Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

September 10, 2014

Improving IndyCar In An Off Season That Will Be Far Too Lengthy

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:52 pm

The problem with IndyCar is not that it will fail (despite the nearly continuous cacophony of doom and gloom by a small group whose sole mission in life is to position it as on its last legs); rather it is a perception of unmet expectations. I saw my first IndyCar turn a wheel in person in 1959. Each evolution of the sport since brought similar ‘end is near’ yelping. Yet here we are in 2014, over 100 years since the accepted beginning of Indy-style racing.  The sport itself remains compelling.

Factions of the IndyCar fan world and community are easily delineated. In general there are traditionalists who believe an American series centered around IndyCars should contain mostly Americans not imported from European formula ladders, a lot of ovals and an annual series of events that are scheduled consistently with the same teams and drivers that compete at Indy. There are also formula-centric enthusiasts who believe IndyCar’s ultimate potential is aspiring toward a Formula-1-like configuration including far-flung events worldwide and a non-oval orientation. There is nothing really wrong with either orientation. It all simply turns stupid when stereotypes begin flying.

In order to discuss the topic with any intelligence an honest look at actual reality is required. One point of nearly continuous debate involves television ratings. Ratings today are much lower than they were during the (your favorite era goes here) period of the past. The comical part about all the teeth gnashing is the preponderance of rampant ignorance about how ratings are actually used in the commerce of advertising sales vis-à-vis IndyCar. Breathless anticipation of 12+ overnights and sweeping predictions (usually of doom) that follow completely miss the point and makes almost anyone who attempts to form an argument on that basis look foolish to those engaged in such commerce.

NBCSNWhile the actual ratings used in such commerce remain somewhat relevant, especially on NBCSN, reliance on them for survival misses the point. The market has become far too fragmented for 20+ year old methods and practices. Most advertisers that run inside IndyCar programming do so at pre-negotiated rates based not on ratings numbers but on sponsorship obligations related to involvement in the series. Almost everything else either lands in IndyCar as part of a targeted mix of demographically similar programming or as ROS scheduled direct response. IndyCar makes money as the result of sponsorship commitment and NBCSN makes money derived from both sponsorship and spot revenue. Internet television experts always fail to recognize IndyCar is among the highest rated programming on NBCSN and that most programming on that and similar sports networks is not rated at all.

The real challenge going forward should not exclusively be attempting to get television ratings to rise. The only way that will actually happen is having every race telecast on OTA networks and even that is a finite proposition. As a matter of fact the best way to make all ratings rise is to enhance dissemination of the product by shamelessly exposing it on all currently available and emerging distribution channels, including serious use of the web. It must be made ‘hip’ again. Once they figure that out ratings will rise organically. IndyCar vaults contain well over 100 years of history and content, and sitting on it does not do the sport any good. Lawyers that demand a quarter or half a million or more for limited content use ensure continuation of the small IndyCar niche.

This is especially important given the inevitability that going forward NBCSN will devote 85% of its motorsport efforts and promotion to NASCAR, 10% or more to F-1 and 5% or less to IndyCar, along with special programming for both NASCAR and F-1 but nothing for IndyCar. Why so little? It is the cumulative result of not having people or processes in place capable of affecting such change combined with NFL-like arrogance at the highest levels. The NFL can get away with such arrogance because their popularity is widespread and pervasive. IndyCar must orient itself humbly and inside reality to grow. If they continue refusing to budge the small niche they currently occupy is the best for which anyone can hope.

Count EmIn the years following the post-IRL demise of CART critics loudly complained that IndyCar was not being run enough like a business, often chiding the ‘aw shucks’ modus operandi of the Hulman-George family rooted in decades past. That direction began to change toward a marketing/promotion-first stance when outsider Randy Bernard was brought aboard then shifted completely (foxes in the hen house at work again) toward a business first approach when Mark Miles was placed in charge of not only IndyCar but the entire Hulman-George business empire. The current failure to reach potential is not really the current business first orientation. It is the imbalance of business first against the purity and natural evolution of the sport, not to mention a complete lack of coherent promotion.

There is far too much reliance on rigid corporate structure as well as outside advice of consultants with no meaningful motorsports background, and precious little faith in racers who just want to race. If IndyCar is to reach its potential the balance between business and sport must be adjusted. Micromanagement that drives racers away; e.g., Beaux Barfield, must be scrutinized with objectivity. Motor racing, as Hemingway articulated decades ago, is one of only three sports (the rest being just games). The most extreme form of motor sports has been sanitized, homogenized and micromanaged into a format largely rejected by all but hardcore fans. Logical solution: LOOSEN UP, then let people know it is there.

If IndyCar employs high credentialed marketing professionals when will they actually begin marketing instead of merely crafting business-speak wordplay such as ‘…customized, synergistic promotional programs that leverage each other’s assets…’ and other such whimsy? IndyCar positions itself as diverse. Exploit it. Feature TWO ‘triple crowns’ per season. The first should emphasize diversity. $3 million dollars to anyone who can win Long Beach (street), Barber or Mid-Ohio (road) and Texas (high speed oval) in a season. The second should emphasize power and speed. $3 million dollars to anyone who wins Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana. Besides, what are the odds someone would actually accomplish that given the overall competitiveness of the series lately? Why not throw in a third ‘triple crown?’ Three foreign races and $3 million to a winner of all three. Who would need any sort of gimmicky ‘chase’ then?

Maintain meaningful contact with domestic race tracks. Plenty of new markets exist. Hillenburg’s Rockingham and Memphis Motorsports Park come to mind. Learn from your mistakes. The two biggest this season with respect to venues was the Pocono 500 on 4th of July weekend and Fontana on Labor Day weekend. When a logical place on the schedule is located for them bring a street festival atmosphere to each track and run something more than just IndyCars. Presentation at each of those tracks was uninspired, lazy and insulting. IndyCar invented oval presentation, something copied and perfected by NASCAR. Re-invent the genre for yourself and get serious about it.

Given the proclivity of current management to chase easy money it is understandable that far flung races in places like Dubai might seem attractive from a revenue generation standpoint. Those are the events that should be scheduled on the fringes of the season. Do not be afraid to run races at the beginning of football season. Just do not schedule races opposite football games.

Figure out a way to make the series and its ladders more inclusive to a greater number of participants. A goal should be 30 full time entries in IndyCar. Instead of poaching sponsorships why not participate in generation of it for teams?

If fans were an important component in series direction IndyCar could concoct ways of attracting more of them. It is time for IndyCar to put its money where its mouth is.



  1. Nice to see that you finally have come to realize what the rest of us have known for ages:IMS and it’s owners haven’t the slightest clue on how to run a SERIES.

    They may have something of an idea (although given the state of the facilities that may be questionable)of how to manage the Speedway, but after twenty years it’s obvious that running a successful series, with the 500 as an important part of it, is beyond their capabilities.

    Funny that the CAR OWNERS figured that out 35 YEARS AGO. Which led to the only time in the last 50 plus years that an AOW SERIES was taken seriously by anyone.

    Welcome to reality.
    Editor’s Note: Actually, you and your pals continue not only to live in the past but clearly demonstrate an inflated myopia about one evolutionary period. Left to their own devices with Indy or tobacco money they failed. Twice. The funniest parts of your meandering usually involves people you say can’t manage the Speedway or the sport then use phrases like ‘for twenty years.’ It only took five for cart to actually fail. Wonder what’s taking IMS so long? If I were you I’d look for a new schtick because with each passing year the radical cart enthusiasts look even more stupid than they did the year before.

    Comment by Olderfan — September 12, 2014 @ 1:14 pm | Reply

  2. Gee, since CART was started in 1979, and finally went “toes up” around 2003, even using Gomer math I’d say that they lasted a bit more than 5 years. But if that contention makes you happy…
    Editor’s Note: What would make me happy is my rabid followers having a rudimentary grasp of reading comprehension. Hint: from 1979 to 1995 there was no IRL. As soon as there was, however, 5 years was about it for them, tobacco money and the sustainability to exist. So far the series that began life as the IRL will enter it’s nineteenth season in 2015. The beginning of the actual end for cart only took 16. But hey, I enjoyed watching too.

    But I find it amazing ( well, not really ) that you can delineate chapter and verse on what is wrong with the current speedway and ICS management and yet still think that those of us that think CART was far better at running a SERIES are out to lunch.
    Editor’s Note: Examine who is actually running IndyCar and you may get the same sense I do about history being repetitive. The only think keeping the thing going is IMS. In order to reach potential IMS/IndyCar needs to find a new direction, which was the point of the piece.

    Oh, yes it was that tobacco money that attracted all of the fans, sponsors and TV ratings. And manufacturers such as Ford, Chevrolet/Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, Buick/Menard, Porsche, Alfa, March, Lola, Renard, Penske, AAR, Swift were all there just because of Philip Morris. Sure. Keep telling yourself that.
    Editor’s Note: You left out part of what attracted all of the fans, sponsor, TV ratings AND manufacturers. IMS. Once those two things departed so did their existence.

    You’ve got every right to like what you like, so to speak. And good for you that you are willing to defend this dreck that gets foisted off on you and your syncophant friends (if you’ve got any). The rest of us point and laugh. Here’s to 2015, the IRL ‘ S “breakout” year. LOL
    Editor’s Note: Just a helpful hint: The ‘IRL’ and ‘breakout year’ schtick was mildly humorous a couple of times in 1997. If you’d like to be considered an adult why not simply ignore the ‘dreck’ and contribute maturely to something you decide you like? Do you have any idea how stupid you appear to actual adults?

    Comment by Olderfan — September 12, 2014 @ 4:30 pm | Reply

    • (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

      Comment by Olderfan — September 12, 2014 @ 6:52 pm | Reply

    • (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

      Comment by Olderfan — September 12, 2014 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

    • You make this too easy D-boi.

      IMS was the draw? Ok, we’ll now that the pesky CART organization is out of the way, lets tally up all of those companies and manufactures that have come back, shall we?

      Ford? Nope. Mercedes? No again? Alfa, Porsche, Toyota? No, no, and no? Swift? A misguided attempt at a chassis, but no kickback promises. Lola? No again. AAR? Uhh, no. Menard. Sorry. Fed Ex? Nope. And what about Riley and Scott? Panoz? Infinit? Surely the value of Indy must be evident?

      Oops, guess not.
      Editor’s Note: Well, not to the willfully stupid anyway. How are the absences of the companies you mentioned any different than any other point in open wheel history? Don’t see many Offies any more. Harry Miller is as dead as Paul Newman. Is there some sort of point you are attempting?

      Comment by Olderfan — September 12, 2014 @ 8:16 pm | Reply

      • Since you are, apparently, too obtuse to understand the difference, I’ll explain it to you in simple terms: Offenhauser wasn’t a major automotive manufacturer. And it wasn’t chased away due to arbitrary changes to technical regulations. It was organically replaced by more modern, more efficient technologies brought to bear by suppliers such as Ford Cosworth, Illmor, etc.

        The point, my dear Disciple, is this: due to the division of what was once a symbiotic relationship between the Speedway and CART, most of those suppliers left. And despite your proclamations of the value and prestige allegedly attached to that venue, none of them have come back. None of them share your assesment of Indys value. And that is the reality that you and all of the Indy centric have to deal with.
        Editor’s Note: I’m happy you feel the cart era at Indy was the high point. Many ignorant of the entire history are plagued by that flawed, myopic line of thought. By the way the relationship between cart and IMS was never ‘symbiotic.’ cart began life as a mutiny with the expressed goal of carving itself a much bigger piece of the pie. In many ways I admire their balls and understand the drastic measures. The reason, however, many of the manufacturers left was because tobacco money cart used to prop up its coup vanished, and that combined with their boycott of all things Indy after Tony founded the IRL (the epitome of abject stupidity combined with rampant arrogance) rendered that series worthless in the marketplace. As a result, they failed. Still not content to understand their place and too arrogant to use their brains, many tried again. And failed again. Only then did they swallow their pride (sort of) and slither back. IMHO the sport will not grow until most of those holdovers are either retired, dead or matured. Too bad they can’t all approach the challenge like Michael Andretti has. Which brings us back to the main point of the blog. It’s good supposedly smart people are now in charge of the business. All they need to rediscover is the passion.

        Comment by Olderfan — September 13, 2014 @ 12:07 am

      • Ok, so your contention is (again) that Ford, Chevrolet/Ilmor/Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, Porsche, Alfa, March, Reynard, Lola, Swift, AAR etc were only in CART because of the tobacco money? Might want to review some old Racer magazines where Honda, amongst the other manufacturers, in particular, was very interested in the technical/materials development required to get ~16,000 RPM out of engines WITHOUT pneumatic valve asissts, for one thing. One of us is smoking something, D-boi. Only I don’t think it’s tobacco.
        Editor’s Note: Hmmm. Oddly, Honda remains a significant partner in the series today. So is Chevrolet. Cosworth is also still involved. Lola and Swift are out of business. AAR is AARP. Look, kid…I’m all for more technical innovation than what we have and I’d like involvement from a lot more manufacturers and sponsors. Things that may bring some of them in: Building the series that exists now. Things that will repel them: Trying to reconstitute 1989. Why did cart fail? Arrogance and no more tobacco bucks.

        Comment by Olderfan — September 13, 2014 @ 2:41 pm

      • So in addition to your wanton stupidity, you can’t even get easily verified facts correct. Swift Engineering is not only NOT out of business, they’re actively hiring for multiple projects. Only an idiot would think that a company would fail to diversify, given the vagaries of the racing business.
        Editor’s Note: So then why would they, or you, be worried about any participation in IndyCar? Sounds like they have enough on their plate to keep ’em busy. Win/win.

        Same with AAR, and their involvement with the Delta Wing project. Which is a prime example of an organization that embraces new ideas and melds them into what works. Which is something that neither you or IMS is capable of. Call us when you have a real thought in your head. We won’t hold our breath, however.
        Editor’s Note: Yeah….that Delta Wing is certainly setting the racing world afire isn’t it? LOL.

        Comment by Olderfan — September 13, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

      • Oh, I forgot. Could you tell me what cars Ford and Mercedes are powering? We’ll wait.
        Editor’s Note: A wide variety of passenger vehicles. Their nameplates are also involved in NASCAR and F-1, respectively. Point? Care to meander back to the actual topic?

        Comment by Olderfan — September 13, 2014 @ 4:35 pm

      • The point? You make stuff up as you go along. You claim companies are out of business, when they aren’t.
        Editor’s Note: They may as well be with regard to IndyCar.

        You contend that major manufacturers were involved with the old Indycar series ONLY because of tobacco money. (they weren’t).
        Editor’s Note: Without tobacco money and Indy they went out of business. There is a correlation.

        And so on; there’s too many to list. And your contentions are easily debunked; which is why you move them. The “off topic” mantra is simply a smokescreen.
        Editor’s Note: I move things when they veer wildy off topic to the appropriate blog comment section: The Idiot Repository. Don’t want to move? Don’t act like an idiot.

        The Delta Wing? Yep, not a winner, yet. But each company and team involved with it keeps pushing the boundries of performance within widely varying technical parameters, and no one, from AAR with the first race-ready Delta Wing, up to the Nissan Zeod that ran at this years LeMans 24 hours expected that a “clean sheet of paper” design would instantly challenge long established and sorted vehicles run by professional organizations.
        Editor’s Note: In other words, it’s due for a break out year, right? Or, as the willfully retarded might say…a BRAKEout year. LOL.

        But your reference to AAR as AARP only highlights your myopic view of racing, with your belief that the current version of indycar is some sort of “pinnacle” of the sport. But Nissan, Elan, AAR, amogst others, embrace new thinking, and the new technologies that will keep racing relevant. Hardly the thought processes of the “AARP” brigade.
        Editor’s Note: I saw that Formula E deal in China (something else at which cart failed) and noticed Prost/Heidfeld almost pulled a Johanssen/Krosnoff on us. That would have been a stellar way to start.

        Well, time to go. I noticed that if it wasn’t for myself and Bob Chinn, virtually no one would be taking ANY interest in your sad and barely coherent diatribes. I’ll check back in a few weeks; maybe by then you’ll have had a least ONE valid point. As they say, about blind squirrels and acorns…
        Editor’s Note: You and ‘ol Bob remind me of a couple of gals from college who stalked me for years afterward. One of them was oddly hot and possessed very large mammary glands. Couldn’t f^@* worth a damn, however. Oh sure….I relieved her of her hymen and that obviously made her clingy. Wouldn’t partake in the oral pleasure activities either. That only lasted about a few months but she stalked me for darned near twenty years through two marriages. Creepy. The other was a little more plain but could f^@# (and suck) like a champ. Problem was her attitude was much like that of the average message board lurker. Continuously pessimistic and constantly spouting off about the end being near. For YEARS. She chased me around for about a dozen years too. Two different people but both just utterly batshit nuts. My thought was that they should, at the very least, stay the hell away from me and if they were so void of life that they should consider psychological assistance. Thank the Almighty I finally found a beautiful woman with whom happy marriage is a joy. I much prefer associating with sane, rational, normal people.

        Comment by Olderfan — September 13, 2014 @ 8:44 pm

      • I apologize in advance for kind of breaking my own promise to stay away from this drivel for a bit but since you decided to make another tasteless comment about someone that got killed in a racing incident…Heidfeld’s car got some serious airtime there. Hmm. Oh that’s right, it’s a DALLARA. The only formula car constructor whose equipment needs an FAA certification. And how appropriate that the last driver a DALLARA maimed into retirement was the “color” guy, Dario Franchetti, whose speech made it seem like he still is suffering from a head injury. But an additional quarter rotation in the air and we could have seen another Dan Wheldon. Then he could have 2 race cars named after him.
        Editor’s Note: So let me get this straight. You complain about what you stupidly perceive to be a tasteless comment, then make 3.5 of your own? Got hypocrisy? Here’s the difference: Heidfeld, like most behind the wheels of modern Dallaras, walked away uninjured. Unlike Krosnoff in his flying Reynard.

        Comment by Olderfan — September 13, 2014 @ 11:30 pm

      • (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

        Comment by Olderfan — September 14, 2014 @ 3:37 am

      • (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

        Comment by Olderfan — September 14, 2014 @ 3:45 am

  3. (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

    Comment by Olderfan — September 12, 2014 @ 4:43 pm | Reply

  4. Unfortunately, this is a sport that continues to decline in popularity every year. In an effort to reverse that unmistakeable trend, the owners who don’t know how to run the sport hired a consulting group who doesn’t know anything about the sport to tell the CEO who has no experience in the sport how to make everything better. Needless to say, expectations for any change in fortunes should be tempered just a bit.
    Editor’s Note: You may have noticed within the blog content similar sentiment. One point made therein: A re-balance of the business versus passion equation is needed.

    Comment by Bob Chinn — September 12, 2014 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

    • None of the three parties mentioned possesses any real passion for the sport. Each is overwhelmingly concerned only with their respective financial position. Passion doesn’t factor into anything they have done or will do. It is one reason (but far from the only one) why the sport’s popularity continues to plummet.
      Editor’s Note: ‘Plummet’ is a relative term considering societal evolution over the past twenty years. But you are correct about the passion.

      Comment by Bob Chinn — September 13, 2014 @ 1:04 am | Reply

  5. (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

    Comment by Youowemeabeerasshole — September 13, 2014 @ 12:41 pm | Reply

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    Comment by Youowemeabeerasshole — September 13, 2014 @ 1:29 pm | Reply

  7. (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

    Comment by Dave Budd — September 14, 2014 @ 4:50 am | Reply

  8. (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

    Comment by Youowemeabeerasshole — September 14, 2014 @ 12:18 pm | Reply

  9. RE: Your “Hemingway” Quote

    It was actually written by Ken Purdy as this information from the Web site, Timeless Hemingway, points out:

    In July of 2006, Gerald Roush, a visitor to Timeless Hemingway, provided a possible source for the “three sports” quotation. He cited a story titled “Blood Sport” by Ken Purdy, which originally appeared in the July 27, 1957 edition of the Saturday Evening Post. The story is reprinted in Ken Purdy’s Book of Automobiles (1972). Gerald provided a scan of where the quotation appeared and it reads as follows: ” ‘There are three sports,’ she remembered Helmut Ovden saying. ‘Bullfighting, motor racing, mountain climbing. All the rest are recreations.’ ” Gerald noted that the character of Helmut Ovden is modelled after Ernest Hemingway. This could explain why the quotation has been so widely attributed to Hemingway over the years.

    I only recently stumbled unto this blog, by the way, and find your interesting and creative interpretations of history rather fascinating to read.


    Comment by Corktree Research — September 16, 2014 @ 4:32 am | Reply

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