Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

October 27, 2015

IndyCar Schedule in 2016: The Good, Bad and Unvarnished From A Ticket Buying Fan

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 6:52 pm

ScheduleThe 2016 IndyCar schedule was formally announced today. As fervent long-term IndyCar fans we are gratified to have any sort of schedule. Formulating one is potentially the most difficult part of running IndyCar. For every great addition such as Phoenix or Road America, however, there are unfortunate removals such as Milwaukee and Fontana. There remains as much alienation as gratification again this year.

Perhaps that is one reason these blogs have become so infrequent. Despite their magnificent tendency toward flowery hyperbole with regard to product IndyCar is managing to turn fans that travel to venues and buy tickets into Indy 500-only fans, just like the ‘good old days.’

IndyCar touts the 5 oval-5 road course-5 street circuit balanced ‘diversity’ of the series. Sorry. Running 2/3 of the schedule on non-ovals is neither balanced nor aligned with IndyCar history. As CART’s pronounced and lingering death rattle led to the inevitable in the early 2000s the IRL version of IndyCar began being co-opted by those scurrying from that particular train wreck. The slippery slope for that iteration began when the first non-oval was run at St. Petersburg. Ten years ago the oval-centric version of IndyCar was 18% non-oval. The schedule announced this week is 67% non-oval, and there are two fewer races overall. Balance? Hardly. The once youthful supporters of IndyCar during the CART period applaud the addition of Road America. That is a nice legacy-type addition, but Barber is far more compelling to me. Additionally it post-dates the politics. And I would rather eat BBQ than brauts.

One potentially spectacular addition is Phoenix. That track (another built specifically for IndyCars but eventually given up/whored out for NASCAR) has been gone for a while and with two Cup dates it might have been safe to assume they would never return, particularly given past proclivities of IndyCar to just demand a lot of money to roll the transporters and not much else. Throw in events like counterproductive and ill-advised genital waving by another defunct CEO and Phoenix was always a recipe for dysfunction. But back it is and that is simply great.

Conspicuous by their absences are Milwaukee and Fontana. Those omissions seem to defy logic. Both have been victimized long term by the failure of IndyCar to schedule with date consistency and by a complete lack of presentation effort that gets more neglected with each passing year. The lame excuse for the jettison of Fontana in 2016 is that it will not fit into a neat television window.

Road America is Back!

Road America is Back!

Never mind the IndyCar race there was arguably the most exciting non-IMS oval IndyCar event of the past few decades.

‘…but ovals simply do not draw crowds anymore.’ Does that oft-parroted sentence of mortifying cluelessness sound familiar? Perhaps if IndyCar actually worried more about fans who attend and less about television windows, not to mention coherent scheduling, ovals might seem a little more popular. Slot Milwaukee in as the first event after Indy every year. Start it no later than 1pm local time. See what happens. Fontana is west coast and that presents problems for television. Exactly why is a mystery. Television partners have no problem not only bending over for NASCAR and Formula 1, but also airing all of their practices and qualifying live and on delay. Then the races are played back. Why should IndyCar not receive the same treatment?

It is an absolute miracle IndyCar managed to strike a deal with Pocono, but that is also welcome and great news. At least that is not scheduled using a blindfold and a dartboard. Tickets are being re-ordered this week.

Some events on the IndyCar calendar defy tradition. Frankly Roger Penske’s mercy hump to the manufacturers and city of Detroit could be slotted anywhere on the schedule with no appreciable difference in popularity. Never mind MIS is fairly close and is a lightning fast 2 mile oval with fresh pavement that provides for actual racing.

IndyCar 2016 ScheduleHopefully IndyCar also has a back-up plan in the event Boston goes awry. Given the fetid stench that typically accompanies IndyCar festivals o’ speed it is unsafe to count Boston in until wheels begin turning. Skepticism is magnified given the brutal politics of the region. Things like demands for fresh pavement could easily scuttle this latest over-glorified wet dream. Better idea: How about a doubleheader? The streets of Boston and the oval at Loudon, only promoted and presented coherently this time.

ONE event in August? That is neither sane nor rational. In addition to consistency the schedule also needs a minimum of twenty events. Based on available ovals alone that number could easily be met, especially in August. Gateway and Memphis are unique small ovals in areas with sizeable potential audiences and IndyCar geographic holes. Those two would make 17. Schedule Milwaukee and Fontana consistently and with sense and we are back up to 19. Pick the twentieth: MIS, Richmond, Chicagoland, Kentucky, Atlanta, Homestead, etc., could all be successful again.

Our travel plans so far include Indy and Pocono for sure. That may be it other than perhaps Texas. Congratulations to IndyCar for stumbling on to a slightly extended but reduced event schedule. The rollout is predictably cloaked in obfuscation and spread heavily with hyperbolic buzzwords.  Would oft-neglected IndyCar fans expect anything else?

September 2, 2015

IndyCar Is Over Already?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:08 pm

RIP RacerThis racing fan and like-minded peers are not nearly ready for the IndyCar season to end. We remain willing to watch and attend but we are unable to do so. We remain saddened by the freak accident that claimed the life of one of the truly great people in the sport. The good news according to many of our spouses is that we do not get to spend as much money and are available for chores around the house for the foreseeable future.

Many fervent racing fans are merely casual fans of the stick and ball variety of sports whose seasons are spinning up. The fact that football season is on the doorstep is exciting to many, but to many others it is yawn inducing and merely a harbinger of cold weather ahead.

IndyCar brass tries hard to concoct memorable IndyCar seasons and everyone who has ever attempted to put one together cites the nearly impossible degree of difficulty that is involved in architecting the next one. My group is of an age that takes advantage of attendance opportunities whenever possible. Tickets are not difficult to acquire and travel/lodging deals abound. Yet whether intentional or not folks like us are being reduced to Indy-only attendees. Events we attend(ed) every year are being removed with alarming frequency.

Endangered SpeciesThe list of races we USED to attend every year continues growing rapidly. Their replacement venues do not have the same luster. What do we miss? Michigan. Kentucky. Chicagoland. Richmond. Pike Peak. Gateway. Fontana. What do venues have in common? Ovals of all sizes and quirks. Betting money says we will say goodbye as well to either Milwaukee or Pocono, or both. It is not as though we do not attend others. Barber, for example, is a wonderful facility and we have always had enjoyable weekends there. We even flew to New Orleans for the one and done misadventure in the wet at NOLA this year. Jeans creaming over the revival of Road America has enthusiasts of the twisties worked up into a foamed mouth frenzy, and they also want Burke Lakefront back in Cleveland. Non-ovals, however, simply do not provide the visceral, consistent thrills that quality ovals do.

Long Beach has earned its legend and the party is nice but the racing is nearly always forgettable. St. Pete in the early Spring is an appealing getaway, but touristy Florida activity and checking out hard bodies in bikinis is as important as seeing what is generously positioned as professional racing on a turn or two of a temporary course.

A bone that has been thrown is Phoenix. The problem is no deal actually exists at this moment. Even if one is struck that track still has two Cup dates and open wheel attendance plummeted during a period when the sport was arguably more popular. I love the city of Boston but cannot imagine traveling there to attend a street event on Labor Day weekend. Travel to Loudon could be arranged in a heartbeat though.

My party attended Michigan, Kentucky, Chicagoland, Richmond, PPIR, Gateway, Fontana, Pocono and Milwaukee nearly EVERY year. We still would if they were available. We even made the trip to Vegas. If you figure a weekend away cost between $400 (if we drove) and $800 (if we flew) minimum, and there were 4 to 6 of us, the economic impact of just us ended up between $28,800 and $43,200 every year, with a percentage enriching IndyCar and the tracks.

Miles AheadAs long as IndyCar is unwilling to apply either the full May-in-Indy experience or the full street course vibe/hype to great ovals, attendance at them will continue to suffer. The predictable ‘ovals are just not popular’ excuse will remain nothing more than an intended but woefully misguided self-fulfilling prophecy. Intense oval racing tends to separate men from boys, and IndyCar does not have nearly enough men. The entity that invented oval racing presentation abdicated to the southern folks long ago and do not seem interested in reclaiming it. The wasted potential of great oval racing, triple crown glory, high speed and thrills is lost on both the suits and the road racers who have long co-opted the series with F1-like fantasies dancing in their heads. It is beyond maddening.

No doubt we will enjoy the 100th running and beyond in May but being relegated to one and done as a fan is entirely unfulfilling.

August 17, 2015

Open Contempt by IndyCar for Fans Continues Unabated

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:28 pm

The latest indelicate groin kick IndyCar Management delivered to some of its best fans was the far-too-casual announcement that California’s Auto Club Speedway annual IndyCar event would not be on the schedule in 2016. Never mind Fontana this year unleashed one of the most compelling, exciting IndyCar races in thirty years and possibly ever. That does not seem to matter and is not even acknowledged.

BuhByeNowThe concocted excuse trotted out involved an inability to identify a start time and broadcast window that would not adversely affect east coast viewership. Huh?

IndyCar evidently feels its fan base is stupid and will accept most any flowery press release lip service as gospel. A safe bet is to surmise that despite hard work proclamations by both sides no midnight oil was burned, no sweat hit brows, and arrogance no doubt surpassed intelligence.

The ‘window’ copout is particularly disingenuous. If the big Cup weekend is factored with ample space on either side that STILL leaves about 150 possible days in a year in which to consider CONSISTENTLY scheduling an IndyCar event at that track, especially if you get creative with perhaps a Friday night approach. Who says television has to be live on the east coast in a desirable time slot? Why not run a night race, broadcast it live, then re-air in a favorable time slot a day or two later? The replay approach can work well, as it did for the most recently held IndyCar event at Mid-Ohio. It also works for F-1, NASCAR and others who have broadcast partners who take those partnerships seriously. And oh, by the way, no one else has a problem running in the early portion of football season.

IndyCar must also realize that in the case of Fontana use of the ‘drunk guy throwing darts’ approach to date and time scheduling will almost always guarantee failure over time, and Fontana has been victimized by such carelessness more than about anyone (and they are far from alone). Failure also occurs when not meaningfully marketing/promoting the event in the second largest domestic media market. Half-assed presentation effort is also a precursor to failure. It is simply not enough to charge a lot for tickets then have just IndyCars, a handful of vintage hobbyists and Michael Young with a microphone at a track that great. Presentation of both Fontana and Pocono over the past three years is an embarrassing exercise of abysmal. ‘Triple crown’ potential is limitless but has been completely squandered.

MilesIt would not surprise me to see the same atrocious management remove Pocono for equally logic defiant reasons. The glimmer of hope meant to appease folks is enthusiasm about a possible return of Phoenix. I prefer to ground myself in reality. Phoenix is not a done deal and given the contentious relationship that track and its owner have with IndyCar, not to mention the fact that track still hosts two Cup events, wide eyed optimism about Phoenix is on par with the fantasies a three year old might have about Santa Claus, chimneys and toys. Even if the politics get squared away IndyCar will not suddenly develop an ability to market/promote professionally, create presentation efforts worthy of the Indy brand or offer fan pricing or amenities packages that will inspire fans to appear in droves. Given current management proclivity Phoenix is far more likely to resemble the last time IndyCar tried Loudon.

You know what would be refreshing? Honesty and transparency. One cannot help but wonder how much of an effect the incessant cackling of the current crop of squatting road racers after Fontana’s latest IndyCar race has to do with the decision. The emergence of young talent like a Josef Newgarden makes many miss a Dario Franchitti far less. It is also my belief that the inevitable retirements of the last of the cart contingent will be better for the sport.

My advice for Mark Miles and Dave Allen: Spend more time powering through and solving arbitrarily created problems and less time publishing flowery, excuse laden press releases. You will never retain fans by alienating them so completely. Adding road races like Road America is fine but series popularity will not be enhanced long term by adding non-oval races and dumping ovals, particularly when virtually no effort is spent building the latter.

August 12, 2015

IndyCar Expands Its Wisconsin Presence

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:47 pm

Wet DreamDuring the past week Road America was announced as the latest addition to the IndyCar schedule. The event will take place about one month after Indy the weekend of June 24. On the surface this is a good thing. It adds a legacy natural terrain road circuit known for its hospitality and has caused widespread glee among the IndyCar enthusiast faction that prefers that type of track activity.

The management has even openly discussed some sort of package plan with the legendary oval at Milwaukee. That particular situation became more complicated with news the principals involved in Andretti Sports Marketing are suing Michael and the parent organization after the top brass got let go. This follows litigation involving what turned out to be a fiasco in New Orleans. If Milwaukee is to return (and we all hope it does) it will no doubt be promoted by MoneyGrabanother entity.

As bits and pieces of the 2016 schedule are trickled out there is newfound enthusiasm for yet another street circuit in Boston. The IndyCar visions of creating a new Long Beach must be tempered by the reality that odds are stacked against it. A new Baltimore is far more likely.

All the while quality short ovals in geographically underserved markets just sit there. Gateway. Memphis. Richmond. That list is long. I would be very curious to see what kind of deal was struck with Road America, and why whatever model they crafted could not be used for ovals.

It is the hope of many that this year will not be the last for Pocono. That is my next stop. Can’t wait!

July 30, 2015

Alex Zanardi in the 100th Running of the Indy 500…Is It REALLY a Good Idea?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 9:00 pm

WheeeeeMany racing fans have worked themselves up into wet dream level anticipation over the whiff of a rumor based on an Alex Zanardi comment that he would like to try racing in the Indianapolis 500. Now all of a sudden the racing-centric Internet typists assume the 100th running would be the perfect debut with no doubts about either quality teams and equipment or sponsorship. It is over the top.

This author has been accused in the past (mostly by people without a high degree of reading comprehension or the ability to pick up on subtle nuance, much less lighthearted humor) of certain insensitivity with regard to Mr. Zanardi. The hypersensitivity of critics often clouds their judgement. In reality as a racing fan I enjoyed watching him race in his prime as immensely as anyone else. The accomplishments he has mastered since his accident is the stuff of inspirational legend. What is not to like or admire?

Wishful thinking regarding a 500 run, especially the 100th running, must be tempered by pragmatism. Zanardi never raced at Indianapolis. He was part of teams that actively boycotted the 500. He walked away from IndyCar twice for marginal attempts in Formula 1. His best known on-track move (other than that ill-fated right turn in Germany the weekend after 9/11) was a pass that would be considered illegal today. Most racing fans of any prejudice can get past the politics and overlook bad times. After all, it is 2015. Before he is anointed to IndyCar sainthood without having ever turned a hot lap at Indy I encourage more objective viewpoint.

In May of 2016 he will be pushing 50. His physical conditioning, especially in the upper body, is remarkable. But his body will be almost 50. And he has no legs. Or Indy 500 starts. Or much IndyCar driving since 2001. And no butt time in a DW12 with the fancy schmancy aerokits.  Odds are stacked against him. Perhaps that level of challenge is what has his fans creaming their dungarees over the mere possibility of conquering it. It would really be difficult to see what is essentially a stunt going awry. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is often thought of as a living, breathing spirit that can just as easily chew up and spit out a driver as bestow good fortune regardless of pedigree. No one wishes the former on anyone but such an attempt would become a media freak show regardless of outcome.

Stubbs BBQSome have suggested a perfect pairing might be with Sam Schmidt. Perhaps, but that version begins to veer into ‘step right up’ sideshow territory even more. I am certain sponsorship would not be an issue. I look forward to the 100th running for its intrinsic historical value and not whimsical novelty. Sam Schmidt did run in the 500 multiple times and has become a successful IndyCar owner. Oh, and he works just as hard trying to wipe out paralysis. Like Zanardi his post-racing accomplishments are even more impressive than what he did on track. Schmidt inspires me. I love the fact he has used his passion for the sport to both participate and attempt to make it better.

I know Zanardi has long been crowned as one of the best ever (despite no laps at Indy). My biggest disappointments are: A) That he allowed his career to be guided by the idiotic arrogance of boycotters who mistakenly believed they were bigger than Indy and forced him and many of his contemporaries to miss the one event that gave them all legitimacy in the prime of his career, and B) That he did not attempt this stunt while ten years younger when he would have been about the same age as today’s consistent winners.

BuhByeThere are no losers in this fantasy and I encourage continuing enthusiasm. It is nice to see that in IndyCar for a change. Given the ‘resignation’ of Derrick Walker (I thought he was supposed to be an owners guy) it is easy to see the clown act that has passed for management of the sport has remained unchanged essentially since the late 1970s plane crash no matter which warm bodies occupy the big desks. The fact that Mark Miles is so well insulated will stick in the craw of critics for a long time. Never is there a dull moment.

July 18, 2015

The Dark Side of Motor Racing

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:21 pm

BianchiSome will give me grief for going here (too soon and all of that) but I am sufficiently bothered so here goes. Tributes to Bianchi are deserved, respectful and somber, as they should be. Almost conspicuous by its absence, however, are fellow participants crapping all over a series and a sport that allows them to ply their trades. There is no mass hysteria or rush to judgement about speculative causes. No urgency to solve perceived problems.

When contrasted against the equally tragic death of Dan Wheldon the silence is deafening. Both died as the result of freak accidents in racing. One striking difference about respective aftermaths is absence of the cacophony of mostly meritless criticism that spewed forth before Wheldon’s body even got cold.

Now that Jules Bianchi sadly passed why are there not panicked, shrill yelps to ban this or change that to sanitize the sport? Is Formula One immune from criticism? In many ways it seems some have convinced themselves Formula One is not dangerous. Turns out it can be. Bianchi’s ultimate death could definitely have been prevented. But where is the outcry?Danny Boy Suggested hysteria as justification to ban things using the same twisted, rationalized logic that eliminated IndyCar at Vegas:  1) No more racing at Suzuka. 2) No more racing on natural terrain courses because they are not immune from death. 3) Racing while it’s raining? Are you crazy!? 4) We need to slow down F1 cars by about 50 mph. 5) While we’re at it how about no more street courses since there are fences and trees and people are near those fences. 6) Racing while there are tractors near the circuit must be banned. 7) Hell, why not just stop racing altogether? It is just too dangerous.

Sound ridiculous? It is. So is the double standard. How many tracks has IndyCar been forced away from due to either accidents or fear something MIGHT happen? Why does that not happen in any other series in which death or other mayhem are possibilities?

Pack racing in NASCAR is not considered dangerous until one driver kills another or a car penetrates the fence and either kills fans or comes close. Even IMS is touting aero changes to Cup cars to enable closer racing during the Brickyard 400. Yet ‘pack racing’ only seems bad when it involves IndyCars, and has had its definition (which is subjective to begin with) twisted to include essentially all oval racing that is not single file.

Sorry. It just pisses me off.

RIP Jules Bianchi.

June 30, 2015

The Third Mistress: IndyCar’s Peacock Television Deal

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:26 pm

Bend Over IndyCarOne common recurring complaint from IndyCar fans and many participants as a group over the past twenty years or so involves a perception of increasing lack of respect accorded the series by its broadcast partners. IndyCar was long ago relegated to bastard stepchild status on ESPN as NASCAR and other stick and ball sports squeezed it out. ESPN was largely responsible originally for the rise of NASCAR following the network launch in 1979 because they made it featured programming during formative years. That was largely due to ESPN badly needing content.  In subsequent years the folks in Bristol (Connecticut) milked it for all it was worth up until they were over capacity with stick and ball sports.

What began as mutual fawning when IndyCar signed a ten year deal with Versus/NBCSN in 2009 has devolved into confused suspicion as both Formula 1 and NASCAR have been given obvious programming priority. The ratings for IndyCar on NBCSN are not bad in comparison to most things aired on that cable channel, but assuming they will rise because NASCAR is coming is questionable speculation at best.

Instead of complaining a determination is warranted of whether perception is reality in the way IndyCar is promoted and aired not only on the NBCSN linear platform but also on the web and in social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter. The quasi-scientific method used to gather data involved paying a recent underemployed college graduate to DVR the channel for one week before an IndyCar race on NBCSN (Fontana) then count the number of promos devoted to any sport or channel cross promotion. The directive was to isolate a standard run-of-schedule time frame for each of seven consecutive days; 6:00am to 12midnight, with each day broken into six-hour pieces that do not necessarily conform to standard sellable dayparts but are chunked into easily digestible pieces for analysis.  The monitoring began Friday, June 19 at 6:00am and concluded Thursday, June 25 at 12 midnight.

On the surface using raw numbers promotion for IndyCar on NBC Sports Network does not look bad. IndyCar is the fifth most promoted entity on the linear channel. Over the course of the research week IndyCar was promoted 53 times; slightly less than once every three hours. NASCAR is the most promoted entity on the channel with 198 distinct airings of promos in the test period; approaching two per hour. Formula 1 promos aired 65 times making it the third most promoted entity. By the way the second most promoted entity was Tour de France. Neither NASCAR, Formula 1 nor Tour de France events air until the weekend after the IndyCar event at Fontana.

Raw numbers are misleading because they do not include branding promos for NBCSN, which aired 57 times. Approximately 25 of those contained NASCAR and Formula 1 messaging, and about fifteen more contained Formula 1 messaging without NASCAR. In reality NASCAR content bumps their total to 223, and Formula 1 to 105, which begins to dwarf IndyCar (and everything else). Plus you are more likely to find an IndyCar promo in a fishing show than anything else.

In terms of promotion and programming a better acronym for NBCSN might be ‘NASCAR Broadcasting Continuously Sports Network.’ It appears the entire NBCSN farm is being bet on their share of NASCAR. In television lingo three forms of secondary events; i.e., things visible on viewer screens at the beginning of or during program segments, are prevalent. Many refer to the first type as ‘snipes.’ Those are usually animated elements that air at the beginning of segments; e.g., a stock car zooming onto the screen in a cloud of dust promoting NASCAR on July 4th, usually followed by promotion for the Minions movie. These snipes were not counted (not primary events) but aired frequently. A second type is referred to as a ‘crawl.’ This is the element that at the bottom that scrolls sports scores and other promotional information. NASCAR on the 4th of July was heavily promoted in this way. In fairness IndyCar and Formula 1 also got such play, as did many other sports on the platform.

The third and most prevalent is what is typically called a ‘bug.’ Most networks have their logo superimposed in a corner of the screen, kind of like a watermark on a photograph. The NBCSN bug is placed in the lower right portion of the screen. During the test week, however, the bug also included a large NASCAR countdown day clock in most hours of the day; exceptions being paid programming like exercise shows and live events except programming such as Dan Patrick. Think about this for a moment. A NASCAR logo and countdown on screen during every minute of every program segment in most of the network programming. Combine promo volume with secondary events and the fact that in the majority of monitored six hour blocks NASCAR programming was aired for one to two hours each then repeated over and over. A valid conclusion is that NASCAR is promoted, either blatantly or subliminally, literally almost continuously on the channel.

Some people enjoy saying ‘a rising tide lifts all ships’ when referencing the preponderance of NASCAR content being force fed as the dominant programming on the network. That might be true if IndyCar was not essentially placed in a wake and urged to try and not drown. It is disconcerting when, as was the case with the last Formula 1/IndyCar weekend, Formula 1 programming (practice and qualifying included) was repeated twice, first in prime time, while the lone IndyCar re-air hit at 1:00am (both Eastern Time). Or this weekend when IndyCar qualifications aired on delay after midnight.

Why does this happen? That is a topic for ongoing debate. No iteration of IndyCar series management has ever truly mastered the art of effective self-promotion, marketing or meaningful content dissemination. That seems odd considering the title sponsor is as blue chip as they get. Yet the combination of IndyCar and Verizon cannot even move the needle with a cable television partner.

Part of the problem may be out of their direct control but appears to be another adverse self-created handicap by IndyCar. When the NASCAR-to-NBC press announcements were being made two years ago concern was expressed that Formula 1 and IndyCar would experience considerable de-emphasis. NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus disagreed, telling press members how the IndyCar deal with NBCSN is structured. It appears that IndyCar remains essentially tethered (like a dog on a leash) to ESPN on ABC. NBCSN appears to be a glorified babysitter. Lazarus claimed that NBC does not own the rights for IndyCar broadcasts, which are held by ESPN on ABC. As a result, Lazarus claimed, they are unable to do with IndyCar what they are with other sports. The deal is structured so that a limited number of over-the-air broadcasts, most notably the Indy 500, air on ABC, while NBCSN is the exclusive cable partner.

Those critical of current leadership for things like a compressed schedule and whacko event date changes; e.g., Fontana from Fall at night to late June on a Saturday afternoon, may have even more to worry about when actual NASCAR events begin flooding and re-flooding NBCSN air. If we believed IndyCar schedule making was difficult after least season we probably have not seen anything yet. How much of the IndyCar schedule will be determined by what NBCSN can squeeze in?

If lack of promotion on the network might seem troubling you may be thankful for what you have when checking non-linear NBCSN promotion. The paid monitoring project also included tracking of the NBCSN Twitter feed and NBC Sports Facebook site, which were tracked in the same manner as the linear feed. The NBC Sports web site front page was also spot checked in the middle of each six hour monitoring period for linked events.

First, Twitter: Fourteen sports were topics over the course of the week, including multiple tweets for NASCAR (22 times) and Formula 1 (3 times). For most of the week NASCAR promotion included the cover page. Number of IndyCar-related tweets: Zero.

Second, Facebook: Ten sports comprised post topics. NASCAR was second (behind the NBA) with 18. F1 received a couple. For most of the week NASCAR promotion included the cover page. Number of IndyCar-related Facebook posts: Zero.

Third, NBC Sports website front page: In terms of numbers for ALL other sports except motorsports, 1,015 clickable links existed. Four forms of motorsports featured clickable links: NASCAR, Formula 1, LeMans and IndyCar. NASCAR had a total of 241 clickable links. Formula 1 had 44. IndyCar brought up the rear with 2, that’s right, TWO over the course of the entire week prior to an IndyCar event and no NASCAR or Formula 1 events.

Draw your own conclusions, but the editorial stance regarding IndyCar seems obvious and profound. What will IndyCar brass do about it? History tells us nothing of substance will occur.

June 29, 2015

IndyCar Stars – Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:37 pm

Indy 500 WhinersMy patience has all but ended and I have heard enough. ‘Leading IndyCar drivers’ (as described by Racer Magazine) really ought to try and clamp a lid on disingenuous hyperbole. If they ever wonder why there are so few fans in stands or watching in general perhaps this holdout fan can shed a little light. Those guys put on the absolute best show anywhere in years at Fontana on Saturday but did not even wait until the end of it to start ripping it to shreds.

The definition of the words ‘pack racing’ seem to have expanded to mean ‘racing on any oval except Indianapolis or Milwaukee.’ Also, any invoking of the Dan Wheldon accident in Las Vegas to decry the racing at Fontana race is sleazy, gratuitous and misleading. As a 50+ year fan that sentiment seems offensive. Dan Wheldon died after his car hit another car, went airborne and impacted a post with his head. A freak accident. Just like the one that killed Jeff Krosnoff on a street course. Similar to the one that ended Dario Franchitti’s career. In racing freak accidents happen. There were so many other tangible differences between Vegas in 2011 and Fontana in 2015 that attempting to link the two events is, at best, desperate.

IndyCar T ShirtCan you imagine the degree of underwear staining had these guys tried to race in the 50s or 60s or earlier? Based on their current level of bitching any comparison of them to legacy champions for whom the concept of accomplishment included being able to survive year to year with their lives seems utterly laughable. This situation is not Jackie Stewart-style safety advocacy. It is chicken-little agenda mongering mixed with a healthy dose of mutiny. Say what you will about Hulman-George tutelage of the sport but one thing that has never ceased under their watch is an unending quest for safer racing. Today the sport is safer than at any time in history.

Positioning subjectively judged ‘pack racing’ as the cause of most any accident is intellectually dishonest. The cause of accidents, whether in a pack or not, is usually equipment failure (very rare these days) or bad driving. It does not even take two cars to end badly. How do these ‘leading IndyCar drivers’ expect to attract new fans with such self-destructive, arrogant rhetoric, and in many cases implying fans are the problem!? I keep wondering whether my upcoming trip to Pocono will be my last oval opportunity outside Indy ever again. Oh well. That track is big enough for 23 cars to stretch out on. That track at 2.5 miles makes it possible to keep 574 feet between each car. Is that enough not to cause another Dan Wheldon, Tony?

June 28, 2015

IndyCar Remains Its Own Worst Enemy

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 7:23 pm

Graham CrackerSaturday in Fontana, California the micromanaging blind squirrels of IndyCar management found a nut and the drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series unleashed the most edge-of-the-seat exciting race since the early 2000s. 80 lead changes among more than half the field. The start featured a long initial green period with more slicing and dicing than a culinary arts school. It was simply amazing; almost awe inspiring. Even the television staff in the booth lost all pretense of being objective announcers who just call the race and simply became high heart rate, oohing and aaahhhing, cheering fans like everyone else toward the end. Fans were absolutely mesmerized.

The bitching began before the race even concluded. Tim Cindric. Will Power. Juan Montoya. Tony Kanaan. Their common message? Decrying ‘pack racing.’ Using words like ‘crazy.’ Comparing the race to Las Vegas in 2011. Invoking the name of the late Dan Wheldon. Trying to position themselves as knowing more than IndyCar, any fan, or anyone else.

It is easy to understand a lot of their common frustration. As Dario Franchitti opined in a tweet the series won’t listen to anything any of them say so why not take complaints public. Conflict often breeds press and IndyCar can use all of that they can get. Public venting is always good for soap operas and Robin Miller columns but that may still remain unlikely to draw Captain Eyebrows off the golf course long enough to reinforce the notion that a race that great played out in front of so few people in the country’s second largest media market might be better served with a consistent fall date and actual presentation effort, something we have not seen on big ovals outside Indy for years.

What becomes offensive to 50+ year fans like myself is the tone mic spewers take. When they inevitably play the ‘were you in the cockpit/do you think you could do it’ card eyes begin to roll. My first inclination is to tell them to cram the obfuscation. If I was as talented and young as many of them are I would jump in in a millisecond and fully embrace the challenge. But I am old and have never been that talented, so essentially all they seem to be doing is waving their genitals around and positioning everyone else as ignorant. That is offensive. It gets even more disingenuous when they start tossing Dan Wheldon’s name around as a reason the kind of racing we saw yesterday is ‘bad.’

OMG PACK RACINGMy cynical side suspects the last remnants of the series that killed itself twice makes the mistake of lumping ANY oval race into a ‘pack racing’ bucket simply because no right turns are involved. Realistically any comparison of Fontana on Saturday to Las Vegas in 2011 seem gratuitously dishonest and are spouted primarily to support a flawed agenda. That agenda that in turn leads to all sorts of chicken little hyperbole from selected participants and assorted imbeciles on the Internet about all sorts of dire possibilities such as a car into the stands, driver death or injury, waiting for the ‘big one,’ Russian roulette, etc. Fontana is an ultra-wide track with multiple grooves and more space for squawkers to dive bomb between grooves with no regard for anyone else on the track, something the chronic complainers seemed to do all day. They usually create the danger and subsequent mayhem they decry.

It is difficult to understand how a complete crap show at, say, Detroit can be viewed more favorably than Fontana on Saturday. How can you call something a race when cars are kept away from one another, especially on ovals? I am an American fan who is a big fan of American oval racing. I am sick and tired of formula trained road racers trying to steal or co-opt that legacy to pretend they are Formula 1, which has never been mainstream popular in the United States.

The Fontana race was EXACTLY the kind of show I crave. Most never want to see any accidents or injury. Technology that allows me into various cockpits complete with telemetry on large screens only enhances the total experience. We will rarely see a better oval race than this and I have high hopes for Pocono. I pray the mutineers do not screw that up in advance.

June 17, 2015

When IndyCar Rumors Spiral Out Of Control…

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 9:02 pm

Eat ItSomeone leaked/concocted a rumor yesterday about Road America being a 2016 possibility on the IndyCar schedule. From the moment the first whiff of that rumor hit John Q. Public the fan faction that has attempted to actively transform heritage IndyCar into a U.S.-based Formula 1, Junior spent the rest of their day fantasizing about twisty parades and bratwurst and such. Use of presumptuous terms such as ‘proper track’ are being bantered. The creaming of dungarees has barely subsided since.

Others are positioning the legendary Milwaukee Mile (an older track than Indy) as a lost cause. Another lost oval. Because, as many have foolishly deluded themselves into believing, ‘…ovals are just not as popular as they used to be.’ Just ignore the fact that NASCAR still nearly sells out about all of their ovals and IMS still bulges at the seams in May.

I do not understand the worry about Milwaukee. Why can’t both venues be part of the schedule and achieve success? Basic ideas to enhance Milwaukee AND add Road America include:

  1. The MileGive Milwaukee back its legacy position on the calendar: The weekend after Indy. Keep it there year after year and stop jacking around with scheduling.
  2. Promote the event. Get serious about it for once. This goes for the presenting organization, IndyCar, the venue and all participants.
  3. Bring the IMS in May experience to all other ovals. Outright neglect foisted over the past few years is outrageous.
  4. Attention Andretti folks: Price the venue so families with normal income can afford to attend. Presently that group is priced out of the market.
  5. Get serious about corporate sponsorship outside IMS. Given not only the corporate smoke that has been blown up our skirts by IMS since Mark Miles assumed control about increasing IndyCar popularity but also the fact that Miles has reconfigured the entire Indy Marketing wing with highly experienced people, why is there still, after all these years, no meaningful corporate sponsorship for venues like Milwaukee?
  6. Run all available support series every single time.

Bend Over IndyCarThese steps are absolutely crucial because as has been the case for nearly twenty years the primary broadcasting partners have reverted to treatment of IndyCar like disease-riddled bastard stepchildren chained by the ankles in the basement of a barn. Why? NBCSN overpaid for NASCAR (which does not start until next month on their platforms) and has been promoting NASCAR ten to fifteen times more often than IndyCar even on weeks IndyCar has races. NBC also overpaid for Formula 1, and that has been promoted usually five times as much. NBCSN offers no consistency in the booth. When F-1 is off they throw Steve Matchett in there. That makes the aforementioned twisty dungaree creamers gleeful. My group simply wishes he would stop grunting forced excitement as if on the verge of a coronary. Among words that should never be used to describe anything in IndyCar: A ‘shunt.’ A ‘safety cah.’ I digress. It is amazing IndyCar simply allows that type of treatment to be inflicted by an entity that claims to be a ‘partner.’ Trying to find any meaningful IndyCar content on their web pages is a mining expedition in a dry gulch. It is easier to find stories about literally anything else in sports.

Road America and the Milwaukee Mile are presented by different management entities. The most fan friendly thing both groups could possibly do is figure out a joint promotion strategy and offer some sort of package deal for both venues. There is no reason that could not work. On the other hand there is no reason why ovals at Chicagoland (3rd largest media DMA), Kentucky, Gateway, Memphis, Michigan, etc., can’t work. Imagine if IndyCar expended a level of effort higher than the zero level it has been for a decade or more.

We are also subjected to tales of cities interested in hosting a street festival o’ speed. After four decades of mostly failure with those a smart person might believe leadership would recognize a hint when it whacks them repeatedly. Norfolk? LOL. There is already an actual track nearby at which IndyCar has had success. Go there.

As a racing fan I would welcome the legacy natural terrain Road America. Just not at the expense of Milwaukee, which from a legacy and history standpoint, seems far more important.

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