The latest indelicate groin kick IndyCar Management delivered to some of its best fans was the far-too-casual announcement that California’s Auto Club Speedway annual IndyCar event would not be on the schedule in 2016. Never mind Fontana this year unleashed one of the most compelling, exciting IndyCar races in thirty years and possibly ever. That does not seem to matter and is not even acknowledged.
IndyCar evidently feels its fan base is stupid and will accept most any flowery press release lip service as gospel. A safe bet is to surmise that despite hard work proclamations by both sides no midnight oil was burned, no sweat hit brows, and arrogance no doubt surpassed intelligence.
The ‘window’ copout is particularly disingenuous. If the big Cup weekend is factored with ample space on either side that STILL leaves about 150 possible days in a year in which to consider CONSISTENTLY scheduling an IndyCar event at that track, especially if you get creative with perhaps a Friday night approach. Who says television has to be live on the east coast in a desirable time slot? Why not run a night race, broadcast it live, then re-air in a favorable time slot a day or two later? The replay approach can work well, as it did for the most recently held IndyCar event at Mid-Ohio. It also works for F-1, NASCAR and others who have broadcast partners who take those partnerships seriously. And oh, by the way, no one else has a problem running in the early portion of football season.
IndyCar must also realize that in the case of Fontana use of the ‘drunk guy throwing darts’ approach to date and time scheduling will almost always guarantee failure over time, and Fontana has been victimized by such carelessness more than about anyone (and they are far from alone). Failure also occurs when not meaningfully marketing/promoting the event in the second largest domestic media market. Half-assed presentation effort is also a precursor to failure. It is simply not enough to charge a lot for tickets then have just IndyCars, a handful of vintage hobbyists and Michael Young with a microphone at a track that great. Presentation of both Fontana and Pocono over the past three years is an embarrassing exercise of abysmal. ‘Triple crown’ potential is limitless but has been completely squandered.
It would not surprise me to see the same atrocious management remove Pocono for equally logic defiant reasons. The glimmer of hope meant to appease folks is enthusiasm about a possible return of Phoenix. I prefer to ground myself in reality. Phoenix is not a done deal and given the contentious relationship that track and its owner have with IndyCar, not to mention the fact that track still hosts two Cup events, wide eyed optimism about Phoenix is on par with the fantasies a three year old might have about Santa Claus, chimneys and toys. Even if the politics get squared away IndyCar will not suddenly develop an ability to market/promote professionally, create presentation efforts worthy of the Indy brand or offer fan pricing or amenities packages that will inspire fans to appear in droves. Given current management proclivity Phoenix is far more likely to resemble the last time IndyCar tried Loudon.
You know what would be refreshing? Honesty and transparency. One cannot help but wonder how much of an effect the incessant cackling of the current crop of squatting road racers after Fontana’s latest IndyCar race has to do with the decision. The emergence of young talent like a Josef Newgarden makes many miss a Dario Franchitti far less. It is also my belief that the inevitable retirements of the last of the cart contingent will be better for the sport.
My advice for Mark Miles and Dave Allen: Spend more time powering through and solving arbitrarily created problems and less time publishing flowery, excuse laden press releases. You will never retain fans by alienating them so completely. Adding road races like Road America is fine but series popularity will not be enhanced long term by adding non-oval races and dumping ovals, particularly when virtually no effort is spent building the latter.