Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

August 19, 2014

Milwaukee Mile: Great IndyCar Experience and Nice Weather for a Change…

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:57 am

PowerUpMilwaukee was fun. Kudos to the Andretti folks for attempting to reinvigorate that legendary venue. It is also on the schedule for next year as well. Tens of thousands of racing fans made their way into that great little flat track. In the fractured world of IndyCar, however, the usual cadre of blithering idiots tripped over themselves to screech about how bad they thought attendance along with usual predictions of the end being near, complete with television screen captures to support their ‘points.’ They even bitched about the brand of champagne drivers sprayed on each other on the podium (an act that always seems kind of gay wherever it is done. Thanks F-1).

That in turn led to the usual boilerplate crap such as ‘…ripping the cars and stars away from the defining event and creating a competing series with no-name drivers totally alienated the existing fans, devastated the mojo of the sport, and despite the series owners’ best efforts to rebuild it for the past 17 years, Indycar has never regained any kind of mass popularity whatsoever. But that’s just my opinion.’ Which are like rectal openings.

Youthful cart Enthusiast

Youthful cart Enthusiast

I continue to feel sorry for those who only got to experience IndyCar in the late 80s and early 90s. It was a fun time for sure, but it is too bad such folks were not around in the 60s or 70s. If they had been their philosophical orientation would certainly contain additional breadth.

For those interested in the future growth of IndyCar two potential paths exist going forward. Neither path includes (nor should it) going backward trying to recreate an owner-managed cart. After that group boycotted the Indianapolis Motor Speedway they died. That is not viable.

Much to the chagrin of lurking, obsessed cart enthusiasts and other IndyCar critics the most likely path going forward is basically what we have today. A series controlled by IMS operating with the same philosophies as always, remaining a niche in the sports world with little self-created opportunity to move up the sports and entertainment food chain. Their focus will always be the 500, and everything else will serve as promotion for the next 500. Not bad, but far from optimal in the minds of those who created a mid-90s fantasy world for themselves.

Hardly anyone who loves the sport believes that is enough. The second potential path is to do something truly bold. Sell the series to someone with the funding to grow it who is already successful operating businesses in the modern era. It must be someone who can leverage the technology of now, operate successfully and profitably and take no prisoners. As long as the centerpiece remains the Indianapolis 500 everything else should be fresh canvas to someone who is wealthy and creative.

Ideal kind of candidate? Not saying the examples below should be the ones, but anyone competing successfully in that type of ballpark would fit nicely. Mark Cuban. Steve Ballmer. That type of person.

….and then I woke up.

August 11, 2014

Challenging Week for Racing Fans

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:52 pm

Bad mistakeThe grand sport of auto racing made the national news this week for all the wrong reasons. The sprint car accident that claimed the life of aspiring racer Kevin Ward, Jr. in upstate New York before NASCAR ran at Watkins Glen touched off a firestorm. Still is. When I awakened from my slumber Sunday morning every initial report that arrived via my smart devices had already positioned Tony Stewart as a crazy race driver who mowed down another driver and killed him, and that video was out there. My imagination concocted a lurid visual picture of Tony Stewart as a mad man who aimed for the young Ward and took him out.

TonyThen I watched the video expecting the worst. What I saw was a fairly innocuous accident, a yellow, then cars slowing for it. Meantime Ward, completely uninjured, extracted himself from the cockpit and proceeded to run around his wrecked car and into the racing line to express his displeasure with Stewart when Tony came around.

The guy in front of Stewart barely avoided Ward, who was running down the middle of the track. Tony did not. It was oddly reminiscent of an accident in a cart race in Vancouver in 1990 in which a track worker wound up in front of Willy T. Ribbs’ left rear and also paid the ultimate price. Those in the know have indicated how difficult it is to see out of a winged sprint car under normal circumstances. Add in a dimly lit track and a driver in a black uniform with a black helmet running toward cars going about 80 and a recipe for disaster results.

It was a racing accident. The Zapruder-film-like frame by frame ‘analysts’ weighing in Stewart’s possible culpability have suggested Stewart may have intended to buzz Ward by getting close and goosing the throttle. That may be something we will never know, but either way Stewart has a conscience with which he will spend the rest of his career trying to put back into balance.

InsaneThe national media have played up the fact (and the video) of Tony Stewart being some kind of hot head to spice it all up. All the while the general reputation of NASCAR participants and race drivers in general of seeming like type-A redneck hooligans is enhanced. That is a shame. The one thing that would have presented the needless accident would have been Ward staying strapped into his car until the safety crews got there. The smart thing to do would have been to approach Stewart after he got out of his car after the race away from the track. That is fact. People will also forget that Tony Stewart is a race driver who does it because he loves every single part of it as much as possible. Asking him to give up the side trips is like asking a cart enthusiast that refuses to budge from 1995 to function as a non-developmentally challenged adult and lose the arrogance.

DanicaIt is easy to assume many more than usual tuned in to ESPN on Sunday to watch the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen. If so there were probably thrilled. It was a crash-fest on a road course red flagged twice to take care of barriers either ripped off their posts or smashed to smithereens. Using ARMCO barriers in accident-prone areas of the track is, to borrow a word from the president of the track, insane.

Some IndyCar fans pine for a return to either Watkins Glen or Road America, but the people who run the tracks disagree with the traditional IndyCar model of demanding 1.5 million or more to show up. They have a point considering neither IndyCar nor the tracks seem willing to promote events, and title sponsorship is challenging. Ever wonder why IndyCar seeks events in far flung corners of the world? Those folks are willing to cough up the bucks. My hope for 2015? That Pocono, Fontana or Texas do not  get screwed up, and add another oval such as Chicagoland back to the schedule.

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