Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

May 4, 2011

Indy Car Owners Threaten To F*%# Up The Entire Sport Again

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:43 pm

The self-serving arrogance of Indy Car owners is astounding. Most fans appreciate what they do to get cars on the track, but are tired of being shoved aside. By overwhelming popular demand one of the first decisions Randy Bernard made after becoming CEO was to replace the spec car that stupidly homogenized the sport for over ten years. He made his decision responsibly and with representation from all key constituencies.

The solution was to take an economical approach by using a Dallara ‘shell’ constructed just outside the gates of IMS in Speedway, then attaching unique aero kits that allow different badges as well as use of alternative manufacturer motors. This approach affords the most economic solution while delivering new cars.

The plan has been laid out and is being executed. In Brazil on Saturday night the owners ‘voted’ (how cute) to delay aero kits until 2013. They figure they will have enough on their plates without developing aero kits. All but one owner voted for the delay. A.J. Foyt snubbed the mutiny.

This contrary, mutinous behavior must not be allowed to stand. This is not 1979. Cart failed. Twice. Owners do not get to ‘vote’ on anything. They are constituents. They do not own the series. My advice to Randy Bernard is to take some pages from the playbook of Big Bill France. He did not put up with any dissent from anyone and was forceful in dealing with contrarians.

The decision has been made and owners must abide. Bernard and crew must not bend over for owners any more. Fans have had enough.

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13 Comments »

  1. A.J. Foyt is the man!

    Comment by Jeff — May 4, 2011 @ 1:26 pm | Reply

    • The vote was 15-0, not 15-1. I don’t think AJ was even there.

      Comment by Gary — May 4, 2011 @ 4:15 pm | Reply

      • A J was there, but he abstained from voting. As a smaller team owner he may well want to delay the additional cost, but he recognized this ploy for what it was and refused to go along with it.

        Comment by Chris Lukens — May 4, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

  2. I used to roll my eyes whenever I saw one of your posts blasting the owners. Now, I think you might be right. They are a bunch of short sighted, selfish idiots. Cart is dead, the sooner the owners realize that, the better we will all be.

    Comment by Matt — May 4, 2011 @ 1:38 pm | Reply

    • Except CART isn’t dead, it is alive in well in the minds of IndyCar management.

      Bernard said in a recent interview when asked about the tv contract for the Indy 500, “And I think everyone remembers the heyday of 1993-’95. As a network, you should be looking at us and thinking, “Hey, this has a very good shot of coming back.””

      Ummmm….the heyday of 1993-95 was CART years.

      Randy wants to bring back CART, not forget about it.

      Comment by Gary — May 4, 2011 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

  3. I’m not one to credit the France family with a whole lot, but in this case, Randy would do well to channel Big Bill. Randy needs to say, “you guys are trying to cut off your noses to spite your faces and the fans will all abandon the sport if you all got your way all the time. Shut up. Buy the new car. Or don’t (the ALMS would love to have you come run LMP-C cars, but enjoy the non-existent crowds, so if you hate Dallara so much, head on over). Buy an alternate aero kit. Or don’t. We make the rules. Not you.”

    Comment by The Speedgeek — May 4, 2011 @ 2:46 pm | Reply

    • They are buying the new car, with the Dallara aerokit that comes with it. What they don’t want to do is spend the money on the Dallara and the kit that goes with it and then after using it for a few races throw it away and buy new kits from someone else.

      Now, you could say “then don’t buy the new kits, just keep the Dallara.” But all that would do is scare off whomever is going to make those new kits because they won’t want to invest the money into the new kits that nobody will buy. Then IndyCar would really be stuck with the Dallara for years to come.

      It is more money wise to spend the money on the new car next year, and then wait until 2013 to start spending money on the aerokits once you have a feel of what you want for your new car.

      Comment by Gary — May 4, 2011 @ 4:13 pm | Reply

      • “Now, you could say ‘then don’t buy the new kits, just keep the Dallara.’ But all that would do is scare off whomever is going to make those new kits because they won’t want to invest the money into the new kits that nobody will buy.”

        Wait, I thought we were going motor racing here. Anybody who is looking for an edge over the Dallara kit and can afford $75k to throw a kit on even one of their cars (and, jeez, I’d hope that everybody outside of maybe Dale Coyne fits this description) would want to buy at least one “aftermarket” kit. There’s a market out there for non-Dallara aero kits. It’s called “anybody looking for a competitive advantage”.

        Let’s pretend that the new kits are available at Indy. If somebody rolls the dice and buys a Honda kit for Indy, and that kit proves to be worth the 1-2 MPH that it takes to qualify on the front row and finish in the top-3, then other teams will follow. If Honda makes that same kit available to teams running their engines for, say, $30k, then it’s likely that those teams will also buy those kits over an Oreca alternate kit, unless the Oreca is considerably (say, 3-4 MPH) faster. There’s a market in that, too.

        Anybody looking for an “unfair advantage” will want to entertain alternate kits. Anybody who’s just looking to play at being an “IndyCar owner with a huge garage, a first-class motorhome, fancy street cars and a big house”, well, they’re not going to want to spend one more dime than they need to. It’s just heartbreaking to me to hear that Roger Penske apparently now falls into the latter category instead of the former.

        Comment by The Speedgeek — May 4, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

  4. Well, a couple of things to start off with; Cart failed, twice. Let’s get that out of the way. Second, I’m not so sure AJ was even there, I believe he is still in Texas recovering from his near death experience.

    Next, it wasn’t the owners who recently announced that the body kits won’t even be ready until halfway through next season anyway, it was IndyCar management. So it seems to me to be prudent to wait until 2013 for body kit choices. Why take delivery of the new car and Dallara bodykit only to throw it to the side halfway through the year? It seems to me that it is the owners that are trying to save IndyCar from doing something stupid.

    It won’t be the first time. Remember the Firestone tire debacle? It was the owners that possibly kept IndyCar from having to shut down next year due to lack of tires. That was IndyCar management failure. The owners deserve some credit for saving IndyCar.

    Also, if Bernard doesn’t like what the owners are doing he could pull a Tony and just run off with Mommy’s money and create a new league. But that probably wouldn’t work because the current league is failing, not because of the owners but because of the management, and there is no more Hulman George money anyway to start a new league.

    IndyCar is on the edge. The owners are just trying to save it. And keep in mind, they aren’t saying they don’t want new body kits, they just want to wait until 2013. We will still have a new car with a new body kit next year (built in Italy, not Indiana due to the fact they haven’t even started to build the new Dallara factory outside the Speedway) and we will have new engines. I say the owners are smart for wanting to make sure things work with this new car and then we can start to tinker around with new body kits.

    If IndyCar has survived this long with only one body style it will survive until 2013. (Or as long as there is money in the Hulman George bank account, whichever comes first.)

    Comment by Gary — May 4, 2011 @ 3:18 pm | Reply

    • Several things:
      1) A.J. was in Brazil. The Versus camera caught him working on Vitor’s car during the red flag (interestingly, when nobody was supposed to be touching the cars at all; apparently, Brian Barnhart and Kevin Blanch didn’t have the heart/gonads to tell A.J. that he was contravening the rules and instead allowed all the other teams to work on their cars…not that I’m blaming Brian or Kevin, becaus I’m not sure I would have done anything different). I just think that A.J. knows what a thorny situation the aero kit thing is shaping up to be and has the brains and perspective to stay out of it.

      2) I think that the idea of the team owners “saving” the Firestone supplier deal wasn’t through any act of selflessness, it was through the realization that a new tire manufacturer could mean an extra crash or two per year while finding the limits of new tires or dealing with potential blow-outs. I believe that they started out playing hardball by saying “no thanks” to an increase in tire bills, but then later they figured that it’d be better to pony up an extra $200k each for the tires they know instead of having to spend $300-350k on a new tub, should they write one off. Whatever. The car owners made the right call, even if it was a bit belatedly, so kudos to them on that one.

      3) “…the current league is failing, not because of the owners but because of the management”. I’m not sure what you mean there. It seems to me, anyway, that the current management is doing a pretty fine job of bailing the water out of the ship that’s been sinking slowly for nearly 20 years. It can certainly be debated whether or not the water is being bailed fast enough, but you can’t fault the current management for lack of effort.

      4) I don’t think that there’s potential for the new car to “not work” with the new aerokits, just the potential for a team owner to make a bad decision or align with the wrong manufacturer and “go slower” than the folks who wind up with the right kit. Seems to me that Roger Penske is terrified of people going faster than he is simply by making a better choice. Wonder where he could have gotten that attitude…

      5) “If IndyCar has survived this long with only one body style it will survive until 2013.” The problem here is that you can’t put the aerokit genie back in the bottle of public opinion. Fans are fully expecting different looking cars for 2012, after they asked for them extensively, and now they’ve been led down that path for nearly 10 months. If it’s a matter of waiting a couple extra months in order to get the kits by Indy or Texas or wherever, that’s one thing. If it’s a matter of having to wait fully 12 extra months just because of the team owners’ near sighted self interests…that’s going to be a hard sell to most fans.

      Comment by The Speedgeek — May 4, 2011 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

  5. As usual, there is plenty of blame to go around.

    The core problem remains that the cost of producing the series is in excess of its market value. That is the one problem that needed to be solved by the new cars and engines. The early indications do not look good.

    Until IndyCar makes some sense of its economic calculus, the problems will continue. Owners will seek certainty with regards to cost. Most of them will continue to be financed by their drivers.

    The series treats its suppliers of racing teams as if they are customers. The team owners treat their suppliers of labor (drivers) as if they are customers. Promotion is mistaken for marketing because the first “P” of the marketing mix, Product, is a hodge-podge of whomever is willing and able to pay.

    The entire buyer-supplier, customer-vendor value chain in IndyCar racing is broken because the series costs more than it’s worth.

    IndyCar will make for a great Harvard Business School case study some day.

    Comment by Roggespierre — May 4, 2011 @ 4:12 pm | Reply

  6. Here’s hoping Bernard says kits will be available in 2012. The hard part would be finding someone to buy one, unless Foyt does just to thumb his nose at everyone else. But here’s another question? If nobody’s buying a kit, who real-world tests it?

    Comment by A fan — May 4, 2011 @ 6:19 pm | Reply

  7. really when we’re talking owners, we’re talking Penske and Ganassi. So did they rebel against the cost of the COT car in NASCAR? Of course not. And that’s a helluva lot more expensive. What would the original Mr. France…or Mr. Hulman…do in this case?

    Comment by redd — May 5, 2011 @ 2:56 am | Reply


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