The only real prerequisite for being an IndyCar fan is that any person so inclined must lean toward extreme masochism. Take the 2015 schedule, for example. It remains highly compressed (ending before Labor Day) and contains fewer events than the previous season, including one that leaves the hemisphere.
ESPN on ABC, predictably, only cares about Indy and a couple of others that won’t require much effort. NBCSN is already over-promoting NASCAR. Based on actual current promotion, programming and effort being expended for F1, IndyCar has already been relegated to bastard stepchild status. If some brave reporter unafraid of potentially having credentials pulled were to ask an intelligent question at a press conference it might be worded in such a way that asks what specific steps they are taking to achieve parity with a ‘partner’ that consistently says one thing but does another. Another good question: Why is a cable television network being allowed to determine start times for races that are scheduled so inconveniently for casual fans you are almost guaranteed not to draw a meaningful crowd in person?
Continuing on that theme, the big ovals other than Indianapolis were the scenes of the most lackluster, empty race weekend presentation in the history of the sport. It was embarrassing, particularly at Fontana and Pocono. And once again, dates for such venues have been shifted again. How long can we expect IndyCar to last at NASCAR-owned Fontana now that the biggest supporter of the series at that track, Gillian Zucker, is leaving to run the Clippers organization? If Miles and crew believe the addition of a bunch of non-racing entertainment and more racing contributed to the increased success of the month of May at Indianapolis why would the same approach not work at Pocono or Fontana? The observed differences are night and day. As a fan I do not want to lose Pocono, Fontana or Texas. We have already lost for too many ovals for dubious, half-assed reasons.
One thing that seems to occur a lot at headquarters is turnover. The latest out the door is a big one. Jeff Belskus. Some believe that is a good thing. Under his watch the Speedway physical plant has deteriorated far more rapidly than at any other time since WWII. Besides penny pinching any major decision that had to be made while he was in charge had to be made without running afoul of the France family, including supposedly foregoing high dollar sponsorship because Brian
Boston Consulting Group
might get upset. He is also said to be responsible for commissioning the Boston Consulting Group activity that has been increasingly chided by those actually knowledgeable about the sport of auto racing.
Just today on one of the IndyCar fan forums a participant asked a great question about Pocono: Why no Indy Lights there? Another contributor opined that it is because it is an oval and Mr. Anderson does not like those. Then, someone claiming to be Dan Anderson chimed in: “Actually, not true. I like ovals a lot. Many teams in the Indy Lights series rely on drivers and the support they bring, and at this point in time, the reality is that there are too many new drivers unfamiliar with oval racing who opt out of the high speed oval events. Witness last year’s 8 car field at Pocono. In time, we hope to see that reality change, but ignoring it would hurt our teams, and we are in the midst of reviving this series, no need to challenge anyone more than necessary.”
If that was THE Dan Anderson I would only say a couple of things. 1) The guy deserves props for adding cohesiveness to the rungs of the ladder, and 2) Actually making each rung grow. I do not have a problem with some of his reality based rationale, but I also remember quotes from a Gordon Kirby piece in the summer of 2013: “We’re going to do less ovals,” he said. “I think that the model that requires Indy Lights to do five, six or seven oval races a year is just not workable. It defeats the population in the series because too many drivers from foreign countries don’t understand ovals or are scared of them. Oval racing is exciting but there’s a high cost in crash damage and everything else. We definitely need to train drivers on ovals. My F2000 series does one oval race. My Pro Mazda series does two oval races and my Indy Lights series will do three oval races.”
At least he is honest. He is stuck with mostly self-funded race drivers who get there with money instead of just talent who only want to race on non-ovals because they are either scared of ovals or unwilling to learn how. Definitely not his fault. Is
Oh My God! It’s an OVAL!
it any wonder there is so little attraction for casual American fans, especially given owners who just take the checks and churn through drivers (and their wallets) faster than McDonalds goes through fry cooks? Oh, and ‘…no need to challenge anyone more than necessary!?’ What!? If IndyCar fancies itself as having the most diverse drivers on the planet isn’t ‘challenging’ what it is all about? Besides for years we have heard cart enthusiasts chirping nearly continuously about how easy it is for a road racer to pick up ovals. What is the problem then?
If the foreign ride buyers are too ‘fraidy scared of big ovals can’t you at least use an infield road course for their part of the weekend? It’s not like interior space availability is a problem.
Unfortunately the battle for control of the sport between IMS/American oval racers and Formula wannabes rages on, as it has in earnest since the 1970s. Caught in the middle, as usual, are fans. Far too many have had enough and are no longer around. This is a problem that will likely never be solved. In the meantime as we bend over we should probably learn to enjoy it some more.