Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

January 30, 2015

IndyCar and Mark Miles: The Honeymoon Has Definitely Ended

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:22 pm

Bushy MoFosThat’s right. The bloom is off the rose for Mr. Miles. We will now see how well he manages damage control. All indications are that he will handle it as Tony George would have. With complete silence.

I can understand the re-appointment of Brian Barnhart to Director of Race Control. He has experience and most of the rulebook along with the entire structure has been reworked to minimize exalted ruler-type proclamations by someone who got too big for his britches. Still, the choice is still being widely chided by some of the most juvenile excuses for fans of any sport. Words on the record about the subject thus far from Mr. Miles: Zero.

DarwinismMr. Miles also this week took long abused fans back down a familiar path: Widespread hype about a far-flung event on foreign soil and then a sudden cancellation. Miles fell into the same trap almost every other series ‘leader’ has when trying to make a lucrative splash. He pulled a pin from a hand grenade then threw the pin instead of the grenade.

His strengths are widely touted and he has verified major success in a variety of sports and media roles. Still, HG, IMS and IndyCar seem to continue to be the place where previously successful executives go to end up unsuccessful. We all had such high hopes for him. After all, he has the vocabulary of Joe Heitzler, the moxy of Chris Pook, the checkbook of Tony Hulman and the eyebrows of Andy Rooney. He has succeeded in purging the payroll of the parent and making the executive rung top heavy with credentialed but thus far invisible people who have, at least from an exterior point of view, done little more than collect a fat paycheck.

PromotionOn a lighter note how about a Super Bowl prediction? Forget about the game. One of the teams is ethically bereft from the top down, cheats and plays dirty with complete arrogance. The other is a close second. The commissioner is even worse than IMS at attempting to extract money from everything any participant ever touches. No, my prediction is a little more predictable. Even though the Super Bowl will be on the OTA parent of the first motorsports broadcast partner of NBCSN there will be absolutely no promotion of any kind for the upcoming IndyCar season. There will, however, be a lot of promotion for NASCAR. They do not rejoin the network until JULY.

What is the point? IndyCar supposedly hired two blue chip marketing professionals with credentials from names like Ford and NASCAR. Yes, Verizon is the title sponsor. That seems great and you might think that since they are also so heavily involved in the Super Bowl there may be a tie-in to IndyCar as well. Uh, probably not.

The WinnerThe 2014 Indy 500 was a closely contested, exciting race won by an American in the prime of his career who is charismatic and willing to do anything to promote the series. Other than a Letterman appearance Ryan Hunter-Reay has been invisible on the national stage. When will the marketing people actually market?

Most had high hopes for Miles and his carefully assembled crew. Instead all fans ever receive is the same kind of obfuscation, deflection and silence that has helped doom the litany of failed regimes that marched through previously. Being an IndyCar fan is the most difficult endeavor racing enthusiasts can possible ever undertake.

January 29, 2015

Ding Dong The IndyCar Witch is NOT Dead

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:11 pm

MasochistThe way-too-long IndyCar off season can always use anything even remotely resembling news and this week provided the most entertaining possible news. Brian Barnhart was re-appointed the head guy in race control. Predictably, the Internet melted down almost immediately.

As a lifelong fan of IndyCar the single most frustrating part of trying to maintain much enthusiasm for the sport is actually not boneheaded decisions every leader of the sport has ever made with alarming regularity. It is the comical, mostly hysterical, floor fits of those who presume to have better answers. Barnhart’s re-appointment was a red letter day in the fan juvenile delinquency department.

Most casual fans understand he has traditionally not been very popular. The worst thing I can say is that Mark Miles obviously does not listen to his constituency and clearly does not care what they think. An obvious conclusion is that Barnhart is probably the only person alive masochistic enough to accept it. If Beaux Barfield did not have thick enough skin Circus Clownto take second guessing from nutjob fans, mostly lazy and often hostile members of the media, everyone else in the paddock and everyone even remotely connected to executive management then Barnhart seems to fit the bill for the only person crazy enough to willingly accept that type of abuse. And Barfield was known as a ‘good choice’ by the pining-for-the-past press. It would be nice if IndyCar fans would simply grow up and offer constructive suggestions instead of turning the Internet into a childish toilet of swirling immaturity for once.

The only racing writer who offered a balanced take on the appointment was Marshall Pruett in Racer.  It was pragmatic and humorous. Just about everyone else sounds like the average brain damaged Internet contributor and often just as vile. About the only difference between most of the supposedly professional racing press corps and the average internet feces tosser is better spelling and grammar.

Predictably, those who continue to choose to live in a previous century used the opportunity to bleat about all sorts of unrelated nonsense, including Tony George, Paul Tracy in the 2002 Indy 500, the split, etc.

In the meantime the super duper executive marketing team assembled by Mark Miles continues toiling in complete obscurity as one of the primary broadcast partners, NBCSN, begins promoting their NASCAR activity that begins in July right now while the IndyCar season that starts four months earlier is never mentioned anywhere unless someone with access to column space chides the Barnhart hire. ESPN still features NASCAR coverage but nary a peep about its now primary broadcast partner.

Is it any wonder folks lament their notion that the entire sport is in the crapper?

January 26, 2015

Gordon Kirby Has a New Competitor In The Racing Nutjob Department

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:42 pm

TabloidNorris McDonald is a writer for a Canadian Newspaper, the Star, that has experienced a precipitous decline in readership over the past seven years. This McDonald character decided to use the Rolex 24-hour event at Daytona to take yet another gratuitous potshot at IndyCar for no apparent reason.

Will there ever come a time when malcontents who have created a utopia for themselves based on twenty-plus years in the past simply grow up? And if someone is supposed to be a professional writer and not a hack why would the basis of bitching be something as stupid as ‘…A friend send me an email Sunday afternoon that contained this information: “I recently read that at least one major IndyCar sponsor isn’t with the series this year and two are on their last year and won’t renew because of the short season. If that isn’t a wake-up call, then what the hell is Miles waiting for?”

NorrisHelpful hints for reporting with integrity:

-Who is the sponsor that is not with the series, and where are the comments from both IndyCar and the departing sponsor?

-Who are the two in their last year, and where are the comments from both IndyCar and last-year sponsors about a short season being the reason for their departure?

-Where are the on the record comments about your ‘points’ from Mark Miles?

You know what is easy Norris? Rumor mongering. You know what takes actual work, integrity and professionalism Norris? Going on the record with sponsors, IndyCar and series leadership. If you believe Mark Miles leads a group that does not care about the series would it not make sense to ask him why not?

When passing judgment about ‘abysmal’ ratings do you ever look around outside your little cocoon? The ratings IndyCar gets are, in fact, pretty average for sports programming on cable and OTA channels. IndyCar’s ratings are higher than the majority of programming on such sports cable channels. You work in print. You, Norris, more than anyone, should know all about previous customers leaving in droves.

In the United States we refer to the late summer holiday as ‘Labor Day.’ And it has been only one season that IndyCar has ended its season then. I do not know of one fan who likes it, but whether minds change remains to be seen.

Meantime why not do some actual reporting? Credibility might rise.

January 4, 2015

Taking Action To Gentrify Indianapolis Before It Becomes Full Blown Detroit

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:55 pm

Ghetto AnchorPity Indianapolis. It used to be the center of automobile manufacturing before Detroit (and its easier access to shipping) came along.  Indianapolis also led the way in creating a multi-lane highway belt around the city. Interstate 465 took most of the 1960s to take shape. Now most major cities have such loops either all or partially around each of them.

What is inside the Indianapolis loop has become vastly different than what is outside over time. This difference became readily apparent again over the weekend at Castleton Square Mall on the north side of the city. Once upon a time there existed four really nice malls in the heyday of malls roughly on four sides of Indianapolis. The Ghettowest side featured Lafayette Square. East side residents shopped at Washington Square. More affluent northsiders frequented Castleton Square. Southside shoppers have always had Greenwood Park Mall. Only that one is fairly distant from the concrete loop and shows signs of continuing growth. Of the three others Lafayette Square has become the aesthetic equivalent of a soiled crack den complete with inhabitants. Washington Square has nearly been thugged, robbed and gangsta’d right out of business and is not far behind in the aesthetics department. Castleton Square, although barely outside, has officially joined the race to become the next Lafayette Square.

ThugsThe primary reasons for decline are obvious but constitute subject matter no one is allowed to address because the PC Police will take almost a full nanosecond to brand whoever does a racist. That is a shame because working toward permanent solutions requires often brutal honesty. The phenomenon of white flight exists in most cities but is especially pronounced around Indianapolis. The north side keeps expanding toward Kokomo and Anderson as communities like Fishers, Carmel, Noblesville and Westfield become safe but snarled havens for middle (and higher) class. The same sort of expansion is seen on the west side in and beyond Avon as well as many areas on the south side. Meantime much of the interior; i.e., within the loop, has become a stopped up toilet bowl filled with swirling, disease-causing, smelly brown turds infecting most of what lies around it. One drive down 38th Street between each side of 465 offers appropriate visuals. The pestilence caused by such decay is rapidly turning Indianapolis into what Detroit deteriorated to.  The primary difference between Detroit and Indianapolis, however, is that progressive business leaders up north (Quicken Loans, Roger Penske, etc.) have created an atmosphere that encourages the taking back of the city and redeveloping it from the inside out. Suddenly Detroit is again on the rise. Young people are moving toward the center in high numbers.

In Indianapolis there are pockets of meaningful inner city redevelopment in portions of downtown, Fountain Square, sections of Mass Avenue and others. Unfortunately the ongoing decline of other previously great neighborhoods such as Broad Ripple, Irvington, etc., makes the process sort of like whack-a-mole.  The Speedway Redevelopment Commission has made tremendous strides in keeping Speedway and parts of the west side from falling completely into ghetto oblivion but that job is massive and is just getting started. Redevelopment of organic gentrification simply must catch on.

Even Fuckin Hooters LeftI am not a politician. In that arena my large mouth would get me drummed out of a race in minutes by those prone to fake outrage and pointing/shouting from atop soap boxes. In the unlikely event I might get elected my solution would be to essentially ignore the plight of or the people in blighted areas.  Meaningful social action is a noble pursuit that would take far more time than any of us have on earth. Therefore my plan would dramatically incentivize meaningful development inward and assess penalties on continuing development outward. The more blighted the area the bigger the incentive. Meaningful development could take care of social components naturally and organically over time with far less hand wringing.  The entire area surrounding the blighted Lafayette Square is just such a place. The only thing politicians and community leaders have done is to pronounce the run down, rotted shell of its former self an ‘international cultural center for dining and entertainment.’ That is essentially a happy talk euphemism for an area squatted in by poor immigrants unable or unwilling to advance either themselves or the area in which they find themselves after the majority of previous residents fled. Using terms such as ‘international’ or ‘cultural’ is borderline insulting to anyone with a functional brain. Having personally visited most continents on earth my idea of international cultural diversity differs wildly from the sights I see at, say, 38th and Georgetown.

Magic KingdomWhy does this matter? It is mostly selfish. The historic and legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway existed long before most of the west side of Indianapolis. What now surrounds the track was born and in many cases as deteriorated over the years. The track and the area deserves much better than what it has. Without that track Indianapolis may well have equaled Bismark, North Dakota in stature. In order to permanently clean up the squalor that has infested areas mentioned in this piece we may need to get Draconian in some ways. There is a new roundabout at what was 16th and Georgetown, but that intersection no longer exists because Georgetown Road is now a dead end there. The lack of through traffic now is spooky in its silence. What really matters is what happens to it now and how soon we can expect it. I remain in favor of expanding meaningful redevelopment far beyond the immediate vicinity of the track. It is the contention of many that what they see on the way in keeps them from returning. Redevelopment matters and must be ramped up.

January 2, 2015

Ed Hinton Retirement From The Racing Beat: So Long…

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:40 pm

Ed HintonEd Hinton retired as the ball/race car dropped at midnight on the 1st. He was one of the old guard racing reporters who plied his trade for nearly fifty years, most recently at ESPN. When he began writing about the sport of auto racing he claims not to have known much about it. His orientation, like most, seemed to be stick and ball and general interest. As diehards know it is easy to get hooked on a great sport. Hinton made his mark primarily in NASCAR as he and others rode the popularity of the France family wave to its crest.

Hardcore IndyCar fans typically think of Ed Hinton as part of the reason open wheel has diminished popularity. That is a relatively easy assertion to purport, particularly when citing Hinton passages that describe ‘resuscitating’ the Indy 500 or how the big race is on ‘life support.’ It is my belief Hinton actually understands that the Indy 500 transcends idiotic politics that pollute the sport but he got paid to write opinion pieces to which people would pay attention.

Like when three spectators got killed at Charlotte during an IndyCar race. Hinton, who did not attend that Charlotte race, wrote a piece afterward discussing future safety considerations from his location in Ontario, California. His Sports Illustrated editors added an inflammatory headline and the infamous bloody sheet photograph. That got his credentials pulled from Indy, which resulted in an avalanche of negative reporting and credential cancellations from his press brethren. Eventually Tony George and IMS caved but not before shooting off another appendage to make whatever point they were attempting.

Reading Ed Hinton telling a story in print is much like having a Forrest Gump experience. Name any major event or star, particularly in NASCAR, and Ed seemingly either had something to do with it or was there every step of the way chronicling it. Was it writing style or simply name/event dropping? I do not know Hinton personally but that never prevented occasional praise or criticism of his work or intent whether I was right or wrong. As a matter of fact I really slammed him over what I felt was a Brickyard hatchet piece in late July, 2009. The important thing was that he got read, and that is the ultimate basic goal of any writer.

Another frequent criticism by many was the way in which ‘the split’ got recycled over and over in just about any IndyCar piece. Granted Hinton was never as egregious as, say, Gordon Kirby….but Ed always managed to stay employed by reputable sports news organizations. Even though Hinton has a long tenure in race track press rooms the majority of his IndyCar coverage occurred during the coup d’état occupation of the sport by team owners following the death of Tony Hulman and the devastating plane crash that claimed key USAC officials.  Many writers who earned their livelihoods in some cases directly from the rogue organization naturally anointed the period of 1979 through 1995 as the gold standard by which anything else must be measured for all future generations. That seems laughable to those of us who hung off the fences during all of the 1960s and 1970s. What no one seems to understand in 2015 is that the entire world has fundamentally changed and holding up ANY period of the past as anything more than nostalgic whimsy seems foolish.

Great writers who were long in the tooth way back then but retiring or dying off as cart pushed its way to the front of the line did not say much at the time. Hinton was certainly around for years prior to the occupation, but his first 500 did not occur until 1975.  Good young writers today; e.g., Hinton’s ESPN peer John Oreovicz, have a tendency, often in subtle ways, to continue fostering the ‘everything about cart was great/everything about anything Hulman-George/IRL is an object of ridicule’ sentiment. In many cases that is how they were mentored and/or derived a paycheck at one point or another Suck itfrom a cart entity. There is a tendency for old timers to take whatever is written by anyone in the sport today with grains of salt.

What all of us could really use today is a fresh-off-the-turnip-truck young Ed Hinton to burst onto the scene with wide eyes, eagerness and an ability to think for himself, then a talent to eloquently write what he experiences in honest, straightforward ways. When Ed Hinton did that he was a breath of fresh air. All we need now is for someone to do it again.

Thanks for ALL the recorded memories Mr. Hinton and enjoy an umbrella drink on a sandy beach at some point.

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