No More Room For Haters

If you listened to Trackside last night, you heard yours truly and a host of other IndyCar bloggers plugging our respective sites and discussing topics that tend to be our hot buttons. If you’ve been a longtime follower of this site, you know that one of my hot buttons is the group I refer to as “The Legions of the Miserable”.

If you recall, back in December I posted an article based on an e-mail sent to me by a reader who asked me “Why do people hate IndyCar?” It was a legitimate question and it’s even more relevant now. As IndyCar has experienced a PR nightmare with the Sarah Fisher engine situation, the haters are coming out of the woodwork. The problem is, they don’t necessarily seem genuinely concerned whether or not Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing can secure an engine quickly. Instead, they are seizing on the opportunity to further ridicule the powers-that-be in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Keep in mind, there is a difference between a hater and a realist. Haters carry as little credibility as someone on the other end of the spectrum who proclaims “all is well” and buries their head in the sand. A realist looks at the overall picture and uses reasoning to decide if something is working or not. The haters have caused a lot of dissension in our sport over the years.

I don’t know of this type of dissension among fans in any other sport. This whining is not limited to present day race fans, either. Remember, I was following this sport in the sixties as the rear-engine revolution was engulfing the Indianapolis 500. As Jim Clark was winning the first Indianapolis 500 that I attended, there was definite fan resentment – even within my own family. Being a six year-old, I thought the new cars were sleek and sexy. My older brothers and my father considered them blasphemous. They were not alone. Devotees of the roadsters thought rear-engine cars were for drivers that liked to “be pushed around”. In other words – for men that weren’t very manly. Of course, by the time I got there in 1965 – AJ Foyt had made the switch to a rear-engine Lotus and that saying quickly disappeared.

In 1992, I returned to the track as an adult. When they drove Parnelli Jones’ Ol’ Calhoun around the track that cold race morning, I remember hearing someone grumble, “That’s the way a race car is supposed to look – with the engine in the front.” Granted, Parnelli’s 1963 winner has always been one of my favorite all-time cars; but I’ve never let it keep me from embracing newer cars.

The late seventies had its own version of the miserable. When CART was formed at the expense of USAC, you would have thought the sky was falling. No matter which side you were on, battle lines were drawn and things got ugly – really ugly. Battles on the track were eclipsed by battles in the courtroom.

Even when CART was in its heyday in the early to mid-nineties, things weren’t as rosy as conveniently remembered now. There was a great deal of dissension in the ranks. Foreign drivers were becoming more frequent and were deemed by some as the certain ruination of the sport. I remember the outcry in 1993, when only eighteen drivers on the starting grid for the Indianapolis 500 were Americans. An unimaginable fifteen foreign drivers were in the starting field that year. Of course, twenty-two foreign drivers started the race in 2011 leaving only eleven American drivers – and that was after Bruno Junqueira was dumped in favor of American driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.

As road racing became more prevalent, oval fans squawked but to no avail. Once again looking at the 1993 season, there were sixteen races scheduled – of which, only six were ovals. Sound familiar? The hard-core road racing fans considered racing at Indianapolis a necessary evil and basically checked out and put up with the “circus” during the Month of May until road racing returned.

The Legions of the Miserable at this time is partly what prompted Tony George to develop the ultimate device of hatred. They convinced him that true racing fans wanted American drivers racing on ovals. Thus the IRL was born along with a level of dissension, the likes of which I have never seen.

I will admit to siding with CART during the mid-to-late-nineties. I watched the mostly no-name drivers of the IRL but more out of curiosity than anything else. I still followed CART religiously. I gave up my tickets to the Indianapolis 500. I had no interest in traveling to watch Tyce Carlson battle it out with Racin Gardner and Dr. Jack Miller. But watching that dreadful US 500 in 1996 was no fun either. When Juan Montoya won the 2000 Indianapolis 500 for Chip Ganassi, it was a sign of a thaw in the open-wheel cold war. The following year, I was thrilled when regular CART teams swept the top-six positions in the 2001 Indianapolis 500. I wasn’t thrilled that CART had embarrassed the IRL, I took it as a giant step towards returning the Indianapolis 500 to its rightful place.

By 2003, Team Penske had already made the switch to what was then called the IndyCar Series. The newly re-named Andretti-Green followed along with Target Chip Ganassi and Team Rahal, who all made the switch in 2003. Fernandez and Patrick Racing came over in 2004. I’ll admit, my allegiance switched from CART to IndyCar in 2003. That was also the year I started going back to the Indianapolis 500.

As CART shriveled up and morphed into Champ Car, their followers dug in. Their series continued to run Milwaukee, but beyond that – they ran road courses exclusively, much to the pleasure of their fans. But from a business perspective, it became obvious that an open-wheel series could not sustain itself without having the Indianapolis 500 on its schedule. Much to the chagrin of the Champ Car faithful, Champ Car quietly went away for good, prior to the 2008 season.

There have been four seasons run under a unified open-wheel banner, yet the Champ Car fans continue to gripe and moan as they swear their type of racing and their series was far superior. What I don’t understand is, why are they so unhappy? They have everything and more than what they had their last year in Champ Car. There is a new car. They had the DP-01, while IndyCar has the DW-12. There are three engines instead of one, and engine leases are now the norm – just like in CART. Ovals are outnumbered two to one on the schedule and most seats are filled with foreign “world-class” drivers. Is that not pretty much what they had in the waning days of their beloved Champ Car?

So, what’s the beef?

Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series has a fully-committed title-sponsor – not co-sponsors that were already the tire and engine supplier like Champ Car had. They have a decent TV package with six races on network television and the remainder on an up and coming subsidiary of NBC – not Spike TV. Car counts are on the rise – even with new equipment for 2012. Oh, and there is also a race in May that the series can totally build itself around.

Instead of a revolving door of leaders like Joe Heitzler and Chris Pook, the IZOD IndyCar Series has been blessed with a man like Randy Bernard who has a long-term vision for where this series needs to be. At the dismay of the haters, he has things headed in the right direction. Yes, there have been stumbles – the SFHR engine deal come to mind – but his overall plan is sound. Most of all, he has built a consensus within the participants in the series as well as the fans. Except for the moronic haters out there, he has everyone on board.

Do the Legions of the Miserable not have anything better to do with their lives? I really don’t care for the NBA. I really don’t. But I don’t spend my time lurking around NBA blog sites to spew my bile everywhere on them to let their fans know how much I dislike their sport. Instead, I choose to ignore them. I have better things to do with my time. Life is simply too short.

So if you were once a hater, but find yourself secretly intrigued with all the good things going on in this sport – hop on board. This train still has room and it hasn’t left the station. But if you are intent on dragging this sport down just to satisfy the dead Champ Car crusade – There’s no more room for you here. I suggest you get a life.

George Phillips

40 Responses to “No More Room For Haters”

  1. Where’s the button that says, “All of the above” on the poll question?

    The current and past levels of bile that have been spewed in our sport is very reminiscent of the way conservatives and liberals go at each other in politics. The big difference is that their debate is about the future of our nation and its place in the world, somewhat more important that atuo racing.

    This is entertainment, for heaven’s sake.

  2. I enjoyed your stint on Trackside, and every one of the guests last night did a good job.

    It is a shame then to see a post making a great point devolving at the end into bashing Champ Car hard-cores, rather than hard-cores from each side of the split, because I assure you there is just as much griping and complaining from hard-core fans of the old IRL as there is from fans of the old Champ Car / CART.

    The only complaints I ever see are those about racing on fewer ovals, about needing more Americans, and endless assumptions that any foreign driver MUST have money and is a ridebuyer even if that is patently not true (ask Luca Fillippi how much money he has – none). I’m not levelling those specific criticisms at you George, I’m just saying I hear those calls far louder than I do those calling for the return of CCWS.
    (Sidenote – I do agree with the call for fewer street tracks, I’d prefer to see a stronger mix of natural terrain road courses and low-banked ovals – keep the streets LB and Baltimore and dump the rest.)

    Where I agree with you is the central and opening points of the post. Those days are over. Champ Car is gone. The IRL is gone too. As a result we have a fantastic IndyCar Series with all the things you mention: The new car, a variety of tracks (which still needs work and Bernard has said as much), the engine competition, the promise of aero competition next year. And some truly excellent drivers and teams.
    Sure there are still problems, but really, compared to the problems of 2007-2010.. wow, we’re so much better off now. Let’s enjoy it and celebrate it and move forward.

    All of these Legions, both sides, need to move on and join us in 2012, IndyCar has the brightest future we’ve seen in years!

    People should accept that missing things is okay, as long as people also accept what we have now is just as good if not better.. or simply neither better or worse, just different. Do I miss CART and Champ Car? Of course I do. And that’s fine. I also know there are plenty who miss the IRL. And that’s fine as well. Both offered great racing. Frankly though, in 2012 and 2013 the IndyCar Series has the potential to be better than either of those old series.

    I should say I (perhaps obviously) come at this from the PoV of an F1 fan who discovered CART, loved it, accepted CCWS but didn’t like the dropping of ovals so stopped watching the series, and hated IRL until about 2007 when I realised it was basically CART without the teams owning it (which is a Good Thing).

    IndyCar in 2012 should be cherrypicking the best out of ALL parts of Indy-style racing history. CART, IRL, USAC, all of it.

  3. Hey George! Your stint on Trackside was hooked up. You made some great points. Thank you for your blog.

  4. Good one, George. I think all of us “hard-core fans” tend to be critical because we want Indycar to succeed. At the same time we celebrate the good things. The L.O.T.M.–as you call ’em–celebrate every misstep, don’t want Indycar to succeed at all, and won’t be happy until it’s (long-predicted) ultimate demise. And the mystery is why they want to read/comment about Indycar at all.

    On another note, after listening to Trackside last night I was impressed that all the bloggers seemed like a very nice group of people.

  5. Nice job George …. well written and good job on Trackside last night. It also irritates the hell out of me to hear all the constant negative comments about EVERYTHING regarding INDYCAR !!! I swear, if they gave everyone a $100 bill as they walked in, people would bitch because it wasn’t $200 because ChampCar would have done that!

    Haters and whiners, MOVE ON and waste your negative energy elsewhere …. you’re NEVER going to please everyone!

  6. I’ll never understand the legions of the miserable, whether they are ex-Champ Car, or ex-IRL fans. As I wrote about in a guest posting here a few years back, American open wheel racing has seen an enormous variety of cars, technical specs, drivers and tracks during its 100+ year history. Holding up one moment from the past as “the glory years” that we need to return to makes as much sense as someone complaining that they aren’t racing on board tracks anymore.

  7. Great post, George. Honestly, life’s too short to spend it whining about a racing series. Find something you love, and enjoy it. INDYCAR isn’t perfect, but every season only comes along once. I think we’re trending the right way, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of this year. You only get so many races in a lifetime!

  8. Brian in NY Says:

    George, I usually agree with most of your blogs. You are one of the most fair and balanced writers covering IndyCar, but I disagree with you somewhat on your article today. I think you are only half right. As much as I agree that you have former CART fans that remain haters their is as many original IRL fans that hate the direction the series is going.

    The CART loyalist point to a slower uglier car then the DP-01, the split and the destruction of CART, Ed Carpenter and his family, pack racing, the withdraw of Newman Hasse racing, Dallara over Lola and Swift, and a host of other real and imagined slights. As much as the series tries many of these fans will never return.

    The other half of the haters which I think you gave a pass too is the original IRL and USAC fans. These are the people that left CART to follow Tony George’s vision of open wheel racing. I can read their comments and it’s obvious where their loyalties lye. They complain about foreign ride buyers, road and street courses, standing starts, lack of pack racing, no dirt tracks, Indy is not a month long, and a host of other complaints. Much like the holdout CART fans these fans will never be happy unless their vision is the only one. All you have to do is read the Disciples blog to gain a glimpse into their thought process.

    The good news is that despite all the hate they are a small minority. My hope is that with the leadership of Randy that the flat earthers are replace by countless of new fans that will enjoy what IndyCar will become. A hybrid of what was best of CART and the IRL called the IZOD INDYCAR series.

  9. I don’t think that it is “legions” if what you mean is many, many. I see this group as a small but vocal group. I also find it odd that there is still a website devoted for these folks to spew their hatred of all things Indy. The funny part is that they watch as much IICS racing, if not more, than many of the regular fans. I tend to think they read a lot about it as well. It is a smaller group than before the end of the split and I don’t see that the next generation will pay any attention to their ranting.

    As for the fans that want the engine in the front. I love them! They can sit with me anytime and enjoy a tenderloin sandwich. 😉

  10. The split made a divide and as a fan I want the cart/champ car fans back, we need you to help the sport. The IRL fans have conceded that no matter which side you were on it’s over and I could not be happier. Lets march on and plan the futre together. The formula is better with new cars and the drivers have come from both entities so just let it be. The days of cart were good and some of the IRL days were good but today is our future lets all embrace it. We are open wheel racing with diverse drivers and tracks and that is a good thing! I loved cart and I love IndyCar and after all I love seeing the fans on race day getting goose bumps before the races, thats what is all about. Racing American style is good stuff!

  11. Jack The Root Says:

    You try and combine oval racing and road racing fans and this is what you are going to get.

    Its a oil and water deal. The two groups are pretty different.

    Plus, is it really being “miserable” when its the truth? Unfortunately, there aren’t many positives with this sport right now. If there were, more then a few hundred thousand of us would be paying attention.

  12. Adrian Long Says:

    Spot on George. I think most of us wish the split had never happened, it would be interesting to see where Indycar would be today if it had not. But it did, and there is nothing we can do about it now. I am very enthused with the direction Indycar is taking with Randy B. at the helm. Give Randy 10 years and let’s see how far he can advance the sport, I think he will do great things. I agree that there are things that need addressed, but I have confidence that Randy will address them and will choose the best solution possible. I am excited about the upcoming season and the future of Indycar. The best thing we as fans can do is buy the products of the sponsors, go to as many races as possible and talk about all the good things that are going on. Keep up the good work George.

  13. billytheskink Says:

    Actually George, I think you hit on a reason for the miserables as big as split politics early in this column, when you talked about fans in the 60s resenting the new rear-engined cars. Change.

    Racing, especially IndyCar racing, is very much unlike most sports in that it changes constantly, and over the years these changes become drastic. The sport that fans initially enjoy they may consider barely recognizable just a decade later.

    Most of the gripes I read and hear from the miserables are rooted in a desire to see essentially the same things they saw when they became fans, aspects of the sport in the past.

    This isn’t to say that ideas from the past are not worth revisiting, but IndyCar has never stayed frozen in time and I expect that is one thing about the sport that will not change.

  14. IRL may have “won”, but most of CART ideologies prevailed. What made IRL, IRL is just about gone. Thankfully.

    • What steve says is true, except the last word. It was the CART ideology that was killing Indycar in the early 90’s and what may very well continue now.

      I care for the sport and I don’t want it to be ruined. If you like open wheel racing on road and street courses, you have your league already. Its called Formula One.

      Since Randy Bernard took over, we have lost a lot of ovals. And some of the foreign drivers have so little experience on ovals that they show their fear. I guess I would be afraid too if I had so little experience on ovals (and my compatriots too).

      I am not going to pretend that all is well with this league when traditional American open wheel racing on ovals is threatened. Besides, the street parades will just kill this league in the long run.

  15. “As CART shriveled up and morphed into Champ Car, their followers dug in. Their series continued to run Milwaukee, but beyond that – they ran road courses exclusively, much to the pleasure of their fans.”

    Disagree completely with that assessment, George, it’s dead-wrong. Regarding the ChampCar era, I disdained the fact that they moved further away from ovals, and so did all the fans I personally knew of that cared about the series. I dragged my feet about getting onboard with the IRL because I deeply resented what TG had done to Indy car racing. I am still of the opinion that the spec Lola Cosworth, then the spec Panoz DP01, were better racecars than the Dallara-Honda. Faster, more powerful cars which were more challenging to drive. But again, I despised that fact that there was a split at all, and that the ovals were disappearing from what used to be a great series.

    I also felt like you did regarding the return to Indy of Ganassi when Montoya won. But when Paul Tracy was robbed of the win in favor of HCN by political machinations, it refroze the ice for me.

    As a former Indy car mechanic who worked in USAC and then CART (and worked in both in ’79), I went with the CART side as the split occurred with the IRL because (like you) I had no interest in what the IRL side offered in terms of top-level racing. Still watched Indy (always) but it was so diminished that it was painful.

    I grew up with Indy as the focal point of racing, period. I loved Phoenix, Milwaukee and Nazareth. I grew up in So. Calif. watching Indy cars on TV and going to Sprint car races at Ascot. The first Indy car race I attended was at Riverside (a road course) in ’68. Next was Ontario Motor Speedway starting in 1970. I loved and appreciated BOTH forms. The drivers were my heroes, and it didn’t matter where they raced. That’s still true today.

    • …and nobody was happier than I was when the unification finally took place. But it still annoys when I hear people downplay the talent of drivers who won championships in the CART/ ChampCar era (DaMatta, Tracy, Bourdais). Everyone sounded as if it were some miracle fallen down when Will Power showed up and started winning. I know it didn’t surprise Dario, TK, or Dixon (all former CART drivers), nor ChampCar owners like Vasser or Derrick Walker…or you, George.

    • Further…regarding the split/reunification and who won/lost…Tony wasn’t being strictly magnanimous when he did what he did to reunify. Give him credit that he did what he did to reunify, but don’t think for a minute that he didn’t see the writing on the wall for the IRL-IndyCar series as well…that the whole deal was collapsing on both sides because of the split.

  16. An unfortunate (in my opinion) aspect of the internet is that now anyone can say anything and remain anonymous. Pick any story on any subject or any YouTube video. The comments that follow often quickly degenerate into the babbling of idiots. Probably scribbled by the same people that you move to the other end of the bar to get away from. Internet graffitti.

    There is not so much of that here which is one of the main reasons that George’s site has become a refuge of sorts. Still, even here, and regardless of the subject, Cart vs IRL comments seem to find their way into the discussion, just perhaps a bit more politely than on the Mailbag. This is a controversy that simply refuses to die. I think it is time to stick a fork in it.

  17. I agree Ron. Now Let’s get busy and sellm out Milwaukee

  18. They are hurt at the demise of their sport, and can’t seem to move on. Their pain comes out as anger. Similiar to a love that has betrayed you. You are hesitant to let them back into your circle.

  19. CART is gone. The IRL is gone. What remains is the great tradition of American open-wheel racing–the granddaddy of all other racing series. And–like always, they’re racing on ovals, racing on roads and racing in the streets. While everyone has their own opinion as to which direction INDYCAR should go, I’d like to think all could agree to support the series and it’s great and varied history while we continue to push our own preferences.

  20. Can’t really add much else to basically everything that’s been said here (well, other than the couple of commenters who seem to be continuing to pick fights, which, really, guys? Still can’t find other hobbies?). What we’ve got staring us in the face (and I’d have said this even before Sarah got her engine in the last 48 hours) is the absolute best open wheel racing product that we’ve seen in years, certainly since 2003, on either side of the fence (Mike R is very right in his assessment of 2007-ish open wheel racing…the way things were going, both sides were in awful shape and probably couldn’t have sustained another 2-3 years on their respective trajectories), and possibly even longer than that. Why certain people can’t stop their constant kvetching for even 15 minutes to just enjoy some racing, that’s something I’ll probably never understand.

  21. To be honest, I’m not so sure how “great” the direction of Indycar is. To it’s credit it’s probably the healthiest of the non-NASCAR racing series (also non NHRA and non Supercross) in America but that’s low hanging fruit. I also know that some sports car fans disagree with that assessment. I’m fairly satisfied with the teams and the NBC sports package looks promising but when over half the tracks lack the potential for passing that’s a problem. Overall my 2012 enjoyment is dependent on whether or not the new car and engine makes the racing less predictable and adds parity, or turns it into American F1 and see’s 1-2 teams win everything…

    • So, we’re going to do another 15 laps on why the tracks that are on the calendar are on the calendar? You’ve never listened to any of my arguments before this, why would you start now?

      Seriously, though, I get it. I’m not as thrilled with a few of the tracks that we have, either, but I also get why we’re going to just about all of them (I’m still not really sure how Roger Penske makes any money off of Belle Isle, but he clearly knows something I don’t). I wish that we were going to Road America, Cleveland, a couple other ovals (Phoenix and Loudon included) about 5 of the other tracks that you seem to spend 80% of your time pining for, but I also understand the realities of why those events aren’t capable of happening yet: i.e. they’re going to cost a bunch of money that people have not yet found. This is a long process. If IndyCar can shore up its TV numbers and start to pull in more sponsors, or if IndyCar enjoys a lottery-like payday at Sao Paulo and China for a couple more years, that dough becomes available and those events come back on the radar screen. In the meantime, as I’ve told you before, your entire IndyCar fandom has been during a complete spec era. I am telling you, when there is a performance difference between cars (and there will be this year, I promise, because the driveability characteristics between a twin turbo and a single turbo engine alone should mean that one or the other will be stronger on certain tracks), even places like Mid-Ohio can come alive and put on a good show. Just chill out and be see what happens, would you?

      And Dylan, you want to know what the difference is between “constructive criticism” and “being one of the miserable”? The former is offering up suggestions for the things that you think could be fixed while still giving off the impression that you do still enjoy about that thing you’re criticising (this is what the miserable, from a handful of bloggers, to certain blog commenters, to some TrackForum posters, to guys who write the same old stale “I’ve been a fan since 1950, and I want the cars to arrive at the track on the back of flatbed trailers again and also be able to run on dirt again, just like in the ’70s!” rants to Robin Miller every week, that’s what they lack). Being one of the miserable is taking the 10-20% of what could be improved on (that’s about the proportion that I think could still stand some tweaking, so don’t for one second accuse me of being somebody who thinks that everything is perfect and that everybody should hold hands and sing “If I Could Teach The World To Sing” in the paddock every weekend; what I said is that we’ve got the best product we’ve had in 10+ years, not that it’s perfect) and then spending 99% of your time complaining about those things over and over and over and over again. Sometimes you manage to hit the “constuctive criticism” range, but you spend a lot of time flirting with the “miserable” camp. A little less time rehashing the same 4 arguments for things that can’t be changed overnight anyway and a little more time celebrating the things that are actually going right goes a long way toward striking that balance.

  22. You left out the new and growing offshoot of “The legions of the miserable” the “Bring back the old IRL-ers”. Nothing is worst than listening to a guy whine and cry about how Tony George needs to “Do it again”, lets all just hop on The Cowboys shoulders and let him carry us ALL into the future instead.

  23. Why am I negative?

    Because it is impossible for a series to build itself around the 500 when the series is keeping the 500 from thriving.

    Lets be fair… how many races on the schedule attract even 1/3 of the viewers that the 500 attracts? How many attract even 1/3 of the attendees?

    The reality is that the majority of people who watch the 500 or attend the 500 never watch or attend races the rest of the season. Last year there was not one race outside of the 500 that drew more viewers from the central Indiana market than attended the 500 in person.

    If people who attend the 500 in person never bother to watch another event on TV the rest of the season, what is the series doing to help the 500 survive… much less thrive?

    The sad reality is that the cost of running 16 races is the reason that an open rule book with true chassis and engine competition is not affordable. The races outside of Indianapolis account for over 90% of the costs of racing each year… yet the sponsor revenue from Indy alone for a team accounts for over 30% of the incoming cash flow.

    The series is the reason why the owners can’t afford to race the kind of cars that made the 500 as exciting as it was during my childhood. Every year I buy four of the eight tickets that my Dad had been buying before I was born. For the first time in years, Dad will actually be in Indy over Memorial day weekend… but he will be playing golf, not attending the race. If we ever had extra tickets 20 years ago they sold for a fortune outside the track. Now it’s hard to find somebody who will attend the race if you give them tickets for free.

    If you want undying positivity… show me a sell out 500. I’m not going to get excited about a title sponsor or the chance to watch a race on network television. Those things don’t allow the owners to afford real cars, and they certainly aren’t what I watch a race for. As long as I can take my son into the museum and show him cars that would easily win this years 500, I’m not going to be excited to show him the new cars running this year. I’m not content with the 500 being reduced from the greatest spectacle in racing to being the 2nd greatest spectacle on the day it’s run.

    The saddest part is that so many people are positively content with what the 500 has become that people actually actually get excited about having a title sponsor and treat it like someone just set a track record.

    • I still don’t understand how that whole “get rid of the rest of the series and just open things up for the 500” thing works, though. It is quite true that many of the sponsors that you see on the sidepods at Toronto or Milwaukee or Iowa or Sears Point are there because those companies want to be on the sidepods at Indy, but might the converse be true as well (i.e. the sponsors want to be seen by fans at Toronto, Milwaukee, Iowa or Sears Point, because that is part of their marketing scheme)? Would most of the sponsors that are in IndyCar today be content with cutting down their visibility to one day per year? Or, let’s just say that the 1960s or 1970s “buzz” comes back, and Pole Day and Bump Day become something that the American sporting scene pays attention to (which, in the day of every single living person having a million different entertainment options, from internet to video on demand to 20 other sports to many more movies coming out every weekend to people just generally having things going on in their own lives, I think that train has sailed, but I’ll indulge your fantasy here), are those sponsoring companies going to be content with three days of visibility per year, even if they’re reaching four times the people (pretending that Race Day goes from a 3.0-4.0 share back up to a 12.0-16.0 share, and Pole Day actually draws the 100,000 that Robin Miller always claims were there back in the ’70s but is actually nowhere near possible if you realize that there were probably only 150,000 seats back then and they were probably no more than 1/3rd full, which is a totally different rant)?

      Just to dig a bit deeper here, let’s pretend that the rest of the series goes away, or gets absorbed into ALMS or GrandAm or something, or just evaporates into the ether entirely, and Indy runs as a standalone event. At the same time, the rulebook opens back up to some sort of a “run what ya brung” deal, but (and this is a big assumption here) one where Chip Ganassi with his coastdown tunnel and 20-some engineers or Roger Penske with his eleventy-billion dollars and multiple-multiple-multiple auto industry connections don’t just blow everybody away by 10 MPH (which is a scenario which would surely kill the 500 quicker than any current doomsday theory would…to use this analogy, would people tune into the Kentucky Derby every year if they knew that there was a 97% chance that the same two horses would win every single season, for eternity? I say no). Chassis aren’t going to get cheaper than the $350k that they are right now. Engines will still probably run you $250k+ for the month of May alone, since what we’re describing is a 1994-esque horsepower war where everybody will have to spend 11 months testing their stuff and then popping engines every other day in practice. Heck, with all of the development costs, you’re bound to wind up back in the $500-600k zone for engines. You’re still going to have to pay your mechanics, engineers, team managers and the like for 2-3 months of work per year, at least, to do all that development work, and just to keep them from going to some other team. Your shop lease isn’t any cheaper, nor is your hauler or your shock dyno or your laptops or [insert 150 other things that a 21st century race team requires to run]. What we’re talking about now is spending upwards of $2-3 million for each and every team to run one single race. What do potential sponsors say to that? If somehow we wind up with a level playing field (i.e. where Penske and Ganassi aren’t annhilating the rest of the field), is it even possible to find 33 sponsors who are willing to front huge cash for one day where they might get on TV for a little while (and remember, just making this whole thing so isn’t a guarantee that you’re going to get Super Bowl ratings, it’s a total roll of the dice)? Or, in the more likely scenario, where Penske and Ganassi take the open rulebok and bludgeon everybody else about the ears and head with it, what happens then? If you’re getting your name on Roger’s or Chip’s sidepods, hey! That’s a great deal! 15 million people are going to stare at my company’s name for 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon! Sign me up!

      On the other hand, in that second scenario, how does Sarah Fisher or Bobby Rahal or Dennis Reinbold or any of the other teams that are now running laps down to Roger’s and Chip’s cars, how do those teams go to sponsors with hat in hand and say, “gee, mister, would you like to give me a seven-figure check for a chance to get noticed for 10 seconds every 15 minutes whenever Dario or Dixon or Power or Helio or Briscoe is lapping me, and about a 1.4% chance at seeing your name on the front of the USA Today on Tuesday morning? Hello? Hello?”

      Really, I’m not trying to shout you down here, I just want somebody to explain to me how the whole “burn the whole thing to the ground and start over” thing works. I’m more than happy to listen.

      • That is a lot of if’s. Rather than following a haywire chain of baseless scenarios I suggest you start with the basics and start counting the eyeballs that watch the race.

        Sponsors do not pay by the race, they pay by the eyeball. Account for that and show me how running Milwaukee is justifiable.

        250k people are in hand to watch the 500. No other race even draws 200k tv viewers in Indiana. Many do not draw that many from every state east of the mississippi river. Sponsors pay a pittance for these events and Indy 500 revenue is used to subsidize them.

        As long as this series remains the 500 will lack the most important intangible assert. CREDIBILITY. It cannot be done by fielding drivers that failed to succeed elsewhere, especially if the failures are he best the series has to offer.

        Until a 500 winner can become a household name, the race will suffer as it has for the last decade. It has never been less relevant and is on a zero growth path that will continue its journey.

        The 500 has to become a place that the best owners, drivers, and manufacturers anywhere dream of dominating. It has to be the place where underdogs dream of an upset. There is no getting there with the new joke of a race car.

        You can’t live in te past and expect to survive on tradition. Do that an prepare to look like the 24 hour race in Daytona. That is the direction indycar is taking the 500.

        The only shot at growth is with sweeping change. That change is only affordable when the massive cost of running 12 races that nobody watches is removed like a cancerous tumor.

    • Oh, and sorry for the Homeric epic-length comment, George.

  24. I propose a “swear jar”.

    Everytime someone uses CART, Champcar, or IRL, in any forum/post/comment, they pay a buck.

    After May, we’ll take half the money to buy out MIlwaukee, and use the second half for a new race in 2013 (Phoenix, Nashville, etc.)

    Who’s in?

  25. Honestly, I don’t think the IndyCar haters are mad for any of the poll question reasons. They’re not mad that they lost the split. They’re mad that the series isn’t the same as it was BEFORE the split. Don’t worry about mentioning that the split was the result of decades of strife, not just some arbitrary impulse TG had one day. They’re mad because they consider themselves “purists.” A legion of self-proclaimed purists, though, is never satisfied, because no two people in the legion agree on the exact moment they want the sport to emulate. Just shrug them off. The buzz around IndyCar is really getting hot, and people who hate on it are just going to be left in a vocal minority of whiners. If you find yourself next to one in the stands at Indy, just tell him to have a beer and enjoy the fast cars for once in his life.

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