Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

November 30, 2010

The Latest and Greatest IZOD IndyCar News and an Important 2011 Suggestion for IMS

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:33 am

Do not look now, but we are just six months from the 100th anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500. I remember the semi-depression about waiting another year that many feel the day after the race almost as much as the excitement felt on race day morning. Now that half a year has passed, we are on the downhill slide toward May. Of course we have to get through winter first, but given all the recent good sponsorship, venue, team and manufacturer news the wait should be tolerable.

Yesterday Sarah Fisher threw a press shindig and introduced Ed Carpenter as the driver for #67, replacing Sarah herself who is stepping out to concentrate on her ownership role. For my money, Sarah as an owner is better news than Ed in the cockpit as a driver. She is proving she has what it takes, and watching her build her team in a bootstrap way is inspiring. She should call Fuzzys for associate sponsorship. They love Ed.

Back to the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500. Here is a serious suggestion for Jeff Belskus and top IMS grounds folks. This one will be repeated often until May arrives. Every single day there is track activity, open both E Stand and B Stand for any spectator who wants to sit there any time they want, including the Penthouses. Those are your prime seats…the best in the house. If you want to sell tickets, why not give fans a preview of the best seats in the house? As a matter of fact, having mostly rude yellow shirted lackeys keeping people out is disrespectful and offensive.

We all know most people have no regard for anyone but themselves and most will leave a big mess. So what? How hard is it to tidy up two grandstands, especially if letting people in will lead to increased ticket sales? Last year my party sat in B Penthouse for Pole Day but were not allowed into the same stand on Bump Day. That is just stupid. Open all of E and B EVERY day the track is open. Worry less about herding people into crappy seats inside the track. That is just common sense.

 

November 29, 2010

How About We Give Thanks for IZOD Indy Car’s FUTURE? Let Go of The Past. Evolve. This Includes YOU, Oreo.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:22 am

The Defender contingent hopes everyone had a great Thanksgiving if you are living in the United States of America. If not, here is hope you had a good week and great weekend. Yours truly found out how out of shape I am on various slopes out west. It was all fun and there are no broken bones. What is never fun is encountering residual cart sleaze as IndyCar continues its forward momentum.

Most people who derive a living from writing about motorsports have matured to the point where stupid, pointless agendas foisted during their quaint ‘I-hate-Tony-who-is-the-root-of-all-problems’ periods are things of the past . . . just like cart, which more often than not employed such writers. Even Robin Miller seems downright giddy more often than not. His nose, however, is occasionally lodged so far up the rear end of Randy Bernard that he probably sneezes fecal fragments. That is OK. He is far more docile and less destructive these days. One of the few remaining soldiers on a deserted island still fighting a long concluded war is Gordon Kirby, a bitter old fossil whose best contribution to the sport and its fans these days would be playing shuffleboard outside a double wide in an active adult community somewhere in Florida.

One writer who remains difficult to figure out is John Oreovicz, a Hoosier who writes for ESPN, the IZOD IndyCar Series ‘partner’ (word used in the loosest possible sense). Usually he does a great job focusing on a topic and telling compelling stories. Once in a while he regresses to hater-level immaturity as he did this past January with incredibly stupid statements like: “Tony George will go down in history as the man who effectively destroyed Indy-car racing.”

Oreovicz says he has been watching for 35 years. That might partially explain his occasional cart-centricity. Whenever anyone singles out Tony George as the root of any perceived malaise in IndyCar, I chuckle and wonder how people who position themselves as experts do not really understand history.

Indy Car in general was in a league of its own for eight decades until the ascendancy of NASCAR in the late 80s and early 90s. When cart began deemphasizing Indy and willfully shutting out the Jeff Gordons of the sport in earnest they intensified their inadvertent destruction of open wheel racing that began in 1979 as NASCAR took full advantage. That is a fact that far too easily eludes those not fortunate enough to have a great deal of experience prior to 1979. That is also how Tony George gets simplistically heaped with blame.

Oreovicz wrote a column on the ESPN web site shortly before Thanksgiving that contains a lot of balanced facts, including many obvious points:

-IndyCar is a major sport poised for growth in the future with lots of positive developments this year.

-Randy Bernard has done a great job despite his lack of experience.

-Tony George deserves praise for spearheading SAFER development.

My problem is his inclusion of offensive and gratuitous cart-centric stupidity under the guise of things for which to be thankful. Is it not time to understand that we are getting ready for 2011, and that cart/champcar has not been relevant for years? Why, for example, use the malicious hater term ‘crapwagon’ in ANY context?  Getting ‘through’ 2011 should be easy based solely on the 100th anniversary of the 500.

“A stagnant sport is truly being revived under Bernard’s leadership, and morale within the paddock is better than it has been since the mid-’90s.” Hmmm. Curious. The mid-‘90s. Right before the cart boycott, correct? Whose morale are we talking about? The boycotters? It is sentences like those that skew the balance.

Predictably, a sleazeball, gratuitous Tony George slam gets included: “I’m thankful that the women of the Hulman-George family found the courage to remove Tony George from his position of power within Indy car racing and in the family’s other business interests. Aside from squandering hundreds of millions of dollars of the family fortune, TG’s actions did severe damage to Indy Car racing, and to a lesser extent, to the reputation of the Indianapolis 500. Tony’s sister, Josie, in particular, deserves thanks for recognizing Bernard’s leadership potential and for convincing him to step away from his comfort zone running the Pro Bull Riders tour.”

Would this not have been more professional had Oreovicz simply thanked Josie for promoting the hire of Bernard? Why is it necessary to rehash dated, mostly meritless hater talking points?

-‘Tony George got fired.’ No sh!t, Sherlock. We got that the first few hundred times that was trumpeted by the guild.

-‘Tony squandered hundreds of millions of dollars of the family fortune.’ By the way, when will ANY of these so-called experienced writers give me an accounting of revenue versus expenses since 1996? None EVER have, yet all parrot some variation of the hundreds of millions claim.

-‘Tony damaged Indy Car racing.’ Many smart people believe Tony SAVED Indy Car racing. This opinion is reinforced when reviewing actual history. When left to their own devices, the supposedly superior cart and champcar killed themselves in relatively short order. Given their operational philosophies failure was inevitable. Tony did not damage Indy Car racing. He is one of a very few that fully understands and respects the role IMS plays. My only regret as a fan is that he did not have business acumen that matched his understanding of the heart and soul of the sport. To blame him for any real or perceived problem, however, remains ignorant and disingenuous.

-‘I’d like to publicly express my thanks to the Speedway and the IndyCar Series for shedding the culture of arrogance that marked the Tony George era. By working with (instead of against) the media… ‘ The only people who have seemed arrogant since 1996 are racing writers, cart owners who boycotted and cart-centric zealots without any meaningful understanding of the history of the sport. If the brass at IMS seems arrogant, perhaps such arrogance is directed only at those who routinely crapped on the bricks whenever invited to the big track. Those whose respect and behavior is commensurate with maturity and professionalism do not experience any such arrogance. Most of those who foolishly believe there is an arrogance problem probably ought to utilize a large mirror for adequate self reflection.

Some pundits have made commendable leaps toward consummate professionalism. Others are just not quite there yet.

November 19, 2010

Firestone Indy Lights News Schedule. Is That It?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 5:02 pm

The Firestone Indy Lights 2011 schedule was released this week. Color me underwhelmed. Although there are more ovals than non-ovals, there are only twelve events. There really ought to be at least as many races as the IZOD IndyCar Series, and ideally all rungs of the Indy Car ladder should run together on all race weekends.

It is pretty cool they are going to Quebec (Trois Rivieres), but how much is that going to cost? Twelve events does not really cut it.

If I were IMS, I might investigate picking up some cheap race tracks at asset sales. The Dover Downs folks just shuttered Gateway, and although its location and physical plant leave a LOT to be desired, the geographic region around St. Louis is largely unexploited. That could be a great Indy Car destination along with a place for all the ladders.

Even better, IMHO, is Memphis Motorsports Park, also now largely shut. It has a neat oval that is akin to Iowa or Richmond. After Indy Car fans got screwed out of that small oval, another one in what is also a desirable geographic area could be had for peanuts. As a matter of fact, there is an auction (Morris Auction Group) on December 14 to try and move the property. There is also a nice drag strip there.

I know cash flow is a challenge these days, but these are two fairly good racing facilities in the middle of the country. Someone with vision needs to make it work, and include Indy Cars.

Blogs may be scarce next week. Yours truly will be skiing Aspen as well as various Summit County resorts out West. My access to the Web will be intentionally limited! Have good holidays.

 

November 18, 2010

Starting Early in the IZOD Indy Car Series Fan Development Area

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:07 pm

In order for the IZOD Indy Car Series to prosper over the long haul, brand new fans must be continually cultivated. That message has gotten lost over the past few years. Add to that the increased number of attention diverting choices (mostly technology related) and the job of replacing old curmudgeons with energetic youth becomes even more difficult.

This week saw two tangible actions that will directly contribute to the cultivation of new fans, and both actions are deserving of hearty applause.

First, Randy Bernard stated he is actively working on lowering the minimum age for admittance to the garage area to 9. In NASCAR it is 18. Getting 9 year olds into the garage area would inspire many to become fans or participants for life. This is a great common sense move.

Second, Andretti Autosport did a classroom show and tell like no other this week. They brought a Danica show car into a classroom, then an engineer explained the aerodynamics and performance characteristics of the car.

It is little things like that that cultivate fans, and it is gratifying to realize that everyone seems to be working from the same script for a change.

 

November 17, 2010

The Next Generation of Leadership/Ownership at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:09 pm

Perhaps I am being a nervous nelly, but it is easy to worry about who will own and run the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the current crop of Hulman descendents begin dying off. The worry level is not high now because the remaining family members who are still there seem to get it for the most part. Not as much as many would like, but their hearts are in the right place. When one looks at the family it is natural to be concerned, especially when realizing they control the greatest race course in the world.

For my money, another Tony Hulman needs to emerge. The generation known as ‘the great grandchildren’ is a diverse group with the mixed genes of both Hulmans and racers. Each one has begun contributing in their own ways.

As a part time resident of Speedway I see many of the great things that family does for the community. They have done the same thing for decades. With respect to the Speedway, however, all things are measured against Tony Hulman, who consistently combined the perfect balance of putting in and taking out. At present the equation seems more tilted toward taking out. Tony George was criticized for tilting the other direction way too often. It is a tough balance, but one that is needed for the place to continue to strive through generations.

My personal feeling for years has been that the closest reincarnation of Tony Hulman is Tony George, at least in terms of Speedway caretaking. His biggest problem, perception, is beyond his control. Those who step back and look objectively at the improvements to IMS during his reign cannot help but be impressed. His caretaking of the place will always, unfortunately, be overshadowed by his creation of the Indy Racing League. That is a shame because most people who criticize Mr. George, often in vulgar ways, are usually speaking with emotion and not brains.

The arrogance of those who worked for years for Tony’s ouster remains self destructive. For proof one need look no further than the failure, twice, of the organization whose mutinous, self-interested behavior began in 1979. It is the exact same type of arrogance that followed Tony’s investment of millions of dollars for a state of the art F-1 facility that drew the largest crowds in history for that branch of the sport. IMS and real racing fans spent the next eight years being regularly and crudely shat upon by Formula 1 and many of its more vile fans every single year. Then in a final act of attempted rape, the vacuous white headed midget in charge wanted to raise the vig to levels that went laughably beyond ridiculous.

The Indy Racing League situation has now stabilized without Tony. That organization is being led very effectively by Randy Bernard as a part of the IMS family. IMS is stable, but long term vision seems lacking. Jeff Belskus seems great at counting beans and the family seems content with not spending much money.

Two hopes keep reoccurring. First, the hope they do not sell to an entity clearly unqualified to steward IMS in its second century. ISC and SMI fall into that category. Any current race team owner falls into that category. Anyone associated with Formula 1 or NASCAR falls into that category. Second, that somehow the family sees fit, in time, to reintroduce Tony George as the IMS President. Tony ‘gets it’ more clearly (at least from an outside view looking in) than anyone else in the family. Most of us who understand and respect IMS know for certain that IMS is more of a destiny for him than European car wax. He, ideally in tandem with someone like a Jeff Belskus, would make a great tutor for the next generation.

Here’s hoping some way to make that happen is accommodated before a lot of time passes.

 

November 16, 2010

Groundbreaking Developments for IMS and the IZOD Indy Car Series Today

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:47 pm

A new motor sports era dawned today in Speedway, Indiana. That is where movers and shakers from Indy Car and IMS gathered with the mayor of Indianapolis and other state and local politicians, drivers, owners, Redevelopment Committee members, Dallara officials (including Gian Paulo Dallara himself) and lots of others to break ground on the only Dallara facility outside Italy.

80 new jobs will be created. It will be an interactive development facility. The Sinden folks will also headquarter their Indy Racing Experience in the facility.

What seems striking is the way in which Indy Car again leads the way in terms of innovation. The safety cell concept accompanied by aero kits and multiple engine manufacturers (Look for the announcement of a European manufacturer before long) provides an economical solution to prevent an entirely spec series.

At the groundbreaking this morning, Mr. Dallara drove up in a custom creation from his company, the two-seaters delivered other dignitaries, and all the dignitaries grabbed shovels to break ground. Watch this space as construction continues.

The event today proves the value of great partnerships.

 

November 15, 2010

Attention IZOD Indy Car Fans: Tony Stewart is NOT Coming Back. Deal With It.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 5:28 pm

As a racing fan, I love Tony Stewart. He is a native Hoosier, is passionate about his craft, has loads of talent, is a throwback in an A.J. Foyt sort of way, and he gives back to the sport more than about anyone else. At one point between his current NASCAR success and his short track days, he became an Indy Car star in the then-nascent IRL.

Ever since, at least once a year, the Indy Car die-hards all develop moist britches whenever the slightest ‘Tony Stewart may drive an Indy Car at the 500 again’ rumors are unleashed. This time they accompanied Chevy’s return to the IZOD Indy Car Series. Their logic is since Tony is a devoted Chevy man in NASCAR, why would he not dovetail into Indy? This rumor has many variants. One is that he will own an Indy Car team. Another is that he will do ‘the double.’ All such rumors are, essentially, nonsense. And I am perfectly OK with that.

What the diehards need to get through their heads is that Tony employs hundreds of people to sustain his own NASCAR team. As a driver/owner, he has a lot of responsibility. He has achieved some success, and I am positive he does not want that success jeopardized by a side project in Indy Cars.

If he ever does return to Indy Car, I will be among the first to welcome him home. No one, however, should hold their breath, unless he really does try to do what A.J. did by winning the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Tony has to win the Daytona 500 first anyway.

Here is my advice to the Tony to Indy Car fantasy dwellers: Get past it. His chest is a now a barrel and he has gotten extraordinarily rich driving the roofed, slower vehicles. As a Tony Stewart fan, I hope he wins a lot more races and championships in NASCAR. Indy Car fans need to focus on how new stars get going along the Indy Car Series ladder. There are lots of possible Hoosier choices, too. Let’s focus on what is actually out there.

November 12, 2010

IZOD Indy Car Series Makes It Official: Chevy is BACK.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:05 pm

Welcome back, bowtie. GM/Chevy made it official at an IMS Museum presser this morning. They are coming back in 2012, AND they will also do an aero kit. It’s actually Ilmor, but from a marketing standpoint that will not really matter much.

Why are they returning? They gave a few reasons:

-The IZOD Indy Car Series offers a high ROI.

-Television ratings in the critical 18-34 demo are up 40%. This fact continually eludes idiots who breathlessly pontificate about 12+ summaries published in mainstream publications as if they are gospel.

-Sponsorship spend in Indy Car in 2009 was $34 million. In 2010 it more than doubled to $81 million.

Those whose brains function understand that now is the time to unlock Indy Car’s new potential. This announcement today is likely to have a domino effect as additional manufacturers join the party.

Several of the concerns of those who obsess are now resolved. Is it time to become fans yet?

November 10, 2010

100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500: Where is all of the Meaningful Hoopla?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:21 pm

Here is a challenge to the Marketing folks at IMS. I have seen the billboards around the track that proclaim the 2011 Indianapolis 500 ‘The Most Important Race in History.’ I get it but I am in a shrinking minority in a crowded sports entertainment world. Do you realize May, 2011 is barely over six months away? When will the promotion of ‘The Most Important Race in History’ extend beyond the bounds of Speedway, Indiana? When will the rest of America and the world understand what is about to unfold? The time for resting on laurels has passed.

Here are a few goals to shoot for, although it is probably too late. Link up with HBO Sports and have them produce quality pieces to commemorate the 100th anniversary. Their recent work on topics such as the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, Magic and Larry, the 24/7 series (that has already featured NASCAR) and many other topics are top notch. Make that happen.

Also compel Ken Burns to do a PBS feature on the 100 years of Indy. His body of work speaks for itself and would live on for a long time. Can you even imagine what could happen if you got Ken Burns and Donald Davidson together in a collaboration? Make an effort to get niche cable channels engaged. The History Channel, Discovery Channel(s) and others could do a swell job.

The fact the broadcast ‘partner’ has not made even a miniscule effort to promote the 100th anniversary is stunning. Yet the NASCAR lowest common denominator crap keeps flowing unabated almost all the time. If they continue to be unwilling to act like a partner, offer lots of exclusive rights to Comcast/NBC. IMS owns the rights to the vast majority of historic footage. Let deserving filmmakers and content providers share it in elegant ways.

Time is running out. The time to move is now.

November 9, 2010

IZOD Indy Car Surprise Good News on the Manufacturer Front

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

Howdy readers…my apologies for missing a day or two. I decided to head west for some early season skiing and had a great time. While I was gone I noticed the hot rumor making the rounds is that Chevy will return to Indy Car racing in 2012.

No one has confirmed, but no one has denied, either. The best rumor is that Ganassi will be the flagship for Chevy. I like that idea.

My thought is that Honda (not to mention fans) would really like a Japanese manufacturer (Honda), a European manufacturer (probably Fiat) and an America nameplate (Chevy). Gee, for a series supposedly on its deathbed things are looking up, eh?

I really enjoy hearing good news after having been off the grid.

 

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