Greetings from a chill (literally) Kansas Speedway. Yesterday (Friday) it was about 85 in the afternoon here; today we’re looking to knock 20 degrees off that high. Cue the Festival of Sweatshirts. I personally prefer 65 to 85.
Let’s chug some Starbuck’s dark roast (LARGE, cream is for the week) and talk about this and that.
Kansas Speedway, you Sexy Beast — I highly recommend a visit to Kansas Speedway. I have been coming here since circa 2005. I never missed an IndyCar race here between then and when IndyCar ducked out in 2010. Then I came back for NASCAR races here in 2011, 2012 and again this year. Before Iowa Speedway was built, this was the closest track to my house in West Des Moines, Iowa, just three hours straight south on Interstate 35.The infield arrangement at Kansas speedway is excellent. Paved roads, good parking scheme and their fan walk area (which ticket-holding fans can access for another $15) is cool. Because cars drive in and out of the garage areas in NASCAR, fan access is limited. But NASCAR tracks try to make up for it with fans areas — Fan Walks — usually in the center of the infield between the two garage areas.
Kansas Speedway has a spacious area for fans, and they have their tech inspection areas in the Fan Walk. They’ve also designed the tech areas to be very fan friendly with big open doors and tiered standing areas so fans can get a good look at cars going through tech. Plus they have at least one concert going on in the Fan Walk area before or after the Cup race.
You can see the entire track from every seat in the grandstands and parking seems to be pretty well organized. PLUS, Kansas Speedway has Village West -- a shopping center area that was spawned by the placement of the track here -- right across the street.
So if you are looking for fan-friendly track with lots of restaurants, etc. very near by: Kansas Speedway.
Having said all that, I’m hoping to talk to Pat Warren, president of said Kansas Speedway, sometime today to ask him about the challenges large sports venues in general and race tracks in particular face. I asked Chicagoland Speedway’s president Scott Paddock the same stuff and plan to write a post on what they said after I talk to Mr. Warren.
Update: I just finished talking to Pat Warren about many things, one of which was if he was open to the return of IndyCar. Absolutely, he said, noting that the reason Kansas Speedway is a 1.5 mile-track is to accommodate open-wheel cars as well as stock cars. Warren said he's been in contact off and on with IndyCar, and that IndyCar officials have inspected and the speedway's new variable banking scheme and found it suitable (in general) for IndyCar.
But, as Chicagoland Speedway president Scott Paddock said, the key issue is "economic." Although Warren and Paddock didn't get real specific, they're obviously not going to lose money hosting a race, so the numbers have to work (for IndyCar and the speedways) or it's not going to happen.
NASCAR and IndyCar both need good events this weekend … for different reasons — NASCAR needs a good race this weekend at Kansas to juice (or re-juice) the Chase interests. The whole spin thing, a less-than-inspiring Dover race — which Joey Logano won from the pole, finishing 14.59 seconds in front of second-place Kyle Larson — and the prospect of another less-than-scintillating Kansas Speedway event has some of the natives kind of worried.
Over in IndyCar, they need a good event because 1) it’s a new event in Houston and you want fans who attend to have a great experience and come back again and 2) they have been off for FIVE weeks. After that kind of break, you need to come back strong. Unfortunately, Houston has bump issues. There’s a big bump in the track that was launching cars — think Baltimore or San Jose in Champ Car — so the track people went to grinding last night. Unfortunately, the grinding didn’t work so they installed a temporary chicane around it. Not off to a good start.
The bump area is in the parking lot of Reliant Stadium, and whether or not organizers should have discovered and repaired the bump is the subject of much debate. Seems reasonable to me in the many months this race as been planned for Houston and the five weeks since the last IndyCar race they could have run the parking lot track in almost any kind of vehicle to check for bumps, etc.
So you can imagine the Twitter spewing ranges from "ridiculous and inexcusable" and "don't worry, be happy." The bottom line is always (always always always) customer (fan) experience. If it sucks, it doesn't much matter who's fault it was, because your customers will choose one of the million billion other things they can do with their time and money next time.
Happy Danica — I talked to Danica Patrick for 20 minutes yesterday. I will spew out many posts on our talk in the next week. As I said, Happy Danica is hard to hate, and Danica is clearly quite happy these days. A big part of it is her relationship with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (excellently decremented by USA Today’s Nate Ryan here), which shows no sign of cooling.
Danica and Ricky just appeared together in a Colt Ford music video …
The indefatigable Bob Pockrass of The Sporting News asked Danica about the scene where she comes to the door of the garage and looks kind of hungrily at Ricky. “That wasn’t acting,” Danica said … and then she almost blushed. (Bob’s story here.) For those of us who have been following Danica for a long time, a near-blush during a media scrum session isn't status quo. “Giddy as a school girl” wouldn’t be going too far.
I asked Danica about how happiness in personally life ripples out to the business side. She said … we’ll you’ll have to read that post when it comes out soon.
Better walk around and act like I know what I am doing. Peace out from Kansas Speedway.