Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

April 24, 2014

IndyCar Back in Action Down South

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:14 pm

 

BarberThis week we prepare for what is arguably the most scenic venue on the IndyCar calendar at Barber Motorsports Park outside Birmingham (and Leeds). Every year I advise my friends they need to visit at least once. The way George Barber converted what was essentially a strip mine into a venue often referred to as the ‘Augusta of motor sports’ is remarkable. In addition to the circuit there are numerous great vantage points, all accessible by shuttle carts that run continuously. There are also unique works of art that dot the facility, often in unusual places.

Musuem QualityNo trip to Barber is complete without a trip to the museum. If you are into all things, racing and otherwise, on two or four (or more) wheels it is must see. But allow a lot of time. There is a lot to see, particularly if they let you behind the secret doors. The museum at IMS is still my favorite for  variety of reasons, but if IMS ever brought it up to the quality of the facility at Barber jaws would drop.

Barber usually provides a quality of racing that is often not expected given the track was built for motorcycles. The people are friendly and fans who attend always have a good time.

Meantime back in Indy IMS and Kroger have a joint promotion in which two tickets to the big race are yours provided you spend $150 in groceries this week. Naturally the doomsayers latched onto this promotion as an example of the impending demise of the Krogeringsport and the event that has always given it legitimacy. Also predictably the more brain challenged still stuck in a time warp two decades ago stupidly ‘blame’ Tony George. Still others ask why they spent money to buy tickets when they can get them ‘free.’

It is beyond my ability to grasp the abject stupidity that plagues many of these folks. First, this is nothing new. Tickets have been bought in blocks for decades and given away in one form or another every year. Second, the tickets people receive will be among the crappiest seats in the joint. Seats that are high value get renewed every year and have already been sold. I actually like the idea because it gives casual folks who may have chosen not to spend money in the past the opportunity to get rewarded for spending money on a necessity.

Here’s hoping May weather in Indy cooperates every day the track is open.

 

April 16, 2014

IndyCar Fans: The Month of May Will Bring Interesting Fun!

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:17 pm

PhelpsThe month of May at Indy this month will not only feature a plethora of fundamental changes to almost everything, but will also be graced by the divine presence of folks who are a credit to religion in general (LOL). That is right, we are talking about the Westboro Baptist ‘Church,’ which is essentially what is left of members of the dysfunctional Phelps family with the least amount of brains, sans Fred who not only got excommunicated but was toe-tagged and boxed for shipping to the hereafter recently.

Jimmy and PartnerTheir beef? Jim Nabors prefers the company of men and, if fact, married one last year, it is his swan song year for BHAII, and lots of people consume alcohol. Oh, and there are a wide variety of military folks represented around Memorial Day. Many have begun freaking out about the presence of the Phelps clan. Why? Every Indianapolis 500 my party ever attended has included intrusive religious nutjobs carrying signs, crosses, pamphlets and usually shouting this or that about finding the Lord, repentance, avoidance of eternal damnation and/or how judgment day is nigh. Evidently this year homophobia will be added.

NutjobsAt worst such people are merely pains in the ass that get in the way of race fans trying to enter the facility. I am certain that most mean well but their presence, although their God and constitution-given right, remains hideously inappropriate given the setting. After all no one I know has ever shown up at church to promote the Indianapolis 500, although given attendance and ratings challenges that might not be a bad idea. Certainly pastors would not appreciate it, however.

The Westboro Baptist ‘Church,’ however, threatens to take the notion of nonsense positioned as religion to new levels. I am counting on fellow race attendees to make them feel very welcome. Speaking for myself I will not pay them a second thought, will not engage them and will try and avoid the pollutive nonsense they spout. Before my maturation process evolved to a relatively adult state my racing group used to engage in mean spirited hijinks with intrusive cross carriers, including telling the most vulgar, sacrilegious Jesus-on-the-cross jokes possible just to make them go away chagrined, and because us mischievous youths were also consuming beer by the gallon the occasional urinating on their sandals or general surroundings was also known to Cheersoccur. Thank goodness my advanced age has resulted in far less drinking, much more maturity and a well-defined live and let live attitude that allows abundant tolerance for those who go out of their way to troll at race tracks.

It is not just religious nuts you have to be careful to avoid these days. Because the west side of Indianapolis has devolved into ghetto on almost three sides these days many of the youthful urban residents have begun trying to run one scam or another past the average casual racing fan in increasing numbers.

None of that will deter my enjoyment of any part of the month. Frankly my biggest worry is whether IMS will have resolved the PR disaster they inflicted on themselves with security fear-driven lunacy related to track entry. Time will tell, and time is drawing near!

April 15, 2014

IndyCar and the Month of May: Almost Here

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:41 pm

MikeyThe past weekend of IndyCar racing was enjoyable, as usual. The weather in southern California was outstanding, the crowds turned out and the 40th anniversary of the Long Beach Grand Prix did not disappoint. Despite misgivings about Mike Conway, the talented road racer who has openly eschewed oval racing; i.e., a driver who refuses to be diverse in a series that positions itself as such, his win for Ed Carpenter’s team was pretty compelling. Ed may turn out to be a decent owner over time as well. Between this win and that of Takuma Sato and Foyt Racing last year the fact that Long Beach is just a street race is less important. That event is widely thought of as the second most important event on the IndyCar calendar, although us traditionalists could make great arguments for Texas.

It also became apparent, especially after re-watching the event on television, that Barfield’s officiating crew may employ two sets of rules. One for average schmos and another for Penske, Ganassi and Andretti. Scott Dixon, Will Power and Ryan Punter-Reay again solidified their teacher’s pet status. Despite that weirdness the best stories seemed to come from the rear forward. There are some darned fine young drivers in this series.

SIncompetentRefereepeaking of rules that result in stunned looks, the brain trust at IMS released final details of the glorified shell game that qualifications have become. The good news is it still takes four laps of balls out, on the edge speed to start up front. The bad news is that now you will need an instruction manual to figure it out. These steps are being taken because for decades crowds for practice and qualifying have been dwindling.

There is one reason and one reason only for making such changes. The members of the field of 33 have become pre-ordained. If 35 entries is all you have the notion of ‘bumping’ is just nostalgic. This is the direct result of micromanaged spec racing and artificial availability of engines and parts. On the one and only qualification weekend, Sunday becomes Pole Day and Saturday features a lot of hocus pocus to fill the field. Just not in the final order. Sound convoluted? It is.

The 500It really drives traditionalists nuts and they may lose a few more as a result of all the tinkering. As a traditionalist with decades of support and attendance I can say with certainty that I will be there every day the track is open supporting the sport. IndyCar/IMS’s problem is not really the risk of losing the older demos, it is the risk of not attracting the younger ones. Most critics have long espoused dramatic action to reenergize the popularity of the sport and IMS/IndyCar has responded. Will it work? Only time will tell. If the weather is bad that weekend we will see a potential disaster in the making. Still, IMS has built in multiple new events during the month and has attempted to monetize almost everything. The only way any of it really works is if the two generations following mine rekindle an interest in actually going to the track. So despite the fact that I despise the new rules and the fact that 33 starters are determined will before they open the gates you have to root for what may work, and I am. IMS is either going to realize some increase in business or fall flat on their faces.

Hopefully IMS will realize they have to go even further. To my way of thinking the biggest potential detriment to large attendance on race day are the memories of those who stood on hot pavement for hours and how thoroughly and completely IMS totally screwed up ingress to the facility. Human nature being what it is these days many may be done jumping through those hoops permanently. Selfishly that is good for those of us who would not miss a race day for almost any reason, but I find myself rooting for IMS and IndyCar despite their long and storied history of routinely blowing off their own appendages for no apparent reason.

April 11, 2014

RIP Panther Racing – A Loss for IndyCar

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:29 am

PantherRacingLogoPlease allow me to use this space to thank the folks who have comprised Panther Racing over the years for sixteen years of great entertainment. Although John Barnes has been the face of the organization for many years this really is not about him. It is also about those who have worked behind the scenes and those who have gotten behind the wheel. The list of those people remains impressive.

Panther achieved many highs and suffered through as many lows during their run. That team made Sam Hornish a star. He won eleven times in their employ. Scott Goodyear made them legitimate early and even fan favorite Tomas Scheckter saw victory lane. Most fans, whether they admit it or not, pulled for Panther every year to win Indy, the one race the organization coveted more than any other. They came as close as you can four times in a row. When J.R. Hildebrand smacked the wall on the last turn of the last lap the pain that team was felt across the entire fan base, and yet the entire team handled the situation with JBgrace and dignity.

Meanwhile the lunatic fringe of IndyCar remains busy taking cheap shots at John Barnes without any meaningful awareness of the big picture.  The notion that smaller teams can compete is quaint and every so often it happens. Panther used to a lot. These days an occasional Coyne or Foyt win is cause for celebration. When Ed Carpenter wins it is a victory for the little guy. When one of these teams exits the paddock and no new team replaces them no celebration is warranted. Only sadness about the circumstances.

Thanks again to everyone who has ever been associated with Panther Racing. You provided immense thrills and made most real fans proud to support the series.

April 1, 2014

IndyCar ITEs: Nonsense Spouters Extraordinaire

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:46 pm

TKIt started early this year. Various self-appointed Internet television executives that squat on IndyCar-centric sites all day have nearly unanimously pronounced the 0.6 12+ overnight for IndyCar’s St. Pete event on ABC a certain sign of failure, and in many of their challenged noggins utter doom for IndyCar. Naturally none of those opining on 12+ overnight estimates know the first thing about what the actual numbers really mean or how they translate into revenue. They just know that the 1.1 12+ overnight estimate on ABC from two seasons ago is higher, therefore we have concrete evidence of failure. It remains a hearty source of amusement watching most blather in so utterly clueless ways.

Ratings IndyCar gets are closer to the norm for sports on television. As usual, mainstream stick and ball sports garner much higher 12+ overnight estimates just as they always have. In reality a 0.6 directly opposite NASCAR and Elite Eight college basketball is relatively good.

Do lower numbers guarantee failure? No. Last year the following MLB teams and their host networks showed pronounced declines:

-New York Yankees: DOWN 32.4%

-Florida Marlins: DOWN 35.1%

-Philadelphia Phillies: DOWN 39.4%

-Chicago White Sox: DOWN 45.2%

-Houston Astros: DOWN 59.6%

TakuAre any of these ball clubs in danger of failing? No. In any given week the WNBA averaged around 230,000 viewers on network. MLS averaged around 220,000. On NBCSN, an IndyCar partner network, Premier League Soccer and the millions that cost generates about 110,000 viewers per. Oddly, none of the doom pontificating ITEs (Internet television experts) have pronounced any of those sports failures.

A big ‘get’ for Fox Sports 1 (the former Speed) was Big East basketball. They launched out of the gate with more subscribers than NBCSN. 48 of 85 national games were broadcast on FS1. 41 of them had NO rating. 0.0. Five of them garnered a 0.1, and two had 0.2. Oddly, no screeching from any ITE.

What about NASCAR? Their ratings trend line is pointed south, and is getting steeper. No real consternation from ITEs there, either. Formula 1 on NBCSN? That partner scheduled the Malaysian replay directly opposite IndyCar on ABC. Result for F-1? 0.0. No hissy fitting from any ITE.

Perhaps one day I will offer cliff-note tutorials for ITEs. Based on tripe they post they could use it, although for most it would have to be dumbed down to fourth grade level. Perhaps time will avail itself, and the season is just beginning.

Or perhaps we should all remain comforted by actual facts. Verizon is consistently in the top five spenders for sports television advertising, and that part of the business is usually more than $10 BILLION annually. About 40% of that number is spent on cable networks. Verizon remains enthusiastic about their growing involvement with IndyCar and is putting their money where their mouths are.

Its FallingThe real key is not fretting about significant rises to 12+ overnights. The only way that happens these days is either plot lines that involve soft core porn with full frontal female nudity or a lowest-common-denominator reality approach that attracts more booger flicking, self-absorbed Americans (the majority) than other similarly insipid offerings.

If the desire is to use the product to attract a bigger audience their work is cut out for them. Homogenized spec racing obviously does not work. Walker’s propensity to mimic Euro-style non-oval racing is also a proven failure historically. If trying to be an American F-1 is the direction (and there seems little doubt these days) then they also must embrace a WWE-style (or similar) presentation to actually get a casual fan to sample the product.

Big picture: A 0.6 overnight is only good for pointing and cackling by the mentally/emotionally challenged. Here is a better approach for ITEs: Tell us when the failure will occur and what you would do to make failure not possible? That might require thought, however.

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