Look week, people. Day job: strenuous. I had to work TWO WHOLE DAYS STRAIGHT, with barely enough time to walk the dog! Horrors. Busy making money for the fam. "Snapping necks and cashing checks," as they say in Step Brothers. So let's catch up a little bit on some stuff that gave me an eyebrow raise this week.
Mid-Ohio and GP2 Americas -- OK, so you know how I ranted against IndyCar for, like, the zillionth time that they don''t focus on their customers (fans) even 10% as much as they should then stomped off in a huff? Yeah, I go off about that a lot and I apologize. I'm actually trying to pay less attention to IndyCar because the cost/benefit enjoyment-wise is out of whack for me right now.
BUT, meanwhile ... while Capt. Deep Dive (IndyCar Interim-for-now CEO Jeff Belskus) is deep diving, a couple of potential shots across IndyCar's bow. Probably NOT shots, actually, but at the time I thought "free enterprise is a bitch, isn't it?"
First, NASCAR Nationwide is replacing their road race in Montreal with a road race at Mid-Ohio Motorsports Park on Aug. 17. As with anything NASCAR does, including going to the toilet, there were about 281 news stories. Here's one.
Right away, the Twitter (which you should be on if you want to see all the wild reaction to anything) went a little nutty with the "that's a shot across IndyCar's bow!" That was my initial reaction as well. Nationwide is saying "hi!" to IndyCar at a track that IndyCar always goes to. But, then I calmed myself, and it may not be an intentional shot after all.
But it would be very interesting to see what other road course tracks were in the running for the Nationwide race. It could just be the dark roast talking here, it would be at least a little fun to imagine Nationwide saying "hmmm Laguna Seca or Mid-O? Let's do Mid-O to drive IndyCar insane. (Maniacal laughter here)." Of course there's only a 4% chance that happened, but still -- delicious mental image.
If you operate on the theory that people only have so much money to spend on racing, then having a competitor for the racing dollar at Mid-Ohio isn't a festival of warm fuzziness for IndyCar. But, if you operate on the theory that IndyCar and Nationwide attract a whole different set of fans, then it's not that big of a deal. Look at Iowa: two Nationwide races and an IndyCar race that (about) sells out. So it may be much ado about nothing.
Second, some wild talk about a rival open-wheel series sponsored by F1. Also earlier this week a story popped up about F1 mulling over starting a feeder series (either GP2 or GP3) in the U.S. Cue menacing headline: NEW F1 CHALLENGE LOOMS FOR INDYCAR (story here.)
OK, admission: I love when the American free enterprise system weeds out the weak, generally speaking. From a consumer standpoint, the complete and total beauty of free enterprise is: competition. If a company treats you like crap or has a crappy product, there's almost always a competitor more than willing to do business with you instead. (And if there isn't, there soon will be.)
The fact that Americans can take their business elsewhere in 96% of their economic decisions is what drives free enterprise (which includes sports). Businesses that don't get that usually aren't businesses that long. The fact that I can take my business elsewhere also gives businesses a very strong reason to care about keeping me as a customer. As one consumer, I'm not much. But take me times 10,000, and you're talking folding money. This is why there are billions and billions of books, seminars, programs, etc. etc. on ways to keep customers satisfied. In fact, a lot of business gurus just say "your customers are your boss." And they are right (with a few caveats, of course).
ANYWAY, the slight tingle I got was that if IndyCar doesn't want to treat customers interested in road and street racing right, maybe another company will come along and scoop up the pissed customers OR give IndyCar the clue that keeping customers happy is Job 1. Here's an illustration for people my age (48). Remember when there was just cable? That was it. Cable or over-the-air TV. No satellites. The cable companies were virtually a monopoly, especially if you wanted to see ESPN, etc. So they treated customers like shit and we little alternative but to take it. Americans being Americans saw that and some of them launched satellite TV companies. Suddenly I had a choice, and I dropped cable like a bad habit 25 years go and never looked back. And if Dish satellite pisses me off, DirecTV is always ready to take my money. It's awesome.
Well, the story goes that F1, which races tomorrow at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, wants to build a fan base in the U.S. (because consumers, collectively, have buttloads of money in this country and F1 want more of it). So they figure maybe let the youngsters race around here all year and try and "gin up" (as my friend from Memphis used to say) some customers. Build the fan base methodically! What a novel concept. Not steal NASCAR fans, but maybe build the fan base from non-fans, or steal IndyCar's hard-core road-and-street fans, or grab the fans of the kids (Road to Indy feeder series), since IndyCar seems to not want to do anything special for those fans.
But, I digress ... Before anyone gets to excited/worried about this possible rival, F1 journalist Joe Saward says it's far from a done deal and probably a lot of ballcocksy vaporware (I just combined a Britishism with an Americanism. Breaking new ground right here on the dog blog!). Here's Joe's "simmer down" story. But, even if the F1 feeder thing is bogus, here's hoping it got IndyCar's attention.
Unfortunately I don't think the Owner Junta that runs IndyCar will be real concerned about customers leaving. Pffft. Fans (customers). They just create inconvenient crowds in the paddock and want to know stuff that's NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS. IndyCar will, again, say "as long as we have the Indy 500 we're good." That's wrong, but very familiar.
But GP2 Americas threatens their sponsorships, well then the Owner Junta will care. That's the screwed up mentality of IndyCar these days. Long story short, everything above is me hoping the free market knocks some sense into IndyCar -- as well as being intrigued by possible competition for my racing time and attention. Is this a great country or what?
US Grand Prix and Homestead -- Finally, NASCAR titles wrap up this weekend with races at Homestead. We had a truck race last night where the winner won by bashing another truck-shaped vehicle into the wall and grinding along there with him to the line to win by a foot. The truck-shaped vehicles championship was very close right until the closing laps when the second-in-points guy got in a wreck. The Nationwide and Sprint Cup championships are also in doubt, at least a little. Insert 993 stories about it over the last three days here. Nationwide rolls at 4 p.m. Eastern today on ESPN. Cup rolls at 2 p.m. Eastern (green flag probably closer to 3) Sunday on ESPN.
F1 is racing around the new Circuit of the Americas this weekend as well. I saw some practice on the DVR last night. Looks like a GORGEOUS FACILITY. Hard to say if the race will have any overtaking. The track layout and arrangement of the stands looks pretty good from TV. It looks like there are lots of seats where you can see a lot of the track, which is great. Tickets ranged from $159 (three-day general admission) to $500 (three-day primo grandstand seat) a pop.
Figuring in the three-day element of it, that's not as insane as I thought it was before I looked it up just now. I might be able to part with $160 to spend three days watching F1 stuff in Austin. Of course staying down there will probably cost me $1029. There was no way I could have gone this year at any price, but maybe next year. I wonder if Bernie likes bloggers in his (OK, CotA's) press room. The F1 race starts at 2 p.m. Eastern on SPEED.
I hope the CotA track has fan amenities out the wazoo. If someone knows, please comment below. I'm all about fan accommodations and tracks and series kissing up to fans. I'd love to see a trend of "who can treat fans better?" get going.
That's it for me. Gotta go! Enjoy the Festival of Racing and always feel free to comment below.