Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

August 30, 2013

100 Indy 500s at IMS: What Will They Have Done With The Place by May, 2016?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:01 am

IMS at 100The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has passed its 100th birthday and is gearing up for the 100th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in May of 2016. Part of the ramp-up leading to what will no doubt be a grand celebration is a gentrification of not only a large portion of Speedway, Indiana but IMS as well. In addition to money the Hulman-Georges may cough up the track management also has a $100 million loan fund at their disposal from taxpayers in the area. There is a lot they can do.

The Speedway and its management have a web form on which they accept fan feedback, but in typical IMS/IndyCar technical fashion the site is relatively difficult to find (for those without necessary patience it is: http://www.imsproject100.com/index.php/fan-feedback/) and not really fancy. Personally, having contributed, it would be nice to both receive acknowledgement they received the idea and provide an ability to view the ideas of other racing fans that have contributed.

It is easy for those of us who genuinely respect the long history and mystique of the place to espouse a smart, back-to-basics approach not only for enhancement of the plant but the IndyCar product as well. Some of the artist renderings seem to point toward an ill-advised conversion of the most important racing temple on earth into some sort of garish whorehouse with all sorts of diversions to draw in an increasingly ADD-like population and grab their money.

Main GateIMS does not really need ferris wheels, carnival midways or any other form of brand dilution. What does it need? Comfortable places for fans to sit, preferably out of direct sunlight and not completely exposed to the elements. For fans that are mobility challenged, ADA compliance that allows them to get anywhere any able bodied person can. Bathrooms that are not oversized, putrid petri dishes complete with raw sewage leaking from rusted through pipes. A truly world class museum on the scale of the one Barber Motorsports Park built. The ability to buy one drink that costs less than a 12-pack of the same drink in a grocery store particularly now that the irrational, overreaction panic wave over the threat of terrorism has put the kebosh on the fan friendly history of being able to tote large coolers. Fans want to be able to get into the track in time to at least watch Gomer sing, and be able to leave to get home in a reasonable time frame. It would be nice for every yellow shirt to tip their hat instead of screaming or blowing a whistle into someone’s ear. Grass needs to be cut and weeds need to be pulled on a schedule that matches someone with a well maintained yard. Fix the cracks and holes in sidewalks and pavement.  These things combined do not approach $100 million.

Looks pissedBack to basics with the brand means just that. What made the 500 legendary? The notion that IMS was a proving ground for all sorts of cutting edge automotive technologies. That combined with sheer bravery and an inherent desire to go faster than everyone else drew the fans. ‘Little guy’ stories have always been intriguing. Most of that has been lost in a swirl of spec, and even fans on opposite sides of the cultural divide that has plagued IndyCar for nearly forty years tend to agree on a loosened approach to technology. We all know the racing is second to none but that only gets us so far. Spend money to explore where it will lead in the future.

The single most difficult part of spending hundreds of millions is keeping the mystique intact. That place and its spirits speak to folks that enter and it should never be allowed to become ‘just another track.’ Boles and crew need foresight and luck, and they need to channel the spirit of Tony Hulman to do what is right without making him or any of the legendary characters who built the place over the years turn in their graves.

August 27, 2013

IndyCar Post-Sonoma: Let’s Enjoy Some More Needless Controversy and Subversive Behavior

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:39 pm

Bitter old manMike Hull of Target Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the most respected people in the IndyCar paddock and has been for years. His track record of success with multiple drivers speaks for itself. Immediately following the most recent IndyCar event at Sonoma in which Scott Dixon was penalized for sending two Penske crew members airborne while leaving the pits he remained the epitome of cool, collected and professional even on national television.

That all changed Monday. Hull appeared on a local Indianapolis radio show and proved why it is never wise to trust anyone with his lineage. It was bad enough he insinuated Penske crewmembers took a flop to draw a penalty and were acting in a manner he felt was less than above board. I get the gamesmanship. I even get criticism of race officiating. That would occur even if Jesus Christ made a second coming and decided to take over Barfield’s job. Harping and petty sniping from teams will always occur. It is the other subversive nonsense the sport can do without.

Drive throughHull was mentioning that he was getting ‘a ton’ of calls and e-mails from all over the world from people inside and outside of racing that watched what had happened.  That is pretty amazing considering later in the very same interview he also claimed no one ever watches because the series is not popular. Oh yeah, and by the way his answer to the perceived malaise is more street racing. Oh yeah, and by the way sports car racing is going to explode in popularity over the next few years based mostly on OEM support.

Keep in mind this is the leader of a team that chose the exact wrong approach when the IRL was founded, and only slithered back once they understood their preferred series was unsustainable. Hull’s behavior on the radio so closely resembled the behavior of an average bitter squatting crapper that it was palpable. He even whipped out one of their tried and true tactics when he mentioned a former IndyCar team owner, nameless of course, who indicated that based on what happened during the race he is going sports car racing and that he is over it. Face it, if there is such a supposed owner and an official’s call during the race is the reason he won’t race IndyCars in the future then the sport is far better off without him.

Dick moveI would like to hope Mark Miles looks at a far bigger picture than some in the paddock try to paint, but based on his selection so far of entrenched mutineers to guide direction how can anyone be optimistic? If Mark Miles listened to all of the necessary constituents he would have a much broader point of view.

There are better basic approaches. If NBCSN is such a great partner why don’t they feature IndyCar content prominently on their website? It was not until late Monday that anything showed up on the main page. IndyCar has suffered through bastard stepchild status on ESPN for decades now and IndyCar has been completely incapable of inspiring change.

My latest idea to ensure schedule balance and make it work: Mandate, by decree, that there will ALWAYS be an equal number of ovals and non-ovals. The owners can have as many non-ovals as they wish, but there must be an EQUAL number of ovals on the schedule. In other words if owners ensure the number of ovals is cut to, say, Indy and Iowa, then we will only have a four race schedule—they can pick the two non-ovals. If owners want 12 non-oval events, then we must have a 24 race schedule, and 12 will be ovals. Write it into the rule book. If they do not like it they can go sports car racing, which according to Hull, is going to explode in popularity.

Can you imagine how great IndyCar might be if all participants ever decided to row the boat in the same direction?

August 23, 2013

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Is On The Verge Of One Of The Most Ill Advised Decisions In Their Entire 104-Year History

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 7:16 pm

Bend overThe big news this week involves road course testing at IMS for IndyCars in preparation for an act of desperation next May (a bad idea) and a possible ‘winter’ schedule for the IndyCars outside the United States (potentially great idea). We will tackle the winter schedule idea first. Why might it be a potentially great idea when prior attempts by a variety of series have failed? It all depends on how it structured. Derrick Walker’s notion that it would enhance the cash flow of teams that are idled for nearly half the year and thus keep teams busy (and presumably team members employed) all year has merit.

Running races across oceans would also facilitate and enable the shockingly obvious formula one-abee fantasies most of the owners and drivers espouse because probably 100% of the events would be either on road or temporary circuits in areas where that type of racing is actually popular. The notion of a winter championship might also carry potential for renewed interest by racing fans here and abroad.

The big ‘if’ is how it gets funded. Snagging a large corporate backer seems unlikely, and soaking local and regional governments for funding rarely lasts more than a year or two after they figure out they are more often victim than partner. The cost of travel becomes important when dealing with far flung locales. It is quite expensive to move cars, equipment and infrastructure across oceans.

The other question is when would such a schedule take place? In a perfect scheduling world, the IndyCar Series would run a 20-race event schedule domestically.  It would begin BEFORE the Daytona 500 (but after the Super Bowl) and end by Labor Day (completely avoiding the NFL). That is about thirty weeks. That leaves another twenty or so for offshore excursions. Winter weather for three months would be very iffy and warm weather sites would need to be selected. Logistically IndyCar would be lucky to squeeze 8 or 9 foreign races into the schedule given travel, holidays and weather.

Boog HanginWould the benefit outweigh the cost? Would it be profitable for teams? Who pays the freight? Smarter people than I can figure that out.

If the domestic schedule begins prior to Daytona, warm weather venues are absolutely necessary. And there would need to be SIX of them prior to May in Indy. The schedule needs TRUE balance and not Walker’s 67% non-oval imbalance. That means 10 ovals. Big ovals are Indy, Pocono and Fontana. Intermediate ovals would be Texas and either Kentucky or Chicagoland. Small ovals would be Iowa, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Memphis and Rockingham. Of the ten remaining venues five would be natural terrain road courses and five would be temporary circuits: Birmingham, Mid-Ohio, COTA, Watkins Glen, Sonoma, Long Beach, St. Pete, Detroit, Toronto and Baltimore. New IMS TicketTHAT is balance and there are plenty of alternate options for each type of circuit if scheduling or terms become problems.

One the most colossally bad ideas to come down the pike in a while is an idea hatched by complete outsiders with no real cognizance of the history of the 500, respect for its legacy or much less what it actually means today. That idea is an Indy road course race in May using Indy Cars. From a tangible standpoint it dilutes the May main event and probably will not generate much additional revenue. From an intangible standpoint it screws with mystique and slaps karma right across its face, and that seriously tempts fate. The last time something that brazen occurred was 1996 when the ‘stars n’ cars’ loudly hissed about how THEY and THEIR event were what was important that Memorial weekend in Michigan and not what was happening in Indianapolis. And then half the field of these ‘superior’ drivers drove right into the wall on the pace lap and the event was one and done. If history holds true many who are guiding decision making in 2013 retain the same combination of ignorance and arrogance that threatens the sport, and the floundering may continue. My prediction: A road course ‘race’ gets rubber-stamped by the IMS brass within a month and everybody basically says ‘f^(# the past 100 years . . . it’s just another track.’ Wonder when/if they start listening to ALL the fans? Looks like not in the lifetimes of anyone considered an ‘old timer.’ We all know they have to both think and act outside the box, but there are options that make sense and options that defy it. It is not difficult now to predict their course. Like any other real racing fan our only choice is rolling with the flow, but it feels more like biting a pillow considering the money many of us have spent there over the decades.

August 20, 2013

IndyCar: Put Your Money Where Your Mouths Are With Regard to BALANCE

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 6:09 pm

BalanceFor years the leadership of the IndyCar Series, in whatever form it has taken, has been virtually unanimous in proclaiming what the series should be the very best at doing: The fastest drivers racing on the widest, most balanced variety of circuits. That is a worthwhile goal both in terms of marketing, prestige and competition. The problem is getting leadership to put their money where their mouths are. One of the chronic problems with leadership in open wheel for at least the past thirty years is the propensity for meaningless but over-hyped hot air that spouts from their flapping gums whenever they are open.

A class difference that has existed in IndyCar pre-dates even ‘the split.’ We have all heard the stereotypes. You might be an all American oval fan who roots for domestic short trackers. Variations of the theme include a desire for engines in the front and the inclusion of at least one dirt oval. Or you might be a nose-up-in-the-air road racing fan who believes racing against a clock is more important than mixing it up on the track. The stereotypes are almost always unnecessary and the vast majority of folks are somewhere in the middle. Most racing fans like it all although many have a preference of one type of venue over another.

That is why striving for a viable balance is such a noble goal. The problem is execution, and that is being bungled badly. Let us take a look at IndyCar schedule balance over the past ten years:

Balance Boys2003: 0% non-oval

2004: 0% non-oval

2005: 18% non-oval

2006: 21% non-oval

2007: 30% non-oval

2008: 43% non-oval

2New Formula Guy009: 42% non-oval

2010: 53% non-oval

2011: 61% non-oval

2012: 67% non-oval

2013: 70% non-oval

ChampCar cancelled their 2008 schedule and went out of business. IndyCar picked up Long Beach and whatever assets were left. Over the same ten year period let us take a look at their schedule balance:

2003: 85% non-oval

2004: 85% non-oval

2005: 85% non-oval

2006: 93% non-oval

2007: 100% non-oval

2008: Supposed to have been 100% non-oval; out of business.

In the United States statistics conclusively show a direct correlation between the percentage of road racing the chance of failure. Not one big time road racing series has ever been successful long term in the USA. Most recently ChampCar (and CART before it) went out of business. ALMS, loved by purists, allowed itself to be absorbed into the NASCAR umbrella primarily because it was not successful commercially. Many IndyCar critics are obsessed with Nielsen 12+ overnight television estimates. They inevitably cite percentage drops from prior years. Is the increasing imbalance of the IndyCar schedule toward non-ovals and really low ratings merely a coincidence?

Derrick Walker is now in charge of competition at IndyCar. He is also on record as wanting what he refers to as ‘balance.’ The problem with Walker’s idea of balance is that he says that means 33.3% oval, 33.3% temporary circuit and 33.3% natural terrain road course. 67% non-oval is pretty distant from balanced and is pretty much what we have now, not to mention the lowest television ratings in history. Mr. Walker’s notion of ‘balance’ is an exceedingly bad idea.

Dan Anderson is now in charge of all rungs on the IndyCar ladder, and he is also on record as in favor of eliminating all but a handful of ovals for all series on the ladder citing driver preference and experience. Again, really bad idea.

Embrace the balance concept for what it is. A viable chance to position drivers as the very best on multiple types of circuits. The prototype driver would be a Ryan Hunter-Reay, who is someone who is fearless and wins on any type of circuit. A full field of that is what is really necessary, and preferably someone relatable who comes up through the ladder system and not randomly plucked from some obscure formula series in Europe. We can incorporate various other arguments into the conversations; e.g., technical innovation or lack thereof, etc., but history has conclusively shown that when venue balance gets too far skewed toward road racing failure will result. There are very good reasons why NASCAR’s Cup schedule, which runs 36 times during the year, only has two road races on it.

Mark Miles needs to listen to ALL sides, examine history and make a TRULY balanced schedule work. From all indications 2014 remains up around the 70% non-oval mark, and a road course race at IMS will probably kick off the month of May. Hopefully the sport will survive to see 2015.

August 15, 2013

Additional Free Consulting for IMS/IndyCar

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:44 am

Why the Fuck NotHere is an out of the box suggestion for IndyCar: Offer series naming rights, charge a hefty fee and turn management and operation of the entire series over to the sponsoring entity. The ideal choice: Red Bull. They know how to effectively manage and market action sports entities. They have had a lot of practice and have perfected it.

Think about it. It’s the best of both worlds. IMS still owns it but people who know what they are doing actually run it. All that would be needed is a configuration framework:

-20 annual events, minimum.

-A strict 50/50 balance of oval to non-oval. Ideal schedule would contain 10 ovals (3-4 2+ miles, 3-4 small ovals of 1 mile or less, and intermediates), 5 natural terrain road courses and 5 temporary circuits.

-A schedule that never allows 14 days to pass between events except in May.

-A schedule that never conflicts with football season and avoids head to head with NASCAR.

-Open the specs a little more.

-Work toward higher speeds.

-Make the ladder work and enforce the same 50/50 venue balance despite Dan Anderson’s proclamation that he’s moving away from ovals. That is not acceptable.

Youthful Brainwashed IdiotCan you imagine how great things might be if the series was marketed coherently? The sport has enough to overcome and is never helped when clueless youth such as Alexander Rossi begin spouting off on topics about which they are completely ignorant. In an interview on some F1 blog this week he proclaimed not to be interested in IndyCar because of the ovals. Fine. Lots of good twisty pilots are too afraid of ovals to drive on them. Not everyone can be a complete racing driver. Rossi says if IndyCar was roads and streets only he might consider it. No thanks. Stick to F1. It needs a good American driver. Scott Speed turned out not to be any sort of savior after all.

Here is where I began laughing out loud: “Rossi admitted ‘I haven’t followed [IndyCar] that much since it split.’ Oh? Does that mean you followed it religiously before your FOURTH birthday when you were 1, 2 and 3? LOL.

“For me in the late nineties growing up I watched Champ Car and for me that was the best championship that there was, for me it was even better than F1. But when they split it ruined it and they lost a lot of fans and people got confused and then it just kind of slid.” Jesus H. Christ on a pony. In the late nineties you were under TEN years old, and the ‘split’ happened when you were FOUR. That kind of disingenuous horseshit drives me nuts. Wonder what bitter older person he copied that line of crap from?

Unfortunately, that type of nonsense is part of the transformation of IndyCar into something that has NEVER been successful. The method I have suggested of stemming this dangerous tide is one way to make it work.

August 13, 2013

Needed For Long Term IndyCar Fans: A Good Place to Hang Out!

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 7:11 pm

You know what might be really enjoyable for racing fans from time to time? A website that features primarily IndyCar/open wheel news and viewpoints along with a message forum that is moderated coherently with even tempered intelligence by actual adults. There are a smattering of small such niche sites, blogs and the like (and plenty that cater only to a niche; e.g., NASCAR, F-1, etc.), but nothing IndyCar-centric that is focused and truly mainstream. If some aspiring young (or old) webmaster would ever decide to give it a serious go he/she would have my full support, along with that of several long term IndyCar enthusiasts. It might even enhance the relative popularity of the sport.

TF moderationSome might ask ‘what about TrackForum?’ I suppose they could fit the bill if their management and ownership transformed to something more balanced and professional both in approach and presentation. Unfortunately they blew it some time ago. Collectively they lack the integrity, character and objectivity necessary to pull it off successfully long term. It takes objective patience and courage to deal with people who offer mostly anonymous commentary and/or trolling on the Internet, particularly where IndyCar is concerned. There are some really obsessed nutjobs out there (one look at my own comment section proves that), and in general such anonymity afflicts commentary in all forms regardless of the topic throughout the Internet. Trackforum ran off most of its original contributors and insiders that made it pretty cool in its nascent stages either through banishment or the sheer repulsion of former contributors who simply got frustrated and left. That is a shame. And a waste. It is mostly the result of sub-standard moderation. Management there remains mostly oblivious to being the butt of jokes that result from their actions.

warrior-forum-moderator1It is easy to understand any natural tendency to dismiss such criticism as merely the reaction of some bitter former contributor given the bum’s rush. You might consider objectivity when forming such an opinion. Since that particular site was launched many have spent more time away from it than on it. Racing fans would rather spend free time at tracks with other like-minded racing fans. Since that cannot be done year round the necessity of a quality gathering place on the Internet is obvious. What none of us need is just another ordinary intellectually dishonest site whose moderation is capricious, random and arbitrary. It needs to be run like a true racing melting pot, not some grade school clique that features various cutesy named dungeons to send contributors deemed unworthy. Topic variants that involve the exact same family of racing should never be segregated. Above all, moderation should never be directly affected by menstrual cycles, menopause, mood swings, obsessive compulsive disorder, lunar cycles or any of the other inconsistencies that plague that site almost every day.

This is all probably a pie in the sky notion, but for some enterprising web entrepreneur this could be a great opportunity to fill a hole in the marketplace. In the meantime, we will see you at the track. Sadly, the only one left we have booked this year is Fontana, although Baltimore is tentative and looking more promising by the day.

August 9, 2013

What Happens Next May At The Indy 500

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:51 pm

Jim Carrey and Jeff DanielsOne of the obsessed kids is floating a rumor that IndyCar is pondering having an IndyCar race on the IMS road course early in May. It seems far-fetched so that must mean IMS is actually considering it. I am sure they have already prepared bullet points and twitter doo-hickeys and such to justify it; e.g., it brings back the month of May, etc., and all that outside research by people who have probably never even attended a race at Indy much less anyplace else probably says it’s a swell idea.

If Miles and crew should ever decide to ground themselves in reality and use actual sense they might want to reconsider any such notion. For starters, the entire point of every IndyCar season and indeed the existence of the series is the Indianapolis 500, which has been diluted and gutted enough as it is. Adding a road race with the same cars in the same month seems foolish. It would not increase attendance for the 500. A road race probably would not draw many fans early in the month either. At best it would alienate loyal fans, particularly if they are forced to pay more for ill-advised stunts.

Great Little OvalFor the past few years one of the most horrible parts of IndyCar’s schedule is not having an oval race before the 500 and/or having a temporary circuit race well outside the country. Is it not important to try and build momentum into May? Why not schedule an oval race before Indy? Phoenix would be ideal. Perhaps even Kentucky. If I was running the show I would run an early May race outside Memphis on the underutilized track down there and tie it in somehow with Memphis in May and a lead-in to the 500. One entertainment venue that, unlike auto racing, is enjoying tremendous growth is the BBQ cook-off. Memphis has most of May locked up with their legendary party, but not all of it. IMS could guarantee a multi-day party and lots of attendance with a complementary event partner. That is a better idea than running IndyCars on the road course in May.

Whenever the 2014 schedule is announced I hope that Miles and crew will have come to their senses.

August 8, 2013

Attention Walker, Miles, Anderson, et al…Put The IndyCar Focus On What Is REALLY Important

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:48 am

Old Formula GuyMuch of the rhetoric emanating from the mouths of those charged with the future of IndyCar is increasingly disturbing, defies sense and foolishly dismisses the reality of history. Derrick Walker is on record as saying balance is 1/3 ovals, 1/3 street circuits and 1/3 road courses. Uh, no. That is not balance. That is 67% non-oval. Insist on 50% oval and 50% non-oval.

Dan Anderson, now the guy in charge of the ENTIRE IndyCar ladder, openly advocates purging ovals as expressed in an interview on Gordon Kirby’s website: “We’re going to do less ovals,” he said. “I think that the model that requires Indy Lights to do five, six or seven oval races a year is just not workable. It defeats the population in the series because too many drivers from foreign countries don’t understand ovals or are scared of them. Oval racing is exciting but there’s a high cost in crash damage and everything else.  We definitely need to train drivers on ovals. My F2000 series does one oval race. My Pro Mazda series New Formula Guydoes two oval races and my Indy Lights series will do three oval races. That’s the progression that I think we need to do. In the years to come if we see ourselves healthy and we can expand beyond that without hurting the car counts, we’ll do that. “ I like Dan and the way he operates, but American racing IS oval racing. ‘Training drivers’ and ‘crash damage’ are weak excuses for aberrant behavior by self-serving team owners that have been trying unsuccessfully for forty years turn IndyCar into a domestic version of Formula 1.

The only real proof anyone needs to make a case for ovals is to look at NASCAR’s recent deals. Despite attendance that is slipping and television ratings that are down, NBC Sports just opened the bank for NASCAR rights and their 30+ ovals, two road courses and no street circuits. I strongly suggest the Formula One-abees again wresting control of IndyCar take a strong, objective look at the history and demise of every big time road racing series in the country.

It is high time to concoct the strongest possible lineup that mixes every type of venue over twenty events spread from right after the Super Bowl to the beginning of football season. Each one can be made to work with coherent terms, promotion and execution. In no particular order, here are the best choices:

Ten Ovals:

(Big ovals)

  • IndyThis is an OVAL
  • Pocono
  • Fontana

(Mid-sized ovals)

  • Texas

(Small ovals)

  • Iowa
  • Milwaukee
  • Phoenix
  • Richmond
  • Memphis
  • Rockingham (Hillenburg’s track)

Ten Non-Ovals (5 natural terrain; 5 temporaries):

  • Birmingham
  • Mid-Ohio
  • COTA
  • Watkins Glen
  • Sonoma
  • Long Beach
  • St. Pete
  • Detroit
  • Toronto
  • Baltimore

SWave ithould one or more of those twenty choices be deemed unworkable, there are PLENTY of backup oval options:

  • Homestead
  • Michigan
  • Kentucky
  • Gateway
  • Chicagoland
  • Get Pikes Peak reopened for real racing, install SAFER and go racing.
  • Charlotte
  • Kansas
  • Loudon
  • Nashville

Need alternate non-ovals? There are some choices:

  • Road America
  • Portland
  • Miller in Utah
  • Houston
  • Something in Canada

Ovals must be the primary basis for the series. If the mostly foreign twisty specialists are more like Mike Conway than Ed Carpenter, find more Ed Carpenters. It is not difficult if you look. If you want, open ten races to the formula bunch and award its own championship. Run a field of Ed Carpenters on ovals and award a championship for that. One thing is for certain: Over emphasis on non-ovals is pointless and and has no meaningful future. Do what is right for a change.

August 6, 2013

IndyCar’s Best Friend

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:09 pm

Eddie and HinchThe single and most consistent best friend IndyCar has in the track management business is Eddie Gossage. That may pain some to acknowledge, but those who fail to do so seem willfully stupid. He is a lifelong Indy racing fan and although he makes his living primarily from NASCAR-related activity those who check his roots quickly learn about his past.

Eddie was there from the earliest days of the IRL when he routinely delivered more than 85,000 fans twice a year to watch great racing. He was there in 2001 when most participants in IndyCar today screwed him on race day morning after realizing they had not done due diligence. He has been there ever since delivering tens of thousands ever year despite incessant whining over 1.5-mile D-shaped ovals primarily by road racing enthusiasts, fees that are not aligned for mutual benefit and mostly unnecessary conflicts with various IndyCar management personnel.

NASCAR Sprint Media TourMany folks within IndyCar and a good number of fans dismiss Eddie as a grandstanding, malcontented blowhard looking for discounted rates and making his case publicly. He is, after all, a maestro of showmanship and promotion, in many cases self-promotion. Plus, he works for a throwback guy in his 80s who chases skirts, rankles feathers and can take or leave IndyCar. That rubs many the wrong way and is understandable. The problem is Indy Car leadership has always approached business as if their fecal matter had no odor and that it is acceptable to drop a pile anywhere and not clean it up themselves.

IndyCar is no longer in a position to act like that and has not been for many years. That is why IndyCar having enthusiastic dialog with the Circuit of the Americas folks in Austin is curious, particularly since they officially have a street festival o’ speed scheduled for Houston as they try to resurrect yet another failed cart venture again. Have they reached out to Eddie for his thoughts? Texas is a big state and can definitely support three events but would it not be prudent to work with Eddie to get a concept buy-in? And if he can prove two other races dilute his event is some type of adjustment not in order?

It is difficult to predict how this latest soap opera will conclude. If that magnificent oval outside Ft. Worth and the best promoter in the business are casualties, particularly over something like COTA, then IndyCar leadership deserves to lose their jobs. Losing Texas and the active involvement of Eddie Gossage is simply not acceptable. Ever.

August 1, 2013

IndyCar: Please Learn From History When Determining Direction

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:57 am

Those of us who are actual racing fans have come to expect hysterical shrieking and teeth gnashing from mostly obsessed critics of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar racing in general. Most of the criticism remains irrational and obtuse. A good deal of it is based on the immaturity of road racing enthusiasts who have spent the better part of twenty years refusing to evolve and blaming Tony George for any real or perceived problem in any facet of the sport.

When looking at IndyCar objectively it is not difficult to see that attendance and television ratings are declining. IndyCar is not alone in this area, but if the allegiance of the loudest squawkers is motor racing it is a big deal. The question for most is how it gets ‘fixed.’

Gone AND ForgottenThe easiest way to get a clue is to isolate the single most significant common denominator with regard to failure: Road racing. Think about it. Not one big time road racing series has ever made it over the long haul in the United States. They have come, gone, merged or simply ceased to exist and usually in ignominious fashion. IndyCar versions of road racing, specifically cart and champcar, failed twice. Can-Am? Gone. ALMS? Merged. IndyCar’s glory days have always been those that featured oval racing.

NASCAR has the right idea. A schedule that is top-heavy with ovals with a handful of road courses (that usually feature ringers or ex-open wheelers in the top three) thrown in. Most people yelp the loudest about IndyCar’s decline over the past ten years. What happened within the past ten years? cart/champcar teams slithered back after their second failure and asset sale, and non-oval racing that began in St. Pete in 2005.

Curb JumperIn 2013 the schedule is predominately non-oval racing and popularity is waning. History proves conclusively there is a direct correlation. Oh sure folks can cite spec racing, un-relatable personalities and the like and many have a point.

Here is some helpful advice for Miles and crew:

-Having a schedule that starts in February and ends before football season is a spectacular idea. Make this idea better by never allowing more than one empty weekend in a row. Make this idea best by increasing the percentage of oval racing and decreasing the amount of non-oval racing. A 70/30 split is a great way to begin. Make the foreign money grab adventures bookends on either side.

-Ship the next malcontent who whines about his/her preference toward road racing off to Europe permanently and keep doing that until they and their high and mighty attitudes are all finally purged. There are plenty of qualified racers already here ready and willing to take their places.

-IndyCar was built on ovals and enjoyed its biggest successes on them. The drivers were relatable and brave. Let’s give that philosophy a serious renewed shot for a change (this also assumes IndyCar will finally learn how to adequately promote itself, which as history also shows is a huge caveat).

Real RacingIt is time to quite screwing around and finally deal with the real issues. That said, a taste of road racing on quality courses makes IndyCar special. Long Beach and Barber are two great examples. I would say they need to add COTA outside Austin, but Eddie Gossage is way more important in the grand scheme.

The number of these twisty adventures must be capped, however, to recapture fans. Formula 1 does that niche a lot better and is less popular than IndyCar in this country. Not one major road racing series has ever made it over the long haul in the USA. Not ever. Let’s learn from history.

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