Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

February 26, 2013

Indianapolis Motor Speedway For Sale and Other Whimsical Fantasy

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 8:58 pm

Insanity 1Another annual just-before-springtime ‘tradition’ has begun unfolding. It is the time when days get longer, weather becomes unpredictable, and blithering idiots slither out of their holes to proclaim the sale of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is imminent.

One of the more recent nutjobs to shriek the claim with all the gusto he can muster in the blogosphere is some guy named Gary Welsh, who pens for some group called ‘Advance Indiana.’ Evidently they are angry that the state of Indiana is providing a glorified loan to IMS to gussy up the joint. This group also seems incapable of comprehending any sort of big picture. They are in the ‘Tony George group is buying it’ camp.

Insanity 3Another blogosphere insane person known as ‘Leoparente’ says NASCAR is on the verge of buying IMS. Other variations of the theme include Bruton Smith, Roger Penske or just about anyone else with money. Depending on the mentally crippled chicken little yelping the claim, estimates of ‘offers’ run anywhere from $10 million to one billion.

Even emotionally retarded cart enthusiasts whose basic evolution stalled a couple of decades ago have gotten into the act with such cockamamie theories as:

-It’s not for sale. It will be auctioned off.

Insanity 2-Kevin Kalkhoven is buying it.

-Mark Cuban is buying it.

-Tony George and some group of investors are buying it.

-Some oil-rich sheik from (insert the name of Middle Eastern nation here) is buying it.

The common themes in all of these wet dream fantasies include:

-The Hulman-George family is destitute because Tony spent all the money.

-Once Mari kicks the bucket the inheritance taxes will kill whatever is left.

Insanity 4-They must be broke – why else would they be nuzzling up to the government teat?

The problem is that anyone who cites things such as ‘well placed sources’ and such never provide any actual facts, just concocted scenarios that defy any sort of logic. It remains sort of easy to understand the hate on a second grade level. No one in the family is particularly adept at public speaking, and many have had off track life (and death) issues. Since Tony Hulman left the planet the propagation of his generational offspring seems littered here and there with a few additional chromosomes. Even though hate can be understood, the incomprehensible stupidity of the most vociferous critics is far more difficult.

Is a sale possible? Sure. Anything is. But if it ever happened it would not conform to the doomsday scenarios or arrangements littering cyberspace. My advice? Try to be racing fans, comprehend positive aspects of what we have, and enjoy the dysfunction that makes our branch of the sport so unique.

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February 25, 2013

Racing Season Off To A Flying Start

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:16 am

The good news for racing fans is that the Daytona 500 generally signifies the beginning of the racing season for everyone. The bad news for many of us is that Indy Cars still have a way to go prior to the start of their season.

The 2012 Indy Car season was an artistic success with the new car providing compelling racing on every type of track it ran. This was desperately needed after the way in which the 2011 season closed. After Dan Wheldon’s death at Las Vegas the usual critics piled on with over-the-top venom, questioning everything from whether this would be the death of Indy Car to running Indy Cars on ovals. One of the most outspoken was the Daytona 500 winner, Jimmie Johnson. His claim was that Indy Car had no business on ovals due to the possibility of cars into the fence in a crash.

NASCAR Nationwide Series: DRIVE4COPD 300Oddly, we heard nary a peep from Johnson after a Nationwide stock car breeched the fence on the front straight Saturday at Daytona, sending enough pieces of a wrecked car THROUGH the shattered fence and high into the seats to send 28 fans to the hospital, injuring two of them critically. It is a small miracle no one got killed. And yet no indignant outrage about high speed oval pack racing borne of restrictor plates from anyone with a mic in their face. At best that seems awfully hypocritical. NASCAR’s top series got a new car this season, and it resulted in a parade-like race. Not sure how well folks will like that long term.

OuchThe attention and concern of everyone was where it should be…with injured fans, but virtually no critical commentary was yelped by the sycophantic broadcasters with NASCAR credentials. Instead we heard how the fence had done its job, how NASCAR leads the way in safety, how they were responsible for the SAFER barrier and all sorts of usual propaganda. Some even took the opportunity to slam Indy Car. Ed Hinton, for example, did that in two different ESPN.com columns, citing open wheel fan deaths of the past while pumping up the Daytona 500, which he says is ‘now renowned as America’s greatest with the decline in prestige of the Indianapolis 500.’ Why is it is has only really ‘declined’ in the perception of columnists predisposed toward slamming it? And why even mention the Indy 500 in a story about Daytona, a race with half the history that basically lifted the format?

NASCAR and Daytona leadership offered a robotic evening press briefing that sounded like it was crapped out by a lawyer, and neither Joie Chitwood of the track or Steve O’Donnell of NASCAR deviated much from the script. There was talk of NASCAR and the track working together to resolve issues. Duh. Both have the same corporate parent so a lot of what was parroted insulted the intelligence of many. The vigilance of lawyers did not waste any time trying to quash amateur video shot by fans that showed the crash, damage and the aftermath, citing copyright issues. Oddly, they don’t seem to care when there is no mayhem. That behavior is normal for, say, the leaders of China…but tawdry for NASCAR. Fortunately (or unfortunately) social media has become so pervasive the contents are easily found. NASCAR also pulled its Hey Look Its a Tarcurrent champion, Brad Keselowski, into the trailer this weekend to basically tell him to stop speaking candidly about various topics and stick to the ‘everything is always great’ script.

Ultimately that Saturday crash may force racing leadership in every series to get busier trying to come up with a better barrier. That is a hard job considering part of the beauty and attraction of the sport is to get up close to action. Personally my group craves the thunderous sound, vibrations, smells and a coating of marbles. Real fans know the possibility they can be injured or worse exists from about any seat. It is an inherently dangerous sport in which the competitors hang it all out for wins. That effort is appreciated.

The Daytona 500 itself was a welcome relief that signifies Spring is near, and other than the grammar deprived broadcasters who spent 85% of their time fawning over Danica Patrick (she won 8th place and, gasp, led 5 laps) the season is underway.

February 15, 2013

Backward Indy Car Steps

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:09 pm

Looking Into ItNow that Randy Bernard is safely off to RFD Land and more ‘traditional’ leadership at IMS is now calling the shots for IndyCar, it is not difficult to notice a lethargic regression into old habits. The latest step backward is a delay in a new car for Indy Lights until 2015. That means the existing cars in that series will be ten years old.

Look for aero kits for Indy Cars to be a no go as well. Fans seem nearly unanimous in wanting innovation for the on track product but the actions that speak louder than the words disregard that sentiment.

Most are optimistic about the opportunity for change with Mark Miles given his experience in sports, business and a track record of success. Because he is in charge of everything Hulman & Company there is a lot on his plate. Public statements thus far seem limited to sound bites indicating he is going to take a closer look at this or that.

The time for just looking at issues passed a long time ago. What is needed is actual action to move the series forward. Not lip flapping.

February 13, 2013

Finally, a Compelling National Enquirer-Type Story in IndyCar

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 5:53 pm

LookAtHerChestLookAtHerChestWonder whether it is a good idea for an average driver to sue an owner over a contract disagreement? That is what is playing out at the moment between Katherine Legge, her lawyers and Jay Penske. This escalated when Dragon Racing terminated Legge without a stated reason on January 18th then hired Sebastian Saavedra to take over the #6 TrueCar entry.

It does seem odd that TrueCar came with Legge as the poster girl for female drivers in a variety of motorsports disciplines. Roger Penske must have eaten some really spicy Mexican food and consumed a few too many Howdy Cowboymargaritas the night Jay was conceived, because although Jay is his direct descendant he has a wild, renegade streak that is uncharacteristic of his father. Jay is very successful in business in his own right and has shown some good things in building his racing team. There have been ups and downs, like two years ago whenever anyone climbed into the cars they found the wall shortly after. That said, Roger is approaching 80 and will not be around forever, and keeping a Penske with the Roger mindset involved in the sport for the next few decades seems imperative. Jay may not be that, but Tim Cindric seems well suited.

Legge even cites the 2012 Nantucket episode in which Jay and his brother were accused of the assault of a couple of meddling ladies who decided to stop and ask them why they were peeing outside in public. As every man knows when you have to go you have to go and it is difficult if not impossible to stop a strong stream mid-pee (particularly after hammering adult beverages for a period of time), and of course when he turned to answer some of the pee splashed her shoes. Guilt or presumed innocence aside, Legge says that set her back in the search for sponsorship with a female slant.

Nice MulletMy concern is not that she has a point, but how is going public going to help? She will never be the next Danica, and Saavedra may actually be an upgrade from a ride buying standpoint. In other words it will be hard enough for her to find a ride even with sponsorship and enthusiasm. And who would hire her if she is litigious? There are less than 25 regular seats in IndyCar. Is she one of the top 25? And although there are ride buyers in IndyCar, is she better than any of them?

It is impossible to determine at this point what might happen with the sponsorship. If TrueCar’s focus is women then Sebastian probably ought to attempt growing a vagina. Or, perhaps he could switch numbers with his new teammate who, for all we know, may already have one. If not, it appears lawyers will have to figure it out.

February 11, 2013

IndyCar Obsessed: Have You Swallowed Your Bitter Pill Today?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:39 pm

Gordon KirbyOne of the more crusty ex-CART employee writers still stuck in a time warped vacuum, Gordon Kirby, unleashed what might have been a really good blog post on his website the other day in which he mined quotes from one of the more successful Indy Car crew chiefs from the past, Jim McGee. Getting to the ‘meat’ of the blog takes a little effort, but is easily captured.

Spec racing is bad. Sealed engine leases are bad. Build-your-own stock blocks is good. Bring back innovation and diversity. Four really good points. Hardly anyone disagrees on most levels with the premise of them. The problem is they are surrounded by twenty five paragraphs of hissy fit. The other twenty four are mostly a pointless re-splash of water long under a bridge in the bitter, negative style used both by ignorant twisty squatters darkly obsessed with IndyCar (and deposed CART employees) and by senile now departed grandparents.

The Sky Is FallingDespite McGee’s valid points, Kirby manages to frame some of Jim’s words and themes to fit his own curmudgeonly talking points.

  • ‘It is sad to see what has happened over the past ten or more years.’
  • ‘IT’S GOING TO CRATER’ aka ‘the sky is falling….the sky is falling’
  • ‘The DW12 is not powerful enough.’
  • ‘The DW12 is ugly’

Take CoverI wonder if he understands how out of step he is with contemporary society? The first sentence decries how ‘frustrated old-timers are with the sad state of IndyCar today.’ Not surprising given that he includes a quote in the header from another old-timer who actually did die. Kirby laments how ratings have dwindled compared to twenty years ago without the vaguest notion that ratings for the vast majority of everything on television has dwindled as well. This ‘end is near’ sign waving continues all the way to last sentences that shriek about the ‘downward spiral’ and lack of effective leadership.

As usual, the commentary is long on bitching but short on practical solutions, other than wet dreams. Once you read through the teeth gnashing the only real point is the same as always with that bunch. We want control instead of allowing the Hulman-Georges to retain control. Like it or not, good luck with that in this century.

February 9, 2013

Gentrification of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway With Public Money

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:47 pm

Grand SiteThe big news this week of the offseason is a decision by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to request state aid for funding modernization improvements at the 104-year-old facility. Long time admirers of the track and its ownership have been proud of the fact that IMS says it has never, ever accepted any sort of public money for anything at IMS. Presumably IMS did not want to become beholden on anyone other than themselves. They even turned down $25 million dollars from the state a few years ago to keep Formula One at the track.

In this time and place, however, things are different. Hell has frozen over. IMS is desperately in need of improvement. This need has become profound since Tony George, the last philosophical link to Tony Hulman, was forced out. Those who succeeded George have allowed the type of quality maintenance that was standard in the past to become an afterthought today. Throughout the facility degeneration is obvious, from a museum parking lot that is falling apart to foot bridges on IMS land that are literally rotting away to now antique scoring and video structures that are relentlessly rusting away.

Add to that a ruling that IMS is woefully deficient in adherence to ADA standards, and they are looking at expenditures in the hundreds of millions. Mandatory improvements must be made, and there is no choice.

Old timers may have problems with this change in philosophy, and it is easy to understand why. How much money are we talking about? Essentially it is a $100 million bond, and IMS is on the hook for $2 million annually. The state contributes $5 million annually, property taxes will not be used, and presumably no new taxes will be assessed.

The SpeedwayThe expenditure is couched in phrases such as ‘Indiana Motorsports Investment District.’ It is actually a smart idea, and hopefully the money will not be limited to inside the tunnels. Three of the four sides around the track contain neighborhoods that have either become ghettos or dilapidated, economically distressed and/or vacant properties. 38th Street near the track is a ghost town, and the once vibrant Lafayette Square Mall is now nothing more than shells of vacant and long departed anchors.  Folks usually do not go there unless they are armed.  One of the last 38th Street holdouts, Honda West, is moving to Fishers once spring rolls around.

Speedway redevelopment is going better than expected, but that sort of gentrification is absolutely essential for miles around the track to make it the showplace envisioned. Justification for such funding is actually very easy. Two years ago the Fiscal Times reported a $336 million economic impact annually for Indiana from the 500 alone. That is greater than either the Daytona 500 or the Super Bowl, according to Strategic Media Worldwide. Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly reported in 2011 that Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 contribute more than $727 million to Indiana’s economy.  Annually IMS contributes north of one billion dollars of economic impact to the state and countless jobs that pay more than the average. The $336 million for the 500 is more than four times the $104 million economic of the Indianapolis Colts, according to statistics from Purdue University. Two Colts stadiums and Conseco were both almost entirely financed using public money, and that is the norm instead of the exception nationwide.

Predictably, howls of protest will be heard from those whose mission in life seems to be portraying the institution that made the entire sport possible as destitute and hypocritical. That will not really change the ignorance, immaturity or outright stupidity that typifies the obsessed, lunatic railing of such gadflies.

It will be interesting watching the metamorphosis of the grand old facility. From a practical standpoint and given attendance challenges, a really nice suggestion might be to work toward accommodation of the average sized racing fan, which is to say make the seats wider and deeper.

Let us hope the money is spent wisely and with the continuous renewal theme that stretched from Tony Hulman to Tony George.

February 1, 2013

A Talent Scout Contribution For IndyCar Teams in 2013

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:18 pm

Esteban GuerrieriThe 2013 IndyCar season is drawing closer. There remain cars without drivers and drivers without cars. The game of musical chairs that gets played around this time of the year every year can be maddening. Usually the problem is sponsorship. Either the owners can’t find enough or the driver does not bring enough. Add to that the artificially limited supply of motors by Honda and Chevrolet and many find themselves in a pickle. Right now Honda is a couple of entrants behind Chevy, so Honda teams may be the best place for someone with funding to buy a ride.

IEsteban2f I were a team owner and I wanted a really good racing driver who has paid dues and gotten better each year, and perhaps even brought a little funding from his home country, my first choice would be Esteban Guerrieri of Argentina. He came close last year to taking the Lights title and won the Freedom 100. He has an ability to remain close, take care of the equipment and seize opportunities on the track when they arise. He can perform on all types of courses. His only problem is that he has been overshadowed the past couple of seasons by drivers who did get opportunities.

If I had decent funding and could advise Esteban, I would have him call on Rahal first. Bobby and crew give such drivers opportunity, and Argentinian money spends as well as any other. My belief is that Graham and Esteban would make great teammates. Coyne might be a good fit as well. If Conquest came back that might be another opportunity. How about becoming a teammate again with Newgarden on Sarah’s team? Even Foyt presents interesting possibilities.

There are a lot of talented drivers walking around with helmets in hand, but Esteban Guerrieri presents some of the best compelling possibilities. If someone hires the guy they can probably expect good things.

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