Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

November 30, 2009

Humpy: Indy Cars = Fighter Jets; ‘Stock’ Cars = Bulldozers That Can Hurt You

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:21 am

Humpy Wheeler is a colorful fellow. I spent my Thanksgiving holiday below the Mason Dixon Line in the heart of NASCAR country. Every day in the newspapers of the area there are stories of NASCAR, also known as ‘racing.’ There was a Ron Green column that appears to have originated in the Charlotte Observer but ran in a variety of papers in that part of the country.

Fresh off Jimmie Johnson’s record breaking performance the top story was not the 48 team, the 88 team, or any other legacy NASCAR team. It is Danica. Just the mere possibility of her sliding into a ‘stock’ car is enough to get the fellows down south to begin drooling. Many are condescending (‘she will fail as Dario and lots of others before her’), as if NASCAR is the most technically precise form of motorsports on earth.

Humpy, as usual, found a way to put it all into perspective. He compares driving ‘twitchy’ Indy Cars to flying fighter jets and landing them on aircraft carriers. He calls ‘stock’ cars bulldozers and basically says what she has to worry about the most is learning to stop them, because they can hurt you. It is probably not going to be possible for Danica to try the lower rungs quietly, but that is what she must do. I hope the money is good. Her current IndyCar team is no longer Andretti Green Racing. It has morphed into ‘Andretti Autosport.’ That may mean that since Michael is the big boss exclusively, deals with drivers may get done more efficiently. Silly Season seems destined to have a channel just for Danica.

It also appears IndyCar will begin the 2010 season in Brazil. Sao Paulo. On a godforsaken temporary circuit. The ex-cart refugee inmates now running the post-Anton IndyCar Series seem poised to fleece otherwise great constituents in the country of Brazil. Be still my beating heart.

This off season remains pretty busy. Oh, and speaking of bending over for other countries, fan favorite E.J. Viso may take his PDVSA sponsorship funding to Ganassi. That is the rumor anyway. That would be a most interesting pairing, and fun to watch.

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November 25, 2009

Racing Notable of Giving Thanks

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:33 pm

Here is one thing for which I am very thankful this Thanksgiving season. Oval racing. Something IndyCar needs to race on more often. As the post-Anton leadership and teams rush headlong into attempting to turn back time to 1995 with all the goofy temporary circuits and a decidedly heavy twisty circuit schedule, be thankful for ovals while they last. The braintrust seems more willing than ever to concede all such venues to NASCAR, who consistently manage to make them work.

Guess what lost $3.9 million in 2009, more than twice the $1.5-million loss which was PLANNED!? Edmonton. The only temporary circuit that has worked over time is Long Beach. Why continue to alienate potentially great race cities by so thoroughly raping their taxpayers?

Mayor Stephen Mandel said he was ‘disappointed’ by the loss. I believe I would be a little more than disappointed. Edmonton was a city that did not even have to shut down part of the city to accommodate the circus….and they STILL managed to lose almost 4 million dollars. Can someone rationally explain how street/temporary circuit abominations make money for anyone but IndyCar? Spare me the ‘economic impact for the city’ crap; that is a myth. Cities cannot reasonably be expected to pay for this kind of circus. Want big time racing? Build a full time track. Preferably an oval/road course combo. Make it unique…not some Bruton Smith cookie cutter.

These adventures need to be win-win for all parties involved, including fans who would like to see most of the track, passing and close action. Street racing provides an excuse for drunken, rowdy behavior. They cannot be sustained over time (notable exception being LBGP).

My wish for 2010? That people running the show take, then keep their noggins out of their nether regions and cultivate real long term events on real permanent tracks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2009

IndyCar Silly Season: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:58 pm

As the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series continue getting down to business in the off season, dramatic change announcements continue unabated. They created a CIO position and installed Rhonda Winter, a gal with lots of blue chip experience. That bodes well for the future. The long time VP of Public Relations, John Griffin, turned in his resignation the other day and there is no word on a replacement.

These actions closely follow the purging of the IMS/IRL workforce. It is the hope of fans everywhere who believe the IndyCar Series can return to wide scale prominence that these changes will pay dividends long term.

Momentum also continues on the team side. That Fazzt Racing idea from Alex Tagliani and the old Rubicon folks has largely been poo-pooed as some sort of racing fantasy wet dream, but it appears that group is more together and ready to go than even Gil DeFerran’s proposed team. Evidently they are the buyer of Marty Roth’s old equipment and are now in possession.

Sarah Fisher and her team move out of their old shop and into a much bigger one after less than a year to accommodate their increased presence and the addition of Jay Howard for a handful of races.

Add to that the announcement of Will Power full time and 2010 should be another great season!

November 23, 2009

Indy Car: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 7:46 pm

The NASCAR season mercifully wound down for a couple of months yesterday, and the reliable former off-road racer who made good in ‘stock’ cars did it again. For the fourth time in a row.  I wonder whether we will hear the same type of incessant cackling about the same winner over and over and over and over again as we endure when folks chide Penske and Ganassi in IndyCar? The most entertainment yesterday was on-track fighting between two former IRL drivers…Tony Stewart and Juan Montoya.

In any event, congratulations to our funny talking southern racing brethren for another season. Evidently Daytona tickets are not selling quickly as evidenced by the bombardment of ads throughout the race. Speaking of activation, I have a question for the IndyCar folks in that area who are still there with jobs intact. Is Hotwheels a promotional partner or not? It says they are on the web page. As we dive headlong into the post-Thanksgiving free-for-all known as ‘black Friday’ and beyond (where people are usually anything but cordial) are there ANY Indy-themed Hotwheels out there anywhere? As I was doing my grocery shopping yesterday, I noticed an entire aisle section that featured Hotwheels as gifts in the temporary toy aisle. There was NOT ONE Indy themed model. There was everything else imaginable (including what looked like a ‘stock’ car) but no IndyCar.

Giving the benefit of doubt, I subsequently visited a toy store and three department stores in two states. Same story. Lots and lots of themes, but no IndyCar. Here is my suggestion for the remaining IndyCar employees responsible for this sort of thing: It is the holiday gift giving season. Would it not be prudent to actually have IndyCar Hotwheels up for sale now? I saw a Hotwheels show car at one event this past year. Where are the IndyCar diecasts?

November 20, 2009

Indy Car Series: The Good News Keeps Arriving

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:03 am

Things that put a smile on my face are sponsored Indy Cars. That happened today to a guy who really deserves it. Will Power will pilot the Penske #12 with Verizon sponsorship, and this time it is full time. That is outstanding and ensures another quality effort for 2010. The Verizon folks have a nice web page devoted to this and their other motorsports efforts with Penske.

A driver who had a pretty pronounced sophomore slump was E.J. Viso. Word has it he will be returning with a new team next season, and that is also great news.

Sponsor activation…two words all racing fans should like these days!

November 18, 2009

IndyCar Success Means Not Repeating cart Mistakes

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:41 am

Anthony Schoettle is a columnist/blogger for the Indiana Business Journal, and he has made an attempt to evaluate recent moves made by the new management at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Anthony also speculates about what might happen going forward.

The first and most obvious move was the jettisoning of the livelihoods of about 40 people. Whether that was a sound move or not depends upon who you talk to. Losing a job always stinks.

So what about other promised changes in the off-season? Anthony believes big changes are on the way. Ticket prices to the MotoGP were cut, and you can go on race day only if you would like. Those two moves seem certain to put more bodies in seats on the main day. Almost too much common sense is being used.

Anthony still makes comparisons of today’s IndyCar to yesterday’s cart/champcar; specifically in the area of team propping. Mr. Belksus wants to do away with subsidies. Schoettle believes that one of the things that killed champcar. In reality it was their boycott of Indy and refusal to accept it as the sole reason for their existence. Long term it does not make sense to offer welfare to teams willing to accept it. Short term, given an economy that is the worst it has been since the 1930s, it is a necessary evil, particularly when the series enriches itself with a quality title sponsorship. Without quality teams you have no series. What Belksus and crew should facilitate is a definitive lower overall operating cost structure.

Another prediction is that Belskus will be swayed by the voodoo short term on-paper gain economics of road and street courses and ultimately dump most oval races at great, exciting venues such as Kentucky, Iowa and even Chicagoland. If Belksus and crew are sincere about learning from history, that approach is not really different than putting a loaded gun to your temple and pulling the trigger. Every single fan group of Indy Car has been alienated at one time or another since the mid-1990s, and that type of twisted equal opportunity might seem poised to screw everyone.

Schoettle also believes Belksus might slice the month of May by a week. Why? It has already been sliced enough. Why not employ the same strategies successful Major League Baseball teams enjoy? Push special, targeted promotions and make each day a special occasion for the widest possible variety of fans. The month of May in Indy is sacred. Anyone who screws with it is doomed to fail. It needs to be a full month, and it is incumbent upon Belksus and crew to make it worthwhile to go. Shutting the gates would be a cheesy copout. The month of May is the centerpiece and reason for existence of the entire track.

Schoettle’s sentiments seem eerily similar to cart enthusiasts stuck in 1995. His talk of Belksus inheriting an oil slick is arrogant. People who directly or indirectly blame Tony George for any and all perceived problems are myopic. If the economy of North America was not in the tank we would not be reading such sentiments; just the same brand of irrational hatred of Tony George twelve year olds and/or privileged ownership not allowed to cook their own hot dogs inside the track concocted in 1995 and tried shoving down our throats non-stop ever since.

My belief is that Belksus and crew should go forward and continue redeveloping the entire surrounding area. Make IMS a year-round destination resort. Someone also needs to play an eminent domain card for the vicinity surrounding the 30th Street side of the track. That entire area cannot be bulldozed quickly enough. Creeping blight will eventually hurt the track.

The sheer potential of the legendary track makes re-investment as sound as ever. The one practice Mr. Belksus must keep alive is the notion that continuous reinvestment in the physical plant pays off. Not doing that results in the average ISC track, and there really is no comparison.

November 17, 2009

NASCAR Drivers: Ugly and Illiterate?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:14 am

The other night on Wind Tunnel the obligatory IRL mercy hump was reserved for 53 minutes into the program. Dave included Terry Angstadt speaking wearing his ill fitting IZOD jacket in front of the hastily erected sponsor laden banner.

The rah-rah included congratulations on the IndyCar sponsorship by IZOD, and every current talking point.

Dave drew Terry into NASCAR and IndyCar comparisons, and Terry ran down the list about what makes IndyCar a unique story. He went out of his way not to denigrate NASCAR in any way, but did make a comment about IndyCar drivers being good looking and articulate. As opposed to what? Not that in NASCAR? The comment struck me as oddly funny. Perhaps we should be happy Paul Tracy is not full time. To me Paul is the ‘Ricky’ (of Canadian ‘Trailer Park Boys’ fame) of the series.

In the car today, I heard Michele Rahal talking about Danica Patrick on Fox Radio. The hosts were probably supposed to be chatting up what looks like another championship in a row for Jimmie, but the main focus of the conversation seemed to be Danica’s planned part time venture into ‘stock’ cars. My only hope is that she treats it as a novelty, takes the money and gets better in IndyCar next season.

IndyCar is here to stay.

November 13, 2009

Where Will You Watch IndyCars on Television?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:51 am

ComcastNBCIndyCar fans should root in unison for the proposed Comcast purchase of NBC Universal to actually occur. As a content provider, Comcast is very serious about delivering quality programming across a wide demographic swath. That is obvious given their current cable channel offerings in addition to Versus, including regional sports channels, E!, G4, Golf and others. Once married to NBC Universal channels, the lineup would be formidable.

From a purely selfish standpoint, that type of broadcast/cable marriage might well be good for the Indy Car Series. Versus and ESPN have an agreement that allows sharing of IndyCar programming, and ABC gets to cherry pick a selected number of races. I am in favor of changing that assuming Comcast buys NBC. The Indy 500 on NBC would, I believe, draw bigger numbers. The cross promotion opportunities for all other IndyCar events are limitless.

When IndyCar signed the agreement with Versus they were widely chided by those predisposed toward hatred of the brand as making a bad deal. All along IndyCar kept reminding people to keep their eyes on the long term, not the short term. Those taking the short view are, sure enough, disappointed by lousy numbers. NBC Universal in the picture? The landscape begins to change.

It is my belief that IndyCar brass is plugged into such a growth mindset now. Despite their foray into dumping bodies to become lean and mean, this may work out.

November 12, 2009

Indy Car Not Immune to Economic Woes

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

IMS Executive ManagementOne of the more harsh realities of employment today is getting laid off. It happens with alarming frequency as our once great country rushes toward transforming itself into a third world nation. It is difficult to find anyone who has not either been laid off at one time or has had to be the person to facilitate layoffs.

As the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Car re-works itself into a business-first entity, significant layoffs have begun. All those affected have best wishes for the future. The economic reality of not selling enough tickets to two of the three big races held at the big track has begun to take its toll. The same sort of activity happens on many racing teams every year at seasons’ end.

I wonder whether the economic impact of selling seats for less has been considered. Frankly, IMS has consistently been the best bargain in motorsports despite recent additions like cheesy ‘surcharges’ added to the price of a ticket. I would prefer they just raise the price and tell me why. The last time I rented a car in Indy the total price was over 30% taxes and ‘surcharges.’ I hate ‘surcharges’ but appreciate reasonably priced admission.

Realists understand the need for leaning out to maximize revenue. In my actual employment I led a staff of fourteen this time last year. The week before Thanksgiving last year featured a demand that I cut all but five. Fourteen hour workdays for the remaining staff followed, and that has become the norm. Such is life in corporate America, where people are no longer viable people…just expendable pieces.

Best of luck to those involuntarily separated from their livelihoods. Also best of luck to IMS/IRL in their efforts to mold the future in ‘lean’ mode.

November 11, 2009

Santa Defender Indy Car Gift Ideas

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:04 am

Izod Indy Sample on a MetrosexualA Shirt for the F-TroopIt is not too early to begin thinking about holiday shopping for family and friends, and this year features some exceptional deals for real racing fans.

If you Google/Bing/etc., the words IZOD for Indy Collection, there are a lot of branded items Macy has that are quite nice. Great stuff is on the way as well as revealed by a fellow blogger: http://16thandgeorgetown.blogspot.com/2009/11/new-izod-indy-clothing-line.html

You can always stop by IMS gift shops and get some good deals.

Here is another great gift idea: Race tickets. There are good seats available at every track except Barber, which is close to sold out. Indy Car racing is second to none. Pick one of any of the locations around the country where races are held and make a family day of it. Get off the Internet and out to a race with more than just yourself.

I will see you there! Happy holiday shopping.

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