport? Evidently I am not retarded enough to make such an illogical leap. Perhaps one of the Einstein-like regulars can enlighten me with regard to any sort of point.

June 21, 2014

IndyCar Needs to Make Its Own Luck

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:38 pm

WTFIndyCar management is often derided for making decisions that defy logic, sometimes correctly but often due to lack of recognition of whatever the bigger picture may be. This particular instance of lack of vision and foresight seems egregious.

The sweetest of sweet spots of any summertime IndyCar schedule is the month of June. Why? Both hockey and basketball playoffs are wrapped up. The NFL is completely dormant. Baseball is in its mid-season period of ‘blah’ before end of season pennant battles materialize. Other than the occasional World Cup hoopla there is very little going on the sports world.

CalendarSo why on earth is there three-week hole in the IndyCar schedule dead center in the sweet spot? It does not make any sense. No gains in either attendance or ratings will materialize if there are no events. NASCAR and Formula 1 races. Why should IndyCar not? The Indianapolis 500 was absolutely great, and could have provided season-long momentum. Races immediately following Indy were compelling, but this three week, momentum-killing gap sticks out like a sore thumb.

Given the number of available venues it is unlikely ‘date conflicts’ are a factor. It is easy to understand why teams prefer a break, but the month of June should have none. Most sports with which IndyCar must share the stage are inactive at the moment. Why not take advantage?

When IndyCar finally gets back into action on the 28th it will be a street circuit in the summer heat of Houston, which will be incredibly uncomfortable for fans brave enough to attend. Any momentum built from the Indianapolis 500 will have been forgotten by most fans.

Future lesson: The heaviest and most exciting part of the IndyCar schedule going forward should be during the month of June. Instead of creating situations that enhance luck this part of the schedule is merely another self-inflicted gunshot wound to the foot. That remains frustrating.

June 16, 2014

Trying To Solve Attendance Problems at Oval Race Tracks

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:11 pm

EmptyAs I viewed weekend racing on television and noticed the increasingly chronic level of lack of bodies in attendance at race tracks an obvious reason why hit me. Most of the stands are not covered, are made of shiny aluminum and events tend to take place under hot sun. Even for rare night races humidity is still there, and tracks have a tendency to want to cram people as close together as possible.

In society today the notion of personal space, which is usually occupied by multi-tasking, self-absorbed folks who have difficult times paying attention to their surroundings and usually involving electronic communication devices, is cherished and valued.

The NASCAR race at Michigan was a shining example of a venue that has reduced their seating capacity by almost half but remains plagued with abundant aluminum. The problem is not the reduction of capacity, it is seats that remain continue to be subject to the elements and lack of meaningful personal space.

Instead of just tearing grandstands down a better long term approach may be:

  1. Great ideaErect roof structures that keep at least 50 to 75% of an individual stand shaded or protected from rain.
  2. Provide more open space both horizontally and vertically. Humankind has never been as physically large or more self-absorbed than they are today. For many going to a race track has become as unpleasurable as going to the airport to catch a flight. Once you run the security gamut you are crammed into seats too small and close together as whatever joy folks used to feel gets sucked away in a short amount of time.
  3. Take cues from modern baseball parks. Provide sponsored party decks. More group suites. Picnic areas with great views of the track. Covered open areas that cater to ADD-addled beings.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway already has a high number of covered stands, but extend to turns. Milwaukee used to have it right but not now.

In short, the notion of large swaths of uncovered stands is hopelessly dated. It is why things like having an oval race at Fontana at the end of August during the day is stupid. Here is hoping enough brains prevail across the entire business to enhance existing race tracks to accommodate a contemporary crowd.

June 11, 2014

Three Days Before the Indianapolis 500 Revisited

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:12 pm

EagledaleFrequent readers are well aware of concerns about the upkeep of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the sad deterioration of neighborhoods on three sides of the track, where property values are sinking and crime is rising. Areas once populated by hard working, mostly blue collar middle class who took pride in their modest dwellings, kept lawns mowed and weeded and knew how to use products like paint and Lysol have been supplanted by folks who no longer care about anything, especially the condition of their properties. Let’s face it. As a proud native Hoosier I am comfortable pointing a critical finger at what being a native Hoosier means. Regardless of your stature, income or position in society being a Hoosier is sort of like a twisted version of the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. You are never really that distant from trailer parks, early death by deep fried food, abuse of methamphetamines or significant orthodontics issues. You believe Miss Indiana, widely derided as chunky, is one of the most beautiful women on earth. None of this is bad. It is what most people refer to as salt of the earth.

Societal change was on display this past May when areas around the track, especially the Coke lot, become the temporary home of tens of thousands of racing fans and month of May revelers out to have a great time. In the weeks that followed one of the best attended Mays in recent memory stories of serious crime not typical of average Mays have been leaking out. We are all aware of specific types of shootings that occurred, but there was also a significant rise in theft, robbery and other felonies well documented by victims.

Coke LotPeople seem timid to discuss the crimes or their cause. In some ways that is understandable. There has always been mischief especially the night before the race. During my annual Coke lot/Georgetown walk this year the hard working members of law enforcement were earning their money dealing with drunks, fighters and alcohol-saturated young ladies behaving in delightfully lewd and lascivious ways. No one had to walk further than a block to observe the mostly youthful behavior. The vast majority of folks partying there are there because they have at least inklings there is a big race they may well be sober enough to attend. It is usually a joyous combination of Woodstock, Mardi Gras and Rio Carnival.

Those of us who no longer drink to get drunk (mostly due to age and bladders) still enjoy the revelry for sure, but mostly as casual observers and not direct participants. There are folks who establish campsites in roughly the same spots every May. The camaraderie and friendships that have occurred over time are deeply cherished. In recent years the area has been increasingly visited by those whose presence is completely out of place. They are not difficult to spot. These individuals are not there to party; they are there to prey.

Imagine what you might think if you visited the Indianapolis Zoo and observed gorillas frolicking inside the polar bear exhibit. Would it not be natural to assume something was amiss? So in addition to controlling hijinks of the usual over exuberant revelers the cops now have to deal with non-racing fans whose primary experience and expertise is committing felonious acts. It is not difficult to pick them out of the crowd.

The touchy issue is how to deal with it proactively. Society does not allow exclusion or even strong suggestions such folks should find a spot somewhere on the other side of a county. Ideas about fencing in the Coke lot or Law Enforcementrequiring ID bands or some other form of registration have merit, but would that justify the massive bureaucracy or cost that would result? Equally unpractical would be encouraging defense of your campsite. No one wants thousands of armed citizens. That is definitely NOT a good idea given the amount of alcohol.

The people who deserve the biggest pats on the back are the members of law enforcement who give up their time to deal with mostly obnoxious people. They are keenly aware of who belongs in the area and who does not. Best approach: Give them significant leeway to determine who stays and who goes, much like they have with drunks and shirtless cursing fighters.

The month of May in Indy, and especially the three days before the big race, is worth defending and enriching. Racing fans should never be scared away by thugs.

June 9, 2014

IndyCar Relegated to Red Headed Bastard Stepchild Status by NBC

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:09 am

Next bad networkThe next time anyone from IMS or NBC brags about what a great job they are doing with IndyCar or how devoted to it they remain, call them on it. They are lying. Saturday night was the 25th time IndyCars have raced at Texas Motor Speedway. Up until a couple of days before the event no one could say with certainty on what NBC cable channel the race would air. The lack of any serious cross promotion was evident. There was plenty of promotion for horse racing (plenty of slack there…it was a possible triple crown winner), Formula One and hockey. Hardly any for IndyCar.

Nowhere is the bias more evident that the following two examples:

  1. Formula One gets practice, qualifying, races and ancillary programming EVERY time. In addition, qualifications and races get re-airs. Yesterday on the same day. IndyCar? Races. Once.
  2. ConfusedNBC aired a ‘36’ special that covered the Kurt Busch ‘double.’ As usual it was very well done. What got promoted in original airing of the show? Not IndyCar’s upcoming event in Houston. Formula One in Austria and NASCAR in 2015 did make the cut, however. (06/10/14 update: NBCSN DID re-air the Texas race. At 1:00am.)

The most frustrating part of this obvious lack of respect is that IMS seems content not to do anything about it despite recently employing new vice presidents that are supposedly experienced in these areas. So what results? 0.4 overnights in prime time and no serious effort to expand IndyCar reach beyond Indianapolis except for corporate supported street events or heavily funded foreign forays. Disgusting. This lack of promotional effort combined with micromanagement of specs that are already as spec as one can get is why over 25 Texas races attendance has slipped from six-figure crowds on the edge of their seats to less than half that today mostly with ‘why am I here/it sure is hot’ looks on their faces.

ICS ManagementIt is apparent IndyCar is unable/unwilling to learn from history. This is ESPN being repeated all over again. The booth crew (which also changes a lot, seemingly whimsically) was uninspiring and often insulting. Brian Till sounded lost. Bell and Tracy discussed, among other things, how fast Paul Tracy drove on the track in 2001 (that ended well) or how Mikhail Aleshin reminds them of Nigel Mansell (who never raced at Texas). The dreaded words ‘pack racing’ were spoken. Where is the recognition for IndyCar drivers that actually put that venue on the IndyCar map? Boat? Dismore? Sharp? Ray? Hornish? Those were some of the drivers who set the bar for excitement. That era conveniently gets skipped every time. That is what happens when the people on the air are all former CART employees who stuck with that mostly to their bitter ends.

I love IndyCar but the level of frustration fans must occur is precisely why so many have simply walked away. To lose Texas would have been unthinkable even a couple of years ago, but given the known proclivities of those now in charge the fear it goes away is palpable. That thought is disgusting.

June 6, 2014

Second Home of IndyCar! Hello Eddie and all the Lone Star Fans…

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:40 pm

Lone StarThis weekend marks the IndyCar Series annual return to the site of some of the most thrilling IndyCar events ever held. Texas Motor Speedway and the gregarious guy who runs the joint, Eddie Gossage, is often positioned as the second home for IndyCar. They have been around since the earliest years of the IRL.

Through the years it has survived a number of otherwise venue killing misadventures. In the old days when the field was filled with drivers who actually enjoyed racing fast and close there 80,000 to 100,000 would show up every time. Even the then outside-looking-in cart folks felt the need to horn in and wave their genitals around in 2001 until they stepped on them and screwed thousands of racing fans again.

EddieAfter those teams and drivers were bailed out and became part of the present series the real whining began. 1.5 mile ovals. ‘Pack’ racing. Suddenly bad for the participants. A few times their spouting yaps have almost succeeded in getting themselves thrown out, and still could.

Hopefully the quality of the racing will return to the excitement level once a hallmark of that venue. Also hopefully people who are not lucky enough to attend will be able to find it on television. The ‘partner’ who began their IndyCar relationship with such promise and enthusiasm seems content to shuffle the series to unrelated cable channels like CNBC then back to the sports network without really letting providers know what is on the schedule. They have also become enamored of NASCAR and F-1, as evidenced by the amount of promotion and programming.

Speaking of ovals drivers don’t like, the Nashville Speedway was sold to new owners recently and they seem serious about having racing. IndyCar seems like a natural fit, but that was another track IndyCar left not because crowds or sponsors were a problem, but because the series did not want to be there. Personally IndyCar should be looking there and at Memphis as well, where there is another fine short oval largely being unused.

On a somewhat related note some of us fans of IndyCar oval racing have created a new Facebook group cheekily called 25/8 that celebrates the first five years of the IRL. Anyone who enjoyed that period is welcome to join.

Enjoy the racing this weekend! Texas should be fun. As always.

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