Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

March 9, 2015

Helping Doug Boles Make The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 27, 2015

Carb Day 2015 At Indy: Good Lovin’ Gone Bad

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 6:40 pm

Rock n RollSuggestion for the brain trust at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: If your goal is to milk/mine more admissions and concessions during May with all the new gimmickry; e.g., grand prix, etc., when will you get serious about the entertainment offered? 38 Special would have been outstanding in 1982. Perhaps because it has been about 33 years since their last hit there is some significance. Come on. 38 Special is an act better suited for the 8 Seconds Saloon down Lynhurst a bit. Not the centerpiece of Carb Day. Please tell us it is just the opening act.

Is the problem a lack of money? Jesus H. Christ. Are you at least getting an AARP discount? If you want to make May relevant to millennials and even their parents perhaps you should look toward a Rock N Roll2relative newcomer event for inspiration at making May a special month for hundreds of thousands of people over each weekend. Once upon a time Memphis in May was a humble weekend invitational barbecue cook-off that began attracting barbecue aficionados from all over the world. It is now the ‘Indy 500’/’Super Bowl’ of the barbecue world. Different activities occur each weekend of the month. In just three days the first weekend of May the following actS (plural) are featured this year:

Lenny Kravitz, Ed Sheeran, John Fogerty, The Avett Brothers, Hozier, Paramore, Five Finger Death Punch, Wilco, Pixies, The Flaming Lips, Cage the Elephant, Ryan Adams, Rise Against, Band of Horses, St. Vincent, Slash, Awolnation, Breaking Benjamin, Bleachers, Wale, Flogging Molly, Lindsey Stirling, G-Rock N Roll3Eazy, Jenny Lewis, George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic, Kaiser Chiefs, Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, Of Mice and Men, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Lecrae, Spin Doctors, Myslovitz, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, In This Moment, Shovels and Rope, Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, Soul Asylum, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Betty Lavette, Diarrhea Planet, Savoy Brown, Elle King, Ana Popovic, Alejandro Escovedo, Star & Micey, Tinsley Ellis, The Vespers, Dead Soldiers, Lurrie Bell, Indigienous, Will Tucker, Matthew Curry, Prosevere, Preston Shannon, Kenny Brown, Ira Walker, Ghost Town Blues Band, Copeland, and Kelley Hunt.

These acts literally represent something for everyone. All genres. And all in three days. And most contemporary and non-octogenarian. Seriously, IMS is hanging its hat on 38 Special? LOL. IMS should take lessons. Better yet why not consider an oft-suggested idea I have bantered in the past. The race track west of Memphis would be Rock N Roll4an ideal place to have an oval race. There is a really nice, flat-ish, SAFR-equipped track that is not owned by either ISC or SMI just sitting there waiting for a main event. Why not get them to incorporate a big race early in the month if nothing else to cross-promote the other May main event? Oh I know, the oval-averse miscreants bending the ear of Miles these days are likely to consider ovals only as a last possible resort but it is worth a shot (Side rant: The excuse the road racers toss out there is ‘ovals are just not popular any more.’ Rubbish. Try presenting one professionally for a change and watch 50K or 60K show up reliably.). Even if you do not do that you need at least three high profile, currently relevant musical acts. Book acts that are hot today. Not hot thirty years ago. I would also avoid the rap crap. The chance of too many bad things happening with those types of acts is too great to risk. Besides, as evidenced by the Memphis list there are plenty of better choices. 38 Special will attract almost zero millennials.

Or, you could continue to vastly underwhelm, minimize profit some more and invite criticism from those of us legacy fans reduced to simply shaking our head in either disbelief or disgust. What a shame.

February 23, 2015

The Daytona 500: NASCAR’s ‘Indy’

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:47 pm

GoofballsIt was quite an ordeal trying to watch the Daytona 500 yesterday. It is not that NASCAR, the track or the race itself is bad. It is the nonsense that frames it that drives many crazy. I know Daytona is a cool track and the ‘stock’ car mecca but the one thing many are unable to tolerate is the breathless hyperbole about it from manglers of the English language behind microphones.

They and sampled canned production pieces speak of Daytona as hallowed ground where ghosts lurk and the feeling of overwhelmed you get while going through the old tunnels. Those of us who are either cynical or know better (or both) can easily see through such hype, particularly since the biggest reason that track was built was because Big Bill France Dick Waverdeveloped a multi-year priapism after being simultaneously overwhelmed by and subsequently thrown out of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (for using the credentials of someone else). In his world and his family generations that followed it has always been about waving a bigger appendage.

What passes for historic archived footage at Daytona is considered recent history at Indy where the age of the track and creation of the genre goes back twice as long. None of the NASCAR folk ever get the context correct except perhaps for a few hours in August when similar breathless, twanged hyperbole is unleashed live from the Brickyard.

At this juncture one can usually cue overly defensive NASCAR enthusiasts who interpret mostly amused head shaking as some sort of pot shot. As usual they miss the entire point. It is my sincere hope that interested folks had as much fun with Stovethe start of a new season as anyone else. Around lap 25 the spouse uttered a profanity (which is rare) because the carefully crafted dish she was trying to prepare in the oven failed. The oven went on the fritz about halfway through the cook cycle. All of our kitchen appliances came new with the house when it was new fourteen years ago. We moved in nearly four years ago and figured they would have to be replaced within five years. I researched all nearby retailers online then determined Home Depot had the best package pricing on upgraded kitchen appliances, so off we went to make an offer on a range, a refrigerator and a dishwasher package. They came through with flying colors. We ordered, completed the paperwork, took care of the bill and now await delivery and installation. Upon arrival back at the stately Disciple manor the race still had thirty laps to go, and figuring ‘big ones’ were yet to come that I had not missed much. Turns out I didn’t, and Winner Chicken Dinnerall I really needed was the first and last 25 and I was good to go. I was mercifully spared of things like wisdom according to one or more of the Waltrip brothers. Darned happy to see Team Penske take the flag though.

I am glad to see the season underway but may grow weary quickly. IndyCar partner NBCSN has completely forgotten IndyCar exists now that NASCAR starts on that platform in July and based on history the management of IndyCar will remain either oblivious or unable to make any sort of difference.

It will feel a lot better when IndyCars are on the track.

February 21, 2015

NASCAR: As Useless as Teats On a Boy And Beyond Trailer Park Sleazy

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 7:34 pm

BuschLet me go on record as saying any sort of domestic violence is reprehensible and inexcusable. This case, however, continues to grow more idiotic by the minute. Unlike NASCAR, Chevrolet, John Oreovicz or anyone else who has found Kurt Busch guilty until proven innocent and worthy of serious punishment in whatever ridiculous kangaroo court (like ESPN) of public opinion that pops up it is far smarter to evaluate this case on actual facts. Facts we know: 1) Kurt Busch has not been formally charged with any crime. 2) The state of Delaware is not sure it will ever charge Busch with anything citing a lack of evidence. 3) No purple skinned woman abusing snapshots or any other physical evidence exists of the alleged victim. 4) Patricia Driscoll forced entry into Busch’s motor home on the evening of the alleged ‘attack.’ She is lucky he did not shoot the intruder.

I agree that everyone is entitled to their opinions, but when opinions take the place of facts as criteria to remove someone from their job it gets a tad disconcerting as a freedom loving citizen. I have opinions as well. I believe Kurt Busch can be a raging asshole. So what? That is no reason to find him guilty of anything. Using an opinion that someone is an asshole is the reason people found Tony Stewart guilty of murder before any sort of charge or trial occurred. It does not add up. It is not mature, human behavior. I have opinions about Patricia Driscoll. I believe she is a lunatic psychopath and 50+ shades of crazy. She is physically attractive however, and I firmly believe a ‘batting eyebrows/quivering lip’ defense prevailed in the family mediation. She is not losing her livelihood however.

YeeHawNASCAR, involved manufacturers and judgmental columnists have become utterly notorious for acting in mostly knee-jerk fashion based almost exclusively on the way the wind blows. That is as underhanded and downright sleazy as an otherwise intelligent group of people can possibly get. If NASCAR was the slightest bit interested in balanced treatment they would yank Driscoll’s credentials from any of their events and mandate someone else manage the NASCAR-related affairs of the Armed Forces Foundation until the matter was conclusively and legally sorted out. Clearly they do not consider fairness, much less reason, and are driven exclusively by an unrealistic fear some other holier-than-thou might get chagrined. That is offensive to me.

Our society has essentially become a panty-wearing gaggle of little girls devoid of even the sense God granted geese.

February 17, 2015

Gentlemen, Start Your Lawsuits. In the Matter of Driscoll Vs. Busch….

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:47 pm

Heterosexual men, when all is said and done, will always be completely controlled by the gender that totes vaginas and lactation-capable mammary glands. Women have begun wielding their power. In some ways good for them. Many have way more common sense than their male counterparts. Others, unfortunately, are batsh!t crazy. Most men are unable to tell the difference until it is far too late.

PatriciaRemember that alleged motor home tiff between Patricia Driscoll and Kurt Busch? Evidently the judge didn’t buy the trained assassin line and instead opted for the batting eyebrows and quivering lips. He issued a no-contact/no gun order against ‘ol Kurt. We all know he is a bit of a hot head, particularly when provoked. Realistically if Kurt wants the woman out of his life this ruling is a start.

The best way to completely wrap up this tawdry adventure is for NASCAR to proactively ban Patricia Driscoll from any and all of their events. The Armed Forces Foundation can find someone else to represent their fine organization at NASCAR events.

I do have a problem with Busch not being able to possess guns or ammo, however. It is not blondie about whom he must worry unless she really is a trained assassin with a crazy streak, particularly in those challenging You Bitchdays prior to her, uh, cycle. In fairness no one has actually proven she kills people occasionally and we definitely do not know whether she Jeckyll & Hydes prior to the monthly dripping. Further, it is none of our business. That said there are a lot of undiagnosed mental patients running loose out there (for proof merely check the comment section of my 12/19/13 blog) and people of fame need a way to protect themselves. It seems odd that Busch is not charged with a crime yet is forced to give up a constitutional right.

Next step: a local complaint resolution in Delaware. No one knows what will happen.

Predictably, comment sections related to the ruling on the Internet attracted simpletons without much spelling, grammar or Formula 1 Fantact agility. That was one of themes of yesterday’s blog. It is tedious wading through all the uses of female-derisive words that begin primarily with the letters ‘B’ and ‘C.’ The most entertaining exchange occurred when some guy named Bradley opined that Internet comments “…are just dripping with misogynistic vitriol. It’s not even a difference of opinion thing: a court concluded, after days of testimony from witnesses under oath and gathering all the facts, that the assault likely occurred and this guy has mental issues. You’re basing your ‘conclusion’ on the fact that he has a dick. And that makes you a dick. Thanks guys, for confirming that NASCAR fan-boys are a bunch of sexist yahoos.” Predictably, some guy named Tony piped in with a rant against the person making the observation instead of the topic itself: “…And you are a dick GOBBLER sir… And yes, I know what misogyny is, and your use of the word shows where your lame ass head is. By the way, I’m a F1fan…” That, my friends, is obvious. Generally speaking references to graphic male homosexual acts and proclaiming fan loyalty to Formula 1 in the same sentence seem to go hand in hand. Or, whatever in hand.

Mrs GordonPeople will always be titillated by soap opera. When soap operas occur at race tracks the lowest common denominator fans become ecstatic. This is not the first time a dysfunctional couple will embarrass themselves at tracks and it will not be the last. Who can forget Jeff Gordon’s ex? She had him parroting Jesus-this and man-upstairs-that before that union ended, albeit costing him many millions of dollars. She still seems pathological. A few years ago she became impregnated by the seed of another man but wanted to keep her ex-husband’s last name for the kid. Fortunately for Jeff he got wise and hooked up with a European model who is old enough to have also developed a brain. Perhaps they could link Kurt up with one of her friends. We need the entertainment.

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.

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