Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

January 31, 2011

Nothing More To Defend. Time to Evolve to Disciple of INDYCAR!

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:32 am

It is time to change my identity to something far more accurate. The INDYCAR Series no longer needs to be ‘defended.’ Personally, I believe it is the most exciting form of motor sport anywhere. I like most forms of the sport, but I have always believed INDYCAR is the best.  To be honest, I am one of the biggest DISCIPLES of the genre. Therefore, I am now a Disciple of INDYCAR. It has a great ring.

Now that the sport of INDYCAR racing has survived the onslaught of those who spent years trying to destroy the one place that gave the sport legitimacy, real racing fans should keep trying to reach out to people who claim to be fans and remain obsessed with INDYCAR, but do not understand enough about the sport or its heart and soul to be taken seriously. One such potential real racing fan is a recurring commentator who spouts hatred consistently here at the blog, Troy M. He is who I will use as the model for a person who needs INDYCAR rehab.

He is a person who remains obsessed with virtually every facet of INDYCAR, but is openly critical every time he types something about it. These type of would be fans are steeped in hypocrisy. Their lack of intellect and insight cause them to forge opinions more whacko than Tea Party nutjobs ignorantly crusading against anything Democrat.  Recently, Troy took umbrage over a thread at Trackforum that, to his way of thinking, positioned Jimmie Johnson as ‘too chicken’ to run the Indianapolis 500.

Real racing fans respect Jimmie Johnson’s accomplishments in NASCAR. He has been the champion of NASCAR five straight years. He runs other races, such as the 24 hour race at Daytona (could not help but notice all the current INDYCAR drivers on the podium for that event). All real racing fans have to go on are Johnson’s words. His words express the desire, but also that he is married and is having children. I really do not believe he is ‘chicken.’ Henpecked/pussy whipped? Probably. As a fan, we would certainly like to see him try it. But since he won’t, his place will go to someone who wants it more who worked harder to get it. That is perfectly OK but is no reason to dismiss Johnson as afraid.

That does not stop Troy and his ignorant ilk from condemning race fans over their own borderline psychotic misinterpretations. Then they devolve to name calling and slam INDYCAR even more. Troy M sobs what has almost become the official script for haters:  “The thing is, I was born and raised in Indianapolis and continue to live in central Indiana. I grew up loving the Indy 500, and attended my first one at 9 years old. But I have grown to despise IMS, mainly because of the “fans” of the place.” Clearly, he has no idea what the Indianapolis 500 is or stands for. He insults the institution. Despise IMS because of fans? That is perhaps the single dumbest sentiment I have ever read. Grow up. Thicken your skin. The institution transcends that kind of childish nonsense.

“Back in 1996, I looked at what was going on and determined that TG was just executing a power play and using the Indy 500. Thus, I did not support the IRL movement.” There it is in a nutshell. Another of a handful of bitter cart apologists whose knowledge of the sport does not extend much before the 90s.

Those of us who firmly believe Tony George had not only the right to do what he did but a solemn duty disagree. The braintrust of cart, the entity that occupied IMS since 1979, had convinced itself and many sycophants that it was as important in the world as Formula 1, and that IMS was just another track. Given the consistently shady business practices of cart throughout their lifespan many could easily see the creepshow outcome that eventually claimed cart. Twice. Instead of recognizing the real problem the haters decided to blame fans and were complicit in a civil war their series started. “What amazed me was the vast amount of blind support, and complete lack of knowledge of the facts by these so called “fans.” I began to learn something about life then about how people don’t hesitate to spout off their mouths about something that they really have no clue about. It amazed me how those in support of the IRL movement knew little about the circumstances and facts of the split, and just made up reasons why the IRL movement was the right thing.”

Tony George did execute a power play. But cart had the power, especially early on, to kill the nascent IRL before it even ran its first 500. Like everything else from 1996 on, they screwed that up too. So what do the haters do? Heap scorn on Tony George and insult fans who have actually always understood the bigger picture. “These days, IRL fans have just settled into being bitter old men who look for weakness in Nascar and talk about it being an “opportunity” for the IRL. Anyway, I have grown to despise IMS and really don’t enjoy the “500” much anymore, even though I still attend. I honestly find myself rooting for whoever will give the IRL faithful the least amount of joy. I enjoyed seeing TG get tossed out of power and enjoyed the meltdown at TF the same day. It was like their invincible hero was taken down and they couldn’t believe it to be true. Perhaps Randy Bernard will turn the sport around, but based on the loyalists that are tied to IMS, I really hope it fails.”

Troy, real fans do not hope INDYCAR fails. That type of ignorant sentiment is beneath contempt. If you are not a fan, why do you remain so obsessed with it? It is my sincere hope that as we enter another new decade of INDYCAR the haters either grow up or move on to something that fits their myopia. It is well beyond time to eviscerate cancerous lesions to the sport.


January 28, 2011

The One Area In Which INDYCAR’s Randy Bernard Fails

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:01 am

This advice is offered in the most heartfelt manner possible. The feelings of many legacy racing fans about temporary circuit racing, particularly on streets, are very well known. It is not racing. It is mostly an abomination. It is a twisted perversion of the purity of the sport. So why are such feelings being ignored?

It has been proven multiple times that the economics of temporary circuit street racing simply do not add up. Cities nearly always end up feeling as if their coffers and taxpayers got fleeced. All you need to do is look at the list of failed venues, including Denver (twice), San Jose and Houston, to understand. How can someone as normally bright as Randy Bernard NOT get this? Why ruin the reputation of INDYCAR by becoming some needless vagabond gypsy carnival as cart and champcar did?

Edmonton has been on shaky ground all year and Baltimore talks a good game, but is finding out the hard way how much it REALLY costs. Enough is enough. Why can’t Long Beach be INDYCAR’s Monaco and let it go at that? The only reason that is successful long term is because the management of it knows what they are doing. St. Pete has never been known as profitable.

Here is a suggestion for dealing with requests from cities who want races. Be like Bernie. Make them build tracks to exact specifications like he is doing in Austin and just like he has done with every other newer F1 venue. Houston is a top 10 market. They need to build a proper track. City streets are not race tracks. Baltimore ought to knock down blighted neighborhoods (no shortage of them) then gentrify with a sports complex that includes a nice permanent race track. That would be money far better spent.

So what is Bernard doing? Meeting with city officials, touring Reliant Park and glad handing. Houston is geographically perfect for a new permanent race track. Why not talk city leaders into building one? How about finding a rich oil man to do it?

Enough with temporary circuits. Cotman, Bernard and crew need to pay more attention to the purity of the sport and forget street racing nonsense once and for all. It is INDYCAR racing. Not some damned circus.

January 27, 2011

Auto Racing 2011…A Popularity Shift?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:20 am

While INDYCAR seems to be on the upswing, NASCAR continues having serious challenges. Among them:

-The surface at Daytona has not been re-paved since 1979. Last year it fell apart on national television. They spent $20 million to repave it correctly for the 500.

-NASCAR is discussing simplification of their convoluted points system, presumably so fans can keep up with the numbers.

They may have to scrap the ‘Chase.’ More fans dislike it than like it.

-Fox wants shorter Cup events with built in minutes in the front and rear and four hour windows. Good luck.

-None of their races sold out last season.

-Ratings fell short of expectations.

-Many primary sponsors are leaving and a new trend is selling partial season sponsorships to folks willing to share. So much for consistency.

Is INDYCAR a better alternative these days? We already know it costs less. Sponsor spend more than doubled in 2010. Ratings in targeted demographics are up over 40%, something no other sport can claim. Randy Bernard and his staff are pounding the pavement with more ferocity than INDYCAR has ever seen.

This may be an interesting year all the way around.


January 26, 2011

A Lot Of People Like Auto Racing as a Favorite Sport

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:01 am

Sports Business Daily used data from a recurring Harris Poll to measure the most popular sports according to fans who follow sports. The current list is interesting because auto racing is in fourth place, behind only the NFL, Major League Baseball and college football. It is ahead of the NBA, NHL and college basketball, among others.

The numbers are here: http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Daily/Issues/2011/01/Jan-25/Ratings-and-Research/Harris-Poll.aspx

The NFL’s #1 slot has 31% of the vote (up from 24% in 1985). Baseball is at 17% (down from 23% in 1985). College football holds steady at around 12%, and that is up slightly from 1985.

Youthful cart enthusiasts are likely to be bitter and shriek hysterically when they see data that clearly shows cart was not more popular in 1985 than today. Auto racing got 7% of the vote in 2010…and the trend is steady during the Tony George Indy Car years with 9% in 2009, 8% in 2008 and 7% in 1998, but only 5% in 1985.

One of the desperate yelps we will no doubt hear is that Indy Car does not register and all the numbers are for NASCAR. Fair enough. Were they for NASCAR in 1985 when cart was supposedly vibrant and NASCAR was not as popular? The poll says ‘auto racing’ and Indy Car is auto racing (as is NASCAR, F1, short trackers, road racers, etc.).

What is this sport more popular than? NBA, NHL, Soccer, college basketball, golf, track, bowling, tennis, boxing, horse racing and any sport in which women only compete.

January 25, 2011

This INDYCAR Silly Season Remains Exciting

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:45 am

Sponsorship news keeps occurring with regularity in this INDYCAR off season:

-Team Penske announced that AAA will be on Helios car for a few races this season.

HVM has a three year commitment for Simona De Silvestro with sponsorship from Entergy, which advocates the use of nuclear power as a green alternative.

-Andretti Autosport is in Dallas for a sponsor summit. It would be great if they came away with confirmations for four cars.

This off season seems much more busy than in recent years and that is refreshing. In years past naysayers had field days with dire predictions of less than full fields, blank sidepods and other such sky is falling hysteria.

When INDYCAR actions speak louder than foolish words, the situation is good.


January 21, 2011

Time For INDYCAR To Take The Lead With ESPN

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:27 pm

The 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500 is this May, and frankly no one is doing enough to promote this momentous occasion. This needs to be one of the top sports and lifestyle stories of the year, and recognition of it should have begun months ago.

It is about a month before the Daytona 500, and INDYCAR ‘partner’ ESPN is all over it. FOUR stories about NASCAR on Sports Center today. They even called it the ‘most prestigious race.’ Hang on a second. The Daytona 500 is a race with half the history of the Indianapolis 500, less than half the attendance, and television ratings not appreciably better.

Now is the year when narrow minds making essentially lazy editorial decisions need to focus on the one event that made the entire sport possible for everyone else in this country. If editorial content deciders are unable to figure it out on their own, they need to have someone (nudge, nudge Randy Bernard) do it for them.

I am very happy the union of Comcast and NBC-Universal may begin to crack ESPN’s stranglehold on sports, particularly where INDYCAR is concerned. When that deal closes at the end of this month it will be potentially great, but realistically not in enough time to really make a difference for May. The takeover of NBC by Comcast will be traumatic for months as people lose their jobs and as new people get put into place.

It is imperative to get ESPN up to speed on the playbook because clearly they have no clue now. I strongly urge INDYCAR to take the lead and will support that effort.


January 20, 2011

Why Mario Andretti Pisses Me Off

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:01 am

There is no denying his legacy in a variety of disciplines, and he has been successful following his climb out of the cockpit. There are, however, two things that genuinely bother me about the guy. First, unlike his son Michael, he never pursued continued direct involvement in Indy Car, either as an owner or otherwise (although he is being paid to drive around in the Sinden two-seater). That separates him from other greats such as Foyt, Al Unser(s) and Rutherford. Even Rick Mears is still synonymous with Team Penske. Mario’s penchant for whining is not in any way diminished even though his direct lack of involvement in the operation of the sport has been minimal.

He may have chosen not to based simply on politics at the time of his driving retirement. That leads to the second fingernails on a chalkboard aspect of Mario. Whenever he opens his mouth about anything even remotely related to Indy Car he takes the same approach the average ignorant, hateful cart enthusiast does. This time the forum was an interview in Sports Illustrated by Brant James. Granted, most writers who get to interview legends either lob softballs or ask leading questions, and this interview contains some of that.

Mario: “I think the IndyCar series, as we know it, is definitely on the upswing, because it was brought to its knees and I don’t need to mention by whom. I think now that it’s unified, it has definitely taken off into the direction it needs to go and that it deserves. Izod is doing a tremendous job of promoting into mainstream America, and that’s where we belong. It’s not something new. It’s something that needs to be brought to the attention of the fans properly and without having two series competing to do the same thing.”

Oh, go ahead, Mario. Say it. ‘Tony George.’ All other equally ignorant knuckle dragging mouth breathers do. Just forget the collective arrogance of the cart contingent that made one stupid mistake after another before self immolating themselves. Twice. Oh, the sport is ‘unified?’ Who is the person responsible for that? I guess you don’t need to ‘mention by whom.’ I also move that the word ‘unified’ be eliminated from Indy Car. That word artificially elevates hooligans who willfully attempted to destroy the sport to a level they do not deserve. The asset sale proceeds Tony George picked up after champcar failed was nothing like the cart that existed in 1995. We all know that IZOD is doing a great job (and paying you a lot of money to boot), but there have not been two series for years. It is 2011. We reside in the 21st century. Join us.

Mario: “I think it’ll take time for fans to really follow some of the drivers. There have been some odd names because the series is very international. But I really think the series is picking up. It’s beginning to resonate. I think the fans will begin to look forward. Now, it’s a matter of time to rebuild something that was lost.”

Mario, what was lost was cart. Then champcar. Indy continued making stars during the ill-fated boycott of the arrogant. Do not confuse that loss with any perceived diminishment of Indy Car just because your boys failed to show. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the great race. It has not lost anything except in the deluded minds of people who either do not or refuse to get it.

Mario: Randy Bernard, to me, is doing a phenomenal job on so many fronts. He has learned tremendously over this past year. He is a very calculated individual. He’s patient in some ways but also very energetic in some others. He’s careful with his moves. The conversation I had with him in the beginning, I told him the worst thing he could do was try to reinvent the wheel. I think that resonated. I said ‘this is not a startup series. You’ve just got to remember to look back and learn from the formula that worked.’ That’s what we need to reinstate. We abandoned the product. I think he truly gets it. We’re fortunate he’s at the helm of this thing right now.”

Hang on a second, Mario. You encourage Randy Bernard not to reinvent the wheel, but you propose the solution to all real or perceived problems is to reinstate the cart model? That makes no sense. When anyone feels turning back the clock to solve anything is the way to go, I immediately get suspicious. No one abandoned the Indy Car product except cart idiots and fans who got turned off by the scorched earth cart created. Learn from the mistakes of the past for sure, but do not make them again. cart had its day. That evolutionary period ended. Move forward. I applaud Randy Bernard for compiling opinions from every constituency. A much smarter approach is to build the sport to heights never experienced before in any evolutionary period. We will never get there by trying to recreate 1995. The world is a much different place in the present day and the sport can be greater than it ever was before. It will not get there as long as former stars keep making snarky comments every time a mic is placed in front of them.

January 19, 2011

Gentrification At The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Beyond

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:57 pm

In my continuing series of Speedway improvement ideas, I have some solutions to improve the bottom line. Please forgive this recurring theme, but I have a lot of energy about it. This idea could also quiet idiot critics who believe empty seats are a sure sign the race and the institution is doomed, never mind that 99% of every other sport and entertainment venue fails to sell out these days either.

It is my belief that the following stands should be removed, and then re-deployed in the infield. Both in turns and along the road course:

-South Vista

-Chucks of the Northeast Vista from the backstretch into turn 3

-North Vista

In all cases, the seats just are not that great. One alternative is to rebuild the stands, only higher and more comfy to accommodate the increasingly large people who sit in them. Plus. If Randy and crew really want 240mph+ laps, the chances of flying chunks of carbon fiber increase in accidents. Removing seats from impact zones is probably a smart idea.

Here is a much better idea for replacement of each: Multiple story condos with terraced balconies. Price and configure them for year-round occupancy. That removes the ebb and flow of trying to sell expensive suite space for far more than it is worth. Plus, you could bake in the money for which you might sell the seats disguised as  some sort of HOA fee. That type of improvement would dovetail the impressive efforts of the Speedway redevelopment folks and could kick start meaningful gentrification of the sleazeball slums that are currently decaying three of four sides of the Speedway, much like cancer destroys the human body. Go even further by lining the backstretch with new condos.

If the existing stands were re-deployed in the infield, even more revenue generation opportunities would be created, particularly if bold steps were taken to get Formula 1 back on a track where it belongs.

It is obvious that current bean counting at IMS probably precludes meaningful capital expenditure, but those types of bold improvements have always characterized the facility since 1946. Why stop now? I would buy one or two.


January 18, 2011

The End of an Indy Car Era

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:53 pm

The sport of Indy Car racing, more than anything else, is all about its fans. Nowhere are real fans more passionate than at Indianapolis in May. Generations of the same family make the annual trek in May from all around the world. For the past ten years the fan experience has been enriched by the annual presence of a rag-tag group of great fans who have set up camp in the days leading up to the 500 at a specific location in the Coke lot along Georgetown Road. Camp and Brew involves racing fans who bring motor homes of many sizes in from near; e.g., Ohio, and far; e.g., Denver.

For a few days before the race, these generous folks feed and provide adult or softer beverages for anyone who makes donations to help fight ALS in memory of a great racing fan, Brian Hall, who succumbed to the illness. Over the course of ten years, over $31,000 has been raised from just ordinary racing fans that stop by to socialize and see old friends.

All great things must come to an end, and this May will be the end of Camp and Brew. I suspect the folks who work so hard to keep it going may want to actually get away from the motor homes and into the track more often to enjoy themselves. The amount of work associated with Camp and Brew, which grew every year, is immense.

So my suggestion, from one racing fan to another, is that you find your way at least once this may over to the corner of Camp & Brew to say hello and thanks. Ask for Tommy, Glenn or Jimmy. While you’re at it, say hey to Scott, Sue, Andy, Mike or Roach as well. These people are the very best. I will be right there with you to do the same.

January 17, 2011

The Only True Lifetime Legend in Indy Car

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:55 pm

The legendary A.J. Foyt just turned 76 years old. He remains as feisty and single minded as ever, and the sport remains enriched with him in it. He is fond of telling anyone who will listen that he would be a nobody without the Indianapolis 500, but those of us who are lucky enough to have seen all of his victories also know the Indianapolis 500 would be less without A.J. If the stars align correctly this May, A.J. will be the guy behind the wheel of the pace car at the start, 50 years after his first 500 win.

We should thank our lucky stars A.J. still remains interested enough to field a team. When I am 76 I hope to simply park my wrinkled behind under a palm tree on some sand and sip drinks that contain lots of rum and tropical fruit (except in May). We really do not have anyone close to A.J.’s personality in the sport unless you count Hoosier Tony Stewart, who got into a fistfight with an Australian track owner over the weekend over track conditions. The problem with Stewart is he sold out completely to NASCAR. Few of us, however, hold that against him. Besides, no one on earth will probably ever compete in 35 straight 500s much less love what the Indianapolis 500 stands for more than Mr. Foyt.

So, from the bottom of our hearts, happy birthday A.J., and MANY more.


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