It occurs to me that of late I have been too concerned about being called “negative” — so often in a most excellent passive aggressive manner — that I have tended to pull punches. Shy away from things that I think suck. Because, after you hear “LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT” (paraphrased) a certain number of times your mind starts to say “maybe it’ll be option B.”
Insert some kind of Twitter-based snark about pdog not loving IndyCar anymore because Danica no longer races there to illustrate my point. Bring it, haters!
ANYWHO, let’s not let fear dissuade us! Let’s pour out a lunch beer (while you order a DRINK, ye BASTARDS pint glas here) and talk about ...
First came the story that the speedway had been sold to someone who was NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Then, since there is public cash involved out there, the Newton City County had to vote on if the sale was OK. That made for some Incredulous Theater as the council voted to be OK with selling to a company who was owned by Mr. NONE OF YOUR TAXPAYER BUSINESS. We’d now like to open it for comments from the public on this issue that is almost entirely secret!! Hearing no objection, the council gave its approval during a taught 3-minute meeting. No report as to whether drinks were served afterwards right there in the council chambers of if they adjourned to a local beverage establishment.
A day(ish) later, word busted that NASCAR itself was the one behind Iowa Speedway, LLC. Not NASCAR’s track ownership arm, International Speedway Corporation (ISC), but NASCAR itself, with swirling insinuations that B. Z. France his-honorable-self was involved. If the land mass known as Iowa could blush, it would have, to have the attentions of BZF.
So, now we’re all like, "wow, what does that mean?" Here’s what I think it means:
1. NASCAR ownership is good from the standpoint of the former ownership seemed to be having issues. Venders weren't getting paid, which is pretty bad sign. Not only were they not getting paid, they were not getting paid badly enough to grumble to the media about it, which is a whole ‘nother level of being in arrears. (Oh behave!)
This all came to light after the track GM Doug Fritz “left his position” after being there just over a year. Plus there was a legal battle that cropped up regarding the sale of the property from one family company to another a couple(ish) years ago. So, it seems pretty clear things were at least a little shaky over at Newton.
2. NASCAR says good things like “NASCAR ownership will allow us to draw on the entire resources of our company. It also provides us with the opportunity to execute first-hand a number of entertainment ideas and engagement opportunities with fans -- much of which we have outlined repeatedly as the core of our Industry Action Plan” per Eric Nyquist, NASCAR vice president, strategic development. So maybe that means Iowa Speedway will become sort of a test area for new “entertainment ideas.” Yay. (Read it all here.)
Also, I don’t seen NASCAR buying something and then just settling for painting some buildings a new color and putting up some new logos all over the place and calling it a day. If they bought the track, they likely bought it for a purpose other than creating a revenue stream. No, I go with Fan Engagement Laboratory, and that sounds very promising.
3. Cup Race Coming to Town! That’s what I think, anyway. Not right away … no sense spooking existing tracks. Besides, Iowa Speedway with 30,000 permanent seats is not in a position to host a Cup race in 2014. It needs more seats and correspondingly more robust traffic inflow and out flow system than it has now. All very doable. The speedway was built with grading, etc. to make expanding the seating section toward both turns 1 and 4 pretty easy, but they don’t exist now so no Cup race. NASCAR itself said no cup race at Iowa … “for the foreseeable future.” Ha. That’s a big tell. How long is “foreseeable?” We’ll see. (HAR).
No need to stress if and when a Cup race will come to Iowa Speedway. If they go to building seats out there at the track one day — which is hard to do in secret — then I’d say that means Cup is Coming. I have zero inside info here, mind you. Just my wild speculation. So don’t go off half cocked (always go fully cocked) just based on my surmises here. Simmer down.
4. What About IndyCar? — This irony is delish! The IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway was perhaps the strongest race out there. Neck-and-neck with the Nationwide race for sure. The Iowa Corn 250 had what a lot of other non-Indy 500 races wanted: strong sponsor (Iowa Corn Growers) and near capacity attendance (down somewhat in recent years, I’ll grant you), enthusiastic fans and fun-tastic oval racing.
NASCAR officials have said that they want IndyCar to stay, but you gotta wonder if there’s a “for the foreseeable future” in there. After all, it’s simple math. If a Cup race comes to town, it brings millions of dollars of profit from that Mac Daddy TV money to the venue. If IndyCar wants to race at your track, you pay it $1 million (maybe more) and hope that tickets cover that. TV revenue from IndyCar. Hahahahahaha. Good one. But, hey, TV ratings don't really mean that much ... I digress.
Given that, I would say the IndyCar race is in not danger … for the foreseeable future. IndyCar.com reported that Iowa Corn would return as the sponsor of the IndyCar Series event at Iowa Speedway for 2014 and 2015. I don’t know if IndyCar and Iowa Speedway have a contract beyond 2014, however.
Who here thinks that NASCAR might play a little harder ball when the contract negotiations come up than the former owners of Iowa Speedway would have? Me. Chicagoland Speedway and Kansas Speedway would both happily host an IndyCar race ASAP, if the economics worked (or so their GMs told me directly). I took that as code for “we can’t make money if we pay them the sanctioning fee they are asking for" although they said nothing of the kind out loud. IndyCar definitely faces a sellers market when it comes to making a deal with ovals. If I was IndyCar, I’d be making sure Iowa Corn knows how much IndyCar loves it and I’d also be sending candy grams to Iowa Speedway LLC. And you might want to suck up to the fans out here by investing in some at-the-track bonus events. Just saying.
So, to recap: Iowa Speedway sold to NASCAR. 1) Good because it will mean more entertainment options for us Iowans and it means the track stays open and viable for the “foreseeable future.” 2) Greatly enhances the possibility of getting a Cup race and 3) probably throws a little tension into the IndyCar situation there, but nobody should panic just yet.
That's it. Work time. Peace out.