Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

June 30, 2010

Question for IBJ: Why Is Anthony Schoettle Writing About Indy Car?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:57 pm

Writing About Indy Car - The Manual

It is hard to know whether to laugh or be angry, or simply ignore his latest blog/column about Indy Car, the one in which he grades the performance of its new leader. Ambivalence is probably a good present course. On one hand, laughing at someone like Anthony Schoettle is easy because you find yourself wondering what qualifications he has to be any sort of judge of Randy Bernard’s performance as the leader of Indy Car Racing, especially after only four months. On the other, being miffed comes naturally because he works for a respected publication but routinely craps out the kind of nonsense generally reserved for Indy Car hate sites.

It is one thing when Robin Miller, Gordon Kirby or John Oreovicz take gratuitous, arrogant swipes at something connected to Indy Car. They have been in the business a long while and although they all took turns working for cart they at least know the lay of the land. It is quite another when a business columnist with little discernable experience takes a turn on that particular potty.

Bernard has made more considerable forward strides in four months than Indy Car did in the last four years. How does that rate any grade, and how can he be graded this early? Schoettle has gotten into a routine of smarmy Enquirer-type coverage. With all the genuine sports related business news; e.g., the Pacers latest plight, the raping of Hoosier taxpayers over the past few years to make Indianapolis a sports mecca, etc., why all the focus on a 100-year old institution that generates hundreds of millions of dollars of local economic impact and more than every other sports entity combined? Has he seen Indy Car contracts with Versus, ABC, Izod or others? How would he know what clauses are in them?

How much longer is a war that ended years ago going to continue to be fought? Readers of IBJ deserve far better than the nonsense being shoveled by that particular writer. I would give them a D- for that hire. The only reason he won’t fail is because he runs spell check and manages good grammar.

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June 29, 2010

Indy Car Welcomes All Fans, Even Ones That Are Idiots

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:02 pm

It is always fun to laugh at the more darkly obsessed Indy Car fan. You know the type. They wear out their fingers feverishly searching for any bit of bad news so that they can boisterously proclaim the end is near. On Tuesday mornings after races they all of a sudden become Nielsen experts and offer often cockamamie ratings analysis. They are the first to find pictures of grandstands that are not filled with fans.

Two things that always give them away as blithering idiots are:

  1. ‘It is never as good as it was before 1995’ or similar sentiments more crudely expressed.
  2. Indy Car is positioned as the only sporting or entertainment venue having ratings or attendance problems.

Given this economy, competition for the entertainment dollar is more intense than ever. There are many more entertainment options, more content delivery methods, more new technologies and intense price competitiveness.

The degree to which NASCAR’s attendance and television ratings are decreasing, for example, is startling and yet they are not burdened with obsessed, childish creeps focused on an evolutionary period that ended fifteen or more years ago.

The only reason this is important is because it affects the perception of potential new fans Indy Car is trying to cultivate. I took a bunch of old friends to a race recently, and many liked what they saw enough to look into going again and trying to follow the sport more closely. When they do, they usually get led down a road that leads to the idiot brigade. It is almost as commonplace as e-scamming or porn.

One such potential fan called me the other day to ask who these people are. I told him they are a handful of nobodies fighting a cause that ended conclusively, twice, many years ago. So how do we fix that little problem? Cultivate more actual fans. The IZOD Indy Car Series is taking several great steps in that direction these days.

The best approach is to ignore such folks, although sometimes I enjoy pointing out their diminished mental and emotional states. 😉

June 28, 2010

Indy Car Gets a New Oval Destination for Next Year

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

The Indy Car Series did something this weekend heretofore thought impossible. An Indy Car ran hot laps in front of a NASCAR crowd as a marketing ploy. The occasion was a Cup race at New Hampshire. That is now a Bruton Smith SMI facility, and the return of Indy Racing to the track was announced officially over the weekend.

Loudon is great news. That facility has the reputation of being a driver track, and Randy Bernard is correct when indicating it fills a geographic hole. Given SMI-level promotion, it may draw a crowd this time around. By the looks of the NASCAR crowd over the weekend, it appears the track could use the business.

Also rumored to be returning in the next couple of years is Belle Isle, the underdeveloped home of lots of creepy critters near Detroit. It is easy to understand bending over for the ‘Big Three,’ but Detroit seems poised to evolve away from autos, much like cities such as Indianapolis and Fort Wayne did decades ago. In a bigger social sense, most of Detroit would be better off being bulldozed over. The same could be said of the area around IMS along 16th and 30th Streets.

In the opinion of many lifelong Indy fans, the track in Michigan Indy Cars need to race on is MIS. Removal of that facility from the schedule is one of the single most offensive screwing of Indy Car fans in history. Of course for a great show you need at least 28 – 30 cars, and the track is currently owned by ISC, which makes for a somewhat toxic relationship.

One critical question for management is to evaluate what Detroit has done for Indy Car lately. Other than providing pace cars and some support vehicles, not much. Would a Belle Isle race get one or more back into the series? Maybe Belle Isle would be good if they built a small bullring oval on it. Then it could host many events throughout the year. Mr. Penske, if you really want to redevelop, why not consider that?

June 25, 2010

Indy Car Musical Chairs

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:06 am

It is not my place to criticize Dryer & Reinbold Racing for putting Paul Tracy in the Conway seat for Watkins Glen, but I do find myself scratching my head. That team has become one of my very favorite, week in and week out. They put an increasingly good effort out there. As a fan, ‘driver roulette’ in a general sense drives me nuts. Indy Car has a hard enough time attracting fans given normal inconsistency and turnover. But this will be three drivers in three races.

The right brain side figures he brings money. No shame in that these days. Indy Car is a bigger rent-a-ride series than at any other time in history. It is a sign of the times. You could do worse than Tracy, but you could also do better. My thought is that Tomas Scheckter is the most deserving because of his history with the team. Unless Graham Rahal has acquired some of his dad’s belligerent and annoying personality traits wouldn’t he be a smarter choice because he is a poster child for next generation American drivers? Even Ana Beatriz seems better than Tracy in that ride.

With all due respect to Tracy for his past accomplishments, let’s face facts. He is driving with another team for Canadian races. He is on the geezer side of his career. He could not drive fast enough to get a car into the 500. It is basically his fault he decided to waste the prime of his career on a path that excluded Indy and its cars; ‘crapwagons’ if you will. His post-2002 500 behavior was excessively boorish for many years. In other words, his personality remains intact but there are much better choices for drivers.

In any event, it’s not my team. In a perfect world Conway would not have been injured and this would be an irrelevant point. Musical chairs are fine for kindergarten, but not for Indy Car.

June 24, 2010

Indy Car is Probably Stronger Because It Has Some Obsessed Supporters

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:26 am

The Indy Car obsessed idiot brigade usually reaches their feverish hysterical screeching crescendo during May, the month of the Indianapolis 500. That is the month they trip over themselves to portend doom for Indy Car. You know who they are. They are the Phelps-family-at-military-funerals types stuck in 1995 who prefer no one supports Indy Car.

Many figured their drone would subside after Tony George left, but we were wrong. Their obsession with Indy Car has become downright comical. Here are their latest post-May tin foil hat conspiracies:

Fired Up: Holmatro may end their sponsorship of the safety team after the Simona deal at Texas.

Izod A. Disenchanted with Indy Car and that’s why they won’t sponsor Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Izod B. The title sponsorship is loaded with out clauses that will soon be exercised.

Izod C. Indy Car has pitched title sponsorship to two other companies.

Penske the Pauper: Two unsponsored cars (simplistic conclusion reached because the sidepods say ‘Team Penske.’)

House of Cards: The ‘unsponsored’ status of most of the grid means most won’t make it.

Hertz: Most of the grid is there because drivers bought their rides.

The Indy 500 is Dead A.: If any seats are empty, it must be a failure.

The Indy 500 is Dead B.: The television numbers went down.

The Iowa Corn Indy 250 is Dead: Even though all the tickets got sold there were a few empty seats.

Versus is Dead A.: A new network will soon make Versus irrelevant.

Versus is Dead B: Comcast taking over NBC won’t matter. Indy Cars would have to buy time. Affiliates don’t want Indy car.

I knew my readership needed a comic relief from all the serious news covered by this blog.

One reason this sport remains as fun is because many of most intense followers are mentally challenged who consistently say things that reinforce their stereotype. Then there are gadflies like me…

The important thing is that Indy Car has millions of fans who follow the series. Some closer than others. Those in offices at 16th and Georgetown like all of them, because they all cause money to be spent. Personally, I believe the Indy Car Series has a few more years to go despite ‘earth is coming to an end’ sign wavers. God love ’em.

My biggest WTF question is why there is no Indy race this weekend. There is not much domestically going on.

June 23, 2010

Indy Car Race Attendees: Striving for Balance and Diversity

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:02 pm

Based upon e-mail and responses to my blog topic yesterday I reviewed the text. It is easy to understand how a broad brush may have been used. Not everyone who attends Indy Car races is overweight with few teeth and mullet haircuts. Many are, but many are not.

That is GOOD. It means DIVERSITY. Racing is accessible to everyone.

This may be another broad brush, but there are a few more observations for the sake of balance. For every cellulite riddled hag waddling around race tracks there are an equally abundant number of smoking, curvaceous gals who probably ought to be models, not to mention lots of oddly hot ‘plain janes’ in the mix. To be honest it is difficult to attend a race without leaving, well, horny. That is probably the way it should be. Motor racing stirs the senses in numerous primal ways, and summertime outdoor sports encourage the best looking people to dress far more comfortably than is often socially acceptable.

Therefore, the best advice anyone could possibly give is to attend a race…ANY race…and soak it all in. Enjoy yourself. It is the most wonderful sport on earth.

June 22, 2010

IZOD as the Indy Car Sponsor is Great, But is it Realistic?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:53 am

I would like to talk about the IZOD Indy Car Series sponsor. IZOD does a wonderful job of getting the message out there. Their use of the Indy Car brand as a vehicle for marketing is smart and probably cost effective as well. The enthusiasm of their participation is obvious, and that bodes very well for the series.

Fantasy

Reality

I have just a couple of minor, nit-picky problems, however. One is the lack of any sort of copy change for their TV spots. It’s usually the same four with different drivers but the same grating theme music and a background of vapid, zombie looking models who are way too perfect in every way. Love the advertising…wish the creative got changed from time to time.

The squeaky clean models lead to my second point. Many Indy Car fans may aspire to be Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Danica or Dan Wheldon (who even fixed his teeth as part of an image makeover) and that is normal. But do most people who go to Indy Car races aspire to be like those models? With those clothes?  How many people who have been to an Indy Car race have ever seen a sailing yacht, much less ridden on one? The closest most will get is some tiny fishing boat on a tiny rural pond. They most likely will not be wearing starched, ironed polo shirts and white pants either. They will probably be swilling beer out of can and dripping ketchup onto their sleeveless t-shirts. Race attendees are generally always going to be closer to Klan than to Kennedy.

I do not know how much IZOD clothing gets sold as a result of the sponsorship. Hopefully a lot. I have seen an increasing number of the retro-themed items on attendees’ bodies and that is very cool. It is hard to recommend how to change a slick marketing campaign into something more realistic. It is probably a good idea to take a good hard look at race fans that go to races. Many are hefty in the midsection. Many are challenged from a dental point of view. Some exacerbate that situation by wearing NASCAR-themed items. Many have an abundance of facial hair. Most wear articles of clothing they probably shouldn’t. The men are even worse.

Does IZOD clothing come in 4 or 5XL? A member of the family visited the gift shop at IMS today, and they had IZOD Indy themed pet products. THAT is a great idea. Ideas like that keep the brand accessible to those who talk funny like and live with, or are, animals.

IZOD needs to figure out a way to incorporate beer in some way. Many youthful Indy Car enthusiasts consume a lot of it.

These are but a few suggestions. Basically, the too slick models need to go and someone willing to yell ‘YEE-HAW’  then cannonball off the boat into the lake needs to be added. I would also have that smiling IZOD model that horns into all the camera shots unzip the IZOD driver suit down to at least her navel and let most of a boob or two just hang out. We need that. I understand she has done that before.

We need more viewers. These ideas would get them. Their money spends just as well.

June 21, 2010

Indy Car at Iowa: It’s the Story of Anton Kanaan. The Nose Knows.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:45 am

What a refreshing race at Iowa this past weekend. It was closely contested on a drivers’ track, and for the first time in a long time someone from Penske or Ganassi did not win. Even better, the IZOD Indy Car Series hard luck story, Tony Kanaan, overcame horrible qualifying and the previous experience of wrecks in the first three races to outduel Helio for the win. It was his first win in a year and a half. The last time he won was Richmond in ’08. Really good short tracks are few and far between and Tony atop the podium is just great.

Is this a sign Andretti Autosport is back in big time business? Some say the atmosphere inside that organization the past few years has been rather toxic. Personally, I like the team. Marco is still a good up and comer and he acts (and drives) like an Andretti. Danica is a brand, and AA is not fully exploiting it. Kanaan has become the fan favorite over the years, and Ryan Hunter-Reay needs to stay on that team.

The other really good story is E.J. Viso, who got his best Indy Car finish at 3rd. He and Takuma Sato drove KV cars with grit and determination. Sato experienced a marble ride into the SAFER before he could finish well.

Here is a question for Firestone. Why do your tires generate so many marbles? Is it not possible to adjust the compound to prevent that? Track sweeping during long yellows to get rid of bits of your tires is annoying and does not make for a great fan experience. Can something be done?

Iowa is a great little oval, and after the recent abject stupidity of Richmond management is just what we needed. There is talk Loudon is back next season, and that’s great news for those in the Northeast. Hopefully the track has not gotten screwed up too much in a NASCAR boilerplate way.

Do we really have to wait until July for the next race? And will we really have to wonder whether Graham Rahal or Ryan Hunter-Reay will be driving? If we have to worry about that then Randy Bernard has his most important problem resolution issue to date.

June 18, 2010

Indy Car’s Next Stop: Iowa.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:22 pm

The Indy Car race this weekend at Iowa exemplifies the power of an organically grown event at a track not owned by either ISC or SMI. There were no agendas, politics, grudges, etc., involved when the Rusty Wallace group built it and asked Indy car to come. That is very refreshing. The crowds they draw are regularly great, and local support is fabulous.

Would it not be great to sprinkle those types of venues all over the schedule? I still think Indy Car needs to talk to Andy Hillenburg about running Rockingham. That would be a geographically acceptable replacement for Richmond, a track I genuinely miss. When the IRL allowed itself racing that was compelling that venue was outstanding. Then politics and stupidity combined to screw tens of thousands of paying fans who went every year. Much of the same things occurred with another great June venue for years at Pikes Peak.

Iowa has typically been a great show. Really small tracks can get really intense. Here’s hoping that continues for years to come. Enjoy the racing this weekend!

June 17, 2010

IZOD Indy Car: Apply Non-Oval Enthusiasm to Ovals. Just a Thought.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:29 pm

Much energy is put into making street races three-day destination events. Sometimes (Long Beach) it works. Most of the time it does not (litany of failed street races that left taxpayers holding bags). While the venues usually flop, the idea of making such events three day attractions is fundamentally sound.

Why is not possible to implement that philosophy effectively at oval tracks? Take this weekend at Iowa and last month at Kansas for examples. The tracks do not want to spend the money to open their tracks to a small number of fans on Friday (and in some cases Saturday) because it costs them money to operate. In their defense other than practice sessions and perhaps a support qualifying round, what reason do fans have to go?

This is an area Indy Car must address quickly. If they do not it is difficult to understand how they can justify future sanctioning fees. Before you know it, shortsighted thinking deludes decision makers into a false belief they cannot make oval racing work.

This idea ties nicely to utilization of many rungs of a cohesive ladder. If ovals are going to be a 50/50 part of the mix, multiple support series need to be running every oval as well. The current road course centricity of those trying to run the show does not adhere to founding principles of Indy Racing as a genre. Every single time a major road racing series in North America has been attempted, it has failed.

Balance and variety is ideal and a perfect situation. The primary point of my observations is that oval weekends must be re-invented to transform them into the types of three day destinations to which street events strive. It can be done. It should be done. So do it.

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