Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

May 4, 2010

Is It Time for Indy Car to Put A Bullet Through The Increasingly Dysfunctional ISC Relationship?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:13 am

Robin Miller opined on Speed TV the other night that the IZOD Indy Car Series may bid adieu to ALL ISC tracks as early as next year. While regarded by most as speculation, it seems unusually plausible. Review of ISC tracks where successful Indy Car venues have been held turns up a lot of funny business with three primary causes:

1 – ISC has generally always treated the Indy Car Series as a red-headed bastard stepchild in terms of promotion, placement and accommodation of fans. It is more pronounced in some places than others.

2 – Indy Car up until recently could not successfully promote popsicles to lost souls in hell.

3 – The twice-defunct cart series soured relationships with many of the tracks during their ill-fated boycott of Indy Car as they scorched the earth during those unfortunate years, or, as Roger Penske put it in 2001, ‘that lousy thing we did.’

The ISC tracks currently on the ‘F#@* You, Indy Car Fans’ list are:

Fontana – a two-Cup venue that used to draw massive crowds until the three items above occurred.

Michigan – a two-Cup venue that used to draw massive crowds until the three items above occurred.

Phoenix – a  two-Cup venue that used to draw massive crowds until the three items above occurred.

Richmond – a two-Cup venue and the best small Indy Car track anywhere that consistently drew GREAT crowds until track management thought they could ‘re-deploy’ a long term Indy Car race sponsor to an unsponsored Cup event and pulled the rug right out from under Indy Car.

Nazareth – a legacy open wheel track that was legendary in Indy Car. ISC shut it down.

Pikes Peak – perhaps still the finest one mile track in the country. The Indy Car Series had successful, well attended events there for years (even two one year in the late 90s). Then ISC decided just club-type events would be held with no big time events allowed while they continue to pursue a NIMBY-befuddled, futile search for a place to put a track closer to Denver.

ISC tracks that COULD hit the ‘F#@* You, Indy Car Fans’ list in the near future include:

Homestead Miami – a track that promotes the living snot out of their Cup races, but hardly anything for Indy Car, despite Indy Car consistently bending over to make this venue a success.

Kansas Speedway – a GREAT flatter-than-most 1.5 mile track that has provided fantastic racing up until the past few years. Since the race was moved to spring, attendance has fallen.

A high percentage of fans believe it is almost a crime that most of the venues above are not on the Indy Car schedule. As long as many have gotten used to the ‘F#@* You, Indy Car Fans’ mentality of the ISC situation, here is the worst-case scenario: We lose Chicagoland and Watkins Glen (assuming Kansas and Homestead are already lost causes).

Chicagoland would be a tough one. Almost IRL-era fans will tell you the closest, most exciting racing year after year has occurred there. Indy Car helped build that track. Watkins Glen has always been spotty and though it is beautiful look who now owns it.

If this were to happen next year, that is four events that have to be replaced. Before we discuss that, is the ISC relationship worth salvaging? Sure, if they promote Indy Car with the same fervor they do Cup. Can you imagine Indy Cars at Daytona (you know, like Cup cars at Indy)? Realistically, that won’t happen. Therefore, it is my belief Indy Car fans MUST prepare for one final, grand-finale type f@#*ing related to ISC. So sad and unnecessary.

How do the ISC tracks get replaced? First and foremost by getting more cozy with Bruton Smith and his people, who actually know how to promote Indy Car and put rear ends into seats. Texas and Kentucky are really good, accessible, well attended Indy Car events. The most likely places to go to replace four ISC tracks might well have an SMI focus:

New Hampshire – provided the two-Cup situation can be resolved from a date standpoint. That places Indy Car in the Northeast.

Las Vegas – because it’s West and could be packaged into something special.

Atlanta – if they lose a Cup date.

Charlotte – Humpy’s gone and enough time has passed since the accident. That was a phenomenal Indy Car venue while it lasted.

There are four, but it is probably not safe to consider any more than two as realistic. Where do the other two from other sources come from?

I am really beginning to warm up to the notion of co-promotion of a week-after-Indy event at the Milwaukee Mile, a track that is older than Indy. It is legendary as well.

Dover Motorsports – Their Nashville track had successful, well attended Indy Car events until it mysteriously got pulled. It needs to be back on. Gateway was also a fairly mysterious subtraction and I have heard that place is in relative disrepair. Dover Downs gets an attractive mid-Atlantic market (including Baltimore) but has two Cup dates. So Nashville it is.

ISC let Rockingham fall apart until Andy Hillenburg and a group of his peers bought it and fixed it up. They have NO Cup races and Hillenburg raced in the IRL. That would be a GREAT potential venue. Indy Car is having great success partnering with non-group owners such as Iowa and Barber. Why could that not continue?

Finally, there is sheer fantasy that includes Pocono and Texas World Speedway (a Michigan clone that did not turn out as well over time). Forget them.

Not even mentioned are good unused road courses that could supplement the schedule, or Cleveland. The bottom line is that all is not lost in the event ties with ISC are severed. Chicagoland would hurt the most at present but look what has already been flushed needlessly. There are plenty of venues to support a healthy 20-race calendar, even without ISC if necessary.



  1. How about Cleveland in place of Watkins (pretty but mostly boring road course anyway) Milwaukee. New Hampshire. Vegas as a season opener (or closer) and lastly Portland. You get a solid place weather wise for winter or late fall to open or close the season. You open up both north east and north west markets, and how can Indycar not go to New Hampshire when they’re so desperately wanted there. You may not like this Defender but this redhead is quickly turning away from being an oval centric fan. As I’ve said, I’m getting tired of watching engineers win over drivers, and have become a great deal more entertained by drivers hauling ass, braking, sliding through a narrow curve, and overtaking somebody. I’d say i agree whole heartedly about pulling out of ISC tracks, except I long for a return to MIS. Most entertaining race I’ve ever been to.

    Comment by Scott Scheller — May 4, 2010 @ 1:49 am | Reply

  2. After what happened at Richmond, that should have been it for ISC. The IICS needs to have a sit down with Bruton Smith ASAP.

    Comment by M. Miller — May 4, 2010 @ 12:08 pm | Reply

  3. I like your lists of tracks, I don’t think AMS will join no matter what happens as long as Ed Clark is still the head of operations. He was spooked by the tire that bounced off his office wall in the big wreck back in 2001. I wouldn’t mind seeing a race at Road Atlanta though.

    Comment by TJ — May 4, 2010 @ 2:05 pm | Reply

  4. Dear Defender:

    I am on board with you!!! Lose all of the ISC tracks ASAP and replace them with Mr. Smith’s tracks and Dover Motorsports facilities…look at the road trip we can take: Vegas, Loudon (Boston area), Dover (DC area), Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, Texas (add a second race late season), St. Louis…I will not cry a tear to jettison any of the ISC tracks, including my home track here at Homestead, where the crowds are pathetic and the promotion non-existent.
    Add sorely missed events at Burke Lakefront (Cleveland Rocks!) and Portland (fun city and venue) and we can stage an IRL comeback despite ISC’s terrible treatment of the League over the last decade…

    Comment by Neil Rubin — May 4, 2010 @ 4:06 pm | Reply

  5. We need Road America, Laguna Seca, Surfers, Portland International, and Cleveland! Get Milwaukee back as well. And add in a Contman designed Baltimore Street course. GO LONG BEACH EAST!

    Comment by mshedden — May 4, 2010 @ 4:43 pm | Reply

  6. Pocono is not a fantasy. They just need to take care of the track surface better, and not be subterraneanly cheap. It would make a fine jewel of a potential Triple Crown of 500-mile races held on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day weekends.

    Comment by wildoliveleaf — May 10, 2010 @ 1:21 pm | Reply

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