Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

March 25, 2015

IndyCar Fans….What’s This? A New Club Track? Awesome.

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

Small OnesOne of the more humorous aspects of waiting for the start of the IndyCar season is exploiting the decades-long class warfare in open wheel for humor. You know, the undercurrent of suspicion that has long pitted Euro-centric road enthusiasts against traditional American-style oval racing fans. It is fun both to examine and subsequently poke fun at either it or the irony that results. A blurb that caught the eye of a few this week involves a drawing board stage club racing track near Denver International Airport. It is one of those facilities that aspire to attract mostly genital-girth-deprived, compensating Porsche (or any other fancy nameplate brand) owners who secretly believe they are the next coming of Senna no matter how much it costs. Hey, it beats the heck out of golf, right?

Wet Dream

Wet Dream

Elements of the story that make it intriguing for this American legacy fan:

-They touted VIPs at the announcement of the venture as Tony George and Al Unser, Jr.

-They gave royal treatment to the designer of the track, Hermann Tilke.

-Its great location beyond DIA and next to a private airport was flaunted.

Twisty Man-They produced a fancy video of artist renderings and blueprints as well as a flowery script being carefully read by a nattily attired, pressed suit-clad and evidently sober Al Jr.

That’s right…it’s the all new (well, eventually anyway) Altezza Drive Resort. The only way this probably works long term, assuming they get it built (itself a pretty big assumption), might be to build also build a penis enlargement clinic on the premises and give away free Viagra for rich, white, older, male participants.

Predictably, the Internet community o’ race fans is abuzz in one way or another. Some believe it will be the second coming of Barber and a great place to hold a new IndyCar race. Some of the more Hiccuppompous, arrogant formula nose-in-the-air meddlers spend a lot of time dismissing the entire design as a cookie cutter hobby track simply because Hermann Tilke is involved.

I am really surprised, however, that I have seen few if any dismissals based on either Tony George or Al Jr. Don’t get me wrong…I like Tony George, believe he had the right idea (albeit poorly executed) in the mid-1990s, and understands better than about anyone what Indy is all about. Some of the more childish, ignorant OCD victims who obsessively Tourette their way into dialog otherwise exchanged among actual evolved human beings have even mockingly positioned Tony George as a ‘savior’ (or ‘saviour’ if they are from Mexico North or across a pond). I like Al, Jr. too and sincerely hope he has turned the corner on sobriety. The odds are against it, however.

Realistically, then, how successful can this venture be if it features Tony George, Al, Jr. and Hermann Tilke right out of the gate? Also, why no skepticism considering the lack of actual dirt being turned? After all NASCAR tried to build a cookie cutter in that same area and was met with resistance by everyone from the FAA to NIMBYs.

The real shame for Indy or NASCAR racing fans in Colorado (and there are quite a few of them) is the inability to use an existing GREAT track. As Mike Klis of the Denver Post pointed out in 2008, ‘ISC is the ugliest acronym on the Colorado sports scene.’ He is referencing ISC’s infamous flip of Pikes Peak International Raceway in which they specified no racing event can be held there that will draw over 5,000 spectators. In other words they intended for it to be reduced to a club racer track even after they no longer owned it.

IndyCar always reliably drew 30,000 to 35,000 spectators and even raced there two times in a year early on. The only things the track needs are SAFER barriers and a few temporary stands. Given the increase in population around Colorado Springs (and even Pueblo, not to mention south of Denver) and the general economy in Colorado there is no reason to doubt potential success of either IndyCar or NASCAR-related events, particularly since NASCAR cannot get their Denver area track off the ground. But as Klis points out ISC has never been willing to address their flip clause publicly, in the process ripping fans off.

Perhaps the smart effort would be finding a way to re-open one of the finest 1+ mile oval tracks ever built to actual quality competition. Knowing the NASCAR history with wanton and willful destruction of quality racetracks common sense will likely not prevail.

March 23, 2015

Wow. Another NASCAR Sellout. Meanwhile IndyCar Fan Thumbs Still Twiddle.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:06 pm

GreenWhattChickerThe Disciple smart brother was wondering aloud yesterday during one of the tedious, repetitive ‘greeeenwhattchicker’ attempts at a legitimate finish at the end of the NASCAR race at Fontana about how they stay successful. They managed to sell out a track notorious for fan ambivalence with slower cars and contrived racing (never mind they used to try to sell 200,000 NASCAR tickets every year and now all they can sell is less than 70,000). Again. Contrary to what IndyCar participants might have you believe the last two NASCAR events in particular prove conclusively the oval genre is relatively distant from unpopularity.

We can argue until blue in the face about the merits (or lack thereof) about what makes NASCAR popular. The brother took an alternate approach and asked what would make NASCAR less popular quickly if charged with that task. The short list we formulated makes sense:

1) Reduce fields from 43 to 24 cars.

2) Import drivers with the ability to fund themselves from several foreign countries (Brazil, France, Japan, Colombia, etc.) along with non-domestic sponsors no one has ever heard of and whose products are unavailable here.

3) Reduce the number of American drivers to about 10% of the total.

4) Begin the season on the last weekend in March.

5) End the season on Labor Day weekend.

6) Reduce the number of races to 16-17 annually and actually run TWO races at the same track on one weekend a few times to artificially pad the total.

IndyCar Promotion At Work At Oval Tracks

IndyCar Promotion At Work At Oval Tracks

7) Reduce the amount of ovals to just four tracks then claim repeatedly that ‘ovals are just not popular anymore.’

8) Triple the amount of street races (and some road courses) and in the process create a gypsy carnival atmosphere in which municipalities are fleeced a couple of times before being asked never to return.

9) Eliminate all support races on the same weekend with the exception of the (is it still called the) Nationwide Series or the (whoever the sponsor is this year) trucks.

10) Eliminate all forms of entertainment and/or country music acts that perform at tracks before and during race events.

11) Immediately stop all forms of advertising and promotion except opening gates and hoping people will come, including no more television ads with all your drivers who wear their drivers suits in all commercials, Kid Rock Chevy truck spots, Danica doing whatever it is she does, etc.

12) Cut all fan activity initiatives at tracks and just hand an announcer a microphone to scream ‘…ARE YOU READY…’ Mark Milesright before each race.

13) Instead of pricing and sizing venues to increase interest and demand, just keep raising prices every year on everything. Also create artificial deadlines and penalize potential fans whose specific attendance plans may not be known until shortly before events.

14) Do not say anything critical to or about your broadcast partners when they completely ignore your series and promote every other series instead. If they ignore you just ignore them right back.

15) And finally, spend tens of millions of dollars on business consultants who will concoct such brilliant strategies.

March 16, 2015

The Disciple Consulting Group for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Catching Up To The 21st Century

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:25 pm
BCG Cartoons

BCG Cartoons

Attention IMS Management: Please think of the following suggestions as The Boston Consulting Group only without all the pointless graphics and getting fleeced for millions of dollars for no apparent reason.

One of the primary initiatives on Doug Boles’ plate is the long term care and modernization of the 106 year old Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That is a huge challenge. In a previous blog I urged Boles and crew to use a combination of historic IMS photographs and modern retro baseball stadiums as template guides. The biggest aesthetic to retain is the ‘tunnel’ characteristic of turn one with multi-level covered grandstands. At a minimum seats need to be wider and spaced further apart to justify what have become annual increases in price. I wish I could get paid millions of dollars by advising event venue hosts to raise seat prices every year.

Once paying fans have begun occupying the newly spacious and dramatically more expensive seats the next order of business is creature comfort for their increasingly bulbous backsides. Conveniently located concessions and restrooms are really important. Perhaps the most vital aspect of attending fan comfort is integration of technology. Since everyone has a

Antique

Antique

smart device Verizon is an ideal partner because they can help enable hundreds of thousands of smart devices inside the facility. Ideally IMS should want short attention span attendees paying attention to what is on the track.

That is why a news blurb from Derrick Walker last week is so compelling. Walker alluded to the testing of a 9” X 4” ‘frame’ on every car behind the roll hoop that is integrated to timing and scoring that can show running order, fuel status, color coding (like when a yellow is thrown), etc. That is fascinating and long overdue.

IMS ought to consider taking the LED technology to the next level. It would not have to be Eddie Gossage ‘Big Hoss’ level. At IMS it is better to employ several small displays due to sheer facility size. My grand ideas include:

159332236CC00012_NRA_500-Run a stream of LED elements all the way around the track on both the inside and outside at track level. Primary uses might be for qualifications. When a driver took the green the LED displays would also turn green and circle the track. When a car was on its run the green LED display could trail the car all the way around the track at the same speed as the car. Such technology would be helpful for yellow flags and others; e.g., passing flag approaching start/finish.

-Inside all four turns, embedded into the ground (think of embedded floor TVs at some Red Robin restaurants only modern) would be large HD displays. During the same qualification runs the displays would show trap speed, current lap speed, the average speed of the run and where the car is in the grid. Monitors attached to outside stands and visible from inside seating or grass would carry the same information.

-When not used for statistics video of the runs would be displayed.

-Randy Bernard got it right when he took the visuals on the road. If IMS can figure out a way to do it efficiently and effectively it makes a huge difference at other venues.

-Paying for such technology? Advertising/Sponsorship, of course.

These ideas are merely starting points for a lot of creative uses of new technology. I need to find Doug in the next few months for a brief chat ;-).

March 12, 2015

In The Midst Of All The Backslap Touting of IndyCar Growth Can We Discuss A Primary Ongoing Failure?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:27 pm

As the IndyCar season FINALLY begins at the end of March, NASCAR will have been up and running for a month and a half and Formula One will be on its second event of the year. As usual promotion of anything even remotely limited to IndyCar is nearly non-existent on the channels and web pages of the media ‘partners.’ NBC Sports Network has joined ESPN on ABC in relegating IndyCar to something slightly less than un-promoted filler content.

NBC Sports Dot NutsAt 10:30am on March 12 the Disciple research team decided to spot check NBC Sports websites. Predictably they have NASCAR segregated from all other motor sports. When clicking on the ‘Motors’ link the pecking order on the left side of the screen is: NASCAR followed by Formula One followed by IndyCar, then Motocross and fantasy. The right side of the screen featured links to twelve NASCAR stories. When clicking on ‘Motorsports Talk’ the first six stories are Formula One, then one Formula E, then 2 Simona and 1 Josef Newgarden stories (IndyCar), then additional Formula One some more.

Need additional proof that IndyCar is an afterthought to NBC Sports Network? Go to the NBC Sports Network Marketing Print and Digital Archive links page at nbcsportsnetwork.net. Include in this blog on the left is a screen shot of the first page on that site. Look it over carefully and tell me what is missing.

It is the same story on ESPN’s page. Nothing about racing on the first page, then when clicking on ‘Racing’ the headline stories are: F1, F1, NHRA, NASCAR, and NASCAR/F1. Evidently ESPN is touting a web partnership with F1. An ESPNF1 section is present that includes links to five more F1 stories, their calendar and an archive. Standings and schedules exist for IndyCar, F1 and NHRA.

The story links on the upper right of the page are for: F1, F1, Supercross, F1, NHRA, Supercross, F1, IndyCar, Rally, ARCA, NHRA, F1 and cycles. Speedway resident and cart-centric pundit John Oreovicz hung right in there with a two-month-old story about A.J. Foyt (pictured hugging Tony Stewart).

How Media Partners See IndyCar

How Media Partners See IndyCar

All of these items prove once again that in the eyes of the editorial management of two broadcast entities that are supposedly ‘partners,’ IndyCar remains the outcast bastard stepchild of their families. What is the common link between this complete lack of promotion for well over a decade? IndyCar management.

Mark Miles has been busy touting his notion that all measurable metrics like ratings, attendance, etc., are up, up, up and up some more (never mind that when the numbers begin so close to all-time lows up is the most likely direction). He also has driver employees parroting all the great news. What about things that are not directly measurable like basic promotion of your product by entities contractually bound to IndyCar? Where is the encouragement, enforcement and results? For that matter why isn’t Ryan Hunter-Reay, the most recent American Indy 500 winner, a household name and not invisible? After his big win he even had time to impregnate his lovely wife for a second time, tend to her through pregnancy and help deliver the child.

Most people are really encouraged by the present direction of IndyCar and there are a lot of reasons for optimism. The entire concept of self-promotion and marketing, especially in conjunction with partners, obviously remains a dismal failure. When will IndyCar leadership do something about THAT?

March 11, 2015

Refreshed Looking IndyCars Ready to Go!

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 6:14 pm

ChevyFor some reason people have been asking me what I think of the new Chevy and Honda aero kits. Why? It is too early to proclaim anything. They are different, and that is one of the things for which fans have been clamoring. I believe it is wise to wait until we can see them in action on the track.

HondaInitial fear? The expense involved with replacing pieces dislodged by contact. A team that goes through three per race will have to budget an additional $4 million. But let us all wait and see. Leave the doomsday commentary along the Internet to the idiots who would complain if they were hung with new rope.

Meantime, good job Chevy and Honda for thinking way outside the box.

March 9, 2015

Helping Doug Boles Make The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Better

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:33 pm

As legacy racing fans continue to patiently (or IMpatiently) wait for a too-short season to begin a major source of comfort is that spring is showing signs of re-appearing. Thoughts naturally turn to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the way it continues to evolve. Thus far the tenure of Doug Boles as President has been good. He knows what Indy means and has some business chops to boot.

OldieWhen objectively evaluating the past twenty years you start first with the personalities. Tony George was family and rarely allowed any lack of funding to derail overarching projects. The Pagoda stands as his crowning achievement. The old glass, concrete and metal control tower that went up in ’57 became iconic but always seemed out of step with history. It reminded many of cookie cutter, circular baseball stadiums that went up in the 60s and 70s. They are all gone now too, and few miss either the master control tower or the donut-like baseball stadiums. The IMS Pagoda tipped its hat to history and successfully managed to marry nostalgia with ultra-modern appeal In With The Newand functionality. Other iconic spots at the facility, however, vanished. Take the inside of turn one, for example. IMS has turned it into a Barbie vagina. Well, trailer park Barbie vagina. The unkept, patchwork randomly thatched non-track area looked horrible from E-Stand and on camera all of last year. ‘Barbie vagina!?’ one might ask. Yes. It is by far the best analogy. At one point turn one had character and natural beauty. There were trees. There was terrain. There was a meandering stream that crossed the inside of the turn before going back outside the track. It even smelled bad over there once the end Turn 1of the race rolled around; the result of being filled up with some of the most vile forms of alcohol tinged human and animal excretions possible.

Now and for the past few years the ‘snake pit’ has become a controlled, commercialized promotion on the opposite end of the track. The creek in turn one is still there but it now runs through a pipe buried underground. Where there was once character and charm there is now a flat expanse of sterile nothingness. Just like a Barbie vagina.

Once Tony vanished and Jeff Belskus took over the goal seemed to be not spending any money on anything short of preventing selected structures from collapsing, and even then some structures seemed expendable such as historic structures on the grounds with sagging roofs and peeling paint.  When Tony demolished the old motel while mums was away it was probably something that needed to be done but an asphalt parking lot as a replacement has zero character or appeal. About the only time grass got mowed was right before track events. Under Belskus the facility as a whole started to become an eyesore.

Now we have Doug Boles, who understands the need to properly maintain the facility and understands the limitations of finite budgets. While the elder Anton’s coffin probably now resembles a rotisserie spit as a result of his potentially frequent grave turning IMS has followed other institutions in supplementing their own funding with taxpayer dollars. Unlike some my New Oneproblem is not necessarily that the IMS hand is out, but rather what gets done with the money once it arrives. Add the appearance that most future revenue generation will be centered around continuously raised prices for everything every year. Wonder how long that will be sustainable given their location and clientele?

The single most visible sign of Boles’ deeper understanding involved the replacement of the scoring pylon along the straightaway. IMS managed to retain the historic legacy visual AND bring the functionality into the current century. The jury is out on what will replace missing video monitors.

The next big challenge for Boles and crew should be making the attendance experience relevant to an audience of today. What about grandstands? The smart move long term is to avoid taking any cheap way out. The world has enough steep, uncovered aluminum grandstands as it is. Check Daytona’s new Mt. Everest grandstands for proof. Obviously some grandstands at IMS will have to be replaced. Others, like the Vistas, will continue to retain their 70s-era ‘charm’ until they are replaced and/or people stop buying tickets in them. Many of the oldest stands line the main straight all the way to E Stand in turn one. The smartest advice anyone can give or heed is to take a ‘pagoda’ approach instead of a ‘Barbie vagina’ approach.

Main straight.bmp-1As crumbling grandstands are replaced IMS must check its collective conscience. Go retro in terms of look but make it modern. Use most new baseball stadiums as inspiration. Retrieve historic pictures of IMS stands. Above all the nuances that make Indy special; e.g., the tunnel effect into turn one, must be preserved. That means double decker, covered stands. Only this time do it right. Wider seating. Rows twice as far apart. Concessions and restrooms plentiful on both levels. Deck access that does not require vertical climbing on the outside of a stand. The look and feel of the 105-year-old IMS can easily be maintained with the right creative architecture, and that should always be top of mind with Doug Boles and crew. Well engineered brick and/or wood-look composite materials can have dramatic effects as the legendary facility crawls into the current century.

It is all about fan experience these days. Replacing fans is important and it involves far more than cars on the track. It is time for a series of pagoda-like home runs. Are you up for it Doug?

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