Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

October 1, 2010

The End of the IZOD Indy Car Season: Bittersweet but Optimistic

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:00 am

This weekend brings mixed emotions. It is the season closer for Indy Car. The title chase, frankly, is anticlimactic. It is the latest verse in a story that has rarely changed over the past few years. Will it be a Penske or will it be a Ganassi? That is subtle, but needs to change .The homogenization of the series encompasses not only the equipment but the winners of all the races.

It is also the last Indy Car event for the foreseeable future at ISC’s Homestead track. Like others this was a much better facility before NASCAR turned it into a monkeys-in-a-barrel track. Worse, the difference in the amount of promotion and effort for NASCAR and the Indy Car Series has always been striking.

This is also the track in which Paul Dana lost his life in an accident that unfolded in an unfortunate way.

As we look ahead optimism abounds:

-ISC tracks are on hiatus. Losing Chicagoland still seems unfathomable given the entertainment value of the racing, and traditionalists still decry losing the beautiful Watkins Glen venue. A message is a message, however. Hopefully ISC gets it.

-New series sponsorship arrives regularly.

-The Comcast takeover of NBC/Universal will certainly shake up the television/media landscape for the series in the future. I do not anticipate ESPN/ABC will do anything more than phone it in except for Indy, where they are likely to celebrate the 100th anniversary with a host like Brent Musberger, who is also near 100. I cannot imagine a less deserving ‘partner’ for such a memorable anniversary. The fact they have been allowed to stick around despite their decade long campaign to kill the brand defies logic.

-It is the 100th Anniversary of the race that forged the sport. 2011 will be the finest year ever to be a proud fan.

Let’s enjoy the final race of the season and send the 2010 season off in style! Enjoy the weekend.



  1. I agree with you about Homestead. Once good, now lousy. Sorry guys, but good riddance. One thought on the season finale, which next year appears to be going to Vegas (or Fontana). Is it just me, or do other people think we ought to be racing the last race on a track that the series has, historically, had support that can be described using words other than ‘abysmal’? Maybe someone ought to call Eddie Gossage and see if Texas wants another date? Or is willing to be the Championship track? Season finale in front of 100,000? Works for me…

    Personally, I would hope the ‘hiatus’ with the ISC tracks turns into a permanent vacation. While I haven’t personally been to Chicagoland, I don’t share your enthusiasm for the quality of the racing. Frankly, as exciting as a pack of cars running nose to tail and side by side flat out at 215 mph might seem to you, to me its Talladega or Daytona with open wheel cars. And frankly, 200 laps of racing where you don’t have to lift is boring. All relations with the ISC aside, losing Chicago and Kansas to get ‘drivers’ ovals like Milwaukee and Loudon back in the fold, is a winner to me. Am I disappointed to lose The Glen? Yes, more so that, in effect, we seem to be switching it for Baltimore. It might have been easier to stomach if the series replaced it with a true twisty like Road America, or an airport course like Burke Lakefront (Cleveland)…as long as TGBB doesn’t roll out his dumbass blocking rule.

    I, like you, am also cautiously optimistic about our new BFFs at SMI. Bruton certainly seems to be saying all the right things at this point. We just have to remember that, when it comes down to it, he’s still, at heart, a NASCAR promoter. And we’ll always be second fiddle at all of his tracks. (That’s why, again, I like tracks like Milwaukee, Iowa, and the like…they don’t have Cup there, so we can BE the big dogs.). Eddie certainly can put butts in the seats at Texas…lets see how SMI’s GM’s do at the rest of their shows.

    On the TV; I, like you, look forward to the effects of the NBC/Comcast deal. I don’t agree that ABC has ‘engaged in a decade long campaign to kill the brand’. Sorry, but that’s wingnut thinking. ABC pays money for the rights. As does Versus. They recoup said money by selling ads; the amount they can get for these ads is based on the ratings they pull. Unless they’re attempting to intentionally lose money, what reason would they have for trying to torpedo their own programming and alienate sponsors.

    While ABC could do a better job promoting it, at some point you have to accept that the reason people aren’t watching, the reason the ABC races don’t even pull a 1.0, and the Versus ratings are below 0.5 is that the series isn’t giving them a product that people want to watch. I’ll put it to you this way. If you HADN’T been to every Indy 500 since 1959, if you weren’t a lifelong IndyCar fan, would you watch, or seek out, races where you pretty much knew the winner would be one of 5 guys, coming from one of two teams, and the other 23 cars in the field would essentially be racing for 6th place?

    All the other reasons to be optimistic are correct. Yes, its great that the series is getting new sponsors. Whether Verizon is coming over because they want to be a part of IndyCar, or because they got tired of putting money in Nationwide because Sprint/Nextel’s exclusivity deal barred them from having their logo on a Cup car, is beside the point; it’s a million dollars in sponsorship we didn’t have. It’s great that the series is getting more sponsorships; my hope now is that sponsorship will trickle down to the individual teams. Where drivers like Graham Rahal (and yes, PT) won’t be forced to scramble for rides, and take drives on a piecemeal basis. Where Dale Coyne won’t have to put up with Milka, just so he can fund Alex Lloyd with her Citgo money. So maybe we can have more owners go to drivers and say ‘I want you to drive for us, here’s what we’ll pay you’, rather than drivers coming to owners saying ‘I want to drive, here’s the sponsorship I can bring’. I know ‘ride buying’ is a part of the sport; drivers, to a certain extent, have always been hired on the basis of what sponsorship they can bring, or what sponsorship the owners can get for them. I just want it to be a little less blatant.

    So, I, like you am optimistic. I’m looking forward to the new tracks in 2011. I’m looking forward to new chassis, aero, and engines for 2012, and willing to stomach one last year of the crapwagon (sorry, old habits die hard) to get there. (On a side note, I’d love it if, somehow, someone could come up with an equivalency formula for Indy which would let the old Dallaras run with the new car, for an affordable price. Be nice if someone, or a lot of someones, could buy an old Dallara and engine, and show up at Indy for May, wouldn’t it? Get a real bump day back?) I’m looking forward to partner with a promoter who might promote, a broadcaster who might broadcast, and sponsors who want to sponsor.

    Maybe I’m still a glass half empty instead of a glass half full sort of optimist. But at least now, I’m going to enjoy sipping whats left in my half empty glass.

    Comment by Steven Kornya — October 1, 2010 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

  2. It doesn’t seem possible that it’s the centennial of the Indy 500. I was there for the GOLDEN anniversary in 1961. And now it’s almost fifty years later. Where does the time go?

    Comment by DOUG — October 1, 2010 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

  3. The hope held by the ICS and its partners for the Comcast/NBC Universal deal really doesn’t have anything to do with ABC. It’s about Versus, and the fact that the ICS has a long term contract with that channel.

    The merger (not a takeover) is meant to create a competitor to ESPN by merging VS with NBC Universal. The pundit talk is that VS will be renamed to something like “NBC Sports,” and will carry high value NBC sports programming like the 2012 Summer Olympics in addition to the Versus stuff. Another rumor has NBC’s Dick Ebersol, who currently heads NBC Universal/Olympics, running the show. None of this is confirmed, it just makes so much freaking sense that everybody assumes it’s going to happen.

    So, for IndyCar, what this means is that they will potentially find themselves on a much better cable channel than they are currently on. The merger holds the promise of dramatically increasing the value of their contract with Versus, which would be nice, because they are stuck with it for another eight years.

    This merger might be one reason that potential sponsors appear to be starting to get bullish on the IndyCar Series. Everybody is talking about the merger, and they are starting to see the potential. The ICS’ contract with Versus was looking like a major liability, but now it is starting to look like an asset. They are going to be locked-in, for years, on the hot new sports channel, with a major over-the-air broadcast network promoting it with all due vigor, and a broadcast legend (Ebersol) driving the bus.

    Or at least that’s the hope.

    2011 is the end of an era. Things are looking up.

    Comment by Boo Boo — October 1, 2010 @ 7:17 pm | Reply

  4. Despite some deserved criticism, the next two years–the centennial year and final year for the old cars, followed by the first year with the new ones–will be very exciting for Indycar fans, and somewhat disappointing to those who wish for it’s demise.

    Comment by redd — October 3, 2010 @ 3:23 am | Reply

  5. I don’t think it’s Bernard sending ISC a message beyond complaining, correctly, about the lack of promotion – something evidenced by the paltry crowd for the finale. It’s ISC sending the message that 1. they don’t want IndyCar races at the $1.5 (or $1.4) million sanctioning fee, and 2. won’t promote what they don’t want. That was certainly true in the run-up at Chicagoland in local media.

    If you make soap, and a supermarket chain doesn’t want to pay your wholesale price, they’re not going to sell your soap. That’s what we have in the IRL vs. ISC stance. No soap.

    Comment by A fan — October 4, 2010 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

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