What Women Want – More Ovals

new me

By Susan Scruggs

Note from George – Susan Scruggs did a lot of the setup work to get this site going when I started it and has done most of the photography. She claims to be a casual fan in this article, but I consider her to be pretty knowledgeable about the goings-on in the IZOD IndyCar Series. She asked to offer her perspective on the ever-popular road-course vs oval debate. Since I don’t usually need much of an excuse to take a break now and then, I gladly agreed. – GP

When I found out that the Indy Cars were going back to ovals to finish the season, I asked George if I could write today’s blog because I have something to say. I’m not near the Indy Car fan that George or most of his readers are; but from what he says, I am a casual fan and I’m what Indy Car is going after. I have kids, a respectable job and some say-so how I spend my money.

I have to say; I don’t like the road courses. George prefers ovals but at least he seems to have some appreciation for road courses, and what it takes to do it. He maintains that there are subtleties to road courses that the casual fan doesn’t understand. Well, I’ve heard him say the same thing about baseball. He loves baseball and I hate it. He’s always talking about baseball being a thinking man’s game. Well, being a woman, I find baseball boring.

George’s three sports are racing, football, and baseball. I like racing and football, but I substitute hockey for baseball. George hates hockey. My son played hockey for 4 years in high school and I learned to love it. Hockey has nonstop action. I love taking my son to see the Nashville Predators play, but I don’t think George has been in two years.

I compare hockey and baseball with ovals and road courses. One tends to be nonstop action while another one may have some subtleties that only longtime fans can appreciate. If I never watch another baseball game, it’ll suit me fine. I enjoy baseball for sitting in the stands, drinking a beer and people watching; but to go as an exciting event is wasted on me. I feel the same about road courses.

I went to Barber and Indianapolis this year with George, my son and his girlfriend. Both were fun, but Barber was different than Indy or the IRL race at Nashville. We sat in a field in a lawn chair for most of the day and watched cars go by. I had no clue what was going on or who was winning. George said he did, but I’m not so sure he really did. The words “I don’t know” aren’t really part of his normal vocabulary.

George and I have been to Indy every year since 2004. I still don’t know near as much as George claims to know about Indy, but I’ve figured out a lot about it over the years. The traditions at Indy can be overwhelming and it is very exciting. I thought the Nashville race was exciting but George complained about the track. I get it about Indy and I certainly got it about the oval at Nashville. But I didn’t get it about Barber.

Honestly, I have quit watching road courses because I find them so boring. I’ll make a point to watch an oval race, but I’d rather go shopping or run errands than watch cars run in single-file around a downtown, an airport or a narrow track in the middle of nowhere. But as a fan who doesn’t know all the ins and outs of racing, but knows action when I see it; I love the ovals. I’ll never forget the Kentucky race last year. Just about everyone (including George) was pulling for Ed Carpenter, but I was pulling for Briscoe. I was standing in front of the TV for the last laps. When it was over I was dancing around the room, but I was exhausted after watching it.

I think that if the sport really wants to grow, they need more ovals like Kentucky, Chicago and Texas. Those are races I watch. Even as a casual fan who can probably only name half the drivers, I remember those races and make a point to watch them each year.

I work in an office where the majority of my co-workers are women in their late twenties and early thirties. Few understand what I go to every May. They laugh when they think I’m going to something like Talladega where no one has teeth. They don’t have a clue how big Indy is. They’ve never even watched a minute of it on television, even after I try and explain what it’s all about. They don’t even give it a thought. If Indy Car can come up with more edge-of-your-seat moments like Kentucky last year and fewer boring events like that race a couple of weeks ago, they should be able to hook some of these young people as fans.

If women are going to bother to sit and watch a sport, they don’t want every technical aspect explained to them like they are children. We don’t care about pit strategy and fuel mileage. We want to see some nail-biting action. We get that on the ovals. We understand the danger and the speed. It sounds ghoulish, but I’ve heard George say many times that that has been the core appeal to racing. That applies to women too.

41 Responses to “What Women Want – More Ovals”

  1. Simon Garfunkle Says:

    Susan-you confirm what I’ve always thought about the ICS. They are trying to apease the old ChampCar crowd and they’re going to kill the combined series in the process. Nobody but the died in the wool race fans likes road racing. Ovals are what snag fans-road courses educate fans.

    • Sorry Simon, but if your theory was correct CART would have never been launched in 1979. USAC ran predominately on OVALS & no one gave a damn if that oval race wasn’t being run @IMS.

      Most of the IRL era also proved this. Plenty of ovals events with 3/4ers of the stands EMPTY. Perhaps OW fans wanted to see talented racers run on ovals? When CART ran PHX, New Hampshire, Miami-Homestead, etc their crowds were greater than when the IRL came to visit. Sadly, the NASCAR boys sold out at those same venues ❗ 😦

      All these people belly-aching for MORE OVALS are spending other people’s $$$. Numbers don’t lie… he have about 3 decades worth to look at & easily PROVE this, yet we still get these MORE OVALS rah-rah pieces ❓

      I will grant you that the folks in Daytona have been anti-OW for much of this time, but come on! They are a publicly traded company & the more folks that come to their race tracks the better for their shareholders ❗ THis includes Indycar events.

  2. Thesmartestguyintheroom Says:

    I disagree. What makes IndyCar compelling to me is the fact that it is the only series where one has to excel in a variety of disciplines. Let me ask you this question, Simon. If, as you erroneously claim, that “they’re going to kill the combined series”, why did the series start racing on street/road courses? Clearly, the folks who run the series are far smarter than some of the so-called “fans.” And yes, I do like street/road courses, so the “nobody but the died in the wool race fan likes road racing” statement you made is complete nonsense. It would have been better to have no post than this one, because all it’s going to do is start and continue another unnecessary argument between the oval-centric and those of us who have a more expansive view of the world. And by the way, Susan, you don’t speak for all women, you only speak for yourself.

  3. I’d agree, the oval races are usually very good, and so far, Indycar’s road and street races aren’t. There’s really nothing compelling out of the Trinity of Boredom (my name for Barber/MidOhio/Infineon). Now, IF we raced at Road America, Cleveland, Road Atlanta, Road America, you’d probably expand more peoples minds. But when all Indycar road races is race street parades and motorcycle tracks, yeah, not many people find that exciting. Most people don’t enjoy seeing the same person lead for 2.5 hours… Since Indycar’s determined to try and make 50-50 work, they’ve kinda got to find more exciting road courses.

    • You constantly beat this drum… yet how many of these tracks have you actually visited to view LIVE on-track action ❓

      I don’t disagree with you on Road America (no nice you typed it twice), & Cleveland. However Edmonton is a Cleveland style airport circuit & Road Atlanta is also a “motorcycle” track. Its a tad more hilly, but about as narrow as Mid Ohio. Road ATL also has that long ribbon of concrete walls (on BOTH sides) down the main straight. Something Indycar officials have stated is a concern.

  4. I’m a former all-oval guy, Susan, but I’ve grown to like the idea of the 50/50 twisty/oval schedule. I like it because it demands such varied skills from a driver and a team and a car.

    However, liking the idea and liking the races are two different things. I would like to see road courses and street courses that are specifically designed or specifically remodeled to allow Indycars to race competitively. From what little I know, these tracks–with some redesign–would be much improved. That–combined with the more powerful engines that are in the works–could allow for more overtaking on the track and make twisties enjoyable to the casual fan.

  5. Chris Lukens Says:

    The parade brigade may be happy with next years schedule ( 9 road & 7 oval ), but if it stays that way long term, it will kill Indycars. Susan says she finds road racing boring, I think the majority of Americans also find road racing boring. Look at he facts; F5000- long gone, CanAm- long gone, TransAm- gone, twice, CART, gone, three times. Even F1 in America can only draw 1/3 the fans as the 500. Hang in there Susan, you are absolutely right.

    • PLEASE 🙄 That long list of N/A motorsport casualties is a helluva lot more complicated than Americans finding road racing “boring”.

      You are also factually inaccurate. Trans-Am (as lame as it currently is…) still exists under the SCCA umbrella. CART bankrupted itself due to its greedy & stupid decision to take themselves public (offer stock). CART became ChampCar which ACCEPTED Tony George’s olive branch of re-unification… so who the h*ll is that counted as “FAILURE” ❓

      The 2000 USGP @ Indianapolis was the BEST attended GP on the calendar that year. Even the 125K average that attended post 2000 would be welcomed by any Indycar promoter! It would also fill at least TWO NFL stadiums. That 125K surly beats the 15-20K the Miami Homestead oval draws… for the season finale/ Indycar CHAMPIONSHIP

      • Chris Lukens Says:

        I had to look this up, you are right, TransAm has a 10 race schedule with SCCA. But I think you will have to agree that is just high level club racing.
        However, I don’t think it was Champcar that accepted Georges offer, it was OWRS. so it only failed twice before it went out of business by being absorbed into the IRL.

  6. Good job Susan and I can definitely respect your point. I was having a chat with someone about Bristol and I love the place because of having 100% of the race in front of you. They didn’t like it and found it to be confusing. I loved the racing at the Nashville SuperSpeedway because of that and I saw a lot of passing on the back stretch while following my drivers. I like road courses when I am near the pits, but I have found that sitting at turn 6 can get boring.

    Give my best to George!

  7. Susan,
    You should see how many young females are running around races like Long Beach and St. Pete. Getting women to like any form of racing is challenge and if they league wants to succeed it will mostly be because of men and making it tolerable for women. For you older women its ovals for plenty of my younger female friends it’s temporary street circuit where they can eat at restaurant and watch the race (way more food options as well at a street circuit), catch a concert afterwards, and have plenty of places to walk and talk (because you have a fully day of activity), and a paddock to see some famous people. Other than the Indy 500, these things are best found on the street circuits. So maybe your post should older women like ovals, not all women.

    • OUCH!–Older women? Who taught you how to address ANY woman?

    • Red Bull, I had rather market the race towards women that want to see the racing and get behind the drivers and series instead of the younger females that want to walk and talk and are there for the food and concert. It is great that they are there, but you can’t build a following with folks who are there for something other than the racing. Knowing who won the race is more important for the growth of the sport than who played a concert afterwards. By the way, the ovals have their share of “young female” followers who like the racing and know who RHR, Scott Dixon and Will Power are.

      • All races have there share of young females (and yes some people like to have fun and know who Will Power is). My comment was a tongue a cheek post that was trying to point out saying something like “women prefer ovals” is baloney. And I am not convinced that “knowing who won the race” is the most important factor for a series. Growing up going to races I hardly remember who won but I had great time grabbing food, watching all the excitement, seeing a good race, and hanging out with my dad. My favorite drivers hardly everyone but I liked there cars and met them in the paddock. Now I still care about who won but the series doesn’t have to make everyone “johnmc” super fan to grow and have new fans as much as you want everyone to live up to your standard.

      • everyone should read ever won. sorry i am typing on a phone.

  8. Sorry. I thought that sounded better than elderly. I am kidding. My whole comment was kind of tongue in cheek. The league will need a little bit everything to grow and I appreciate your thoughts even thought I disagree.

    • Redbull, you don’t have to defend your “young female” friends for not caring who won the race or even if they didn’t know if there was a race going on. Eye candy is always appreciated and as I noted in my previous post, it is “great” that they ARE there. However, those “young females” are NOT going to tune in when the next race is on television nor will they follow the sport when they are there to “walk and talk,” eat and look at famous people in the paddock. You bring up kids and where I made that a part of the discussion or disparged on marketing to them is beyond me because that is great as well as a big part of a marketing plan. However, as a kid I, too, went to the races with my family, ate tenderloins and hot dogs while drinking a lot of soft drinks, but when I left the track and got home that night I knew who won and I could talk about the race andtell others about it. Now, if that makes me a ‘Super Fan,” then you are too easy.

      By the way, I agree, the series doesn’t need nothing but Super fans, however the fans should at least know who won the race they just attended as well as seeing the race as the number one reason to be there.

      One more point, following sports is all about winning. Everyone who follows sports keeps up with who wins and who will make the playoffs. Same with motorsports. Look at NASCAR, it is all about the Chase and even the part time followers know who is in the chase. Losing sucks for the participants as well as the fans and to downgrade the importance of winning is ridiculous.

      • I am cubs fan so I obviously like sports for more than winning. I actually think the problem with sports in this country is that has become primarily about winning. So I guess we can just disagree here.

      • As George will tell you, I, too, am a Cubs fan and I can’t stand the losing. I go back to Ron Santo, Billy Williams and Ernie Banks and I am, if anything, loyal to a fault. Regardless, like most Cub fans who want a winner I am hoping the new ownership hurts worse than I do after a Cubs loss. As for you thinking that the problem with sports is that it’s all about winning we most certainly will disagree because losing sucks. By the way, I am a Bears fan as well and if Lovie doesn’t beat Green Bay and Minnesota and get them in the playoffs then he and Angelo need to be shown the door because losing sucks.

      • Yeah I am delusional enough to think back to early 1900’s where sports were about the beauty of the game, the skills, the formation of character, and the enjoyment for what it is (a game). Obviously its nice to win but the sheer fascination with winning for the sake of winning when the fans are merely spectators rings more of living vicariously through something other than your actual life than actual enjoyment of what is going on. It’s like someone who reads too many romance novels to make up for the humdrum life…

      • Redbull, that is the biggest crock of sh*t I have read in a long while and exactly what I expected after reading your previous post. Living vicarously through sports, LOL. Claiming this on a sports blog is a winning post. LOL. The vast majority of fans take sports in stride, but will stop attending when it is losing and will become disenfranchised from the team. That is a fact and, no matter what you think, that is not living vicariously. However, it is bonding with a team or individual. The Cubs, by the way, have experienced a hit from losing for this year. Even though Corporate Chicago has bought enough of the season tickets for a sell out for each game, attendence is down. You might not think that is a big deal, but it is. Concessions is a huge part of the income and when people aren’t there then the hot dogs and beer don’t get bought.

        Regardless of who told you, it was all about winning in the early 1900’s and for you to say different is asinine. It wasn’t about Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson winning prize fights. Hardley. People came to watch him lose and a white man win. Johnson dissapointed them greatly. Winning also made him the man with the money and the gold. Christy Mathewson wasn’t about winning? Unbelievable and to say different is not so. It has been about winning since the first foot race. In Rome, if you didn’t win you were put to death. Early 1900’s and it was about the beauty of the game? Bullsh*t, it was ALL about winning because everyone had money on the outcome. You may not like it but to say it is not so is mad.

      • Ha! Easy killer. Winning has always been winning but read some early sources and fascination you seem to proclaim here isn’t up the height you think it was until the later parts of this century with non-stop sports news cycle. People still won but most people had actual lives to live outside of that depended and requirement much more focus than to care that much about sports time. You may not like it but to say it is not just to say it so “is mad.”

      • Whoops. That is my roommate’s wordpress account. Although I guess it wouldn’t hurt to read his blog. Thanks Matt for letting me use your computer!

      • Guys, let’s just look at the sentiment from 1888 with the last stanza of Casey at the Bat”

        Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
        The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
        And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
        But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.

        No joy in Mudville because Casey did not hit a game winner. It is ALL about winning and I rest my case.

      • By the way, msheddon, your thinking that people don’t have actual lives because of non-stop sports media is a complete fallacy. They do and the sports marketing people all know it. You may not have an actual life, but most of us do. We have kids, mortgages, house-work, soccer games, basketball games, sleep-overs, teacher meetings, commitments too numerous to list here, car notes, tuition, cloths to buy, electric bills to pay and if that is not enough there are careers and all of what that entails. To claim that people don’t have actual lives because they follow sports and watch ESPN is an obtusive characterization. What an easy world you must live in.

    • I know it was tongue in cheek, as was my response!
      And JohnMc are you saying there are only young women are “eye candy?”
      Am getting off my platform now, as soon as I can find my Winnie Walker (its the one with the seat and the hand brakes).

  9. billytheskink Says:

    So what we always seem to come down to in these debates is different strokes for different folks and so on and so on…

    I, personally, happen to really like the schedule diversity that American open wheel racing has given us in the last 25 years. I like a good race on any type of track.

    I’d like to think a schedule with both ovals and road/street circuits is an asset to the Indy Car series. Such schedule diversity is unique in the world of racing, perhaps too unique? Are fans who prefer one type of track or another tuning out the entire series because the schedule includes a sizable number of non-preferred tracks with the preferred tracks?
    I don’t know and I hope that’s not the case… but from the IRL original who refuses to admit there is anything interesting about a good road race to the Champ Car crazy who described my enjoyment of oval racing as “bloodlust”, the internet makes me wonder.

    • I originally came from the “only oval” crowd, but now believe that this mixed bag of ovals and twisties is a unique and challenging way to go. (You make an interesting point I’d never thought about before when you suggested that maybe it won’t work because ovalistas won’t watch a road race and vice versa.) But I like the direction the series is headed and I think their present leadership is stressing marketing and numbers and fans enough that it will succeed and grow. It will take some time.

      Of course, they’ll always be those who prefer to argue about the civil war. But I think it’s time to move on.

  10. Pfffft. Whatever, Susan. You’re just a woman!! WHAT DO YOU KNOW!?!?!

    (Kidding. Very well done, ma’am. You’re the best guest-blogger to ever appear in these parts.)

  11. Chad Paff Says:

    Sus, unfortunately if you want more ovals, you better find another series to follow. This series is looking at becoming exactly what CART was going to become. A road and street course series that used the Indy 500 to make it legitimate. They don’t want to deal with ISC (because ISC actually expects Indy Car to be a profitable, viable business), so where exactly are the ovals in the future going to come from? ISC owns most them. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    Formula CART II, doesn’t want what the vast majority of Americans prefer. And that ain’t 100 MPH parades on a old airport, with drivers that never wanted to be here in the first place.

    Ropin’ Randy will save us though.

    • billytheskink Says:

      In fairness to CART, they added oval races at Miami, Gateway, Fontana, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Motegi, Lausitz, Rockingham (UK), and Texas in the first 5 years after the split. CART made an honest effort to balance their schedule and only abandoned (or were abandoned by) tracks after several years in which they struggled at the gate.

      The vast majority of American race fans probably do prefer ovals, but getting those fans to watch big open wheel cars on such tracks has been a tremendous struggle for all series over the past 15 years. Bernard has a tough road to hoe to keep the schedule balanced and it remains to be seen whether or not the series will make the honest effort to do so. I choose to remain optimistic until I actually see a 6 oval schedule.

    • I love how the IRL Kool-Aid drinkers crap on CART ! 😦

      CART in the 90’s was extremely popular along with its 1/3 oval 1/3 RC & 1/3 street or temporary course format. I attended plenty of CART events at almost all their venues & enjoyed them for different reasons. The RC’s offered more fan access IMO. BTW, most Cleveland RC fans like that they can see most of the action from their grandstand seats.

      Also Chad… most of the drivers LOVED that old airport course in Cleveland. Many stated it was their 2nd FAVORITE TRACK to race at. Their 1st was Surfer’s Paradise in Australia 💡 Many of them will return to the Gold Coast in October to run V8 Super cars. Travel 16 hours to run on a track they don’t really want to race on, eh??? Yeah right…

  12. The fact that you were rooting for Briscoe over Ed Carpenter completely negates any validity to your opinions. Pffsshh…

  13. Through the years I have and continue to prefer the ovals, but I must admit, I’ve found some of the street races fun to watch over the past couple seasons. Granted, I know the reason they’ve been fun is because of all the punting and bumper car-like action going on, but it keeps the t.v. viewing fan awake.

    Now the permanent terrain road courses? I’m sorry, I’m sure they provide a wonderful weekend of camping and relaxation, as they are beautiful settings, but they simply do not (in my opinion) translate to television at all. Perhaps that’s due to the narrowness of these road courses, as has been mentioned. If so, by all means Randy, please find a way to get the Izod IndyCars on better road courses!!!! Thank you.

  14. Good post Susan!

    Obviously you’re writing from what you know – the feelings you have from exciting oval races! I encourage you to connect with your passion and write more!

  15. The American Mutt Says:

    Nashville was a one and a half line track that took just as much time to set up a pass as any road course. I attended the final race in person, and if given tickets wouldn’t go back. The only thing more boring than a parade on a road course is a parade in a circle, which we have plenty of on the schedule, like for instance, this fan will be glad to see Kansas go as he doesn’t remember the last time it wasn’t a nap worthy race. Furthermore, this household has a woman race fan who begs to differ Susan, I’d recomend not speaking on behalf of all women, just as I’d certainly not choose to speak on behalf of all male fans. This post, as with so many others who claim to speak on behalf of American Racing Fans is, as with most indycar blogs, turning me off the sport I grew up loving.

    Here’s a quick story; it’s 92, cold as shit, and I’m attending my first Indy 500 at one week shy of 13. I watch Michael Andretti destroy the field only to have his car quit with ten laps, or so, to go. An indycar fan was born that day after watching the ensuing battle between Al Jr. and Goodyear duke it out, and watching Lyn St James get rookie of the year. As a 13 year old fan, I didn’t care if they raced on ovals, or street circuits, and it would never have occured to me to care for one over the other. Hell, my second favorite race of the year was ClevelandI realize it’s no longer 95, but Cart drew rating back then, and still dominated over the IRL for several years.

    I tend to think peoples opinion about what it takes to make racing great has been skewed by that other oval dominated series with the ugly “sedans”. What most people seem to overlook about Nascars ratings is that they’re good even though most of their races on ovals suck. It’s because people want the personality cult, not the racing. It has nothing to do with the on track product, if it did the IRL would have been more popular all along.

    • If I wrote a blog about the pros and cons of both kinds of tracks instead of stating my opinion, you guys would have been asleep before you got to the end of it. I have an opinion, many women share it–you can agree or disagree. At lease with a parade in a circle, you can see it all. I miss the Nashville race…

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