Defender of IndyCar

IndyCar’s Continuing Propensity to Embrace Failed Directions Remains Frustrating

State of the SportIn many ways the sport of IndyCar racing is sort of like the building that stands at 1701 Gent Street in Indianapolis. In the pre-WWII era, the Roger Penske of the 30s and 40s was owner Mike Boyle. His primary driver was Wilbur Shaw. The Indianapolis Star ran a feature story earlier in the week about the state of neglect of that particular historical edifice in the sphere of Indy style racing. Recently, the roof caved in. No one seems to care save for a precious few who are respectful of history but not equipped in the wallet to do anything except mourn.

Tradition TramplerThat story is very sad and something terrible has been allowed to occur. Those of us with hope and optimism hope the Mark Miles-led IndyCar series does not allow its roof to cave in any time soon. Regarding Miles, he says a lot of upbeat things but his definitive actions seem limited to items that historically have been repeatedly proven to be failures:

-IndyCars road racing imbalance. Road racing series have always failed in America. So what does he do? Re-create an oft-chided road course and puts in a points-paying road ‘race’ to ‘invigorate’ May. That approach may work for those in denial of reality and ignorant of the history that got us through the first century successfully. The road racing imbalance is now at 70/30. A proven prescription for failure.

-He proposes changing qualifications to something that involves jumping through even more circus hoops although no specifics have been offered.

I have an idea: Establish a structure that allows for meaningful innovation, reasonable cost of entry, alternatives to crated engines and inclusion of more participants. Trying to create drama with 34 entrants has always been, and will continue to be, a joke. Those trying to manufacture excitement from that look stupid. Stop it already.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs long as Dario Franchitti is going to lament driving cars from the waning days of cart and referring to current IndyCars as ‘not lookers’ in Racer magazine I am going to remain convinced that the active, ongoing attempts to ‘cartisize’ IndyCar by most holdovers from the twice failed entity will result in yet more failure because it always has.

In a discussion about Mark Miles somewhere in the closed playpen that is trackforum many squatting road racing/formula enthusiasts allowed to browbeat there think and position IndyCar as having to be a primary open wheel provider for the rest of the world. Why? It makes no sense. Look at the large number of formula series in Europe and elsewhere.  The more IndyCar gets removed from America the less popular it will become domestically. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

Who says this product must be delivered globally?  Who does it really help?  Why would Americans want to support something they are unable to watch in person, particularly when it is running on the other side of the globe?  I thought that was what F1 was for.

This ‘let’s take over the world’ mindset is rooted in the delusional fantasy which has allowed cart enthusiasts to rewrite history to support their utopian view of something they convinced themselves they had. That kind of mental illness ultimately did it in. Twice.

IndyCar must return to some oval roots and stop jacking around with other countries trying to get one-offs. ALL of them have ALWAYS failed. There are plenty of early year venues at which IndyCar can run domestically. Miles must first establish a dialog then negotiate reasonably. It appears neither of those things has occurred. The best course of action is rooted in history and lies right in front of them. We should all hope the current occupiers eventually choose to employ common sense.

10 replies to “IndyCar’s Continuing Propensity to Embrace Failed Directions Remains Frustrating

  1. What you fail to mention about the 70/30 ratio is the steady decline in attendance at oval races. You note if IndyCar went global, the “American” audience would not watch something they could see in person. The point is they don’t to see it in person even when it is in their own back yards! So what is upper management supposed to do? Continue at these venues with like 10 people in the grandstands, or experiment in parts of the world where people care about OW racing. I repeat fans do not attend oval open wheel races in the U.S. like they used to. What do you not understand about this fact? You lay out a plan of domestic growth here, but people stay home. They don’t go. IndyCar racing has always been about balance. Currently it is not balanced, leaning towards road and street circuits but until people get off their lazy asses and attend oval races why should it change?

    1. Perhaps oval racing fans aren’t interested in watching what is at its core a road racing product? Seriously, the drivers are almost all international road racers. Why would any U.S. audience bother to watch them race, either in person or on television? The prospect of putting more butts in seats is a fool’s errand, anyway. Even the NFL and top college football programs are seeing a decline in the market for tickets. It’s all about the electronic screens, baby. TV cash and revenue sharing will soon be the only way that a racing promoter can stay afloat.

      1. Why can’t “oval racing fans” learn to appreciate road courses as well? I don’t get it. There are some great road courses in the Midwest. That is what makes IndyCar racing so great. It’s diverse schedule offers something for everyone. All ovals all the time is boring (old IRL and NASCAR) and can get so mundane. Throw in a couple road courses, street circuits (maybe Long Beach, and one other) and it makes it so much more interesting IMHO to watch and follow. Going overseas is not going to work. If IndyCar can’t get their act together here, they sure as hell are not going to be able to do it in Europe. There is a great product here with IndyCar, it’s so frustrating as to why it struggles. It needs leadership and savy and the money will come eventually. The need to get their s@$! together and fast!

  2. I put my money where my mouth is. I support and attend several Indycar races every year. I live in the Indianapolis area. I used to go to all the Midwest oval tracks until one by one they went away. Trouble is there aren’t enough fans and supporters like me. Now I have to book flights, hotels and rental cars when I want to go beyond the Midwest since we lost almost every track around here. But it takes a huge financial toll on me.

    I also don’t understand why it’s on Indycar to be the racing provider of the universe. Let other countries create their own series, manufacture chassis and engines, and build or utilize existing tracks. What’s holding them back from doing this?

  3. The problem is many of the best oval tracks are not included in the Indycar series. For example: Chicagoland, Kentucky, Nashville, Michigan, Phoenix.

    1. I was at the last race at Kentucky Speedway and the attendance was embarrassing. I could not believe being relatively close to 3 metropolitan areas, especially Indianapolis,where most diehards are concentrated, that more people did not show up. People don’t go to these races. Kentucky’s most recent NASCAR race wasn’t much better either. I don’t get it? I can’t believe how many complaints I consistently read about where supposed fans want more ovals but then when the day of the race arrives, no one shows up. It’s not that hard to go to a race. You just show up with some money. You can get a great seat, unlimited beer, food and make some friends while you are there but people have somehow forgotten this.

      1. I attended the Kentucky races. Traditionally in August, they held the race in different months the last three years. The second to last year was on Labor Day Sunday which competed against the Riverfest Fireworks which draws north of 100,000 people and is about 30 miles away. The last race was held in October. The Bengals were playing the Bills at the same time just 30 miles away. I thought at the time and still think it was a deliberate attempt to kill off the race. It worked. A lttle more marketing sense would have kept this race going. But that wasn’t the goal, was it?

  4. D, this sentence right here is gold: “Establish a structure that allows for meaningful innovation, reasonable cost of entry, alternatives to crated engines and inclusion of more participants.” If Miles could crack that nut, all the other problems facing the series would become moot (or as the crappies would say, “mute”).

    To your punch list for Miles, I would add: reduce the series to 12 races, until things turn around. This creates promotional demand where there currently is little. Dates would go to the highest bidders. And since each race is currently a money-losing proposition for the teams, fewer races = fewer losses.

    Retrench. Streamline. Lower the cost of entry. Turn a modest profit and get The Sisters of your back. Hire Gordon Kirby as executive consultant to the CEO. (J.K. – only checking to see if you’re paying attention.) By the time this bears fruit, the NBCSN deal will be heading into the negotiation period, and if demand for live sports programming remains nearly as high as it is now, good things will happen — even for a property with six-figure viewership.

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