After 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 with 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.
When 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…