Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

September 2, 2014

The IndyCar Season is Over Already!?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:58 pm

Hes a nutThe Disciple contingent returned east from the season finale in Fontana. We are disturbed the season ended so early despite the rationale. It is easy to understand the ratings threat posed by football, but there was none on Sunday afternoon. Creatively scheduling events for a month not to run at the same time as football would be a great way to approach the month of September and possibly much of October Mr. Miles. You know, when the weather is the nicest it will be all year.

Whenever we head west someone in the contingent always wants to hit fast food joints such as In-N-Out, El Pollo Loco, Del Taco and others, not to mention all the actual authentic Mexican fare. That is all well and good except it usually takes a week before many of us old timers are able to work up a normal bowel movement after consuming all that junk.

Speaking of intrusive, fetid, unwanted, semi-liquid fecal matter it is fairly certain actual racing fans will be subjected to inane, repetitive end is nigh pollution from the darkly IndyCar-obsessed for another few weeks, as it is for any IndyCar event. These are the children who believe 23,000 people are actually 2,300, and that overnight 12+ audience estimates they believe are ‘low’ portend certain doom for anything even remotely resembling MmmmSubwayIndyCar. Never mind such keyboard ‘fans’ do not attend races nor, they say, watch them on television. Yet it remains odd how they somehow know more about any given IndyCar topic than anyone else on earth. Oh, and Fontana has re-upped for another couple of years.

All of this discussion of crap-inducing rhetoric and food led to a realization that will serve as the wrap-up to the really short 2014 IndyCar season. IndyCar is Quiznos. NASCAR is Subway.

Quiznos was once very popular with over 5,000 retail locations. Their niche was higher quality and toasted buns, as well as an intriguing lineup of unique sandwiches. They also had a ‘secret sauce’ and much nicer facilities. Subway, which has essentially placed itself less than a mile from wherever you happen to be, is ubiquitous. Its bland, predictable offerings offer the same experience every time. Once through the ‘artist’ with highly processed cold cuts, fill ‘er up with veggies, then down the gullet. The end tip of the bread will always have the chewing consistency of a Goodyear racing tire.

Ten years ago Subway effectively neutralized Quiznos by adding TurboChef ovens for their own toasting, not to mention the $5 footlong deal. Quiznos had no idea how to react. What kind of shape is it in today? Just this week investors sued claiming previous management grossly overvalued the company. There are more out of business Quiznos locations than in business locations (around 2,100). There are essentially six menu offerings now; i.e., all spec. Quiznos, unlike any other food franchise, does not allow its franchisees to buy supplies directly from approved vendors. They must buy all supplies through Quiznos at a substantial markup. Instead of food costs between 25% and 30% they are at 38 or 39% right out of the gate. The pricing structure prevents the profitability necessary to open additional units. In actual fact a Subway franchisee can be more profitable with less volume.

DisgruntledThere are a whole lot of Panther Racing-like Quiznos franchisees who are livid both here and abroad who are walking away bitter from their businesses, and the number of franchisees continues to dwindle. Not so for Subway, who is still attempting to be on about every corner. Meanwhile, Subway has become the safe choice and plenty of new sub chains have arrived with better products than either Subway or Quiznos. Jimmy Johns, Firehouse, etc., are making life tougher.

Quiznos, like IndyCar, must begin to address its systemic problems.

For IndyCar the list of things to address is long:

-Create a franchise structure with a shifted balance that facilitates easier and faster profitability for franchisees and less gouging by the franchise.

-On a related note, figure out a way to increase the size of the field. 21 or 22 is a joke. There must be at least 28 entrants every single time. For Indy 40 legitimate entries should be trying for one of the 33 spots. Lights must also have at least 18 to 20 entrants every race to be taken seriously.

-Folks like Conor Daly and Sage Karam are Americans who did not come up through the USAC ranks per se, and could become American stars. That is something else IndyCar desperately needs. Most of the drivers and teams that fouled the sport for everyone have finally begun retiring. New team ownership is desperately needed. They need to address the challenge with the same determination Michael Andretti has.

-Maintain quality and safety but steer away from spec. Spec = bland from a perception standpoint, and perception can be the difference between someone either attending a race/watching it on television or just saying ‘screw it.’

-Have the marketing VPs hired from Ford and NASCAR and their staffs do some actual marketing. They will really need to do something over the next SEVEN months.

-Find a couple of more Verizons while you’re at it. Leverage Verizon to expand the brand on the Internet and using mobile devices.

-Don’t have races on holiday weekends except Indy.

-Work diligently on the way events are presented. If you are proud of what you do for street events devote the same amount of energy toward building natural terrain road courses and ovals. Fontana was even more of a joke this year than usual. IndyCars and a handful of local collector vintage cars is not enough to fill up a weekend. Do you really expect that kind of crappy presentation will draw anyone but diehards?

-Get creative on oval presentation. Reinvent it. Enter new markets not yet polluted by NASCAR. Memphis would be a nice start. Understand you must also co-exist with NASCAR. Richmond always drew well. Figure Phoenix out. Kentucky. Chicagoland. Reinvent the presentation and do more than send 22 cars out there after demanding a mil and a half.

Triple Crown-Triple Crown? Have AND PROMOTE two, preferably with a sponsor name attached. One for the big ovals: Indy, Pocono and Fontana. $2 million minimum prize (preferably 3 to match the number of events) to anyone who wins all three in a season. The second to represent series diversity: Texas oval, a natural terrain road course and Long Beach. $2 million minimum prize (preferably 3) to someone who wins all three in a season.

-Have IMS Productions/NBCSN/ESPNonABC/et al figure out a cutting edge way to make the cars look as fast as they actually are. Most of what is seen on television today fails to adequately display the sensation you get at the track.

-Incentivize all participants…teams, sponsors, manufacturers, fans….everybody.

-Offer reasonably priced team and series merchandise. Get away from the NASCAR sleaze style.

Off season-Improve the things already done well. Access to drivers and teams. Make more of an effort to take the Indy experience everywhere.

-While television ratings are still important dwelling on them and obsessing over tenths of percentage points missed the point. Propagate the brand by every means possible, especially social media. Do that right and everything else gets taken care of.

Seven months off is far too long. The risk of marginalization is extreme and many are worried the right people to pull it off are not employed there. We shall see after our really long hibernation.

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2 Comments »

  1. Good morning Super D. Just read your blog, and wanted to say a couple things nicely, so you dont automatically toss this post into the graveyard, simply becasue you disagree with me.
    Editor’s Note: Stay on topic and you have nothing to worry about.

    What you have penned here is simple: INdyCar/IRL is doing nothing right. I have been telling you that for years.
    Editor’s Note: And for years I have been taking whatever you say with lots of grains of salt because it is generally exaggerated and reflective of the fluid ‘crapper’ mentality centered around some mostly imagined utopian paradise lost and hatred of anything IMS. Usually it makes little sense. IndyCar is doing some things right, just not enough of them. I, and most of the rest of the business community, likes the leadership and slow, steady progress of Mark Miles.

    I did watch most of Fontana and it was sad. Very sad.
    Editor’s Note: I went out there, attended, then watched on television. I would not describe it as ‘sad’ except in the context of it being the last race of the season. It was a 500 mile race with arguably some of the best racers in the world. That is far from sad. Despite the fact the track is owned by ISC the track president, Gillian Zucker, is as big a fan of the IndyCars as they come and she is willing to do anything to make it work. So despite having dates switched three straight years and having the race on the worst possible weekend this year the event has been renewed for two more years. ‘Sad’ to me was waiting around for hours between IndyCar practice and qualifying since IndyCars were the only series on the track. There were a handful of vintage cars that were very cool, but that is not viable weekend filler. The crowd that appeared was actually a pleasant surprise given the weekend and the temperatures. On Friday everyone was confined to the stands on top of the suites along pit road, and the fact they were shaded made a huge difference. Believe it or not they were mainly full on Friday.

    You can divide the problems into 2 categories: the cars and the business. First, the cars. We all agree, even the most hardened gomer on trackxxxxx.xxx has finally admitted it. And there is still a lot of uncertanty as to their safety. This may be the ugliest “IndyCar” ever built. But they cant afford to change it, and they wont change it, for years.
    Editor’s Note: Criticism about the looks of the car, particularly from your group of enthusiasts, generally makes no sense. I mean look at the majority of anteater-looking F-1 cars. The old champ cars of twenty years or more ago of which many remain enamored resemble winged pancakes and have precious few safety features standard today. I have seen better and I have seen worse. We know Dallara can build a sharp car; the new Lights chassis is a great example. Those of us who actually appear at tracks and watch enjoy them and looks are secondary. It probably saved the life of Aleshin, who pinwheeled off the fence at 93 Gs.

    Which leads me to the next point: management. Man, has there ever been a more inept group?
    Editor’s Note: In a general sense, no. Miles vision has not effectively been disseminated to the layers below.

    Miles gor his 100million tax break. Great.
    Editor’s Note: Actually the 100 million is a loan to IMS. Sort of like a bond. It is not for IndyCar but only for IMS, and is mostly the result of suddenly enforced ADA compliance for an entity that predates such intrusive meddling by one hundred years. Because it is a loan it will be paid back with interest. Those who attempt to portray it as some sort of taxpayer handout are either willfully stupid or completely ignorant of the arrangement. Or both.

    Now everyone knows they are financially toilet bound.
    Editor’s Note: Everyone? Really? A few disenfranchised crappers does not constitute ‘everyone.’ I would be curious as to how ‘everyone’ got a look at the books of a privately held company. It certainly seems a great deal of your continuing indictment is entirely circumstantial based on straw men you have constructed for yourselves. We intelligent adults have been hearing the same screeching since your delicate sensibilities were first offended by Anton and yet year after year the series remains. Have you ever read the children’s story ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf?’

    They just seem to get everything wrong.
    Editor’s Note: Everything? Really? LOL.

    From the racetrack(do we race int he rain or not. What are the rules. Are we fair. ) to the promotion and marketing team (what marketing and promotion?)
    Editor’s Note: Fluid rules often based on whimsy is nothing new, something actual fans know full well. I think we agree on the marketing and promotion team. They seem invisible and seem to communicate a lot by e-mail. Aggressiveness seems like a foreign concept. They are great at incorporating buzz-speak into help wanted ads though.

    to the series dates and awlections of tracks (i thought this was about all ovals? In America? And American drivers? One day this will be bigger than F1 and NASCAR – COMBINED!).
    Editor’s Note: There is a perfect example of straw man stereotyping that actually looks ridiculous to adults. Most actual fans appreciate diversity both in terms of venues and the field. No one says it must be all oval or all American. Most of us want meaningful balance, however, and for effort to be devoted to ovals. Fontana is a perfect example of oval neglect. Compare the effort put in for Long Beach with the effort for Fontana and the difference is stark. It is not a stretch to hold such differences as proof of the de-emphasis of ovals. IndyCar has not been bigger than F-1 or NASCAR since the early 1980s. Thinking it will be in the near future is fantasy.

    Then there is the facility. Seems they got a new scoring tower and bought a bunch of tarps and had to give away a tonw of tickets thru Kroger et al. Wtf? And they have zero manufacturer engagement. Zero. Sponsor deals are shallow and fluffy. Wheres all the gusto Verizon was supposed to bring?
    Editor’s Note: It might surprise you to learn that Kroger has been ‘giving away’ (for a price) tickets to IMS events for ten years. All IMS events. Similar ticket distribution has been occurring in IndyCar for decades. That tactic was first utilized by R.J. Reynolds back in the ‘utopian’ years. But it wasn’t bad then, right? LOL. Chevrolet, Honda, Firestone, Cooper, Verizon and many others seem awfully engaged to me. I even test drove a Camaro at Fontana (albeit outside the grandstand) courtesy of the Chevrolet folks. I have seen some of the behind-the-scenes infrastructure enhancements being facilitated by Verizon, and much of it is impressive.

    D, this whole mess reminds me of 06 and 07 ChampCar. Just a bunch of turds swirling around the porcelain bowl. Yes, I am guilty of saying “this is the end” many times. But it smells worse than it ever has. And when Mari and he heirs finally close that checkbook, that ‘s it. You now and I know, thats the only thing keeping this alive.
    Editor’s Note: 06 and 07 champcar actually was turds floating around the bowl. Why? No Indy. No Indy-no series. It is just that simple. Always has been. Probably always will be. While it does seem Mari is decomposing right before our eyes at least the company has seen fit to appoint professional leaders with no Hulman blood in their veins. Changing that culture is a slow process but it can be done. Personally I think they need carefully managed meaningful outside investment to transform the location and the series into something that resonates in 2014. NASCAR, golf and many other sports and entertainment offerings face the same challenges. The difference will be how each respond to it.

    Do the math on Fontana, and twll me how this can continue.
    Editor’s Note: The math has been done, and Fontana remains on the schedule for at least two more years.

    Comment by Youowemeabeerasshole — September 3, 2014 @ 1:15 pm | Reply

  2. Seriously, any Marketing for Dummies book would put your assessment to shame. Subway never had a product that consumers wanted, and not because it wasn’t toasted. The only reason it became a wanted product was because a fat guy named Jared appeared one day and lost 500 lbs eating Subway foods at a time when the world was finding out how bad the fast food that many ate was for them. Subway marketed the Eat Fresh concept and still offered the same crap sandwiches. A stroke of marketing genius. The rest is history.
    Editor’s Note: I see reading comprehension is not one of your long suits.

    Einsteins such as yourself should investigate the modern marketing mix which considers the 4C’s as well as the 4P’s. Your marketing approach is dated, just like the marketing angles that you and IMS profess.
    Editor’s Note: Which ones are those, Kreskin?

    None of them seriously assess the consumer’s point of view effectively. IMS continues to serve up the same dated product expecting a new outcome. Just like insanity and Einstein’s quote about it. Or the IMS as Quisnos analogy. The AOW marketplace is like a bunch of Jared’s who just shed 500lbs of dead weight not ingesting Quisnos garbage. Toasted or not. Get a clue, buddy.
    Editor’s Note: Evidently spelling is also not one of your long suits either.

    Comment by Goron Liddy — September 3, 2014 @ 5:45 pm | Reply


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