Busting An IndyCar Myth

There is a myth going around that needs to be exposed. For months; IndyCar fans, forums and websites have been lamenting the fact that this is a terribly long offseason that is unsurpassed in the history of motor sports. I have been just as guilty as everyone else claiming that this offseason is way too long and that a cure for Ebola may be found before the Verizon IndyCar Series turns another wheel in competition.

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles has made it a point to end the season by Labor Day weekend, in order to avoid any head-to-head conflicts with the NFL. For years I was in favor of doing just that, because if increased ratings was the goal; I felt as though the series was fighting a losing battle going against the behemoth that is the NFL. My thought was that the season opener would be moved up near the week after the Daytona 500. That way, the season would last as long – it would just be shifted earlier on the calendar.

But when the last checkered flag of the season fell in August, I had a change of heart. It felt weird to still be pool weather and lawn-mowing season and have the IndyCar season already in the books. I joined in with those that were screaming, because we were heading into the longest offseason in sports.

As it turns out, this just isn’t so. Not only is this not the longest offseason in sports – that would be college football – it isn’t even the longest offseason in the relatively short history of what is now the Verizon IndyCar Series. I’m not even hanging that claim on some technicality of that ridiculous split year championship of 1996-97. No, it doesn’t go near that far.

The longest offseason in IndyCar history was between the 2007 and 2008 seasons. The last race of 2007 was at Chicagoland on September 9th. The series did not return to action the following year until March 29th at Homestead. When you account for the extra day in February for Leap Year in 2008, that’s a total of 202 days between races. If you look at our current offseason from August 30th through next March 8 in Brasilia; we’re only looking at 190 days.

Granted that’s still longer than the 162 days between the 2013 and 2014 IndyCar seasons. If you really want to get ridiculous, compare it to the NASCAR offseason that just began this week. In my opinion, their offseason is too short at only 98 days. That’s hardly enough time to put away the Christmas decorations.

When the 2007 season ended with Dario Franchitti’s first IndyCar championship, I don’t recall any hand-wringing that we were heading into the abyss of a 202 day off-season. Is it because this past season ended prior to Labor Day that everyone is so up-in-arms about such a long offseason?

Look, I’m not trying to sugarcoat this current offseason. It’s four weeks longer than last year’s. It’s also more than half a year, which makes it tough to deal with psychologically – especially when you consider the cold weather most of the country has dealt with this past week. Raking snow off of my windshield in the mornings is not something I usually do this far south in mid-November. That’s something normally reserved for January or February. It’s easier to deal with then when you know that the balmy days of racing season are just around the corner. I could not tell myself that this past week.

This week, we were all left shivering with the knowledge that the Verizon IndyCar Series season is something that is still almost four months into the future. That’s not the way to warm us up. Some got their racing fix by watching NASCAR and/or Formula One. But with NASCAR over and Formula One about to be, the winter will be just a little bit darker and colder – and winter won’t be here for officially another month.

Maybe, just maybe – it will help some to feel better to know that it wasn’t so long ago that we dealt with an offseason longer than this one. Of course, one thing that kept our interest up that offseason was the unification of the two open-wheel series that February. From that point, the offseason seemed to carry more drama than the season itself.

It’s not often that I defend the administration at IndyCar these days. I’m not in love with the new schedule and a lot of their decisions are head-scratchers. But the claims that this is the longest offseason ever are simply just not true. Facts are facts.

George Phillips

20 Responses to “Busting An IndyCar Myth”

  1. Mike Silver Says:

    It may not be the longest, but ending before Labor Day sure makes it seem so. This end date is the worst proposal the BCG made and the fact IndyCar took it compounds the error.

  2. I think in 2007-2008 we thought it was the beginning of better things. This year, its clearly a regression. I think that might be the difference.

    Its like a basebal team that says this past seasons 60-102 record is not our worst. We only won 58 games seven years ago. Doesn’t really make me feel better.

    The season is ending too early. I still think it starts about the right time. Just need a couple of oval races before the 500.

  3. Starting earlier is great. I think they’ll bend the Labor Day rule if a good venue comes along and there’s no other date. I’m basically fine with the schedule.

  4. I guess the lawn-mowing thing is one reason why the current off-season is being perceived as ridiculously long. The other would be the fact that the number of races has gone down again.

  5. Since IndyCar only has 16-18-ish venues, the main way to make the season longer is add space between races, like those enormous layoffs we had in 2013. No thanks on that. I’d rather finish in late August than have those big 3-week Festivals of Nothing within the season. I like a race a week, maybe skipping ONE weekend here and there.

  6. I was thinking the 2012-2013 off-season was one of if not the longest and now I’ve checked it also comes to 190 days.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    I had not heard anyone specifically claim that this was the longest off-season in Indycar or racing history, though I don’t doubt that several did so. In fairness to them, if it is not currently the longest off-season in major motorsports, it is probably darn close.

    There are a couple of key differences between this off-season and the 2007-2008 offseason:
    – First, reunification occurred during that offseason (not to mention that ChampCar raced into November), giving fans the closest thing this sport will have to a pro sports draft as an off-season talking point.
    – Second, and more importantly, is that this time Indycar’s management explicitly required and announced that the season was to end by a specific date. We know exactly why the offseason is so long this time, and we know that the series itself is entirely responsible. It is much easier to complain when you know who to blame.

    That fans are unhappy about this off-season understandable, especially when they see other series continue to race past Labor Day. For me personally, the long off-season is especially galling because the Labor Day cutoff date is directly responsible for killing one race (the one closest to me) and significantly damaging another. What opportunity cost there is in races that Indycar is unable to add because of the Labor Day mandate will probably never be known.

  8. The thing is here, IndyCar didn’t set out to have a 190 day off season this year. Had the intended Dubai race gone off on the hoped-for date in February, the offseason would have been 169 days. The off season would have been exactly one week longer than last year’s. And IndyCar would have been getting PAAAAAIIIIIDDD in a big way for going to Dubai. That’s why Mark Miles has said that they’re still trying to make that race (and possibly 1-2 other international races) happen next year. And if IndyCar is going to use those gigantic checks in order to hire more marketing folks or lower sanctioning fees at some tracks or accept lower sanctioning fees at some new tracks (Road America, Phoenix, wherever) or goose the Leader’s Circle payments such that teams can be more attentive to hiring the best available talent instead of hiring slightly lesser talent that brings money, then I’m all for that strategy.

    Look, like Pressdog says above, there’s are trade offs here. IndyCar’s revenues (sponsorships, sanctioning fees, etc.) currently allow IndyCar to put on 16-18 events per year. If you choose to put on one or more of those events after Labor Day, unless you get super creative with the scheduling and put them on Saturdays (the tracks might have something to say about that, especially if you’re now scheduling against a local college football team), you are 1) bound to NBCSN, as the current TV contracts apparently preclude putting any races on NBC Main, so you are stuck on deep cable and the associated cap of 0.3-0.4 ratings (that’s the number that you can associate with us hard cores who tune in regardless of when the race is on), and 2) you are asking potential new fans (the folks that IndyCar is desperately chasing in order to see long term growth) to pick between watching the NFL or watching IndyCar. All of us reading George’s blog are likely to pick the latter (though I believe George himself has admitted to watching IndyCar on the DVR after watching a Titans game…which makes me cry a single tear like the indigenous fellow in the old anti-pollution campaign), but statistically speaking, most Americans are going to pick the NFL. That’s no way to use your assets most wisely. It may annoy all of us to have to find other stuff to do in September and October, but if IndyCar can make a bigger impact with their 16-18 events (and increase the impact of those races even more by condensing the schedule and eliminating some of the off-weeks between events, like Pressdog says), then I say they’ve gotta try it. If this strategy has little or no effect after 2-3 years, then by all means, go back to the old ways that we’ve all been used to. But I’m prepared to have IndyCar season go from February to the end of August for a couple years, if it means a more viable strategy for future growth. That’s how business works. Do business, guys. It’s how we’ll all get to see the sport continue until we’re all old and gray.

  9. 这就像有秩序的寿司太长时间。可怕的事情。吸引流动件黄色的连衣裙和奶油大腿一下,让等待可以容忍。

    • 你没有好的大机会。什么让你觉得奶油大腿要送达的虾寿司的你 !我把你在厨房里,和我一起

      • DZ-groundedeffects Says:


    • DZ-groundedeffects Says:


  10. William Mackenzie Says:

    I appreciate your attention to this, George. People tend to forget that the ONLY reason Mark Miles decided to end the season before NFL season is to increase TV ratings, and they increased over 25% in just the first season because of his decision! In other words…it’s working!! I love IndyCar more than anyone, I wish they could race 365 days a year. But the truth is that major companies will not invest in IndyCar without better TV ratings. As much as I hate the short season, Mark Miles’s plan is working. And maybe when IndyCar starts pulling in better numbers and the health of the series improves with them, they can try their hand at a longer season.

  11. Already I am hearing reports that the Brazil race in in trouble, George. Something about the bidding process of construction of the track being completely halted (Kevin Lee touched on this in the latest Trackside radio broadcast); and time is running out to find another venue or to sort out the construction problems. So that means if the race doesn’t happen (which sounds like a distinct possibility at this point) then there wont be racing until March 29th. Aug 30, 2014 to March 29th, 2015. That’s 210 days. That sucks.There were supposed to be 2 races occurring before St. Pete next year and now it looks like we wont even get one. Way to go Mark Miles, following a freakin Consulting group report instead of the fans; the very fans that are the reason you even have this stinkin job.

  12. Sure, I’d like more races, but I am ok with what we have now and I am looking forward to 2015. By the way, NASCAR only got a 2.something this past week with the “Chase Championship” so they lost a lot of viewers to televised football. I prefer watching the Nationwide races but not over the SEC football games.

  13. I can’t imagine anyone missing a Titan game or a Bear game to watch a car race. Shiny cars going very fast vs interceptions. No contest.

    • Count me as one who isn’t interested in football in the least. I literally couldn’t care less. Which gets me a bunch of ridicule at the office. I haven’t watched a single game this year. I will always choose racing over football. Every single time. I know I’m not alone.

  14. […] 11/21: Busting An IndyCar Myth […]

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