The next ‘split’ in open wheel racing and the one that will probably finish the sport of big time open wheel off for good is the ovals against non-ovals philosophy. It was a large philosophical part of the 1996 ‘split’ and is just about ready to pop open on its own just in time for 2012. From a cynical yet realistic standpoint it is not difficult to speculate with certainty that Indy Car leadership will once again take the most stupid possible approaches and end up responsible for just allowing it happen.
Predictably, the non-oval crowd blames ticket buyers for not buying enough tickets to oval events. That still does not explain how 35,000 at a non-oval is considered better than 35,000 at an oval. As a ticket buying enthusiast that buys multiple tickets every year our observation is that Indy Car as an organization has all but given up on a compelling presentation of oval racing. They have shrugged their shoulders on drawing a crowd on any days except race days, but the tickets do not really cost any less.
The current iteration of Indy Car management has learned absolutely nothing from history. What they are building has a foundation of sand and will just as certainly collapse as thoroughly as it has the last two times they tried pulling this mind-numbingly foolish stunt. Here is a list of annual events my party (a minimum of four people, every single time) paid money to travel to see, to buy tickets, to buy concessions, to pay for hotel rooms and to otherwise contribute to the coffers of both the tracks and the series…but now are unable (completely against our wishes) to see:
This does not include sporadic attendance at Fontana, Homestead, Loudon and others. This week we have received the following news:
-Loudon is likely a one and done, just like Milwaukee. That is just egregious. Why wouldn’t quality ovals be given three years to rebuild a crowd? Oh, wait. That would require effort.
-Roger Penske rammed through the multiple, cross-series failure known as Belle Isle the week after the 500. Has anyone asked Eddie Gossage how he feels about this?
-The Weekly World News of racing blogs reports that Laguna Seca will return next season.
My party is left basically with Indy and Kentucky and perhaps Iowa (which we attended this year), and this year Las Vegas. How quickly before we get Kentucky and Texas taken away
over such abject philosophical stupidity? Do you understand that the upper tier of your dwindling fan base is the group that, by far, spends the most money for this type of entertainment?
Indy Car management, ovals have not gotten less popular. That is a myth that serves as rationalization for the fundamentally flawed agenda of a group of self serving folks that have never succeeded long term with their preferred type of non-oval endeavor. NASCAR does not have a problem with the oval business model. Why should Indy Car? The open wheel racers certainly put on faster, often more exciting shows.
The solution: Much better presentation of the oval product on and off the track at competitive prices. Run all the support ladders at every event. In a blog a week or so ago, I laid out several ideas for making ovals more accessible to fans you are unable to entice. Read it and some of the other great ideas floating around. We are tired of lip service and hearing what a good job you believe you do. You need to do much more. Otherwise you deserve the fate that is certain as you continue dumping all ovals but Indy.