Random Thoughts On Phoenix

Sometimes I wonder if I live on the same planet as a lot of fans of the Verizon IndyCar Series. After spending all day Saturday doing early spring yard work, I was lucky to get showered and to be sitting in front of the television by the start of the pre-race show for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. In short, I was tired and just wanted to watch the race and not engage anyone on social media throughout the telecast.

After enjoying what I thought was an entertaining race and a great way to spend a Saturday night, I got on Facebook and Twitter only to learn how wrong I was. As it turns out, the race that I enjoyed, which was won by Scott Dixon, was slammed by many. From what they perceived to be a disappointing crowd all the way to a lack of passing and a poor second showing for the revamped race control – many “experts” rained on my parade for my evening of entertainment. How shocked I was to find out that I really didn’t enjoy Saturday night’s race. I just thought I did.

I know, I know…I can hear it now. George is all bunnies and rainbows when it comes to all things IndyCar. If you’ve read this site very long, you know that is far from the truth. And those that know me consider me a grumpy old man who complains about everything, although I’ll dispute that one also.

The setting could not have been more perfect. Typical of Phoenix, there was not a cloud in the sky and the sun was beginning to set. There was still much early-season anticipation as this was only the second race of the season. Would those that prospered at St. Petersburg continue their momentum in Arizona? What about those that stumbled in the season-opener? Would they redeem themselves in the Valley of the Sun? The twenty-two cars glistened under the twilight sky as they prepared to fire. They would look even more spectacular as the artificial lighting took over.

After two practice crashes and one in qualifying – all Hondas and all in Turns One and Two – there was justified speculation that there would be carnage on the first lap. Those fears proved to be unfounded as the race stayed green for the first fifty laps. What Lap One did produce was nail-gripping excitement as Ryan Hunter-Reay gave the entire field a clinic on passing on the outside of what was thought to be a one-groove racetrack.

Hunter-Reay took the green flag in twelfth position. By the time the field reached Turn Three, he was in seventh – having passed five cars all on the outside of Turns One and Two and in the backstretch dogleg. Ignoring how other Hondas had fared in practice and qualifying, Hunter-Reay went for it and it turned out well for him.

Hunter-Reay wasn’t done making jaws drop. On a later restart, RHR passed several cars on the inside of the front-straightaway. But it was all for naught.

If you did not watch Saturday night’s race and looked at the official box score on Sunday morning, you would see that Hunter-Reay finished tenth and figure that he had a forgettable night. What that box score doesn’t reflect is that Hunter-Reay drove his heart out and drove his disadvantaged Honda to as high as third, before not one, but two ill-timed yellow-flags came out just as he had pitted under green.

The irony is that the first one was caused by his own teammate, Carlos Muñoz, hitting the wall on Lap 120. The second was Ed Carpenter getting up in the grey and smacking the wall on Lap 196. Both times, RHR had just pitted under green as he watched the field scream by at speed. Afterwards, most of the field had the luxury of pitting under the yellow as the field crept around at a much slower pace.

Considering all that, it’s a wonder that Hunter-Reay was able to salvage a tenth-place finish, while running on the lead lap at the end. In my mind, there is no question that RHR had the drive of the night and was justifiably disappointed with just a tenth place finish to show for it.

His fellow Honda driver, Graham Rahal, was not quite as spectacular but drove a heck of a race himself. After starting nineteenth, Rahal was racy all evening and was rewarded with a fifth place finish. What this proved to me was that Rahal’s 2015 resurgence was no fluke. He and Sébastien Bourdais were the only two drivers out there on Saturday night without teammates. In this data-rich age of racing, having a teammate is practically imperative, yet Rahal seems to flourish flying solo.

Of course, one of the many storylines involved Team Penske. Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves fought off a charge from Tony Kanaan going into the first turn. Helio led the first thirty-nine laps before apparently cutting his right-front tire. He would finish eleventh and would not be a factor the rest of the night. When Castroneves pitted, teammate Juan Montoya assumed the lead. When the field pitted after the crash of Muñoz on Lap 50, Montoya came out as the leader. He stayed there until his own right-front tire went down in almost identical fashion. Montoya would finish a disappointing ninth.

Considering that both Penske cars had identical issues with the same tire at the exact same point in the stint, one could conclude that there was a problem with the Penske car setup that put too much load on the right-front tire. Penske officials were quick to point out that both cars had suffered cut tires from debris on the track. Conspiracy theorist will claim that they were either covering their own tracks or those of IndyCar partner Firestone. Since the Penske cars of Simon Pagenaud and Will Power did not suffer similar fates, I’ll take the Penske folks at their word.

Speaking of Power and Pagenaud, they both left Phoenix with smiles on their faces. On the strength of his third-place finish, Will Power moved up from dead-last in points to being tied for twelfth, after missing St. Petersburg with an inner-ear problem. Watching him ascend back into championship contention will be interesting to observe throughout the season. With consecutive second-place finishes to start the season, Simon Pagenaud becomes our points-leader with a four point lead over Scott Dixon.

Speaking of Dixon, he won the race by the way. When Montoya suffered his cut tire, Dixon assumed the lead on Lap 96 and never relinquished it. Although he was unspectacular in winning, he was never threatened by Pagenaud who was thrilled with second-place. Tony Kanaan was fast all night and is probably a little dissatisfied by finishing fourth.

My pick to win, Nashvillian Josef Newgarden, was another that persevered through problems in the pits. It took multiple attempts for the refueler to get the fuel probe in, costing Newgarden valuable spots on the track. Some (including Newgarden) say Newgarden pitted too far from the wall for the fuel hose to reach. Others speculate that the fuel rig was set up too far from the pit. Fortunately, he was pitting under caution and didn’t go a lap down, but he did restart from the back of the pack.

Newgarden was the beneficiary of one caution, getting to pit under yellow when many had pitted under green, but the racing gods paid him back when the reverse happened later in the race. He also had to make an unscheduled stop for a new nose, after Charlie Kimball chopped him on Lap 134. With all that, Newgarden was still able to manage a sixth place finish. The fact that he left the track very disappointed shows how far he has come as a driver. Two to three years ago, he would have been pretty pumped over a sixth place finish.

Was this the most riveting race that left me exhausted when it was over? No. Was it a boring parade? No. Let’s focus on what it was, though. It was the much-anticipated return of open-wheel racing to a traditional facility where lots of IndyCar history has been made over the past fifty-two years. This was a starting point. There is much room for growth and improvement, but this was a good starting point.

Perhaps those complaining had their sights set too high. The crowd was about what I was expecting and so was the racing. Phoenix International Raceway President Bryan Sperber was quoted as saying he would have been pleased with a crowd of 13,000 to 15,000 for IndyCar’s first year back. According to Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star, Sperber estimates that there were about twenty thousand in attendance Saturday night – a figure he was ecstatic about. If the track is happy, that’s a good thing.

As far as the racing goes, although passing was at a premium, there was enough to keep things interesting. There were enough yellows interspersed to make things interesting without making the race be dubbed a crash-fest. Most importantly, all twenty-two starting drivers walked away in one piece.

So for those on social media that were bemoaning the fact that they were not happy with what they saw on Saturday night, I’m not sure what you were looking for. Perhaps you, in fact, found exactly what you were looking for – something to complain about.

TV Coverage: First the bad – the NBCSN crewed failed to inform viewers the reason for the yellow flag on Lap 248. We were led to believe that race officials sat and watched a piece of debris lying on the front-stretch for several laps before throwing the caution with two laps to go, preventing everyone from seeing a green-flag finish. What actually happened was that Alexander Rossi brushed the wall on Lap 248, forcing the caution. Viewers were left to criticize Race Control for being indecisive.

Now the good – Rick Allen made his IndyCar debut as a broadcaster, but you’d never know it. He was flawless in his delivery and kept the decibels at an acceptable level. I’ll be acused of open-wheel heresy for this, but I may actually prefer Allen’s more subtle approach to the amped-up Leigh Diffey, whom Allen was subbing for. Keep in mind when I say that – I’m a big Leigh Diffey fan. But I see no drop-off whatsoever if Allen is doing a race, and I’ll have no problem if he does many more.

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it many times in the future, but Paul Tracy is quickly becoming my favorite booth analyst in racing. He is refreshingly candid, does not appear to be coached to tone things down, and gives viewers a peek into what racers are actually thinking. Tracy was never my favorite driver, but I’ve gained a whole new perspective of him as an analyst.

I’m not sure what role Robin Miller fills, but he does it well. He’s not in the booth, but he’s not exactly a pit reporter. He’s just there to offer his opinion and to report little tidbits. Some despise him, but I’m a Robin Miller fan and I think his contribution to the NBCSN telecast is undeniable.

As far as the actual pit reporters go; Kevin Lee is the consummate pro, bringing what appears to be a light-hearted approach to a job he takes very seriously – and he does it very well. Katie Hargitt is growing in her broadcasting role, but don’t think she’s there just to bring a pretty face to the telecast. Hargitt was an accomplished quarter-midgets driver and eventually moved up to midgets in a racing career that spanned eleven years, before turning her attention to broadcasting. She lives and breathes racing and I predict will become a mainstay in some form of motorsports broadcasting for years to come. As for Marty Snider, he comes across as the prima donna of the bunch. I’ll leave it at that. Let’s just say I missed Jon Beekhuis Saturday night.

Hinchcliffe Segment: One more thing on the television front – kudos to whoever produced the pre-race segment on James Hinchcliffe and his road back to an IndyCar cockpit after his harrowing crash at Indianapolis last May. The more I hear of this crash the worse it gets. I had no idea that the medical team lost his pulse on the way to surgery. It magnifies how close we came to losing one of our favorite drivers. This piece shows the more serious side to Hinchcliffe that we rarely see. Even after his crash, Hinchcliffe has been ever the jokester, showing us his incredible sense of humor.

What I liked about this segment is that Hinch was serious in the interview, while being very matter-of-fact and not producing the obligatory tears you see in so many pieces like this. To me, that’s what made it so powerful.

Huge Discrepancy: One thing that was apparent on social media was that those in attendance Saturday night, loved what they saw. It’s no wonder if they were used to seeing the lumbering stock cars of NASCAR make their way around the track. It was pointed out on the telecast Saturday night that Kyle Busch’s pole speed in NASCAR’s race at Phoenix last month was just a tick over 138 mph. Conversely, the pole speed for Helio Castroneves this past weekend was over 192 mph. That’s a difference of 54 mph on a one-mile track or an almost 40% increase in speed.

Those that are against pursuing track records at Indianapolis are fond of saying that you can’t tell the difference between 225 mph and 235 mph with the naked eye. I’ll promise you, NASCAR fans in attendance Saturday night could tell the difference between 138 mph and 192 mph.

Yellow-flag Controversy: While many decried Race Control for throwing what was perceived to be a debris-yellow with two laps to go; no one seemed concerned that they didn’t go to caution as soon as the debris from Ryan Hunter-Reay’s rear wing hit the track.

I totally understand trying to preserve a green-flag finish with debris that was considered out of the racing groove. But should they have gone to a caution as soon as they saw the debris for a couple of laps, keep the pits closed and have a five-to-six lap shootout?

As I watched the waning laps with that winglet sitting to the inside of the front straightaway, I couldn’t help but think that all it takes is for one driver to make a move to the inside, strike that piece to send it airborne and we could have another Justin Wilson situation.

Striking an airborne piece of carbon fiber at 180 mph or more can have devastating consequences, as we learned last August. I trust the former racers in Race Control to know what the normal racing line is and to make the proper calculated risks.

They know a lot more than I do and they probably made the right call. But seeing as we’re still only slightly more than seven months away from the tragic events at Pocono, I’m probably still a little gun-shy when I see debris sitting on a track with cars running at speed.

IndyCar Two-seater: I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard the voice of the winner of the Fastest Seat in Sports, Roger Brint of Nebo, NC. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Brint, but he sounded exactly like comedian Gilbert Gottfried in his interview. If you still have the race on you DVR, go back and listen to it. I expected the next thing out of his mouth to be “Hi ya’ Schmucks!”

But at least he sounded excited to be there, which is more than I can say about some of the past winners. I’ve heard some that sounded like they’d rather be at an insurance seminar than in the cockpit of that two-seater, for whatever reason. You wonder why they registered if it meant nothing to them.

Dixon’s Legacy: Scott Dixon put another check in the win column Saturday night. Not only did he add another track to the long list of venues where he has won, but he also won his thirty-ninth career IndyCar race. That ties Dixon with Al Unser for fourth on the all-time list.

With thirty-nine wins, Dixon now trails only Michael Andretti (42 wins), Mario Andretti (52) and AJ Foyt (67). I seriously doubt that Foyt’s record is in jeopardy, But at only thirty-five years of age, Dixon most likely will surpass Michael Andretti and might even make Mario sweat in a few years.

Detractors will say that Dixon amassed those wins against lesser competition. Although we romanticize about the golden age of the sixties when Mario and AJ were bitter rivals, there were plenty of chumps and low budget teams in those days. Every era in racing had its top-level and low-level teams. In all honesty, I think this era has less disparity between the top and the bottom than in the sixties.

Dixon has been called boring and dull and all types of unflattering names by a lot of people. He may not be the flashiest driver out there, but he’s got more wins than anyone on today’s grid. Isn’t that the ultimate goal for a racer? I’ll also maintain that no one that is dull and boring could keep someone like Emma Davies Dixon as his wife as long as he has. So there.

All in All: The 2016 Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix will not go down in history as a racing classic, with non-stop heart-pounding moments. Nor will it be even closely associated with some of the clunkers that have taken place. One of the dullest races I can remember was the 1992 race at Phoenix that saw Bobby Rahal lead wire-to-wire in a race that had no cautions. Now that was boring.

But history will remember this race as when the Verizon IndyCar Series returned to the site of some of the more memorable moments in IndyCar history and put on a pretty good show for their first time back.

I remember seeing a tweet on Saturday morning from a driver, saying that it’s good to be at a track where IndyCar feels genuinely welcomed, instead of just being tolerated. That’s the difference. It may not have looked spectacular to those with exceedingly high expectations, but we already know that the series will be returning in 2017. The track seemed happy on Sunday and so did IndyCar. That’s really all that matters.

George Phillips

35 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Phoenix”

  1. madtad1 Says:

    I have to agree with you George, I don’t know what race the others were watching. I saw a very enjoyable race with lots of action. Unlike Always Bad Coverage, NBC showed lots of midpack action and were quick to show when someone brushed or even came close to the wall or each other.

    My only criticism of the broadcast team is that they tended to chatter about nothing over the radio conversations between teams and drivers. If you are playing the radio transmissions, then either let us hear them or tell us what was said. Otherwise, why have them underneath the commentators?

  2. Pretty much agree with everything you, George, and madtad1 have said although I don’t mind Marty Snider. I felt it was a good race and an entertaining one (not always the same thing). If I could see action like that every week I’d be a happy guy. I suppose one thing I could do with less of is the in-car side by side shots when a pass is being attempted. It really hurts seeing how things are going between the two and there is often more cars around them you can’t see at all. I’d prefer they save those for replays. I also wouldn’t mind “riding” with a driver for a couple consecutive laps a few times as they are coming up on the cars ahead.

  3. Seems to me you’re too sensitive to social media. Like a guy who goes to a great resort and has his vacation “ruined” just because he overhears four guys out of 1000 bitching about the food. Haven’t I read some seriously critical things from you on social about Titans’ and Volunteer football, even when they win? Maybe the other Titans and Volunteer fans say “Sometimes I wonder if I live on the same planet as a lot of fans of the Titans/Vols.”

  4. I miss Fontana. That was my main takeaway from the “race” on Saturday.

  5. Why worry so much about social ( anti social?) media? I know it is the tail that wags the dog but many tweeters are just uninformed and seem angry with the world in general.

    • I think you are right. The best policy IMHO is to just avoid social media altogether.

      • Agree. If you’re paying that much attention to your phone while a great race is underway, what does that say about you?

  6. Jhall14 Says:

    NBCSN is the best in coverage. Really enjoy the racing back in the pack, rather than just showing the leader. I will disagree with you on the Penske tire issue, I totally agree with Tracey/Bell it was a setup issue. Lastly, it is time that DCR pit crew start matching the talent in the driver seat. 2 straight races now where the pit stops have really hurt the end result.

  7. Race was decent, would like to see a bit more drafting ability but I enjoyed it.

    Seemed like Paul and the booth were totally confused about that last yellow, I mean, coming to the white and they are wondering if someone is going to come in to take tires?!?! Then the tongue-in-cheek response about stopping them on the back with a half lap to go, what is this, Sanair 1985?

    Otherwise though, it was a decent race, I like the late-night saturday races occasionally, gives me an excuse to stay up late for once.

  8. I am a lifelong fan and enjoyed the race, for the most part. But the inability to lap cars (that you catch in the first 20 miles of the race) was a negative. Similar to the worst street races, much of the passing seemed to take place in the pits (did Power gain very many positions on the track?). Maybe there was more action to see in person. But from a TV viewer perspective, this was the shortfall.

  9. Ron Ford Says:

    Like others have said before me here today George, STEP AWAY FROM THE SOCIAL MEDIA! For example, I enjoy reading Robin Miller’s mailbag, but descending into his comments section is never enjoyable so I don’t go there.

    I enjoyed the race. I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse. Twas ever thus. I did not watch the F1 race, but I did look at the results. At least 3/4 of the field finished a lap down. The others finished from 10 to 30 seconds behind the winner.

    Scott Dixon is consistantly able to somehow get a good result no matter the race circumstances. I think he has become one of the best of all time. As a benefit, whenever he wins it gets Emma closer to a camera.

    One thing I did not expect, and perhaps I should have, is for Newgarden’s pit woes to continue. Early on, RHR and Marco got screwed by a yellow.

    It is clear that the Hondas need more horsepower. Honda also has fewer top and/or experienced drivers than Chivy.

    I did not miss Diffey’s over the top delivery, but he is still better than the ABC monotones.

  10. billytheskink Says:

    I very much enjoyed the race, but I’ve been told I’m easy to please. The speeds were phenomenal, and there was some great racing on starts, restarts, and when cars had fresh tires. I would imagine it was especially exciting to see in person, with a track entirely visible from all seats.
    The issues passing throughout much of the race cannot be ignored, though. While this wasn’t on the level of Richmond in 2009, the struggles to lap slower cars and to pass outside of restarts were very apparent and worth addressing for next year’s race. Passing does not need to be a guarantee, but most of Phoenix’s passing opportunities were “high-risk” and many of the non-restart passes happened because the car getting passed made a vain attempt to pass the car ahead of it a half lap prior.

    Rick Allen benefitted greatly from having both Bell and Tracy in the booth, allowing him to step back from the mic for significant stretches of time and allow them to have their typically entertaining back and forth. Tracy and, especially, Bell can be guilty of talking too much (always over the in-car radio), but they are usually very fun to listen to. Allen did an excellent job knowing when to talk and when to step back and let the Tracy-Bell banter spring forth, the mark or a veteran broadcaster in unfamiliar territory.

  11. Kevin_K Says:

    I enjoyed the race as well. As has been discussed several times here and elsewhere, there are no tracks that capture the insane speed of an Indycar quite like a short oval. Wow the speeds were unbelievable. As far as the quality of racing here are my thoughts;

    The racing was OK on balance, but could have been better. Ryan Hunter-Reay proved once again why I am such a big fan of his. His driving was so spectacular; it’s such a shame he got caught out twice by badly timed accidents.

    As far as the downforce levels, they definitely do need to be addressed. But I think it’s more of a need for more horsepower to force the drivers to use the break or at least lift on the corner. See, it wasn’t so much a case of not being able to get around slower cars, as they were all going virtually the same speed once they settled down and spread out a little. Thus there was no incentive to really attack the lapped car as the leader really wasn’t being held up. Also because of the same speeds (even Paul Tracy commented several times throughout the broadcast that all 22 cars were running almost identical lap times), no one could make significant progress on the car in front of them.

    This, in my view, validates Rick Mears and Will Power that have advocated for a large increase in Horsepower and a drastic cut in downforce. The oval horsepower figure these days is around 650 or so; while the road course horsepower is said to be around 800. What needs to be done is a shift back to the undertray making the majority of the downforce and not the wings (like the original DW-12 did so very well); coupled with higher horsepower that doesn’t allow the driver to drive around the corners flatout (like they did on Saturday night). I think that would drastically improve the racing on all tracks; but especially on the short ovals, because you can actually get up close to someone and attack.

    Just my opinion. I wouldn’t mind making the journey to this race one day. I just wish it was closer so I could drive there. It would be a 2 day journey for me just to get there.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      I agree with you, Rick Mears, and Will Power (good company there) about a cut in downforce levels and an increase in horsepower.

    • Mike Silver Says:

      I agree with you. I was at the race and lapping cars was not easy. The speed was amazing. I thought it was a good race. Less downforce and more horsepower would definitely help.

    • Bruce Waine Says:

      Yes, indeed.

      Those who have on-track experience agree even though their recommendations continue 24/7 to reverberate like a loop recording.

      And yet we continue to witness those in authority and or with financial interests who evidently are unable to “hear, understand, and implement.”

  12. George, I agree with you rasessment of the race and the TV coverage.
    I would like an explanation for why the first yellow flag lasted for 15 laps for a spin with no contact.
    It is unfortunate that the broadcast crew did not know and so did not inform us why the last yellow was shown when it was. I believe many of us would have felt better if we knew that Rossi contacting the wall was the actual cause.

  13. The race at Phoenix looked, to me, like a motor race. I enjoyed it. And I put zilch for stock in what social media says about anything. Social media is filled with malcontents. Um, present company excluded, of course.

  14. I saw the same negative comments about the racing and such, but it’s almost impossible to not see it in this day and age. People are just harder to please today, IMO. You could say how nice the weather is on a 80 degree, sunshine day, and someone will complain about not having a steady breeze to keep cool.

    I thought the race was entertaining, and the speed was incredible. There were plenty of storylines (your poll) and the TV coverage was never boring. I enjoyed the race, and look forward to Long Beach.

  15. I don’t think any former drivers in Race Control have anything to do with track condition calls whatsoever. If you are referring to Luyendyk and Papis, that is…their role is strictly limited to making calls on infractions and penalties. Any decision on track condition (and presumably, whether to red flag a race in an attempt to preserve a green flag finish) lies exclusively with Barnhart now as race director.

    From the announcement re the new system on the series website:

    “The three stewards will oversee on-track action from race control via video and audio monitors, electronic data and communication with teams and race officials. Any one of the stewards may call for review of an on-track incident, at which time they will review collectively to determine if an infraction occurred and whether to impose a penalty – which will be determined by a majority vote.

    “Brian Barnhart, INDYCAR vice president of competition, race director, will remain in his role as race director and oversee the management of the race, including decisions on track conditions (full-course or local caution, red flag, etc.), safety dispatch and communication of all decisions made by the stewards to the competitors.”

  16. I was NOT disappointed with Saturday night’s race. Phoenix was gorgeous and I’m glad that Bryan Sperber liked the results. Definitely an excellent addition to the schedule. I also like the April date.

    Hats off to RHR and Graham Rahal for working their tails off with getting their Hondas up to the front and keeping them there. Honda looks to be in for another tough year with the Areokits.

    Two Penske right front tires blowing with the blame being debris. ohhhkay….?

    Ed Carpenter reminded me of his Indianapolis crash of last year, but he didn’t blame anyone but himself this time. Newgarden is really special and I look for him to do well at Indianapolis this year. Very well.

    Well done Scott Dixon. And I will note that Tony Kanaan put in a terrific night.

  17. I agree with you George 100% on all points. For me personally, the size of the crowd does not affect my enjoyment of a good race while sitting on my couch, but I may have felt differently if I were at the track.

  18. hey George. once again the complainers are out in groves. and they are annoying as normal. the haters of scott Dixon being need to shut up and enjoy a driver in the super star area and whose classy and respects the sport and its history. was it a great race. no . but its a start. for the most part the tv coverage was good. the track president was thrilled and happy.

    so I would wish the fans were half as happy. the tony George haters need to go away and enjoy the sport as it is today and quit living in a past that never really was real.

  19. Greg Wright Says:

    I too enjoyed the race on Saturday. I umpired 2 baseball games in high winds, so by the time the race was starting, I was wondering if I would fall asleep instead. The race kept me awake and I though overall, it was a good race. Not so much up front, but some good passing on restarts and in the back of the field. I though the yellow was a bad call during the telecast. I wish they would have got that right up in the booth so people would have know really what was going on, other than that, good broadcast as well.

  20. Chris Lukens Says:

    Good post – good analysis of the race.
    I think most of the social media complaining came from the fact that it wasn’t a road race.

    A little OT, but Sperber told Michael Knight that there was slightly less than 20,000 attendance, and they did NOT make a profit. I don’t understand how places like St Pete and Toronto, with crowds of 12,000 – 18,000 can hang on.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      For a variety of reasons largely unrelated to the quality of the races being presented, it just may be that 20,000 is the new normal for IndyCar outside of IMS. Perhaps IndyCar-both management and teams- needs to adjust its business model to reflect that. I think I read that the NCAA Final Four will be held in Phoenix on the same date next year.

      • billytheskink Says:

        That is correct, the Final Four is in Phoenix next year. That puts the likelihood of a date change at 95+%, I’d say.

        • sejarzo Says:

          It’s already been penciled in for April 29th, due to Easter and some other issues preventing it from being earlier.

    • “I think most of the social media complaining came from the fact that it wasn’t a road race.”

      Boy, that sounds like speculation on your part. I’m guessing here as well, since I haven’t been on social media since like Friday (I still haven’t watched the end of the F1 race, so I’m still trying to dodge spoilers), but I’m willing to bet that more of the complaints about Phoenix surrounded the fact that there weren’t passes for position like every lap. I’m willing to bet that “it’s not a road race” was rarely thrown out there, if it was at all.

      As far as how races with less attendance hang on (though I’m fairly certain that St. Pete and Toronto bring in more than 12-18,000 people) has a lot to do with hospitality suite/tent sales (and to a lesser extent, stuff like selling trackside signage via banners and stuff, which is less possible at an oval). Each one of those brings in what probably 200-400 regular ticket sales would, or maybe more. So, no, those things don’t result in more people sitting in grandstands, thereby making the crowd look healthier, but those revenue streams count, when it comes to doing the accounting and figuring out whether or not the race makes sense to carry on another year.

      • Chris Lukens Says:

        Read TF’s Phoenix Race thread and notice who is doing all the complaining.
        Your comments about hospitality and signage are good points. I guess my point was that some of our races are closer to a make/break point than we realize.

    • I don’t recall the exact figures, but St Pete had a shitload of people all three days. 12-18,000 doesn’t begin to tell the story. Seems to me the three day total exceeded 100,000, but I really can’t remember. I do know that there were NO empty seats anywhere near me.

  21. ecurie415 Says:

    Given the pre-race hype, one of the drivers would probably have to fart unicorns and rainbows to live up to people’s expectations. If I read this post correctly, George’s sentiment is that the race was entertaining but not exhilarating, and that’s good enough. Lots of sports suffer from that on occasion; I’ve been to dull baseball games, too. It’s just that IndyCar wanted (needed) a barnburner. The dilemma is how to avoid having negative social media sentiment drown out your message while still encouraging fan engagement. You can’t have it both ways: if you ask people to use your hashtags and follow your drivers, that street runs both ways and they can just as easily torpedo your message or turn it. You enjoyed the race. It wasn’t any less enjoyable due to the social media sentiment afterward.

  22. Dovetailing on the broadcast, I agree, Allen was solid. I too like Diffey, but I’d prefer one voice for F1 and one for Indycar. Personally, I’d like to see Varsha and Tracy for every race, with Bell occasionally subbed out for guest commentators. Mashett is brilliant, and I laugh at the thought of George cringing every time Hobbs says Castro NEVS instead of Castroneves. On the plus side, at least PT says Helio now instead of Heeeelio. I guess time does “heel” old wounds!

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