Monday, March 11, 2013

Mundane Monday

Assorted thoughts on a Monday:

BORING: Matt Kenseth wins a race that was declared to be "boring" by NASCAR fans. Personally, I thought the race was great. Clean passes, only one or two debris caution, drivers fighting loose cars, and a few engines blowing up made it a great "old school" race. Of course, most NASCAR fans aren't old school, so since there wasn't lots of wrecks, or drivers fighting, or wrecks, or jet dryers exploding, or wrecks, the new NASCAR fanbase is bored to tears.

Maybe it's time for NASCAR to re-educate it's audience as to what racing is?

I've been watching NBC Sport's Crossover since it's debut and I've noticed something, they love the NASCAR. They talked about Danicky, Danica winning the pole, interviewed Brad Keselowski, discussed the NRA 500, and even talked about Denny's fine. Mentions of F1 and IndyCar on the show, zero.

Maybe it might be good to promote your own properties first?

Clint Eastwood talks with the current IndyCar CEO
TWO WEEKS TO GO AND NO CEO: I'm actually okay with this, and I'm kind of surprised the forums and Twitter aren't sitting outside 16th and Georgetown with pitch forks and flaming arrows demanding IndyCar install a new CEO.

Maybe the IndyCar fanbase has calmed down, or just become disinterested?

"The best part about driving for Roger? He doesn't poke you with that finger!"
DINGER'S BACK, NOW CALM DOWN: It's a great story of redemption and second chances, it's also great PR for IndyCar, but it's not the second coming. I get the feeling that the bar will be set incredibly high for Dinger, and there's no way he could live up to those expectations. I hope I'm wrong and I end up eating crow, but I also hope the fans take it easy on him.

Maybe cursing a beloved member of the media is worse than taking a drug?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Maybe I'm Underthinking This

Seems like everyone is jumping on the "how to fix IndyCar" bandwagon. Pressdog has a great blog here and Steph over at More Front Wing comes equally as strong with her blog here. They aren't alone, Track Forum and practically the entire IndyCar blogger community is full of people who have some great ideas on how to "fix" IndyCar.


There's something missing in all these great ideas.

No one ever stops and asks themselves one very simple question. The scary part is, the answer to the question might be the answer to IndyCar's biggest problems.

How did I become a fan of IndyCar?

We can go on and on about to attract new fans, but maybe we should look at ourselves and say, "this is why I started watching and this is why I stayed." It stands to reason that if something drew you to the sport, why couldn't that same thing draw someone else to the sport?

Was it the speed, the technology, the tracks, the drivers, the competition, the manufacturers, the glitz, the glamour, the danger...

Or was it a zip line and a ferris wheel?

So next time you're thinking up all these ideas to gain new fans, remember that you are a fan and whatever attracted you to IndyCar could just as easily attracted someone else.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

IndyCar's Long Term Plan

100 years of racing, 84 years of progress.
Since IndyCar doesn't have a long term plan in place, I've decided to enlist my services in writing one for them. I realize that much of my plan requires Hulman & Co. to spend money, but I hope I make the case this is smart money to spend.


Hire a marketing firm.

A real marketing firm like IMG, not Gene Simmons. This marketing firm needs to be IndyCar's eyes and ears on the fans. What race do fans want to watch on TV the most? What's the average income for IndyCar fans? How much are fans willing to pay for streaming? Why are fans leaving NASCAR and what can we do to get them? The marketing firm should be able to answer any of the questions whenever IndyCar asks them.

The firm will also establish a relationship with teams and help them on strategies to find sponsors, or helping them find sponsors. If the firm does it job right, it should pay for itself.

Let an outside partner run the website.

It works great for NASCAR. The outside partner can incur the costs of running the site and providing content, while selling advertising to make money to cover the costs. Saves IndyCar the money of running a site. Since the outside partner will be interested in generating revenue, they would have to provide plenty of content to keep the IndyCar fan base coming back for more.

Fix TV

This is one not just for the fans, but for the owners and the tracks as well. It would be in the best interest of all involved parties for Comcast to move IndyCar to USA Network. I cannot imagine Comcast is making money with IndyCar on NBC Sports Network, so it only makes since to move at least half the races to USA. Hopefully showing the races to the wider audience will entice folks to watch the races on NBCsn. At the same time, tracks and owners can sell sponsorship buy being on one of the highest rated cable channels.

(And if I had my way, USA would get a block of  "Saturday Night Specials" in June. Texas, Milwaukee, Iowa, Richmond(?). Can't you just see the promos with cars running wheel to wheel, sparks flying, smoke effects, and the Skynyrd song playing? I know you can!)

If Comcast doesn't agree to this, then it's time to go the route of the NHRA and ALMS and buy time on ESPN/ABC. The hope would be that by establishing itself on ESPN and ABC, sponsorship can be found to offset the cost of buying time.


The Schedule

I propose IndyCar set up a group of 12 to 14 "core" races at permanent tracks (we can include Long Beach and Toronto here) and fill out the rest of the season with money grabbing street races or races outside of North America. The "core" races would be those identified by the marketing firm as the races that the fans most want to attend or watch. These races will all appear on ABC or USA, in order to reach the widest audience possible.

The core races would be given a minimum 3 year contract and would run on, or as close as possible, the same weekend for those 3 years. At the end of three years an evaluation will be made on how successful each race is, and what to do next.

I think it would come as no surprise to anyone if Road America was identified by the market firm as one of IndyCar's most wanted races. We already know what Road America thinks of IndyCar's current sanctioning fee. The solution is something I call an "Attendance Bonus."

It's simple. IndyCar gives tracks a reduced sanctioning fee. Once attendance reaches a certain mark, IndyCar would get a percentage of the gate. Let's say Road America breaks even with 35,000 in attendance. The bonus would kick is for every ticket AFTER 40,000. The tracks get their money, and if IndyCar is doing it's job right, they will not lose money. (Obviously, the bonus changes a bit if a sponsor is found)

Establishing these "core" races that are identified as the most wanted by fans should go a long way towards increasing ratings and attendance, and with the bonus I think the tracks and IndyCar will be able to work together towards a common goal.


The owners will get to right their own technical regulations. The teams know what they can and cannot afford to do, so why can't they just gather all their engineers together and write a formula that works the best for all of them? If they are the ones that make the rules, the only people they can complain to are themselves. 

And who knows, maybe they'll write a formula that will bring back some good old-fashion ingenuity and innovation to IndyCar. 

So that's it, I know it doesn't address all the issues, but it's more than what IndyCar currently has in a long term plan.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Randy Bernard's Lonely Island

Thanks for playing Randy. Here's your parting gift!.
Is he out or is he in? (That's what she said)

The rumors are still spreading like wildfire, and while IMS and Mr. Bernard himself deny them, there's something missing in all this. As of today, I cannot think of one person currently involved with IndyCar who has voiced their support for Randy.

Not one owner, driver, board member, broadcast partner, manufacturer, race promoter, track president, track promoter, or major sponsor has gone on public record to voice their support for Randy Bernard as the CEO of IndyCar. So, why is it the fan base is almost unanimous in their support for Randy, but the people who either spend or make money in IndyCar have been silent on the issue?

Is it fear? If they believe that Randy is out and Tony George is back in, it makes sense not to support Randy for fear of retribution once Tony takes charge.

Are they tired of the BS? There's already enough attention to this story, why rock the boat and bring even more attention to the Series?

Do they even support Randy at all? Certainly some track presidents and team owners have been vocal in their displeasure with Randy, maybe those people speak for a silent majority.

Honestly, I don't know what it means, but I know it's not good for Randy.

What IndyCar needs right now is a leader who will bring all parties together to work towards the common goal of gaining fans. Get the drivers, tracks, owners, and sponsors all on the same page of providing the best product for the fan base. When none of these people come out to support a leader, is that leader worth keeping?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

An Open Letter to Tony George

Dear Tony,

  Seems like you've been stirring up trouble again, and it's got a lot of people mad at you. As for me, I haven't formed an opinion as I have no idea what your plans are for IndyCar's future. That's why I'm writing you today. I think it would be to your best advantage to come forward and tell the world what you want to do.

  As you know, Dan Gurney wrote the "White Letter" in 1978 in response to the job your father was doing running USAC. Gurney clearly laid out what he thought USAC was doing wrong and how the owners should go about fixing these problems. The cars owners were very receptive to the ideas laid out in the "White Letter" and almost a year after he wrote it, CART ran their first race. I bring this up because you are now in Mr. Gurney's position. You are the owner who is frustrated with the current direction of the series, but unlike Mr. Gurney, you don't need to win over the other owners, you need to win over the fans.

  May I suggest that you gather your partners and lay out your plans for the future. Tell us, the fans, why we should support you. You know the major issues with the series, address them and how you would solve them. How would you plan to fix TV, attendance, and a lackluster schedule? I think if you address these issues, and give us you three, five and ten year plans, you might just win over the fanbase. If you announce a three year plan, you'll be three years ahead of the current administration. I think most fans would agree that right now IndyCar doesn't seem to have a vision for the future and is just trying it's best to just stay afloat. If you, and your partners, have a plan for the future it might put fans at ease for your takeover.

  You have the chance to write your own "White Letter" and win support. Don't waste this opportunity.

(But keep Beaux Barfield and Will Phillips around, thanks)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Case for Tony George

I'll be back (if the rumors are true)

The rumblings of Tony George leading a group of investors that want to buy the IndyCar series aren't nearly as loud as the moans from IndyCar fans who don't want to see this happen, but I ask, "Would it really be that bad?" It will be an unpopular stance, but I'm going to make a case for why Tony's return may be good for IndyCar.

  • The purse strings will be opened
We don't know who is involved with Tony, but we know they must have money. History also tells us that Tony isn't afraid to spend money to make IndyCar a better series. On the other hand, the current administration is only interested in not losing money. While I understand businesses need to profit, I also understand that in order to make money, you first have to spend money. IndyCar desperately needs to spend money on marketing and promotions, and (hopefully) Tony's new regime will be given free reign to spend, spend, spend!
  • Tony George wouldn't be in charge
Ha! You thought I was making a case for Tony to be in charge, well I'm not. I'm making a case for Tony and Friends to buy the series, then put someone else in charge. 

The CEO I would choose for this new IndyCar is one of the rumored investors, Zak Brown. I'm not going to write Mr. Brown's biography here, but from what I have read about him, he has the drive and determination of Randy Bernard, but with a lifetime of experience in motor sport. How can you beat that? He also has a working relationship with several businesses that already invest money in sponsorship and to top it off, he owns his own race team, so he knows what the owners are up against. If Tony George buying IndyCar makes the fans riot, I'd hope that naming Mr. Brown as CEO would at least cause everyone to drop their pitchforks and  listen to what he has to say.
  • The owners actually respected Tony
For one reason, or a million others, Randy Bernard's relationship with the owners has been tense. Not just the car owners, but the track owners and Presidents. There's the off, then on again relationship with International Speedway Corporation, and the shakey relationship with Eddie Gossage. Randy's called out car owners on Twitter, track president in the press, and has lost the battle of Aero Kits two years in a row. I honestly don't remember Tony having any issues like this during his tenure. In fact, I remember the owners actually coming together in support of Tony shortly after he was ousted. How often have all the cars owners come together like that? Wouldn't it be nice to have some peace and harmony in IndyCar again?

So we'd have an IndyCar not afraid to spend money, with a CEO that is experienced well respected throughout all of motor sports, and happy owners, what's not to like?

(Just keep Will Philips and Beaux Barfield around, please Mr. George)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Filling the gap

IndyCar's planner for September 2013 looks almost like this. Empty.
The only gap bigger than the one in IndyCar's schedule is the one between David Letterman's front teeth. Since there's enough criticism of the 2013 Izod IndyCar Series schedule, I thought I would just offer up some possible suggestions for filling that gap.

Let's start with July 20-21. Why? Because IndyCar is off that weekend, and so is Sprint Cup. It's not like this should be a surprise to anyone in the IndyCar offices, as Sprint Cup has traditionally taken the weekend before the Brickyard off. So, why not try to showcase the product on a weekend they'll get the most attention?

Now, it should be noted that Trucks and Nationwide race that weekend. In fact, they race just up the road most of the teams at a little track called Chicagoland. So, you've got a track within one tank of fuel from Indianapolis that's going to have all the necessary things needed to put a race on already in place, it's going to be cheap for the teams to get to, and if they really wanted to make it on the cheap, they could make it a one day show. Practice in the morning, qualify before the truck race, then race at night. Just a suggestion.

Then there's September the weekend of September 15. Again, the Trucks and Nationwide are going to be in Kentucky while Sprint Cup is somewhere else. Maybe this might be the weekend to try a true IndyCar/Nationwide double header? 250 Miles of tintops followed directly by 250 miles of IndyCar. 500 miles of action all for one low price and all on ABC/ESPN? Again, it's a cheap trip for IndyCar teams and all the personnel is already in place, so the full sanctioning fee wouldn't be needed.

Last, but not least, the trucks run Vegas in late September. I think the DW12 has shown itself to perform well on these tracks, and I think the time has healed our wounds, might be time to try night race in Vegas?