Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

September 26, 2011

The Empty Promises of Indy Car Festivals O’ Speed As Ovals Are Cast Aside

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:02 pm

The most common mistake those who jerk their knees make when just about any Indy Car discussion breaks out is an automatic assumption that any dissenting thought about any aspect of the sport is related to ‘the split.’ That is tedious. The ‘split’ is long gone, but the class warfare that led to it is going strong. THAT is one of the most serious problems facing the sport.

The heritage of Indy Car, for 100 years, is oval track racing. Over the decades it has taken the form of dirt, boards, asphalt and concrete. Non-oval racing has also mostly always been a component, but mostly always as a sideshow. NASCAR began using the model after moonshiners running from cops went out of style and as Bill France formalized that side of the sport when he built Daytona instead of running cars along beach sand and surrounding roads. It works.

So why has Indy Car talked itself into believing they are no longer valid? They decry lousy attendance at a few but do not do anything meaningful to improve it. One big problem is that with the economy teetering on the brink of catastrophic collapse many folks simply cannot afford to spend a few hundred dollars to attend. This is even evident in NASCAR. At Loudon yesterday for a ‘Chase’ race there were more visible gaps in those stands than in the dental work of a late stage meth addict. Perhaps Jerry Gappens should worry about THOSE gappens. In short, Indy Car talked itself into believing ovals are no longer valid because self serving owners want it that way.

Road racing is a discipline that has a place on the schedule. Even a couple of street ‘festivals o’ speed’ have a place, although the right way to do these things is the way F1 does it in Singapore. Once non-ovals become a majority of the schedule the end of this iteration of Indy Car will soon face extinction. Curt Cavin interviewed Randy Bernard about the state of his tenure over the weekend, and he alluded to the possibility of having fewer ovals.

It is easy to understand how neither Indy Car nor promoters want to lose money, but that suggests the model is broken. Bernard discussed the new model he crafted for Las Vegas that depends heavily on sponsorship Indy Car arranges and not ticket sales to justify the fee they typically charge venues. The season closing event is expected to turn a profit. It is a model he pioneered in bull riding, and one he sees as a possibility in Indy Car. If that is what it takes we should be use it not only to ensure continuance of the great ovals on the schedule but also the return of legitimate ovals that have robbed fans of great racing at venues such as Richmond, Chicagoland, Phoenix and others. Perhaps great ovals like Milwaukee and Loudon would be handled more competently. Ticket prices could be structured to attract fans instead of driving them away.

It is my sincere hope Randy Bernard is smart enough not to be seduced by any hollow ‘pie-in-the-sky’ nonsense about festivals o’ speed on temporary circuits.



  1. “The ‘split’ is long gone, but the class warfare that led to it is going strong.” – the class warfare IS the Split. It existed before 25/8, and it’s still there. It probably won’t go away, but the more it is minimized, the better. Most fans aren’t either / or. They’re just fans. Especially the new ones.

    Editor’s Note: As we welcome new fans (a challenge since the continuity of generational support was interrupted) it is important to do two things: (1) Make the sport accessible to everyone while respecting the history of the sport, and (2) Address any and all problems aggressively and head on. Sweeping sport threatening problems under a rug will not eliminate them. That’s the approach folks like Muammar Gaddafi take, and it rarely works out satisfactorily.

    Comment by Turn13 — September 27, 2011 @ 1:12 am | Reply

  2. Someone else pays for street courses to be run (e.g. taxpayers). Nowadays, Indycar has to pay to run ovals. If the product wasn’t a commercial failure on ovals – you know, like New Hampshire was – then they’d still be there. They’re the ones being swept under the rug in favor of those evil, evil track promoters concentrating on their core product (NASCAR). The best they can do is damage control. Well, unless IMS wants to set fire to another pile of money like they did in Milwaukee.

    Editor’s Note: I’ll defer to your vast experience and knowledge of the subject matter. LOL.

    Comment by throw some ds on that b!tch — September 27, 2011 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

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