Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

February 16, 2015

The Trouble With A Presidential Medal of Freedom for A.J. Foyt

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 5:52 pm

Here is a textbook case that demonstrates the ridiculousness of interaction with others on the Internet and one reason why the management of almost any organization tends to dismiss anything anyone ever has to say in such public forums. Interaction nearly always degenerates into something completely far-fetched and usually way off topic.

Nice MedalA few days ago someone on the Internet had the genesis of a good idea. A.J. Foyt, potentially the most legendary person in motorsports living or dead, had just turned eighty years old. In addition to being a racing hero he is also as American as they get, and is someone to which the vast majority of the average American population can relate. Sure he has always been rough around the edges but that is precisely why most people love the guy. Even people who have been on the receiving end of the rough edges love the guy.

AJ is also a person who has always done great things for other people but has never made any sort of big deal about it. He prefers to keep his soft side hidden. It is only natural that given such longevity, societal contributions and unique American-ness that sooner or later someone would suggest his name as a valid candidate for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Richard Petty already has one but even he cannot match AJ’s diversity.

It is a fabulous idea for certain. The problem is 100,000 people have to sign a petition in a short amount of time and less than 10% of the required number actually have. IndyCar and its heroes do not mean what they once did in the rough and tumble days of the 60s and 70s. Still it is a very nice thought.

CondreThis is the point at which ridiculous begins to set in. The entire Internet space contains anonymous people whose entire point of being is to disagree with anything anyone else has to say regardless of topic. It is not possible to express any opinion anywhere without being infested by the pollution of at least one (and usually a few more) of these idiots, most of whom lack even basic spelling or grammar skills. Three hot topics for such cyber-graffiti include politics, religion and race. In most cases smart folks do not engage the mentally challenged and instead seek out conversation with other adults. Unfortunately motor racing has a fairly acute problem with such hooligans and it is not possible to intelligently discuss virtually any topic anywhere other than in person that does not get bogged down in petty nonsense. Take Trackforum, for example. It was once a place where actual fans could converse in relatively civil fashion. Today, however, almost everyone who ever possessed any intellect has vanished primarily because almost every sub-forum has been co-opted by vandals. The joke that passes for moderation is as dishonest and creepy as the squatters who now inhabit and shout down almost any/every otherwise tactful contributor. Worse, the proprietors of these devolved forums seem too dumb to do anything about it. They are by no means alone.

The mischief makers all follow the same pattern. It is for the most part aggressively defensive and usually occurs when they perceive the slightest whiff of negativity about their favorite thing, be it cart or NASCAR or whatever. The same group of interlopers also tend to proactively slam anything even remotely connected to IndyCar for little apparent reason. They are like jihadists in that they pervert an otherwise pure ideal, commit really stupid acts as a result of their own collective mental illness and in the end a handful of idiots ruin it for almost everyone else.

Super TexBack to the purity of the campaign to get A.J. Foyt a Presidential Medal of Freedom nomination. Within minutes of this campaign gaining social media attention someone on the Internet decided Mario Andretti deserved one either in addition to or instead of Foyt. It was not long before the squatters determined Dan Gurney should get one. Is it any wonder the entire sport is screwed up or that management of it completely dismisses what people who call themselves fans spout?

It is not that Mario or Gurney may be undeserving but from a realistic standpoint they are going to need to stand in line, particularly when we are referring to something this uniquely American. A.J. casts a really long shadow over everyone else. Sure Mario is often compared in terms of versatility to A.J. and is a world champion. He also was born in what is now Croatia and did not become an American citizen until A.J. won his second Indianapolis 500. And Gurney? Seriously? He has no Indianapolis 500 wins. No major championships. He built cars and ran a team for a while (something Mario has never done). Many point to him as the impetus of the actual ‘split.’

Why would racing fans not unite behind A.J. Foyt? It is a logical choice for a living legend. Forget Mario and Gurney and whoever else gets offered up for now and focus on something worthwhile. Find unity for a change and sign the petition.

Like that would ever happen.

February 12, 2015

R.I.P. Walt Disney World Speedway. We Hardly Knew Ya.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:02 pm

WDW SpeedwayIt is tough to understand feelings of great sadness that crept into my psyche since the announcement that Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando would close in June for ‘transportation improvements,’ a Disney euphemism for ‘we need to expand the parking lot.’ The venue only held a handful of early IRL events and a couple of truck races in the late 90s so why the sadness?

It probably involves the outright frustration of unrealized potential. That was a really nice small oval. It had three unique turns, was mostly flat and provided great racing. It was built by the brightest minds of Indy. The only real physical problem with the track today is that it does not contain the SAFR system. It is also a track that holds not so good memories; e.g., the Sam Schmidt accident.

BuzzUltimately the problem with it was Disney did not want a race there in any month except January, which is their ‘slow’ time. When the IRL had a notion of ending their season with the Indy 500 that date worked well but was short lived. Given a dearth of sports immediately before and after the Super Bowl a logical thought is presenting an IndyCar race at that oval the week preceding the Super Bowl (that would have ideally been the culmination of extended off-season testing) might make perfect sense. So would another race at a warm-weather track the week after. Starting a season that early and ending by Labor Day begins to make a little more sense. No one has ever accused open wheel racing leadership of ever having sense, however.

IRL at WDWStill the nostalgia aspect of WDW Speedway is strong. On that late January day in 1996 I was busy doing something else and did not even watch the first IRL race live. When my brother relayed the results my first thought was ‘who the hell is Buzz Calkins?’ Then I rewound the ‘ol VHS and watched it a few days later. Then fell in love with the sport all over again. I watch it fairly regularly to this day. Tony Stewart really looked young. cart at the time was what everyone watched, but they had scheduled and priced many out of most events and just about everyone I knew had become Indy only. The notion of accessible, affordable oval races with lots of Americans was intriguing.

The biggest problem, however, was the fragile and dainty collective ego of cart, which almost immediately chose the path of least sense. They reconfigured their own schedule to create scheduling conflicts then screeched like four year olds Crazy womanthrowing floor fits in the toy aisle at Wal-Mart when the completely misunderstood 25/8 rule (an action they themselves forced) was added for the 500. The blithering cart idiots actually felt threatened by the nascent IRL. I have not seen that much unwarranted insecurity (or crazy) since my unstable second wife convinced herself I was bumping uglies with a different voluptuous woman every single time I left her side and tried to convince me to have her full name tattooed onto my weenie to discourage such illicit activities. Then came the most idiotic, counterproductive, destructive, selfish, unnecessary act of all: The ill-fated US500 that resulted in two primary things: 1) The pre-green flag pileup that took out most of the so-called ‘cars n’ stars’ and 2) A lactose-intolerant answer to a now obscure racing trivia question. cart insecurity that led directly to the acrimony associated with ‘the split’ is actually what hampered popularity and growth, something its mostly deranged virulent supporters and increasingly elderly writers, most of whom were employed in some way by cart back in the day, continue to conveniently forget even today. The most amazing about that particular cancer is that it STILL persists today, as evidenced by the mostly illiterate nonsense and profanity-laden postings all over the Internet by a cult incapable of evolution.

I am happy Walt Disney World will realize their dream of additional parking but remain dismayed the custodians of IndyCar racing; i.e., just about everyone since Carl Fisher, have never taken the sport to its highest potential. Ever. The impending demise of WDW Speedway (and the rich branding opportunities that were allowed to just slip through cracks) is merely another case study in the complete lack of coherent execution of and marketing for big dreams.

As we bid adieu to yet another potentially great oval the road racer mantra/prophecy about ovals ‘no longer being popular’ becomes a little more self-fulfilling, and attempting to maintain an adequate level of fandom has reverted to early 90’s levels.

February 5, 2015

IndyCar 2018 by The Fan

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:46 pm

Since David Malsher of Racer Magazine and Racer.com is unlikely to ask me or any other long time IndyCar fan to express opinions about IndyCar 2018 as some of the sports’ movers and shakers have done in the fine series that publication is running, consider this my contribution.

If the goal of IndyCar is to become a lot more popular (as opposed to slightly more popular or less popular) by 2018 the path seems straightforward in basic ways.

2018The schedule should include 24 events that begin in February after the Super Bowl but before the Daytona 500 and conclude in October. No more than two weeks should pass between events. Strive for a 50% oval/50% non-oval balance. IndyCar invented the genre and can easily invigorate it. The suggestion by BCG that the season should conclude prior to the NFL season is borne of ignorance. Activation sponsors do not want a condensed season, and not one sponsor or fan I know believes a five month season is sustainable.

The IndyCar Series should be configured from a cost and equipment standpoint to ensure a minimum of 28 entries on the grid for every event. Fewer than 28, especially at big tracks, looks foolish.

Offer two distinct big money triple crowns, preferably sponsored. One for the ovals; e.g., Indy, Pocono and Fontana, and one that stresses series diversity; e.g., Long Beach (street), Barber (road) and Texas (oval).

Make race weekends actual events with little to no down time between events. Encourage participation by an increased number of ‘classes.’ Different disciplines could well be encouraged as supporting events, including electric or other alternative powerplants, something like Robby Gordon’s trucks, freshly designed front engine open wheelers, non-NASCAR ‘stock’ cars, etc. Every rung on the IndyCar ladder should participate in every event. If racing at a big oval and a class is oval-averse, use the road course that most ovals have for those classes.

When fans today visit tracks they want to be entertained and get bored quickly. One great idea Randy Bernard attempted to roll out during his tenure was high quality video at vantage points around tracks. Expand on that idea on a Daktronics-like scale. Make portable, transportable video elements larger and present all over every track. Take the ‘Indy experience’ to all venues.

Consider employing a name music act(s) to accompany IndyCar on the road at domestic venues. Entertainment should be continuous on Saturdays and Sundays. The approach should be the polar opposite of the unbelievably nondescript presentation in recent years at venues such as Pocono and Fontana.

Open up the rules. Encourage participation by other manufacturers. Loosen up on the specs and let nature take its course for a time.

Employ a marketing department that actually markets. Ryan Hunter-Reay should be a household name by now.  The fact he is not is just the most fundamental of marketing failures. IndyCar remains distant from achievement of its commercial potential. Stop trying to raise television ratings be setting out specifically to do so. Concentrate effort instead on growing the visceral experience organically. When the series becomes more popular with paying fans who actually attend the ratings will rise on their own. By 2018 the number of people who do not consume traditional television will be much higher than it is today. If IndyCar is unable to effectively disseminate its product to non-traditional video content consumers no meaningful growth can occur.

Some of the biggest names in IndyCar, both behind the wheels and behind the teams, are not getting younger and new blood will desperately be needed. The most important responsibility IndyCar has is to create an environment conducive to and welcoming of new participants.

Ultimately the fans pay the bills by enabling the sponsorship. IndyCar must spend more time weeding through rhetoric and harvesting the best ideas. Conservative no longer cuts it. Get aggressive.

February 2, 2015

Fresh Helping of Failure for IndyCar Leadership

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 7:49 pm

MilesThe IndyCar Series, except for a far-too-brief period under the Randy Bernard regime (and even then not 100%) remains tone deaf to the wishes of its fans. Over recent years many of them have simply vanished. That is a shame. Making announcements involving Brian Barnhart and cancelling a previously highly touted race do not endear the management to the ticket buyers, particularly when the government upon which IndyCar relies for their vig refers to the event as ‘detrimental’ to their society.

On one hand many frequent critics seem appeased by manner in which the Hulman descendants have had themselves extricated from the daily operations of their family companies, even taking minority board positions, in favor of proven leaders with solid business chops.

On the other hand the same type of clueless arrogance (the only words that seem adequate) that causes fans to wonder about the leadership of their favorite sport prevails.

IndyCarDespite touting advancements in the area of marketing both in terms of people and strategies nothing tangible has occurred unless the current staff takes credit for Verizon title sponsorship.  IndyCar fans are currently in the middle of the black hole that is the IndyCar off season, and nothing apparent is being done to keep the sport within reach of casual fans.

This complete lack of effort takes many forms. On Super Bowl Sunday I finally turned on the NBC coverage at 2:00pm. Between then and the start of the game IndyCar partner NBC Sports included lengthy cross-promotional segments for each sport that is a partner on either NBC or NBCSN. Every sport EXCEPT IndyCar. That is right. We saw in depth features for European soccer, upcoming Olympics, the NHL and NASCAR. Zero for IndyCar. Nothing. Not one peep. NBC has even been promoting the fact they will promote NASCAR during the Super Bowl and that portion of their season does not even begin until July. NASCAR got the first promo break after the close game ended.

One of the most talked about commercials during the game was a Nissan spot that featured a story about a sports car racing dad and his family and featured the Nissan race car.

The game itself was presented by IndyCar title sponsor Verizon. IndyCar manufacturer partners GM and Honda chose not to air spots in the game, but ran extensively in the pre-game.

Even a marketing novice might experience difficulty comprehending how the marketing arm of IMS with all of its supposedly talented professionals would not be able to leverage anything in the off season at all from any of its broadcast partners, manufacturing partners or series title sponsors. One word describes it: Failure. Complete and abject failure.

IndyCar off seasonIf anyone takes an honest look at the IndyCar season just passed most of the races were compelling, exciting and featured many winners. A very popular, marketable American driver won the 500. The story of Will Power’s struggle to win the title has become nearly legendary. Neither of these fellows, however, are very visible at all.

The only portion of IndyCar’s system that is showing positive growth and garnering attention are the ladder series, and they are not owned or controlled by IMS. Dan Anderson most recently rescued Indy Lights from certain death at the hands of IMS and that series has renewed vigor headed into the 2015 season.

Perhaps it is time for IMS to let go of the series and concentrate on the main event. IndyCar outside Indy needs to be operated by a group or individual who is at least capable of effectively marketing it into a self-sustaining business with the HG family’s 500 as the centerpiece. The only conditions I would enforce would be the ratio of oval to non-oval, which I would place at 50/50, and I would not allow a sale to the France family for a variety of reasons. It would be interesting to see what a motivated outside group might do with a Pocono or a Fontana without the completely uninspired nonsense to which fans have been subjected the past few years.

The failure to meaningfully grow IndyCar is simply no longer tolerable.

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.

December 28, 2014

Happy Upcoming New Year Racing Fans!

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:53 pm

So LongHere we are in the slowest part of the year and there is not much on which to catch up. Another favorite racing blogger is hanging it up. Pressdog has published its last well written piece. A lot of these bloggers have some real talent and go out of their way to provide quality content along with interviews and carefully researched topics. That is appreciated. They take it much more seriously that I do. This blog, as I am the first to admit, is usually a goofy collection of often strong opinions about the state of the sport. It is done for fun, is not meant to provide a living, and is sort of a hobby that allows escape from real life. As a result, I write when I can and feel no pressure. I also genuinely appreciate the more serious efforts of others despite most of them trying to earn a living in the real world.

CriminalsIn actual IndyCar related news it was revealed that Bryan Herta Autosport was stiffed of most of the sponsorship commitment of Integrity Assets Group (Integrity, yeah right) who distributes the product that adorned the body work of the 98, Energee. This is another case ending in a court room. Note to current and prospective IndyCar owners: Steer clear of non-mainstream energy drink products. Most seem to define fly-by-night and you will end up either on the wrong end of either a pyramid or a Ponzi scheme, you will end up in a futile money chase and will end up stiffed. I hate that it happened to Herta but I would bet he has learned a thing or two. Sponsors who commit then stiff should be sent to jail. In the broadcast business we would accept advertising from sleazeballs, but only on a cash-in-advance basis AFTER the check had been cashed.

AuthorSomeone credible is finally attempting a book about the ‘split.’ Sigur Whitaker is a descendant of James Allison, about whom her first book was penned. Then she wrote one about Tony Hulman. Both are pretty good. She is now tackling the ‘IndyCar Wars.’ Good luck. The most interesting part will be observation of objectivity. Even today some folks are still fighting that particular pointless battle.

Sing ItThe management of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway made a major decision this past week in which they failed in any way to blunder any part of it or completely screw it up. As a matter of fact they hit one right out of the park. For that hearty congratulations are deserved all around. The first replacement for Jim Nabors for ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’ is IU-bred and acclaimed acapella singing group Straight No Chaser. It is the most logical evolution possible. Naturally there are plenty of people who just do not get it who are posting up really stupid commentary slamming the choice. The most stupid usually involves playing recordings of Nabors in future years. Uh, no. Let’s charge ahead. Way to go IMS.

CopycatFinally, and speaking of blithering idiots living in the early 1990s, that particular group of cart fans has been reported by others to be in an absolute tizzy about a comment in a recent blog. The comment in question linked a WordPress page called ‘youthfulcartenthusiast’ that evidently linked all fatal or serious cart crashes through the ‘split’ years. It also evidently features other unoriginal ‘D’ buzzwords like ‘twice.’ Predictably, the blithering idiots in their simplistic mode of thought have assumed yours truly is responsible for that page. Anyone who might believe that is probably clinically insane or at the very least willfully retarded. Look, just because someone on the internet who is incapable of original thought and decides to mimic someone else to get a rise out of others is not a reason to have any angst. Stalkers are creepy. Ignore them.

If we do not communicate before Thursday have a great and prosperous 2015 and let’s watch the IndyCar drop at midnight!

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