Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

December 29, 2011

Practical Seating Solutions for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:49 am

Rumor has it that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is no longer selling 500 tickets in the lower rows of some of the Vistas in the north and south ends. Some assume it is a safety measure. Realistically the challenge of selling tickets these days is also a factor.

Here is a far better and more fan friendly suggestion to consider. Why not make the existing seats wider and space the rows another six to ten inches away from each other? The population in general today is much larger than in years past. Not selling seats but bunching folks closer together in smaller available space does nothing to enhance the fan experience.

It is really annoying to poke and be poked in the back with knees, coolers, ashes and other annoyances. And heaven forbid that someone may want to get up for refreshments or restrooms and walk to the end of an aisle.

Spread the fans out and the place will look just as full. Empty sections of grandstands tend to look glaring. Think about it the next time a grandstand is dismantled for regalvanizing. 

December 27, 2011

2012 Indy Car Schedule: Let’s Hope The Mayans Haven’t Nailed It.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:36 pm

The 2012 Indy Car was ‘officially’ (kinda) released in the days before Christmas. 15 events. Only four ovals including Indy and 11 non-ovals; mostly temporary street festivals o’ speed. Many aspects of this half-assed effort remain troubling, including vague promises of one or two more. This is the same kind of nonsense cart/champcar foisted before they killed themselves. Twice.

-It is admittedly early, but how on earth could the death of one popular participant in a sport that has had deaths of popular participants for over one hundred years bring the sport to a complete, grinding halt for a couple of months? Why was that allowed to happen? That is unprecedented.

-If leadership of the series preaches the importance of balance, what is balanced about a 75/25 non-oval to oval schedule?

-One of the easiest rationalizations Indy Car can make these days is that ‘ovals just aren’t popular anymore.’ How do they explain NASCAR’s continuing popularity then? It seems more like the self fulfilling prophecy of road racing enthusiasts who prefer non-ovals and are mostly scared of ovals.

-Indy Car dropping great ovals every year is revolting. The fact that even ONE of the Midwest ovals is nowhere to be found is insulting. Chicagoland? Kentucky? Milwaukee? All gone, mostly the inexcusable result of sheer neglect.

Bernard and crew are going to have to realize that in order to achieve the balance they say they desire he and his cronies MUST:

-Commit to making ovals work. Haphazard and inconsistent scheduling, unintelligible promotion, nickel-and-dime ala carte pricing, lack of any sort of meaningful show-biz presentation of oval events, including a dearth of non-race day activities and an arrogant approach to ovals will kill even the best ones off over time.

-Convince television ‘partners’ to stop relegating Indy Car to the same level of importance as Lithuanian womens junior soccer except when someone dies. That takes patience, education, cajoling, threats, bribes and all sort of other behaviors when the situation calls for them.

-The online presence and offerings (or lack thereof) of Indy Car remains an absolute joke.

-Change the way in which the pricing model is structured.

-Take control of their own destiny.

Disciple and crew wish all fellow racing fans a very happy new year in 2012, but Indy Car is going to have to something substantive about their unbalanced, loyalty killing schedule. Jettisoning ovals without regard to fans or potential will do far more harm than they are capable of understanding, and history is the best teacher of that. It could be worse. Indy Lights only has twelve events again. Three ovals. Way to prepare those stars of tomorrow.

December 17, 2011

Indy Car’s Sarah Fisher: I Love You.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:33 pm

There are numerous reasons. She is the prototype for a perfect Indy Car owner in this day and age. She had a journeyman career behind the Indy Car wheel after a spectacular short track career. She always managed to attract sponsorship, fan loyalty and decent rides. She has employed grit and determination her entire career.

When she ended her time behind the wheel she could have done just about anything she wanted, but she stayed in Indy Car and built a bootstrap, sweat equity team that has survived not only the cost of competing but the move away from the kind of racing that made her a star.

The culmination of all of her recent work was a victory in an actual Indy Car event with another lifelong competitive peer of hers behind the wheel. Their win in Kentucky, despite the phenomenal effort of that entire team, was still considered a David Vs. Goliath accomplishment. In victory lane Sarah revealed their primary sponsor was leaving adding bittersweet to the celebration.

As we fast forward to the present day many who are cynical could legitimately predict the possible end of that dream. Between now and then, however, Sarah Fisher Racing has not given up. They have:

-Added a rich, powerful, supportive partner, Wink Hartman, whose Hartman Oil has been a steady associate sponsor of Sarah Fisher Racing for a long time.

-Announced they are constructing a brand new two-story headquarters and race shop right down Main Street in Speedway from the new Dallara plant.

-Hired hot young American talent Josef Newgarden, skilled in multiple disciplines to drive for them.

-Have a stated goal of operating a two car team within a couple of years.

Sarah and others, like Sam Schmidt, Dryer & Reinbold, Panther, etc., are setting the gold standard for former drivers with business acumen. Why can’t more former Indy Car drivers take that path? We know it is difficult. The hunt for funding is constant, and just when they find enough to get by they have to compete against the Penskes and Ganassis of the world. Sarah is doing it the right way and for the long haul, and for that she deserves more love and respect than ever. It is people like her who will save the sport from itself. Aligning with folks like Wink Hartman gives the effort the professional credibility it needs to take next steps.

This story is refreshing, particularly as we cringe watching quality folks like Gil de Ferran stumble in every professional role after driving that he takes, Jay Penske not taking after his father, Eric Bachelart selling seats to high bidders, often multiple times throughout the season, Newman-Haas simply throwing in the towel, etc.

So Sarah, keep showing your peers how to do it right. You are the model for a post-Penske, post-Ganassi sport. Thank you for giving racing fans a great reason to keep watching. It is great having a team like Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing to support.

December 9, 2011

Indy Car To Fans: GET LOST!

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:08 am

Predictably, Indy Car took the most gutless, cowardly approach they could on Thursday, buying out of next year’s contract with Las Vegas. The grotesque way the Indy Car Series is being led is insulting. Did they stop racing on Toronto’s streets after Jeff Krosnoff met an almost identical fate? No. Has racing stopped ever stopped at Indy due to the high number of driver and non-driver deaths? No.

I thought the 2012 car was designed to minimize freak accidents. Guess not.

The most insidious aspects of the colossally stupid decisions being made at Indy Car threaten the future viability of this generation of the sport. The last remaining group of fans not already alienated by the self-serving interests of the actual leadership are being dispatched in droves with no regard to consequence.

Meanwhile, the types of venues they work the hardest to invent become bigger embarrassing blights to the sport with each passing day. What was once hailed as a rousing success in Baltimore has become a sea of red ink, hard feelings and unpaid bills. Is that what we really want for Indy Car? Seriously?

And are they really thinking about jettisoning the second largest draw in Indy Car at Texas? If they do they deserve the kind of death they seem to crave. It is time for Randy Bernard to nut up or leave. Those actually running the show have already failed multiple times and are following an almost identical plan.

Enough is enough. Do what it takes to balance the schedule or prepare for another failed version of the sport, guided primarily by abject stupidity and self interest. Do not say you have not been warned.

This is a very sad day for Indy Car. Fans deserve so much better.

December 8, 2011

Indy Car: Please Stop Allowing Destruction Of The Sport.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:13 pm

The root of ALL current Indy Car problems, both real and perceived, can be traced directly to one single event: ‘Unification.’ Since that occurred the sport has been almost completely destroyed again from within. It is unacceptable. Unless people wake up quickly, what has actually become cart III will fail with as much certainty as cart I and cart II before it.

The arrogant, self-serving sleaziness that now fully characterizes the way things are today began in February, 2008. Worse, this one topic has been declared off limits by everyone from Randy Bernard to even the most obscure kissers of behinds throughout the sport. I believe I am one of the few who speaks for a majority of people who have simply wearied of being shouted down at every step by overly defensive cart-centric cretins since 1995 and as a result remain either silent or gone.

It is high time not only to deal with the 800 pound gorilla in the room, but to put a bullet in its head, dissect it, then burn the carcass, then ground the ashes to a fine dust, then put them onto a Soviet spacecraft and shoot them to a place that is not anywhere near our galaxy. The Indy Car Series of 2012 is a bad Planet of The Apes movie that has actually come to life.

The ungrateful bastards who had their livelihoods rescued with virtually no conditions have been neither humble nor have they not lost any of the baggage they carried after they destroyed their own series. Twice. Unless these specific people are singled out and dealt with firmly and with authority there is really no point in having a series. As it stands today, every single event my party attended outside of Indy every single year since 1996 has been eliminated, usually replaced by a street circuit.

I may be the only one left who cares enough to take a stand, and perhaps that explains why the sport is no longer popular. ‘Unification’ has not only not moved that needle, it has gone backward into the red. Everyone with even a casual interest has been either scared or shouted away.

The moment that cemented the way things are right now was the death of Dan Wheldon. That particular racing accident was one of the saddest moments in the sport. It ranks right up there in terms of sadness and impact with Bill Vukovich or Eddie Sachs in Indy Car, Dale Earnhardt in NASCAR or Ayrton Senna in Formula One. None of those events, however, caused entire portions of the sport to grind to a halt while insolent children threw floor fits centered mainly around the types of tracks on which they do not like racing. Instead of just mourning the loss of a great driver then moving forward (which is the very thing Dan Wheldon would have wanted) they have turned the event into a tawdry freak show to advance a flawed agenda that decries ‘pack racing’ and all 1.5 mile ovals. This is extreme to a point where Indy Car is seriously considering jettisoning the second largest event on the calendar! Never mind Jeff Krosnoff died almost exactly the same way Wheldon did only on a street circuit. Where was the outrage and indignation then?

Guess what? ‘Pack racing’ and 1.5 mile ovals were not ‘problems’ before February 2008, although that never stopped cart refugees from sticking their noses in and bitching from the outside. We got our first clue of their ineptitude in April, 2001, when in an attempt to prove their superiority over Indy Car they shot another of their appendages off in a colossal display of stupidity at Texas. Given the way many of the same participants raced there is it any wonder the Vegas accident occurred in the first place? Again, racing on those types of tracks was never a problem until they showed up.

Here are the kind of drivers Indy Car needs: Davey Hamilton. He was the iron man of the old IRL, competing in every race until his Texas accident. Davey did not spend his entire recovery pissing and moaning about 1.5 mile ovals, perceived danger or ‘pack racing.’ He spent an inordinately high amount of time pushing his recovery to an extreme level, then willingly gave up all insurance funding and coverage solely to get back into a race car and race again at that very track! THAT is the kind of driver Indy Car needs in every car. Not road racing pretty boys who get the best opportunities, teams and equipment but still do little more than whine, bitch and complain, even when they win.

Sadly, I am likely talking to a wall. Current Indy Car leadership proves over and over they simply do not care what fans want. They decide what fans are going to get, usually after extreme influence by those who either joined the series because there was no other choice in February, 2008 or those who saw the writing on the wall and joined before their own series failed again. Even after obvious attempts to turn back the clock to 1995, they STILL bitch. Current targets include the Dallara, air scoops, IMS, Tony George (why…I do not know, other than needless grudges they obviously never let go of), anyone who ever worked for Tony George, any oval except flat one mile ovals, and on and on and on.

My only New Year wish is that Indy Car gets the benevolent dictator leadership it deserves, although with each passing day that seems less likely. Many important positions get filled by former cart employees, which is roughly akin to operating a school for ten year old boys then hiring Jerry Sandusky, Michael Jackson and Bernie Fine to run it. Between the dysfunctional politics of IMS on one side and the presence of self-interested mutineers on the other, Randy Bernard has the most difficult job in the sport, and thus far has made no real progress. He needs to take more of a Big Bill France approach in dealing with entities in the series in 2012.

If I were in charge I would simply throw most of those who slithered back in or slightly before February, 2008 out and take my chances going forward. The odds of long term success would certainly improve.

December 7, 2011

Indy Car Loose; About To Hit The Wall?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:48 am

The latest piece of Indy Car propaganda being disseminated in the popular press is talk of a 2012 Indy Car schedule that consists of just 14 events heavy on festivals o’ speed and with only three ovals. Even more incredibly is a whacko notion that Texas will not be a part of the schedule.

If that gets by Randy Bernard then he has failed miserably.

An Indy Car schedule without highly touted balance and without Texas is an utterly and completely insane notion. It is not acceptable. If they actually go down that road then the end of the story is easy to tell. As a lifelong fan I would prefer not having to start over again.

Indy Car seems fearful to control its own destiny. I understand supposed edicts not to spend any more money but why would they have to? Why should they rely on a business model that has failed miserably most every time it has been attempted? It is not possible to build a bunch of Long Beach events. They seem hellbent on once again trying this errant strategy that has failed multiple times anyway. How many times has Belle Isle alone failed? And they are trying it again? That is foolish.

Why would they put themselves in a position in which they get paid but leave a trail of lawsuits, stench, screwed municipalities and burned bridges? That is a proven recipe for failure.

I am tired of excuses. I want to see Indy Car, Randy Bernard in particular, use

Randy Bernard Gets Dragged Into Another Owner Meeting

the talent base he has supposedly built to create the balanced schedule he envisions. They need to be selling their own event sponsorships, reinventing oval events and creating buzz without reliance on events that assault the tradition of the sport.

Indy Car is about to shut out the last remaining group of fans they have not already alienated. It is not too much to ask that these people use their brains, respect history and build a future the right way. A 50/50 balance of ovals to non-ovals is already a huge compromise. They need to make it work. 14 events with only 3 ovals is not going to get it done and will most certainly fail. If the road racing pretty boys who now control the puppet strings don’t want any 1.5 milers they can easily be replaced by real racers. Their disruptive nonsense got really old a long time ago. Enough! Indy Car needs to go on the offensive for once.

December 2, 2011

Farewell To Indy Car’s Newman-Haas Racing Team

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:07 pm

Newman-Haas Racing announced yesterday they were pulling the plug on their 2012 effort and exiting business. That is hardly surprising as Paul Newman is deceased and Carl Haas is getting up there in terms of years. The primary problem is that Newman-Haas has some darned fine folks working in their organization. Come the end of December they are on their own. The rich legacy of NHR in cart aside, the people who currently make up that team did a whole lot with very little in 2011. Oriol Servia showed why he is still a top notch driver and they also made a star out of James Hinchcliffe.

Is this a bad thing for Indy Car? Probably not long term. Great teams come and great teams go. It happens over time and always has. The promise of new teams means great people who made NHR could end up on newly formed or existing potentially great teams. At least that is the hope. Newman-Haas always seemed to be one of those ‘unified’ teams with a chip on their shoulder about the past. Some on the team have used defiant, contrary language since they moved over. They even still tout themselves as on of cart’s most winning teams. In that regard it is probably good there won’t be a Newman-Haas Racing, but bad if they are not replaced by an even better team with none of that type of baggage.

What is most important is hoping the best of that team stay in the series and make teams they end up working for better. Oriol Servia and James Hinchcliffe are certainly worthy of quality rides in the series. What seems appropriate is thanks to Newman-Haas Racing for years of exciting competition and colorful, talented drivers in the cockpits supported by equally talented team members, especially in their glory days when cart was relevant.

The folks in my group of racing fans hopes for the very best with regard to those on the Newman-Haas team.

December 1, 2011

Credit Where Credit Is Due: Indy Car’s Angstadt and Barnhart

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:28 am

In the wake of shakeups at Indy Car, it is appropriate at this juncture to offer thanks to both Brian Barnhart and Terry Angstadt for things about which they have never been given enough credit.

Angstadt, for example, secured quality long term sponsorship in Indy Car. The IZOD title sponsorship is a great example. That type of funding and support has been hard to come by over the past few years, but he made it happen and it has moved the series forward.

My only wish is that he would have placed as much emphasis on the cultivation and growth of oval racing as far flung money grabs from temporary circuit festivals. China is August is good from a money and international growth standpoint, but it messed up the ‘prime time’ of the racing season domestically.

That said, he moved the needle for the series, and that effort is appreciated.

Barnhart will hopefully stick around in the series in his redefined role. In his old capacity in race control he became a magnet for the hysterical screeching of some really stupid people. That screeching always gave me a sense of dismay that such people are supposedly racing fans. Most of those offering blind criticism obviously had ulterior motives, but that kind of nonsense has been polluting the sport since 1996. Barnhart’s links to the IRL period would never have been forgotten by some of the most grotesquely ignorant.

Sure he made mistakes. Those in that role always do. It is perhaps the most difficult, thankless job in the paddock. It may have even sent Al, Jr. fleeing back to the relative comfort of the bottle. Barnhart’s longevity is a rarity, and the overall job he did was better than the way the critics position it.

Personally I did not shriek with outrage over either Loudon or Baltimore. Both seemed to be honest mistakes borne of reliance on bad source data. I also think the ‘ding dong the witch is dead’ dancing being done by the usual idiots (led by Robin Miller) is a blight to sport. My biggest problem with Race Control, believe it or not, had to do with the micromanagement of the competition that began after the road racers began re-occupying the sport. The most glaring specific example is the way the quality racing at Richmond was needlessly destroyed. That must see venue always provided excitement until it was turned into a single file parade for a couple of years prior to its demise.

Now that the page has been turned it is time to offer thanks to two individuals who contributed a lot of their time, effort (and hair) for the evolution of the sport. 

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