My most sincere apologies in advance, but a topic is about to be broached that is difficult to simply accept as we are being asked to do. I am on record as applauding the efforts of Mark Miles and Doug Boles to think outside the box. The problem is not that (although they are very far away from the box). It is a collective lack of common sense on a rampant scale, failure to ever acknowledge the obvious, and all combined with a level of corporate hubris whose arrogance matches cart at the height of their glory. It makes my skin crawl.
I also question the wisdom of unloading millions of dollars of Hulman bucks in exchange for a bound ream of well written paper from BCG when the same millions could have been spent more wisely re-transforming IMS into the showplace it needs to be instead of bean counting it all the way back to 1945. The museum parking lot probably could have been paved. Maybe a few restroom plumbing issues resolved. But no. Hire a company whose expertise is guidance for companies that specialize in biopharmaceuticals, energy, finance, health care, insurance, medical, heavy metals, public sector, technology and a host of other areas unrelated to motor racing. Oh well. What’s a few million among cronies? Note to self: Set the DVR for the upcoming season of ‘House of Lies’ on Showtime.
It is not difficult to assume a company like that might have recommended leveraging the facility for additional uses, and a road race at the end of the season obviously made sense to them. Leave it to leadership to stand such a recommendation on its head. IMS indicates the month of May outside Carb Day and Race Day falls below expectation in terms of attendance. Miles, Boles and crew are positioning the road race as a way to ‘kick start’ the month of May and attract more fans to attend qualifying and race days. They are also fond of pointing out that Carl Fisher envisioned a road course inside the oval (never mind the oval Fisher envisioned was 3 miles around and the road course resembled a shoe string flopped inside it). They conveniently forget to also point out the reason the one big race ended up at 500 miles around Memorial Day is because Fisher concluded there were far too many other events watering each other down throughout the summer.
While it is easy to applaud a notion of thinking differently it is equally easy to slap your forehead in utter disbelief as common sense and even minimal ability to reason based on factual information gets dismissed so casually. Expression of the root causes of the issues IMS is trying to solve in any simpler terms is difficult:
-34 cars for 33 spots in the race, which has forced almost comical concocted gimmickry into qualifying rules that have watered down what used to be the most nail biting time of the month for competitors and fans. The concept of ‘bump day’ has become a bad joke.
-All the cars are exactly the same except for paint/decal jobs and numbers (and two spec motors that no one can see or touch anyway), and the first reaction of many casual fans is that they are ugly.
-No speed records are being approached.
Now armed with sense, does anyone still seriously believe this non-oval adventure at IMS is as good idea as Miles and Boles position it? It is the same 34 micromanaged spec cars, only 100 mph slower. How is that going to help anything again? The fact that it will be on local television live on the same national network that has abused and ignored IndyCar for at least a dozen years is also puzzling. National television is good, but would be better with a partner that understands it, cares about it and does a professional job of coverage dissemination across its entire platform.
Road racers have nearly reassumed control of all decisions related to IndyCar, and their group consensus is to again trot out a strategy that has failed twice in the current generation: A series that is at least 70% non-oval. Leading the charge is Derrick Walker, Dan Anderson and others. Walker thinks balance is 33% oval, 33% road course and 33% street courses. In other words, 70% non-oval. Anderson has openly advocated purging ovals for all rungs of the IndyCar ladder. That will be a great way to cultivate an entire farm team of Mike Conways unwilling to race on ovals.
The overall direction Miles and Boles have deluded themselves into believing is the perfect course is a proven failure every single time it has been tried. Mr. Miles and Mr. Boles: Want long term strategy? Here are the keys to future success:
- Put your money where your mouths are with regard to diverse schedule balance. 70% non-oval is not balance. Reinvent and reinvigorate the oval presentation IndyCar ancestors invented and ensure 50% or more of the schedule contains them, including at least one prior to the 500. Continuing excuses of why they do not work and how they get dropped are disingenuous at best.
- In May, encourage participation by more than 50 entrants for 33 spots. Allow them to compete in something other than a Dallara if they choose. Encourage motor branding, but do away with the philosophy of just bolting a crated motor into a car.
- Allow higher speeds to be reached.
- A handful of street races in major cities is fine, but the Ponzi-scheme-like financial hocus pocus that gets engineered begins alienating victim cities almost from the start. That is why the majority of these abominations never see year five.
- Invest in the presentation of races. Showing up with a few trailers, allowing Michael Young to scream into a mic, thinking track management will promote it like it’s NASCAR while IndyCar simply stands around and thinks to themselves about how lucky the track is to have them there is not self-sustaining.
My next birthday will be number 60. For 50 or so of those years a series that executed basic strategies outlined above kept my attention and lots of other folks as well. Applaud Miles and Boles for trying to get the lost generation of millennials re-attached to the sport, but re-executing failed strategies again and hoping for different results? They will need more than luck, and deft skill appears to be missing.