Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

October 21, 2014

Should IndyCar Ever Decide To Do Something Way Off The Wall…

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 5:46 pm

Rock1Rockingham Speedway, ‘The Rock,’ in North Carolina is a wasted treasure. Andy Hillenburg, the racer (and former IndyCar driver) picked it up from Bruton Smith in 2007 (after SMI scattered its two Cup and other NASCAR series to other tracks). Since then it has been a struggle, mostly the result of dealing with NASCAR, who at the height of their popularity severed themselves from their roots. Hillenburg and his group have fallen behind in their debts and must sell or auction before 1Q 2015.

If I ran IndyCar I would think way outside the box. For roughly the amount of money paid to the Boston Consulting Group I could own that entire facility, something that would cost $75 million to build new. After all it is in great shape, has SAFR, also includes a separate half mile oval and an infield road course, 35,000 permanent seats, suites, a fast surface and is non-cookie cutter. The oval is just over a mile and is widely known as a very fast track.

Rock2If nothing else it could serve as a really nice testing ground for IndyCars and feeder series. NASCAR also still likes to use both tracks for testing. IndyCar could easily present an oval/road course double header weekend, especially armed with the knowledge that IndyCar has done well in the past in the heart of NASCAR country; e.g., Richmond, Charlotte, Birmingham, etc. Also potentially entertaining might be the reaction of NASCAR and its fans at having an IndyCar-owned legendary track in that part of the country. Revenue opportunities are there; it is a track that can run a variety of series, driving schools, testing rentals, etc., and could be further exploited. Partnership alignments with many movers and shakers might be possible.

The primary obstacle is geography. On the other hand its proximity to Charlotte makes it reasonably attractive. A race fan can dream.

In reality, unfortunately, none of this will ever happen. IndyCar remains incapable of recognizing, much less understanding or accepting any bigger picture that does not involve their own home base. The family is probably not keen on track ownership following experiments at Walt Disney World and Chicagoland. Given the current proclivity of leadership to ignore, abandon, dismiss and otherwise forget about oval racing altogether it could never be in the cards.

There are so many interesting tracks just sitting there. Last week I flew into St. Louis directly over Gateway, which looks well-kept and race ready….just like Memphis Motorsports Park. There are so many easy ways potential scheduling conflicts could be erased.

Wish I had a couple of million of free cash to play with.

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4 Comments »

  1. Rockingham (and to a lesser extent Darlington) have been treated as the red-headed-step-children of NASCAR. I’ve said on several occasions that Rockingham would be a great oval addition to the IndyCar series.

    Comment by SkipinSC — October 21, 2014 @ 6:47 pm | Reply

  2. The hard truth is that in the next 5 – 8 years the IndyCar schedule will be one oval and 16 road races.
    The fans may like ovals but the drivers don’t seem like them and the owners absolutely hate them. They have been trying to run off TMS and Eddie Gossage for several years. They are now starting to mess with Iowa ( picking a date when the trucks can’t run ). They killed the Richmond race so that they could have a ( now failed ) road race in Baltimore. They killed PPIR so that they could have a ( now twice failed ) road race in Denver. It would not surprise me if they started to mess with Milwaukee so that they can have a road race in Elkhart Lake

    Comment by Chris Lukens — October 22, 2014 @ 12:53 am | Reply

    • And they would lose 75% of their remaining fans. Not that I disagree with you. These foreign drivers have precious little oval experience. But that would finish off the league. Cart Lite going down for the third time?

      Defenders suggestion about Rockingham is a great one and one that, in a sane management forum, would be considered seriously. Track ownership makes a lot of sense. So they won’t even consider it.

      Comment by Bob F. — October 22, 2014 @ 1:40 pm | Reply

    • I won’t argue about Texas (the drivers do whine about that one every year) or Iowa (constant date changes are not smart – see Kentucky), but I must disagree about Richmond and Pikes Peak. From my understanding, Richmond lost a title sponsor for the race and that’s why it fell off the schedule after 2008. Baltimore was added in 2011 and I don’t really see a connection between the two races except that Baltimore was maybe an attempt to place a race in that market after Richmond was lost. Pikes Peak was an IRL race and Denver was a Champ Car race, so I don’t see any connection between those races whatsoever, and that race ended (just like Nazareth) because ISC shut down the tracks for major-level competition. I’m not sure what IndyCar could have done about Pikes Peak or Nazareth…
      Editor’s Note: As I recall Richmond was lost for two reasons….1) the title sponsor (SunTrust) was the victim of a poaching attempt by NASCAR (whose ISC owns Richmond) that backfired, and 2) the last couple of IndyCar races at Richmond had the close racing sucked out of them mostly by micromanagement of the package resulting in a fast, but boring parade. ISC shut PPIR down because their intent was to build another cookie cutter oval on the outskirts of Denver. They even settled on a site near the airport but NIMBYs out that way have prevented it. Meanwhile PPIR sits there unused except for club racing. Darned shame. Two attempts at street racing in Denver have failed twice.

      Well, history has proven that the best thing the Hulman-George family could have done was buying out other oval tracks. When Roger Penske sold his tracks to ISC, that essentially cemented NASCAR’s monopoly on oval racing and really prevented IndyCar (either side) from being able to make a challenge. Michigan and Fontana had great IndyCar races (both CART and IRL) and usually bad NASCAR races, but fell off the schedule once in NASCAR’s control. Rockingham had great NASCAR races and was lost. Nazareth had great Busch/truck/IndyCar races and was lost. NASCAR owning so many of its own tracks is one of the major reasons for its success and hindsight has proven that Tony George launching a two-car CART team for grassroots American talent and launching an oval-track empire to compete with ISC and SMI would have been a better course of action than the IRL. In the long run to ensure a series with mostly ovals you need to own the venues (and I do think CART would have been glad to add them if George was buying out other tracks, since they were adding oval races at Loudon, Rio, Motegi, Chicago, etc…) I’d love to see IndyCar buy Rockingham but now I don’t think the Hulman-George family wants to spend any money.
      Editor’s Note: We are entering a phase of history where local tracks are shuttering almost as rapidly as drive-in movie theatres did when play at home video became common and even major tracks can be had for a song. I even heard Chicagoland could be eliminated. The sport needs to be re-invented by someone if it is to survive, and IMS/IndyCar has unfortunately not proven capable of such a mission.

      Comment by arenasnow — October 22, 2014 @ 4:51 pm | Reply


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