Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

July 28, 2010

Randy Bernard of Indy Car: Please Open the Suggestion Box and See What’s Inside

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:42 am

Hopefully Randy Bernard returns to the United States with more good news regarding manufacturer participation in the IZOD Indy Car Series. In the spirit of offering suggestions for moving forward, here are a few checklist items that have emerged as important over the past few months with the future in mind:

-Investigate credible allegations of corruption at the top of the series. Word is payoffs have been made by top teams to top officials to look the other way with regard to rules violations. If this is occurring you should find out, and any person or group who engages in such activity should be permanently excluded from participation in the series.

-Regardless of what turns up in such an investigation, it is high time to part ways with both Brian Barnhart and Kevin Blanch. This is not a witch hunt based on a bad call and bad behavior in one race. It is a necessary step based upon natural evolution. If Bernard wants to move beyond ‘IRL’ it is imperative that both Barnhart and Blanch get replaced.

-Figure out why Penske and Ganassi win every race, then create an environment that makes that more challenging for them. Fans are sick of the same two teams winning every race whether they cheat or not.

-Create a two-to-three day festival atmosphere at ALL tracks, not just idiotic street circuits. Give fans a lot of value for their money. Canned, scripted, fake pageantry is stale. Michael Young screaming into a mic as if he is Michael Buffer is amusing the first couple of times, but there is a reason repeat business suffers. Make the garage area more accessible (and cheaper) at all tracks. The tracks that protect garage areas as if they are Ft. Knox should be cut. Infields and midways at most tracks are ghost towns, and I would like to see merchandise that has something other than NASCAR-themed crap on it.  

-I get the whole ‘family fun’ desire, but it is not practical given the demo you crave. When I was growing up, ‘show us your t!ts’ was a mantra. Lots of women whipped them out over the years. Granted political correctness, deathly fear of lawyers defending overly sensitive harassment ‘victims’ and people wearing frilly lace panties have ruined this type of fun for everyone, but debauchery has a place and needs to be brought back. Who doesn’t love t!ts? You do not have to openly encourage it, but you must allow it to happen. The whole works. Public drunkenness, sexual hijinks and an abundance of wardrobe malfunction-related nudity are essential. Stretch the envelope as far as it will go. People will follow. Drunk and high people spend LOTS of money. Build restrooms you can clean with fire hoses.

-Because many other fans are still wimpy, start re-building smaller grandstands with roofs. I would recommend something that can be mobile and used only for events. Use modern lightweight fabric. The technology works. Look no further than the roof of Denver International Airport for proof. People like shade or cover on hot or rainy days. Most tracks offer no such protection except under stands. That is not always pleasant given that most restrooms and concession areas are also there and those experiences each resemble hogs at a trough.

-Don’t allow the new car to screw up the experience. Encourage with all your power as much participation by as many manufacturers as possible. This is a great opportunity to open the playbook. The homogenization of the series over the past decade has nearly killed it.

-Fix the ladder rungs and encourage widespread participation. Run some or all of the rungs at every single venue (except perhaps the ocean-crossing adventures). Lights should run at every track. Try running some of the rung series at tracks where Indy Cars do not, perhaps with other external series. Get manufacturers who will become involved in Indy Car involved in the cars for the subsidiary series.

-Kick ESPN/ABC’s arse but good. Their neglectful mistreatment of Indy Car is shameful and probably violates contractual terms. You can’t make ratings headway with an awful broadcast partner. Making nice with those reprehensible bastards would be like Elin Nordegren renewing wedding vows with Tiger Woods.

-Have dinner with my brother and I. We have invested in trackside property and we would love to buy you dinner. RSVP to irldefender@aol.com.

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7 Comments »

  1. Agree. Agree. Agree. A couple of thoughts…

    Regarding the feeder system. One thing I (and maybe someone else) think led to the schism and some of the problems we’re now experiencing was when young, up and coming, American drivers couldn’t find rides in Indy Car, and the traditional progression of midgets/sprints/Silver Crown/Indy 500 changed to midgets/sprints/Daytona 500. Drivers like Gordon, Yeley, Kahne, Smoke (even though we had him for a few years), wound up in NASCAR rather than opem wheel because the top of the pyramid became unattainable. Was reading an article yesterday about the problems NASCAR is experiencing with the Nationwide Series; many teams are putting NASCAR drivers in the cars, rather than giving the rides to up and comers as they have in the past, because they can’t get the sponsorship for say, a Levi Jones, that they could get for a Kevin Harvick. At the same time IndyCar is revamping the feeder/ladder system, might not this be a good opportunity to go after some of these young drivers and see if we could turn them away from the dark side?

    Regarding the new car. One tub with multiple aero packages is a great compromise. (Okay, I’d still love to see four distinct chassis manufacturers, but that isn’t going to happen. Yet.). If Randy works just as hard to come up with multiple engine suppliers as he did with the new car process then the days of a spec series and homologation will soon be just a bad memory.

    Finally, you hit the nail on the head regarding the race ‘experience’. A few years back, my wife (yes, the aforementioned Mrs. ‘I want to take my ungrateful husband to the Indy 500’ Kornya), and I went to Richmond, shortly after going to the NASCAR race at Dover. And some things at Richmond really impressed her. She loved the opportunity to get into the infield and walk through the garage area. She loved how much more accessible the IndyCar drivers were than the NASCAR drivers. All these should be taken and built upon by IndyCar. That being said, I think many IndyCar fans need to take a weekend and go to a NASCAR race. Any race. And the off-track experience is beyond belief. At Dover, for example, they had Dodge demo tracks for the new Ram truck and the Challenger. Bob Bondurant drivers giving thrill rides in Vipers and Chargers. An orgy of merchandise trailers; not just those for the drivers but for every sponsor you could think of. It was a weekend long party where the race became almost secondary. (Because truth be told the race, like most NASCAR races, stunk). And if IndyCar could work on improving the race weekend experience it would be a huge opportunity to bring old fans back, and new fans into the sport. Because if we get the party, we’re in like Flynn. Because our cars look better, and our racing doesn’t suck.

    Lastly, yes. B(.)(.)bs are good.

    See you at Homestead. If you get the first round, I’ll get the second.

    Comment by Steve Kornya — July 28, 2010 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

    • Oh, my. Mr. Kornya lost me with his original e-mail to Robin Miller at “Sea World”. He got me back with the “great chassis compromise” and “race weekend experience” bits up there. Well played, sir.

      Comment by The Speedgeek — July 28, 2010 @ 7:02 pm | Reply

  2. I agree that an event will attract more fans for the reasons Steve mentioned. These things cost money and require sponsors. I think the IZOD race to the party is a great Idea. A little closer to the race track and race date would make it better for fans attentending the race.

    Comment by M. Miller — July 28, 2010 @ 7:19 pm | Reply

  3. Penske and Ganassi win more because they have more money to build and to test and to modify and to hire people. And because they win, they get the best drivers. So until a lesser team gets some big funding deal and a desire to spend that money on drivers and development, I don’t see any competition for the “Big Two.”

    Comment by redd — July 28, 2010 @ 10:50 pm | Reply

  4. I agree with everything you wrote here-scary, isn’t it? You might want to forward this on to Randy Bernard so that he can see it. At the very least, it would be in the hands of those who can engender change.

    Comment by Thesmartestguyintheroom — July 29, 2010 @ 1:03 am | Reply

  5. I’ve been thinking about how to break the Penske/Ganassi domination. Accepting the fact that Chip and The Captain a) have more money than everyone else; b) have more access to technology than every one else; and c) can use said money and technology to do more R&D and testing than everyone else, how do level the playing fields and give the Dale Coynes and FAZZTs of the series at least a shot at a level playing field?

    The answer, to me, will, at first come with the new cars/engines in 2012. At least at first, all teams will be starting from ground zero. They’ll have to (hopefully) make the judgement as to which outside company has the best aero package (or whether to develop a proprietary one of their own). What manufacturer is building the best engine that can be tweaked the best within (or without, and not get caught) the rules. All this will take time and should open a window for smart, well-managed, smaller teams to at least compete. For a while. Unfortunately though, as we’ve seen with the Dallara, the more money you have, the easier it is to figure out the above questions, and sooner or later, we’ll likely be back in the same boat now. Big money teams dominating the series, with lesser teams (and fans) waiting for a new chassis/engine to equalize the playing field again. Lather, rinse, repeat, as it were.

    So I’m sitting here recalling my time spent in Alabama, when the only racing around was the local NASCAR short track. I remember how most of the racing in the lower classes was insanely competitive, and the championships were always close. And then it hit me. Perhaps IndyCar should emulate the rules of the lower level USAC and NASCAR series, and put a ‘claiming clause’ into the rulebook. What this essentially means is that, for a set price, any team in the series can place a claim on another team’s car…or engine…or aero package. And if the team whose equipment gets claimed doesn’t want to sell, then the consequences are dire. And the transaction is immediate. I’ve seen races at Huntsville Speedway where the 10th place driver gets out of his car, and literally 15 minutes and $1000 later, is loading the race winners car onto his trailer and driving away. Alright, so the idea smacks a little of socialism, and would definitely need to be written in a way far above my meagre engineering level, but wouldn’t knowing that your car could be claimed intact be a way to dissuade the high money teams from going hog wild in terms of R&D and development? If Ganassi knows that any aero R&D tweaks that he spends money on could be snatched away for a nominal price, would he still spend the millions of dollars to do it, knowing that he’d likely also be doing it on a car that someone else is driving?

    It’s a wild idea, I know. There are holes in it big enough to fit Tony Stewart through (and I’m not talking the Tony that could fit in a cockpit 15 years ago). But it DOES work at other (admittedly far lower) levels of racing. It makes the races about who has the best driver, and pit crew, and strategy, not who has the largest budget and best R&D programs. And if it can make for better, more competitive, racing among more drivers, perhaps its worth taking a look at?

    Comment by Steve Kornya — July 29, 2010 @ 3:11 pm | Reply

  6. Steve, your idea is not bad in theory. But I do have major issues with it, and I imagine the teams would as well.

    If I have a successful team, and I’ve worked to make my car successful, why should I have to turn it over to you? That goes completely against the idea of competition. It would basically reward teams for mediocrity and punish teams for success.

    Again, it’s not a completely bad idea. But I cannot see anyone willing to go along with this idea.

    Comment by Thesmartestguyintheroom — July 30, 2010 @ 1:10 am | Reply


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