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November 30, 2011

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Tom Metcalfe

As you hinted at...i'm sure alot of this was planned weeks ago. Probably just waiting on the dust to settle from vegas. Me personally...if the series is turning into CART/ChampCar redux....so be it. Hopefully some mix of ovals can be worked in. Probably isnt going to matter either way.

BR

Thank you for writing this... You have stated much of what I'm feeling about IndyCar/Randy better than I could have myself.

I like Randy and think he has been a positive for IndyCar but he does make mistakes. Through out this year if one dared to point out things Randy has done that weren't positive...you would be attacked and told why it wasn't his fault.

The best part of these changes is the buck now stops with Randy. Over the past two years Randy has gotten all the credit for positives and none of the blame for the negatives. With the changes Randy is making this is now 100% his show and the excuses should stop.

Dylan

I pretty much agree with you. I'm incredibly concerned about the 2012 season. The rumored schedule is hideous. The 2012 car is not what was promised, and while a change in race control is good, what do we get now? A guy who supports "Boy's Have at it?" Do we get an F1 style race control that permits blocking but not contact? The Indycar road and street races were too filled with contact, but without that contact most would have been as processional as Infineon.

As for Bernard, the "honeymoon" period for me ended this summer. Between the race control, 2012 car, and 2012 schedule my love for Randy cooled off. The Vegas thing seems like a mistake. At least from some of what I've heard the fact Vegas got a race Indycar self promoted upset the other oval track owners, which has contributed to the oval problem.

Terry's removal is probably good. Terry's the biggest International Street Race fan in the group, so if he's gone maybe the slow march to turning Indycar into GP2.5 will end. We can only hope.

Indycar has got to improve the TV ratings. With TV ratings comes sponsors on teams and tracks. With TV ratings comes ovals no matter what the attendance because they'll make money of of sponsorship. As happens with NASCAR. But how does Indycar "hook" people in if it's just a bunch of street races and they don't even have Danica?

I'm probably being too negative and using my trademarked Triple League Racing Negativity, but my interest in Indycar is kind of teetering. It's hard to get super excited about a season that will include Belle Isle, China, Infineon, Mid Ohio, and Barber. Maybe failing to release the schedule is a good thing and maybe when it does come out we'll see more ovals and a good road course or two. But yeah, if we're in the same place in 2012 we are in in 2011, which is effectively the same place we were in in 2010 and 2009, then Indycar and Bernard have a lot of explaining to do.

Vern

A little too late in my opinion as usual with alot of things. The pressure of the Vegas tragedy and other 3 stooges up and down calls in races during the past few yrs was clearly known by most that someone would have to go. As mentioned now its all on RB and for the record he may be Ok with promtion but he doesnt know squat about the racing aspect and shoul NOT be in complete charge of a deadly racing series. Oh well?

ramblinman

You've made some excellent points Bill, and I hope that Randy subscribes to this blog as well.

I long for the ovals yet I realize the problem with ovals and profit. Ed Carpenter, Sarah Fiasher Racing, and Kentucky would've made a great story and generated some interest in the ovals.

If Indy Car worked this type of story, it would benefit Roger and Chip as much, if not more than everyone else. They'd still have the two best shots at winning on raceday, but at least more people would actually be watching.

FTHurley

Nice post. I guess if I wanted to spin this in a more positive way, I'd say that rather than a last-chance firing of the assistant coaches, this is Bernard settling into the job after learning the racing biz on the fly his first two years. Now he's confident enough to see what's been working and what hasn't been, and now he wants to do what an incoming leader would have done immediately in any other industry; bring in his own people, who helped him build his prior venture into a success. The guy replacing Angstadt is the guy who ran the Vegas show. Yes, the crowd was sparse, but the rating was solid, even before the crash. I think the event would have gotten a B had the crash not happened (or at least had it not resulted in a fatality).

As for ovals, it all comes down to whether you agree with the B grade for Vegas. By most accounts, Randy covered his nut for race through sponsorship and suites. Obviously, Vegas was T'ed up for him to do that, but I also refuse to believe that it's physically impossible to do the same at other venues. Difficult? Absolutely. Impossible? I don't think so. If they can make the model at least break even for the series at other ovals, then there's a path back to those tracks, and while attendance might be thin at first, it lets the series stick with a race long enough to maybe build something.

Basically, because it didn't happen from Day One, this looks reactionary. I would suggest that it's actually just normal "new leader" stuff, except delayed because Randy wanted to wait until he felt he fully understood the sport before clearing house.

Chiefswon

You must be my brother from a different mother...well said PressDog

redcar

I think Bernard is doing all he can not only to please a disparate fan base but to sell a product that (apparently) very few people want. He took a series that was bleeding money and fading faster than a Poloroid in Michael J. Fox's back pocket. Under a mandate to stop the bleeding, he ushered in the new car (a compromise and a work in progress to be sure) that hadn't been replaced in 8 or 9 years. He tried to resurrect Milwaukee (and New Hampshire) like everyone wanted (but no one attended.) Chevy and Lotus and hanging onto Honda is great. Izod was a great get (Angstadt? Bernard? Both?) and the improvement in series sponsorship had a great upswing last year.

Vegas sure seemed like a good idea until it wasn't. Now all the Robin Miller clones will be happy (well, doubtful, actually) that Diablo Barnhart was kicked upstairs. (Maybe they should kick the rulebook upstairs with him.) The Vegas tragedy has almost finished off what few ovals still wanted the series. Maybe he does listen to Penske and Ganassi too much, but what would INDYCAR be without those two owners? Street courses are making the series money right now, while ovals (with the exceptions of Indy and Iowa) are not.

Okay, rambling now. Sorry. I think Bernard's doing a good job under tough circumstances. And I'm still positive about the future of the series.

Allen Wedge

I'm with Fred, I'd say this (and I'm referring to everything this year, not just Barnhart/Angstadt) is the new headcoach/departmental boss feeling out the current regime while learning the ropes if the new environment, to see if any of it is worth keeping, and then getting rid of what he doesn't want.

Word on the street is that the Series is (or is as close to) breaking even as it has ever been so I certainly wouldn't put this up there as a last ditch effort.

Regardless of the cause of the moves, the end result is the same, its all on Randy now, and he can't afford to make any more silly-type mistakes. Need a little more Dana White and a little less Bud Selig now.

ThatGuy

Glad to see the Ancien Régime is now pretty much dead. I've suggested Barnhart get promoted to a ceremonial Archduke of the Speedway role (maybe they'll even let him do pre-qualifying pep talks...LOL), and it sounds like that's exactly what's going to happen to him. He was a dead man walking after Power's double birds and the loose safety vehicle in Baltimore just put a cherry on top.

Also pleased to see that the current regime is actively owning the NeoCrapwagon they bought (see M. Pruett's lengthy account). In the old days such talk would have remained in house and a "NOTHING TO SEE HERE! WE LOVE THE CAR!" face would be presented to the outside world. This will likely put a lot of pressure on Dallara to fix the damn thing, much more so than any private suggestions that they may have a bug or two in their CFD algorithms would have.

Savage Henry

Speaking of the issues that they are having with the DW12, isn't this awesome fodder for a Hard Knocks-style "Making of the DW12" reality series that many people have been clamoring for? Why couldn't Versus be convinced to push one of the zillions of poker tournaments back by an hour or 2 to air this for an hour a week? There's real drama here and a great promotional opportunity. Randy, as the promoter extrordinaire, you have to sell this!

I agree with those that say that Randy is doing the best he can under extremely challenging circumstances. Hopefully this move is a step to divorce the series from its ultra-conservative past and starting to take some chances to shake things up. Step 1 - make 2013 adaptions to the DW12 to have more top-end speed, more horsepower, and less downforce.

I'm worried about the oval situation. I fear that if the non-Indy ovals go away then they're not coming back. What do you do then? A street racing series anchored by the Indy 500 doesn't really make sense, does it?

Mike R

Agree with Fred and Allan. He had to get the lay of the land before he came in (without any knowledge) swingin' the axe. Without the ability to be 'in his head', we'll never know if he was really trying to be a loyalist by keeping Barnhart in race control this year, all year(remember there were calls to dump BB before 2011).
The new chassis sucking in the elements that it does (see Marshall Pruett's article on Speed.com) obviously have nothing to do with RB or the ICONIC committee. That's 100% Dallara's deal.
Milwaukee and Loudon...both tracks that can produce great racing for these cars...were already in trouble before the IICS ever showed up there (again). Loudon does fine with Cup cars, and if I weren't being lazy I'd go research how the crowds were for the Cup race when they first showed up there. Without that research, I'd bet money that the attendance and TV ratings weren't the highest in that first year. Small wonder that neither track turned profit in the first visit back...Milwaukee has been classicly mis-managed for a very long time, so the idea that the series would go back this year and have it all come right was, at the least, the epitome of an optimistic dream.
As everyone derides the idea that the series would turn into 'ChampCar', let's not forget that prior to a split that took away most of the ovals from CART over the course of a few seasons (because of Indy and it's participants)...CART WAS a very balanced mix of Ovals and Road Courses. CART did call its series "IndyCar" in the first half of the 90s, because prior to the split they were, in fact, Indy Cars. And prior to the formula that developed in IRL, those CART cars raced very well on the 1 mile ovals at Loudon, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Nazareth, the 2 mile ovals at Michigan and Fontana, plus the Speedway. The tendency to throw CART under the bus because of a perception of it being a series focused on road courses is a mis-perception. If the current series on-track product could ever get back to what CART was in the early 90s, it would ultimately thrive again. The real question is if it can financially survive the period of rebuilding the product to that level of competitiveness and thrill. If it can, it will eventually put butts in seats, get eyes on the product on TV, and get back to the status it clearly held before the split, which was the premier racing series in North America.
I believe that is what Randy knows, and is trying to achieve. But a culture that is steeped in 4G internet, ATM and Microwave "instant gratification" has little patience for the process of rebuilding. And that's what could kill this series.

pressdog

TWO YEARS to get the "lay of the land"? Seriously? Two full years? I mean, it's a new industry, but two years? Can we toss "getting the lay of the land" on the excuse scrap heap as well now?

Mike R

Yeah, we can do away with the excuse going forward. It's time for him to execute. Just considering that he had NO background in racing prior to his arrival, I think it's legitimate that it took two full years to gain enough understanding/insight about the details of Indy Car racing...big things and subtle things...of what it was that made it great once, and why it was falling apart in recent years.
Again, impatience for the series turned completely around in all areas - on-track product and popularity (attendance or tv ratings), while understandable, may not be realistic. It's going to take time to regain what was lost.
The buck has stopped at Randy, he recognizes it. I'd say give him credit for taking the time to see how these people were affecting the product. He's listening to the fans and competitors. No doubt, that's why he repositioned or dismissed the people he has. Going into '12, we'll probably see better decisions from Race Control. We'd better. With all the other challenges the series faces, is it going to completely turn it around? Doubtful. I reckon that it will be pretty different, though. I just hope we can all be patient as it goes through the rebuild, and I especially hope we can get some short ovals back.

The Speedgeek

I know that this is several days and therefore several dollars short, but I actually do think "two years [which, it hasn't actually been] to get the lay of the land" is perfectly valid. Think about it. Randy's first day (for a quick reminder) was March 1, 2010 (and, yes, it makes me a nerd that I remember such things). He could hardly tear things up at the end of 2010, because he hadn't even been there a year yet (his detractors would have said stuff like "there are leftovers in the IndyCar breakroom fridge that have been around longer than him! What's he think he's doing?!?"). He chose, however you might feel about it, whether wisely or poorly, to wait out 2011 before finally throwing people out the plate glass windows in the front of the office building. Fair enough. I'm a supporter of Randy's, so while I've thought it's been long since time for Brian Barnhart to be given a different job (if any job at all), I totally understand Randy's desire to conduct a job search in the off season, instead of between races (imagine trying to conduct interviews and hire somebody in a 2-week window, and imagine the paycheck Randy would have had to sign to entice somebody decent into that situation). Yeah, we had to suffer through some more crappy starts, a debacle at New Hampshire, and countless penalties/non-penalties that could have gone differently, but the net result is: Randy took the absolute minimum of time to sort things out (it only feels like he's been around 1,000 years to us because we're all obsessed and get impatient if it's been more than34 minutes since the last press release that pops up in our Twitter stream; in reality, he's only been in office 21 months), and now there are no more excuses. It's put up or shut up time. I'm interested in how this is going to turn out.

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