Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

May 3, 2010

Randy, We’re Not In Kansas Any More?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:44 am

I sincerely hope the brass at Indy Car does not jump to the conclusion I fear they will after the race at Kansas this year. Randy Bernard definitely has the right big picture idea. Cultivate stars and the fans will follow. One problem is not lack of story lines, it is fleshing them out then disseminating them. The Indy Car race at Kansas has been left to wither and rot.

I have not seen the ABC coverage of the race yet so I will reserve critical judgment about what viewers may have seen/heard on television (although I understand the host still has problems with driver names). From the perspective of a fan in the stands I was thoroughly entertained and the weather was perfect for racing. Stories unfolded while listening to the scanner and watching gamesmanship throughout the field. Sarah Fisher trying to function as a driver and a team owner was fascinating, particularly following Jay Howard’s unplanned removal of the right side of his car by the wall. The Princess got on Helio’s nerves, and the language he was using did not jibe with his usually effervescent personality. Others are particularly colorful. Alex Tagliani comes to mind.

Ganassi winning every race has gotten old but is not surprising when the equipment package has been homogenized to a degree never before seen in Indy Car. That homogenization has got to go. It helps Ganassi and Penske and hurts everyone else. It leaves almost no room for creativity and the racing suffers. Indy Car racing on ovals used to mean tightly contested, close racing every lap. We have lost that. That hurts. That is another reason why the great oval at Kansas has gone from every seat filled to half of them not. That far from the only reason.

This ISC track in particular has regularly treated its Indy Car guests with a contempt not seen anywhere else. I understand the management has recently changed, but their bread is still buttered by ISC. Indy Car jacking tracks around on race dates and days also does not help build loyalty. There are those of us who routinely buy airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars (by the way, the taxes applied to hotel rooms and rental cars in Kansas City constitutes wallet rape by those in government there; the taxes for my rental car were more than the cost of the rental car) and race tickets to make that trek every year. The Kansas Speedway is a great little oval without the steep banking of other 1.5 mile tracks. I love watching the Indy Cars on it. Policies for admission for practice or to the garage area are inconsistent and occasionally whacko.

My biggest fear is that the brass at Indy Car is going to end up screwing the fans out of another fantastic oval venue without any meaningful effort to revitalize OR replace it. I am getting tired of such screwing year after year. Phoenix, Fontana, Pikes Peak, Richmond, Michigan…the list goes on and on. Each time one side blames the other and fans end up screwed again. The salt in the wound is that it probably gets replaced by another 20mph per corner street event. This twisted perversion of Indy car racing is what killed cart, twice. That and ignoring the marquee. Which this year does not begin until the month is half over. That is a mistake that will bite them this year. Mark my words.

I apologize for pessimism, but when you see a venue first hand go from filled to half-empty in a few short years for some of the most stupid, preventable reasons possible it gets frustrating. Other than the great racing the one highlight of this year’s visit was discovery through a local friend of Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue in a gas station at 47th & Mission (I think). The very best barbecue I have had in decades. Amazing. My contingent just hopes we get to go back there, and to the track for an Indy Car race next year.

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9 Comments »

  1. Don’t I remember you celebrating the decision by KMS to stop forcing fans to buy ticket packages? You really think that had nothing to do with the drop in attendance? I think it’s great that fans aren’t being forced to purchase tickets they don’t want, but there was no doubt in my mind that it would impact ticket sales for the IRL event. You seem to be grasping at straws trying to pin the blame for the decline on anything but simple economics, and the decision to end the practice of selling tickets as packages.

    KMS didn’t end the practice for altruistic reasons, they were forced to do it by declining NASCAR ticket sales due to a seriously bad economy. Otherwise, they’d be reaming fans for every buck they could get out of it, just like the government entities that are levying all those tourism taxes you were paying. What I’m not getting is why you think this should be laid at the feet of the IRL. Randy Bernard’s most recent statement (made while in Kansas for the race) was that the IRL would be returning to KMS for the foreseeable future; it was the ISC people who were vacillating.

    The IRL is not an altruistic organization either, BTW. They’re not going to keep races on the schedule simply to avoid the horror of having you characterize their business decisions as “screwing fans.” Obviously, if the ISC and IRL can’t reach agreement, and the race is lost, there really aren’t going to be all that many fans getting screwed. I read 35,000 as the attendance figure in a local newspaper, but it didn’t look like that many on TV.

    I think the Kansas race can be probably built back up to the attendance levels reached during the days of forcing fans to buy tickets, and I hope that it remains on the schedule. But it takes two to tango, and the last time the ISC and IRL locked horns (Richmond), well… we know how that turned out. Business is business and fans do get screwed, but don’t blame the IRL for decisions made in Florida.

    Comment by Boo Boo — May 3, 2010 @ 1:59 am | Reply

  2. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m tired of hearing it. I’m pretty sure the thing that killed CART twice was the Indy 500. The rest of the races, I was too young to attend due to them not being in my home town. But when I look back at the races of old on film, the only one that I can really see was ever the greatest was Indy. The other races, whether it be Michigan or Cleveland or Pikes Peak or Phoenix or Long Beach or any other race for that matter, are second fiddle. Sometimes races are good, sometimes they are bad, but Indy is Indy. Indy is a category killer. It will always be the best and can single-handedly take down an entire competing series. That is because Indy is the showcase and all the rest is a tour of the people that race at Indy. If you are open wheel in the USA and not racing at Indy, you will not succeed. I like the street races. I think they are a cool way to showcase the IndyCars and drivers. I also like the ovals but continually going on and on about how CART died because they raced on streets and road courses is silly and wrong. CART died because nobody cared about the drivers. Nobody cared because they were not IndyCar. The Indy 500 is the ticket and the sugar daddy. The rest, that’s just details.

    Comment by Bob — May 3, 2010 @ 2:17 am | Reply

  3. Indycar should be, both, where they’re wanted, and where they put on a good show. That was a pathetic excuse for a race, and all the polishing you try won’t make that turd shine. Just because it’s an oval doesn’t mean it’s a good race. All races will be somewhat exciting in person (with the exception of Nashville), but if it’s a crappy tv product it just won’t sell. I won’t miss it if it’s gone. MIS on the other hand…

    Editor’s Note: Actually, in person the race was quite compelling. There was side by side and dicing every lap, it just took place in back of the Ganassi team and was not shown on television. The scanner made the experience even more compelling. Each race has hundreds of stories, and typically television captures only 2 or 3 of them. Some of the people pushing the buttons in the trailer sound like they are probably no older than 25. That probably explains the ADD nature of most sports coverage.

    Comment by Scott Scheller — May 3, 2010 @ 3:17 am | Reply

    • The same could be said of most street and road course races. Personally, I’m beginning to want the IICS to leave most ovals that don’t require braking and lifting. I’m sick of seeing the best engineer win.

      Comment by Scott Scheller — May 3, 2010 @ 5:29 pm | Reply

  4. I thought the racing from 3rd on back was good. It was better then last year’s Kansas race. I hope that Firestone, and the League will do their homework for Indy. I don’t care to see single file racing this May.

    Part of me actually expects the Indy 500 to be great this year. With the added boost, the action on the front and back straits will be intense. Sometimes I just wonder if Ganassi hired and extra terrestrial engineer.

    Comment by M. Miller — May 3, 2010 @ 1:45 pm | Reply

  5. Dear Defender:

    While I appreciate your passion and most of your rants and diatribes are well-reasoned and intuitive, there is simply no way to defend the disaster of a race run this weekend in Kansas…a race run on a Saturday, on Derby Day, at 12 PM local time…to an empty facility…The processional run on Saturday looked like a street course race where one driver charged to the front and never looked back…I agree, if the League does not introduce a new chassis/engine combo ASAP, there may not be a tomorrow for the IRL to showcase its next generation machine. Now is the time for Ropin’ Randy to consider the following:
    End the charade of having ABC/ESPN telecast any of these events not run at Indy…use Comcast’s acquisition of NBC as an advantage and let us bring not only the Versus races but eventually Indy itself to NBC (the network’s broadcast of the Derby was excellent as usual).
    Promptly notify the ISC that the League will no longer run its races on the ISC’s tracks unless and until Indy Car is treated with respect and not a dog like the ISC treats us now…Mr. Burton has great tracks such as Vegas and Loudon that belong in the schedule ASAP and at least he’s bullish on the series.

    Comment by Neil Rubin — May 3, 2010 @ 3:07 pm | Reply

  6. I paid my buddy $150 dollars to fly me down in his Cessna 182 from Minnesota on Friday and was pleasantly surprised at the crowd that showed up.
    On Saturday i could barely move with all the people packed in around me. The race was awesome and i hope it stays on the schedule for 2011!

    Editor’s Note: http://www.netwellness.org/healthtopics/mentalhealth/mentalhelp.cfm

    Comment by Gabe Atthaus — May 3, 2010 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

  7. I didn’t find the race that exciting. From the video feed, though, I figured out that the cars themselves can still put on a good product. The issue is that Ganassi and Penske are pretty much unbeatable. Otherwise, it would have been an entertaining race. And, ABC’s coverage is horrible.

    Comment by dylanpt24 — May 3, 2010 @ 8:36 pm | Reply

  8. I know your frustration, Defender, I feel the same way. I love the Indy cars as much as you do, and maybe for a longer time–I’m almost sixty-three–but maybe your criticism of ISC–and by association NASCAR–isn’t totally justfied. The way I see it, if race fans really wanted to see an IndyCar race, they would go see it, no matter where, or what the circumstances. Maybe, just maybe, race fans think that NASCAR has a better product, and with almost total domination by two teams in the IndyCar series, I can see why. I really respect your opinion, but with fifty-seven years of being an Indy and Indycar afficiendo, I see things with an advantage of time. I’d like to hear your response; maybe there’s something I don’t see.

    Editor’s Note: I don’t think NASCAR has a better product; certainly not a faster one. They DO have multiple personalities the average Joe can identify with, and their races get promoted heavily, especially at tracks they own. Indy Car is currently top heavy with road racing enthusiasts who are expecting different results from failed mistakes again. Indy Car rarely gets promoted by ISC at their tracks. That relationship, IMHO, has turned toxic. It is not beyond repair, but I’m not convinced the current leadership even wants to pursue it. I’m 56, and the cart-centric evolution of Indy Car disturbs me. It has since 1979.

    Comment by DOUG — May 5, 2010 @ 8:13 pm | Reply


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