Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

June 16, 2015

Converting Open Wheel Fans Back Into Indy Only Fans, One Failure At A Time

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:42 pm

Indy Car MechanicNow that IndyCar teams have a much needed week off the pundits have taken to second guessing the leadership again. One example is a really good column in Racer by Robin Miller that describes rampant frustration with Mark Miles’ newly compressed schedule. Evidently the situation in the paddock is a lot of worn out, walking zombies sending out resumes for other forms of work when they are not on the road and missing sleep.

That sentiment is easily understood, particularly from someone who travels a lot for business and still manages to squeeze in a few races every year. The most frustrating part of this particular predicament is the lack of caring, empathy or long term solutions from the top. Mark Miles has been lauded a lot for his accomplishments in sports in the past. One look at professional tennis justifies such praise. He also deserves criticism.

Anyone appointed to the job he has will face difficult decisions. The only realistic option for attaining black ink instead of red ink is simple. Cut expenses and raise prices. Over and over. That mission has been accomplished but what will it do to the sport long term? Those who tie history back to USAC no longer have a case. That ship has already hit the iceberg and the only thing its leadership can do is salvage floating pieces of wreckage to try and humpty-dumpty that organization back together. Davey Hamilton was recently hired to try to do just that as well as set a future course. He lasted seven weeks before being made to walk the plank. USAC is just the latest of a 100-year string of failed sanctioning entities to flounder and wither or simply die.

Counting beansIMS is charge of everything once again, and things at IMS are looking mighty rosy. This is especially true given the upcoming 100th running in 2016. Now that Miles has been given credit for something resembling profitability it is time to look critically at a few items for which he is nearly universally panned.

First, a shortened schedule. It may seem to be a swell idea for Miles and external consulting entities, but neither attends every race nor turns any wrenches, rebuilds cars or jack-of-all-trades for days on end, then faces the very real prospect of six or seven months of unemployment. All indications are that Miles simply does not care and is intractable on his/BCG position.

Second, an Indy-like experience outside Indy. Miles has surrounded himself with executives who also supposedly have the business chops to make a series like IndyCar mainstream. The problem is we have now seen years pass with no discernible difference from regime to regime. Relatively speaking selling sponsorship for the 100th running of the 500 is probably something any motivated high school student could do for a lot less than some fat six figure salary. Constructing a schedule of high value supporting events along with any coherent way to promote them around the country and world has proven elusive.

IMG_2846Take Pocono, for example. It is an oval that was designed by IndyCar drivers and built for IndyCars back in the early 70s. Open wheel dysfunction and conflict ensured its profitable future as a NASCAR track. IndyCar fans waited twenty-four long years for that track to return and when it did many more than actually attended wished they could. Thankfully the schedule was changed this year from a holiday weekend to a normal summer weekend. Problem is when IndyCar is the only on-track activity and there are only 22 or 23 cars normal fans are going to wonder why they should spend hundreds of dollars to make such an effort, and our fear is that this legendary track will become another three and done for IndyCar. I received my IMG_2845tickets for that race in the mail, and the ticket times do not agree with the published schedule times. No discernable promotion is occurring for the event anywhere in the Northeast. Worse, if people get a good look at the published schedule and see essentially a shell game of IndyCars on the track only sporadically, the prospect of sitting in exposed summer heat will cause many to just set DVRs and watch the race at home, which will probably be another parade with so few entrants on that huge track. Another year is going by with zero attention to events outside Indy.

Third, Miles’ assertion that scheduling of tracks, primarily ovals, within driving distance of Indianapolis will detract from Indy is ludicrous. The fact many tracks are within driving distance is the very reason many Midwestern fans would attend more races, assuming they got priced coherently (the Andretti people have not yet figured that out) and actually promoted. IndyCar should definitely be at Chicagoland, Kentucky, Gateway, Michigan and even Memphis. Elimination of such venues combined with the most awful lack of presentation everywhere else, particularly ovals, has turned many fans back into Indy-only.

Perhaps Mark Miles will one day figure out the visceral soul shaking allure of the sport is what ultimately makes the dollars flow. His laughable attempt to micromanage that elusive concept (events leading up to qualifying weekend at Indy are exhibit A) that evolves much better organically is his biggest failure, particularly anywhere outside Indy. His style will either work or he will end up on the sidewalk like the litany of his predecessors.

June 7, 2015

Why Ovals Do Not Seem Popular In IndyCar

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:21 pm

ArroganceCommonly mistaken assumptions some folks harbor, then subsequently spout on the Internet, is that ovals are dying. Many then assume that as a result non-oval racing is becoming more popular. That is a laughable assumption. Look no further than NBC Sports’ high dollar ‘investment’ in Formula 1. Ratings are no better than those for IndyCar, and NBC Sports gets IndyCar for a fraction of the cost. And if ovals are not popular why would NBC Sports also invest hundreds of millions for a piece of the NASCAR schedule?

The primary reason why IndyCar ovals are perceived as a dying breed is because the entire genre is once again being co-opted by squatting road racers whose aspirations are either Formula 1 or creation of a facsimile with the word ‘Indy’ as an identity. Most either could not make it and/or washed out in Formula 1 or its ladders. ‘Ovals are just not popular any more’ is a prophecy most participants would like to make self-fulfilling because it fits their subjective view of what the sport should be. That is the mold into which the sport is once again being bent,

IndyCar Participants Visit Texas

IndyCar Participants Visit Texas

‘supported’ by panicked shrieks about ‘pack racing,’ derision of oval enthusiasts as ‘gomers,’ and worse.

We are down to six ovals, and several current participants never waste an opportunity to insult oval hosts in some way. The annual excursion to Texas is proof of such aberrant behavior.

Squatters are able to operate in this manner because management of the sport, while not explicitly complicit, is unwilling to see or expend any energy beyond the Indianapolis Motor Speedway unless Mark Miles can plug in a pro Tennis model of blue chip brand names facilitating millions of dollars into IMS coffers by sponsoring events in far-flung locales outside North America. If/when that happens there is a 100% chance such venues will be non-ovals; probably temporary circuits. Even if IMS management was inclined to try and make events outside IMS work they have rarely demonstrated any ability or willingness to effectively market itself.

SimpleOne of my frequent head slaps is the level of presentation effort IndyCar expends at big ovals such as Pocono or Fontana. By and large that effort is zero. There are no meaningful support events, large gaps in the on-track schedule, no must see entertainment companions and other than minimal promotion track management does no promotional activity by IndyCar. Rolling up merchandise trailers and a relatively hokey ‘fan zone’ is not effective. Nor is handing a mic to Michael Young so that he can shout ‘are you ready’ at a few thousand masochists.

Because IndyCar takes an active hands off stance outside IMS and cannot effectively promote itself outside Indy television partners are not aware of IndyCar either. IndyCar was the first motorsports signing of the NBC Sports Network. When IndyCar signed with Versus, and again when Versus was re-branded NBC Sports Network, the excitement by that brass in press conferences bordered on orgasmic. That enthusiasm disappeared almost immediately. Despite decent ratings and little expense IndyCar is barely promoted by NBC Sports, while Formula 1 is promoted roughly 4 times as much. Soccer? About 50 times as much, which is also true of any stick and ball entity. NASCAR doesn’t resume its NBC run until July but for nearly a year has been promoted over IndyCar by a nearly 10 to 1 ratio.

The story is no different for ESPN on ABC, whose editorial stance regarding IndyCar is even more egregious.  It is not really fair to blame the broadcast partners. They are simply ignorant or unaware IndyCar is an entity, much less one that

IndyCAr Marketing

IndyCar Marketing

occupies a small portion of their schedule. That again points back to a continuing, ongoing massive lack of effort in and/or failure of marketing on a broader scale than IMS by current management. There must be more to these types of arrangements than simply funneling portions of series sponsorship dollars into spot avails in the network broadcasts.

There exist as many oval racing enthusiasts as ever. None of them is ever given incentive to buy tickets. They are far too expensive, and once purchased no real ‘experience’ other than IndyCars on the track is generally offered. Partner entities such as Andretti Sports Marketing sell only expensive multi-day packages, and purchasers are nearly continuously pitched for ‘upgrades’ from the time they purchase to the time they leave tracks. At most of their promoted tracks budget conscious GA purchasers are relegated to small patches of leper-colony-like exile with non-optimal vantage points. New Orleans, in particular, was more of a joke than most. They seem as out of touch with a potential audience as IndyCar. Both assume their clientele is only high income and white collar. That is because those are the only people who can afford the price and show up, and there are not enough of them to effectively butter the bread.

As usual, the fantasies of management and the reality of what they manage remain distantly spaced. Until that cluelessness changes the niche in which IndyCar sits is the niche in which it will remain.

June 4, 2015

Why Not A Friendly Split for IndyCar?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 9:56 pm

Marky MarkAfter what turned out to be a spectacular 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 the window dressing that comprises the remainder of Mark Miles ultra-condensed season is back to a full blown limp, complete with about 1/3 fewer participants.

Some claim the Duel in Detroit was exciting. But some people enjoy having their nipples pierced then adding rings. It should not have been as dull as it seemed but awful weather more than anything else put the kibosh on that one. The island park improves every year thanks mostly to Chamber of Commerce-like Roger Penske, who is hell bent on making Detroit a real city again. Given the short number of entries in the Duel can you imagine the potential carnage had an Indy 500 sized field showed up?

There is a logical solution but we should first discuss the merits of aspirations Mark Miles has. Count me in the camp that mostly supports him. He has relevant business chops and has grown niche sports before. Tennis these days is mostly a niche complete with the kind of television ratings most Internet Television Executives consider horrible. Yet pro Tennis still gets mentions and highlights on sports broadcasts, and the number of blue chip high value sponsors is very high. Miles has a lot to do with that.

When he speaks his intent seems clear. Prestigious events around the globe funded by blue chip sponsors closely aligned IndyCar Paddockwith the brand. That is a path certainly worth going down but he must realize given the tawdry recent history of the modern era he is attempting with this brand to take the most rambunctious members of the Hatfield and McCoy families to the Ritz Carlton for a white tablecloth dinner together. The downside of the international focus is that it almost completely forsakes its American (and North American) base.

There is no shortage of arrogance at the top of IndyCar, and that is hardly new. It is worthwhile to consider a few statistics over the past ten years since IndyCar began its non-oval slippery slope. Years prior to 2005 were not considered because the IRL was 100% oval and remnants of the pre-IRL series had a 100% failure rate. Twice. Non-ovals have a 46% failure rate for IndyCar. If just temporary circuits are isolated the failure rate rises to 60%. You might believe ovals would fare better. Not so. Of the six remaining of twenty attempted the failure rate is about 70%. Once tracks that closed permanently are considered it is about a 50/50 proposition.

Assuming Miles and crew can figure out a way to lower the costs of participation and not micromanage every aspect of the package into ridiculousness I have a great suggestion: A new split, only this time without acrimony, bent egos and scorched earth. The IndyCar brand is potentially golden and highly exploitable.

NazWhen Davey Hamilton was put in charge of USAC it got the minds of some folks working. He is one of those homegrown talents whose IndyCar career was made possible by the early IRL. Since then he has been an owner, an official and has held a variety of roles. That seems like a smart hire. Could he help? Could he pull it off?

In a perfect world a domestic IndyCar branch would contain 25 participants and would feature a non-Indy schedule of 12 oval venues, three non-ovals (presumably St. Pete, Long Beach and either Barber or Mid-Ohio) plus Indy. The international IndyCar branch would feature a 16-race schedule that spans the globe on primarily non-ovals then joins the domestic branch for Indy and possibly two other legs of what could be a multi-million dollar ‘triple crown.’

Indy’s domestic ovals outside Indy would include the five already in the fold, plus Phoenix, Michigan, Richmond, Kentucky, Gateway, Memphis and Chicagoland. Many NASCAR insiders are predicting a schedule reduction and elimination of double dates at most of their venues. That would open some doors assuming IndyCar might back off its current ‘hand us a pile of money and we will appear’ stance into something more creative and equally lucrative.

Assuming both branches had 24 or 25 participants each 50 entries shooting for 33 spots at Indy would bring back a lot of drama. How likely might it be? Dream on…

May 25, 2015

99th Running of Indianapolis 500 a Huge Success

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:30 pm

Winner winner chicken dinnerThe party of D had an unusually great time at the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. With regard to the race itself the start was a little shaky on a lot of fronts but once the boys and girls finally understood the race would not be won in the first few laps but could definitely be lost the show became great. Montoya’s march from 30th after being rear ended by a lady driver, necessitating a change of the entire ‘wide load’ portion of the car, as well as a pit overshoot makes one appreciate what was required to get it done. Takuma Sato screwed himself (and Sage Karam) on lap 1 with a banzai move that ended Karam’s day and put Taku 3 laps down after replacing suspension and wing parts. Despite that hurdle Taku was the third highest finishing Honda. Can you imagine what might have happened had he backed out of three wide in the south chute understanding there were 199 ¾ more laps to go?

idiots onlinePredictions of doom and gloom leading up to the race proved naysayers continue being the most stupid, irrational people on earth, and they were wrong again. I think we all know the first time a car flies into a crowd the sport is over. Given the level of panty wearing in society today the end might come the next time a driver dies. If the IndyCar Series is foolish enough to introduce aero kits then meaningfully test the oval package for the first time at Indy they deserve all the grief they got leading up to the race. There were a variety of accidents during the race, but nothing that resulting in flight, floating or other airborne adventure.

Cynical anti-oval sentiment usually expressed with passive aggressive smarminess was noticeable in many interviews, and often by American drivers onto which IndyCar would like to bestow hero status. The sickening part to this legacy fan is the way IndyCar remains complicit in actively attempting to kill the oval genre. One in depth look at the lack of meaningful presentation at utterly great venues such as Pocono and Fontana is proof. Bottom line: IndyCar should always schedule at least one oval event prior to May. I admired the efforts of Brian Clauson and the Byrd team but why does it have to be that way in the first place?

Watch the teeth honeyThe oval race at Indianapolis remained spectacular once talent engaged. Predictably most of the race was a Penske/Ganassi shootout and Penske had more bullets. Honda is obviously out to lunch on something, be it horsepower or getting their machines through air. That makes performances by Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti all the more impressive. Graham is having a dream season and his biggest worry may well be Courtney’s teeth. They look as if they could do damage if misplaced.

Racing itself through the field was thoroughly exciting. This is important because ESPN on ABC misses it consistently. Several drivers such as Jack Hawksworth made things interesting in terms of passing. He was aggressive once too often toward the end. Triston Vautier created a Donald Davidson trivia question when he qualified one car but raced another. The Coyne effort ended up being led by Pippa Mann, who spent the Dale Coyne Racingmajority of her day in the back and staying out of the way of faster cars. Positive thoughts are going out to injured members of that organization’s pit crews, many of whom have been treated like bowling pins so far this season.

Weather and crowds were great for the 99th running and the more seasoned, mature Juan Montoya has gained an adult respect for the place to go along with his considerable talent. As we move toward the beginning of the second hundred Indianapolis 500s I have a few suggestions:

-Kowtowing to ESPN on ABC for the timing of pre-race events has ruined the on-site experience for attendees. In years past there was a rhythmic flow leading up to the command. That has disappeared in recent years in order to operate according to their timetable. Now there are long periods of complete silence while commercials air on ABC. That is stupid. IMS needs to operate its own pre-race pageantry then make ABC work around that. It is a lot easier that way and far better for paying customers.

MHG-Never allow Mari Hulman-George near a mic again. The command yesterday was worse than that for the Grand Prix. I am assuming the ‘helper’ was a daughter. It came off like a thud. People who know that family love them and their contributions and enthusiasm can never be overlooked. To the hundreds of thousands in attendance and the millions watching or listening she came off as either a drunken or dementia-addled sideshow. For the 100th I might suggest three possibilities: A) a selected fan who has attended for decades. B) a video of Tony Hulman in his prime. C) A decorated member of the military. After the 100th perhaps they could whore it out to some corporate entity since a lot of other NASCAR tricks are now being copied. In any event, retire Mari permanently.

-Straight No Chaser did a remarkable job replacing Jim Nabors. Their rendition was traditional, respectful and nostalgic. They should be invited back. If they are they should be allowed to slow down a bit and sing both verses. The rushed snippet version was not optimal. If the boo birds win and they go another direction for #100 SNC should STILL be included, and another ideal slot would be in place of Florence Henderson for God Bless America. She is well beyond her expiration date as well. The rendition this year was even more nails-on-a-chalkboard grating. She and Mari should remain in their suite all day long from now on.

-Audio glitches continued plaguing the day. One might think that after several years this would get figured out.

-I am unable to comment intelligently on the television coverage because as I tried to view the same day playback in Indy I fell asleep soon after the race began. I will try again in a day or so and offer commentary then. The radio guys were their usual eloquent selves and my new RE 3000 kept me up to date on the teams and drivers.

-Newbie fans were enthusiastic. After the race they wondered how they had missed such great racing for as long as they had. Now we’re off to Detroit to kill off that type of momentum. I keep wondering what the series will do to piss Eddie Gossage off enough when Texas rolls around to get thrown out so their COTA wet dreams can be realized. That is Crapper liaradmittedly cynical but highly realistic.

The party of my brother was seated in the midst of a gaggle of hypocrites in the Southwest Vista. These adult children were seated in a group wearing dated, irrelevant 1990s cart-themed synthetic shirts and even some defunct hate site attire. He indicated there was some guy named Kevin who would not shut up the entire day. He told me he got a chuckle out of their presence. For youths who spend an inordinate amount of time falsely claiming not to pay attention to anything even remotely related to IndyCar and hating any/everything related to IMS he thought it odd they would actually be there, preserving their liar/hypocrite status. He also indicated their drinking and loud talking was disruptive. Usually those who cackle the loudest are the most fervent followers. Next YearLOL.

Now it is off to watch the replay to see what I missed in person and renew tickets. The saddest part about today is the fact that we have to wait another year.

May 18, 2015

Month O’ May Adventures (and Misadventures) Continue at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:16 pm

Internet PukerFor this racing fan and immediate party the month of May in Indianapolis has been very enjoyable. How can it not be when Indy cars take to the track? The tendency for those outside looking in (especially along the raw sewage line that is the internet) is to deride folks like as ‘place fans’ as if that is some sort of bad thing. I suspect jealousy is involved. I am an unabashed ‘place fan’ and enjoy many other events in person as well. Indy, however, remains the pinnacle.

Here are a few observations from the month so far. The Grand Prix of Indianapolis makes me yawn. It is Pussiesenjoyable for certain but contrary to my expectations. It seems like a waste of Indy Cars. Why not find another formula to run it instead, like Formula E? The squatting formula oneabees occupying IndyCar seem enamored of that series, and given the current collective proclivity of society to don frilly lace panties en masse then tightly knot them whenever anything deemed politically incorrect arises (such as burning fossil or plant based fuels) it seems natural to consider that option. The race attendance and ratings do not make a strong case for continuing to foist it as the money grab it smells like. They could easily generate positive life force energy from the tree hugging community.

The one guy who seems to be working harder and smarter than anyone else month after month is Doug Boles. Projects that are ongoing and planned are transforming the old Brickyard into a renewed showplace for the next hundred years. The pylon and new video monitors are spectacular. Most 7 bucksconcession areas have new faces and the product offerings are better. Way too pricey, but better.  One advantage of lodging two blocks from the track means we can leave during down time and eat/drink for a lot less money outside the track. $14 for a sandwich and a soft drink may be normal from a venue pricing standpoint but is one reason people decide not to partake. I only slipped up once with a $9.00 tenderloin but mostly acted on things like a $7.00 meal that included a large roast beef, curly fries and a half gallon of Diet Pepsi at Arby’s down the street.

Boles is not responsible for the scarred-over wound the inside of turn one became for F-1 and MotoGP. I still really miss the character of the turn with the creek and trees. It remains far too sterile for my taste. The monstrous, rusting old rotating scoring structure inside the south chute is gone and right now is not missed. The other one on the north end is still there for now.

One smart current business philosophy for IndyCar is cultivation of sponsorship for anything and everything. My belief going in was that the Sunoco signs at either end of the pits would be offensive. Not so. They are tastefully placed and unobtrusive. What really took me by surprise is the Sunoco logo on the south end of the upper deck of E-stand. THAT is tacky and directly affects the character of the stand. It may, however, be a moot point. Plans have been revealed that involve the reconstruction of A, B and E, primarily to remove vertical view-obstructing columns and add more of the high dollar seats as part of a grand new entrance to the track.

Hopefully the tunnel-like characteristics of the stands into turn one remain. Unclear is what happens to the seats below the upper decks. My continuing thoughts are that seats need to be wider with deeper pitch. People are larger these days and seating should accommodate much larger behinds as well as their coolers. So far the ongoing evolution of the physical plant gets an A and Boles is the man.

GeorgetownGeorgetown Road no longer connects to 16th Street, and there is no way to force exit down there unless you are on a motorcycle, and even then it’s dicey. This point is lost on hundreds of people who either cannot read or feel all the ‘No Thru Traffic’ or ‘Dead End’ signs posted from 25th Street and a few blocks before and after do not apply to them. It is almost comical watching people storming down a much less busy Georgetown Road, then a few minutes later watching them storm back.

Qualifying weekend was plagued by a series of crashes involving Chevy-powered Dallaras that smacked walls while facing the opposite direction cars were originally headed then becoming glorified box kites usually ending upside down. When Ed Carpenter’s accident occurred IndyCar brass decided it was time to do something. Behind closed doors they went. The social media sphere erupted with panic, illiteracy, hyperbole and torch carrying. Because the controversy involved IndyCar the second guessing stayed in high gear for most of the day. It was humorous watching the racing press gossip like little old ladies along fence posts.

The most unusual aspect for me was the silence encountered on the track PA. Calabro loves to talk and Jenkins is a comfy sidekick. Thousands of people in the joint tend to rely on the PA for updates. After the practice accident, however, not many words about anything were uttered by anyone for over two hours. BefuddledThat did a tremendous disservice to the attendees, exacerbated by the repeated playback of the most annoying Chevy commercial ever produced.

Once a decision was made and announced a fresh batch of second guessing from the Internet and fan experts began. My preference was to tune out the noise and examine root cause with an eye toward solution. The choice made was to kill the boost and mandate race trim for qualifying with no points, along with an old-school one shot attempt. As a legacy fan I enjoyed that and the pressure it added for teams. The decision did not bother me. What led up to it is worthy of discussion.

As a 50+ year attendee of Indy and many other IndyCar events one constant remains. IndyCar leadership will always appear inept to its fan base regardless of intent, and often contempt is warranted. It has been that way from day one. At least now legitimate business people are working hard to make it needlessly convoluted. What happened this weekend is inevitable when micromanaging a spec series and car. Three card monte tricks such as adjusting boost for artificial bursts of speed and bolting on poorly tested aero kits will always come back to bite concoctors. Pre-selection of the field with a no-hope 34th entry will always bother fans. Long term vision should encourage development the series may not fully control. That takes courage they may not possess.

Common sense also dictates that at least one oval should be scheduled prior to Indy, particularly when testing a brand new package; more particularly when self-funded formula oneabees who have never even attended oval races begin playing music chairs for IndyCar seats. There are so many of that ilk, although keeping track of helmets in Dale Coyne’s concession cars remains stimulating.

So now it is on to the 99th running in less than a week. We can hardly wait!

May 6, 2015

‘Tis The Merry Month ‘O May for Actual IndyCar Racing Fans

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 5:07 pm

smackforum membersEvidently the Disciple fan club has gotten restless and I apologize for neglecting to inspire the special dreaming that comes to many from reading my quaint little missives. LOL.

Truth is the ‘ol D has been busy earning a living. Come Friday, however, the rest of the month is vacation and yours truly will be at the one place that is logical in May…the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Also, speaking with frank honesty, it is tedious trying to wade through the rampant illiteracy that plagues most IndyCar-centric sites. The Internet Television Executives are their usual Einstein-like selves as they attempt to position 12+ overnights as life or death every week. Those of us in the business continue to wait for anything resembling intelligence or discussion about the actual numbers used in such commerce. As usual most look backward for mostly arbitrary standards with no real cognizance of what is happing now and in the future.

There is literally no discussion of current trends such as programmatic selling or unbundling. You know who is flipping out right now? ESPN. Why? Last time I checked they were getting over $6.60 per subscriber. By contrast Fox Sports 1 gets less than a buck per. ESPN has always been ubiquitous in terms of basic cable and that has become an 8 billion dollar per year bonanza for the house of the mouse. Verizon and others are moving closer to ala carte pricing of channels to counteract the tendency of millennials to cut cords. One of the fundamental moves is offering a small number of basic channels supplemented by genre-themed add-ons. Therefore if you are a sports fan you might pay an extra ten bucks a month for a sports tier. Chances are you won’t include any tiers that include things like kid channels or Lifetime or Oprah or any of that tripe. On the other hand if you are a woman not into sports you may not need or want a sports tier. What ultimately results is ESPN in a lot fewer households than today. ESPN/Disney is startlingly pissed about that and is doing everything they can, including lots of lawyers, to halt the status quo from changing.

Change, however, is inevitable. Pining for a better IndyCar television package is not the way to go. The correct path is figuring a way to disseminate product offerings on a much wider variety of platforms anytime anyone wants to consume them. This hBrickyard-001arkens back to an earlier idea about launching a non-linear network(s) that features all the rich content of the past that links to live events carried by current partners.

Which brings us back around to the 99th running. The May 3 opening day harkened back to the good old days and despite way too many opening day snafus, such as only being able to play twangy country music from someone employee i-Pod, made many ask the question about what those responsible for getting that right have been doing for the past eleven months.

That said the aero kits are compelling, speeds have jumped and IMS is slowly being refurbished . I can do without the Sunoco gas station signs at either end of the pits but love the corporate sponsorship.

If anyone needs me I will be where I usually am in May. Strolling the grounds of IMS and/or very nearby.

April 19, 2015

IndyCar NOLA Recap (With The Benefit of Time)

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 6:25 pm
NOLA Race Course

NOLA Race Course

Better late than never and perhaps it is a great idea to compare the event this weekend with what took place last weekend. Full disclosure: Disciple party of six attended the very first NOLA IndyCar GP outside Avondale. Two of us had team credentials and two had media credentials; both allowed essentially the same access. Usually. Although we attended Long Beach last year we have to rely on television coverage in 2015. We have also had the opportunity to retrieve and review the broadcast of last week from the occasionally trusty DVR.

If most people bothered to seek comparison a good one might be NOLA and Long Beach. The west coast institution has a 41-year head start and if there is an event in IndyCar second in stature to the 500 that is probably it. The NOLA folks have a stated goal of making their event the second most attended/popular/watched in IndyCar. They have a really long way to go.

20 parkingAs a drenched attendee most of us had a great time despite the wet, mud, race control micromanagement, and the whimsical, mostly consistently clueless crowd marshalling by yellow shirt wearing minimum wage superstars entrusted with organization there. Expounding on each point:

-The wet. Steady rain most of the weekend exacerbated the primary problem with the venue. It is not yet finished nor ready for prime time. When drainage systems are unable to keep up with the rain that fell or do not exist at all scheduling an event in any weekend that might feature rain is foolhardy.  Since rain is as likely to fall in Avondale as it is not in Long Beach the drainage situation must be addressed at the professional engineering level. Immediately.

-The race. IndyCar bringing wet tires to go along with the slicks is fine, but there is no intermediate compound. As a result sudden transition from wets to slicks began a string of yellows that turned a potentially great event into a head-scratching yawnfest.

-It has been my tendency to defend Brian Barnhart as an experienced referee-type voice in race control. Many people who are far smarter than I am still spend a great deal of time either laughing at or explaining the lunacy of Barnhart’s stewardship. Perhaps it is time I started listening. What we have seen thus far this year has not justified previous votes of confidence.

-We are willing to cut the NOLA folks a lot of slack for a first time event. After all they were phenomenal hosts, were as friendly as they could be and went out of their way for the paying customers. That said attempts to get from, say, the garage to the pit area, the pit area to the paddock, the paddock back to the garage, etc., were consistently met with abject stupidity by contractors clueless about access, even though at each entry way it was all clearly posted. With pictures. They made IMS yellow shirts look courteous and knowledgeable by comparison. Here is an example. The first time we attempted to enter the staging area with team credentials that said ‘garage’ we were rebuffed. Evidently we needed wristbands. When we told the wristband people we needed one they indicated we did not. We asked if they minded informing the folks at the gate of that fact. Evidently they minded and just gave us a wristband. Once we made our way through the staging area tents attached to the transporters (no garages actually exist where the IndyCars are) our intent was to walk pit lane (credentials also said ‘pit’ and were on their ‘credentials for dummies’ pictures). But because we were wearing wristbands we were told we were not allowed out of the area in which we were standing (between staging and pits in the paddock). Never mind the credentials. We were wearing wristbands. We turned around, took the wristbands off then walked right through with the same credentials as before.

This type of clumsy cluelessness was rampant all weekend. The same mental giants were also rigidly enforcing access to all grandstands all weekend, even during rainfall. No ticket for a particular stand or section? Access not allowed. Never mind there might only be five people in the entire grandstand. At most tracks folks who attend on Friday or Saturday try to hit all the stands to judge the best viewing locations. We cut them slack, however, figuring someone will have a talk with them before next season about using what is often referred to as common sense.

Here are a few observations lamented by members of our party. The majority of parking (as in 99.9%) was allowed only in remote lots serviced by busses (kind of like the way Barber does it). Unless you were credentialed (and even then it was usually remote) the charge was $20.00 per day. $20.00 each day. Folks that went all three days had to cough up $60.00.

??????????????????????????????????????Kudos to the Andretti group for staging quality events every year but their reputation for mercilessly nickel and diming race fans was well earned at NOLA. Some members of the party purchased general admission and indicated they felt their money was completely wasted. They were unwilling to stand/sit in mud puddles or wet grass on a small flat area next to two temporary stands. On the other side of the stands, however, suites used by the Andretti sports folks for higher paying customers were fabulous. Seating at the track was positioned as being able to see the whole track. That is not a true statement. If you happened to sit in the pit stands your view of turn one was blocked by the media building. Regardless of stand, just as IndyCar needs intermediate tires the Andretti sports marketing folks need intermediate pricing for, oh, average racing fans. They should also perhaps put a lid on the aggressive ‘upgrade’ pitches once folks determine they got screwed by purchasing lower priced tickets.

Next year all constituents may want to avoid scheduling the event directly opposite a music festival that rivals Mardi Gras in terms of attendance.

The race itself, once run, was highly forgettable. I yawned while there and yawned when the DVR was fired up. Once the Hey sonstars n’ cars commenced to wreckin’ there was no turning back. Eventually a timed race resulted and the best part of wading through that nonsense was the verbal tap dancing of the NBCSN on-air crew.

Speaking of season scheduling Mark Miles was not visible so it was not possible to ask him if he had been talked into again having a normal sized season. The other intended point we wanted to make was the absolute necessity of at least one oval prior to Indy. Not having one slotted early is ludicrous.

Overall reaction for NOLA in year one: Meh. Optimism for the future? High.  Very high. The people who run the track have the right idea and seem committed. If they do not eventually get screwed by the gypsy-like snake oil purveyors in charge of IndyCar and its connected entities this even stands an excellent chance of long term success. The location cannot be beat for entertainment and food (even at the track). My feeling is that things will improve dramatically each year for the next few, and this venue may take a regular slot. The Disciple party had an enjoyable weekend.

April 7, 2015

NOLA: IndyCar Gets a Red Carpet in a Great New Market!

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 8:40 pm

Bring It OnAs the IndyCar Series makes its way for the first time to the outskirts of New Orleans to a club track with higher aspirations, the weather forecast looks unfavorable. That’s OK. It will be a warm rain with parties and great food nearby. Whether IndyCar will run in it remains to be seen. The D party of six will be there rain or shine. This is a potentially great market going forward. The management and ownership of the track, designed by the same guy who did Barber and Miller, is extremely enthusiastic. Too bad they cannot build an oval in that park as well.

A quick check of the web site of IndyCar’s cable television partner at 4pm on 04/07/15 again revealed glaring editorial deficiencies against IndyCar now that NASCAR will start in July and F1 events are being broadcast.

-On the front page European soccer is front and center.

-Top headlines: IndyCar is 0 for 10.

-The ‘Motorsports Talk’ headline? F1 in China.

When an IndyCar or other casual fan finds the ‘Motors’ link (not to be confused with the dedicated ‘NASCAR’ link) the top stories are:






Holy shit! ONE IndyCar story!






A person would have to dig all the way down to ‘Motorsports Talk’ to find minimal IndyCar coverage.

Also as originally reported on March 12, the NBC Sports Network Marketing Print and Digital Archive links page at nbcsportsnetwork.net continues to contain a glaring omission, as displayed on the right.

Whether blame for such failures should be directed toward NBCSN is debatable. I suspect IndyCar simply does not market itself as effectively as NASCAR or F1, both of which have been successful to the point of brainwashing otherwise ignorant decision makers in media. IndyCar managed to forge a coverage deal with USA Today and Gannett, but they cannot stop there. Electronic and digital media platforms must get exponentially more attention.

In any event fans are weary of seeing IndyCar pushed aside as the red-headed bastard stepchild.

April 1, 2015

New IndyCar Season Underway; So Is The Onslaught of Obsessed Chatterers

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:55 pm

The ITEThe legion of squatting Internet Television Executives have gotten neither more enlightened nor less deranged this year despite the long off season. Predictably these Einsteins have pronounced the St. Pete season opener final 12+ number (anything less than a 1) a failure. No rationale. No coherency. No justification. It’s just, well, a failure. LOL. Even funnier are the ITEs who offer their thoughts on what WOULD constitute success; e.g., 1.0 or so on network and .5 or so on cable. Again, no rationale, coherency or justification of any sort of like proclamation. Simply ‘higher is better.’

Those of us who earn livings in the commerce of television advertising spend a lot of time laughing out loud at the childlike blissful ignorance of people who really do believe they are knowledgeable about topics completely out of their scope of thought.

Just once it might be interesting for ITEs to examine ALL sporting events in a given week then tell us how many of them ranked lower (or not at all) than IndyCar in any chosen week. Or how it is possible for some sports entities and/or networks Jackieto be profitable with NO Nielsen ratings. Or how advertising in IndyCar (or any other sport) is proposed, bought and stewarded. Or what numbers are actually used in such commerce. Or what demographic breakouts show. Or how rapidly evolving concepts such as programmatic selling or an expanding range of non-linear options have begun to affect the process. Or how if one of the partners is spending an exponentially higher amount for Formula 1 than it does for IndyCar why the lower ratings F-1 gets would not be equally indicative of failure. It is highly unlikely this small group of pounding typists will yield any such intelligence any time soon.

In the meantime I predict we will see page after page of the willful retardation that makes such special children the object of ridicule by those in the know and the laughter will ensue all season.

If the ITE’s are not enough of an entertaining diversion, the ‘sky is falling’ gaggle of blithering idiots have pronounced this year, surprise, a failure. At the center of their predictable lashing out are aero kits. Personally I enjoyed the event at St. pieces and partsPete. It remains obvious to rationally thinking humans that the event continues to grow. Crowds, sponsorship and community involvement are up and ratings are steady. In defense of the simplistically thinking naysayers IndyCar is very adept at self-infliction of wounds. Introducing over-engineered aero kits on a closed street course is an example.

Despite the obvious the race still managed to entertain. Penske dominated and Ganassi whined. So did Graham, who has become more adept at blaming anyone else than any Andretti who has ever lived. Lots of folks, such as Foyt’s new 41 team with Jack Hawksworth, made lemonade out of their lemons. A review of the DVR playback confirmed the optimism of those who attended.

We are off to a great start. The season needs to be longer however.

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.

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