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January 04, 2014

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Targa_Florio

Great post. Some older examples of things that were sure to be a "big boost for IndyCar" were; Danica finally winning a race, Unification, and my personal favorite, Helio appearing on and winning Dancing with the Stars.

Rick

Cats in the cradle is Harry Chapin's song, not Cat Stevens

SkipinSC

Good analogy, although when I think of "Cat's in the Cradle" I usually think of Harry Chapin, rather than Cat Stevens. That's probably because I was a big fan of the late Mr. Chapin (I still have all of his albums on vinyl)just as I am a big fan of oval racing.

Maybe a better Cat Stevens choice would be "Wild World:"
"You know I've seen a lot of what the world can do,
And it's breaking my heart in two,
Because I never want to see you sad, girl,
(Don't be a bad girl,)
But if you want to leave, take good care,
Hope you have a lot of nice friends out there,
But just remember there's lot of bad ends. Beware,...

(Chorus),

Ooohh baby, baby it's a wild world,
It's hard to get by just upon a smile, girl
Ooohh baby, baby it's a wild world,
And I'll always remember you,
Like a child girl."

The "girl" who is leaving, in this case represents the IndyCar fan who is leaving, maybe for NASCAR.

Just a thought....

Jeremy from Harrisburg

@Skip : I don't think the IndyCar fans are going to NASCAR, they're just leaving.

GeorgeK

I view the general loss of interest in all forms of racing as a generational issue.

Young people do not view driving a car as a stimulating, transformative experience: It's just a necessary "evil" to get to point B from point A. Without the love of automobiles there can be little to no interest in Auto racing.

And that is reinforced by the Greenies who think that anything with a combustion engine is a dinosaur soon to be relegated to extinction and has become a staple of our educational systems.

So, why is anyone surprised at the lack of interest in Indycars and a dwindling loss of interest in NASCAR as well? I would suspect that the majority of the folks who have shown serious fan interest in Indycar, and who care enough to drop comments here, are 50 or older.

Young people today just don't seem to care about racing. A generality, yes, with many exceptions, but not enough to sustain and/or grow a fading concept: Competitive auto racing.

The Speedgeek

Hang on. There seems to be some confusion between "IndyCar's message" and "IndyCar Superfan Positivity Patrol's message". I don't think I've ever heard anybody officially connected with IndyCar say anything resembling "this one thing is going to happen and then everything is going to be awesome and then we are all going to bathe in Veuve Cliquot". We have, however, heard multiple times over the years from IndyCar officials stuff along the lines of "we are doing this thing (or series of things) that we think is going to help our level of exposure among the 99.9% of America that is not currently partaking our product". You are correct in pointing out, though, that the vast majority of those activities have achieved exactly bupkus, as far as TV ratings and overall recognizability of IndyCar, for a million reasons that we shouldn't bother to go into here, because we will use up all of the pixels of the entire internet.

And to back up a bit, I don't think I've ever even heard or read any of the Superfan Positivity Patrol folks say that any one thing was going to make everything awesome in one fell swoop (though I could certainly be wrong here, and I'd love to be proven wrong by somebody providing some links, because I enjoy shaking my head at rampant delusion as much as the next guy). What most positively inclined folks have said (and I include myself here, most of the time) is "I think this thing (whatever it is) will be good for the sport, or at least not have a negative impact". A lot of the time those things have had no effect, but I guess I don't see the point in instant pessimism about every new thing that comes down the pike.

In the meantime, yes, IndyCar is trying stuff to improve their lot in life. Are they supposed to do something other than that? Let's say that you are a small business owner of, say, a mom and pop sandwich shop. You roll out a new sandwich that you hope will bring people in the door. You do what you think is best to make people aware of that sandwich. Yet for whatever reason, right or wrong, people continue to go to Subway and Quizno's. What do you do next? Come up with a different sandwich? Clean out the cash register and use that money to take out a full page newspaper ad about the sandwich you're already making? You sure don't do nothing, because that will result in you going bankrupt and closing up shop. IndyCar is in the same situation. You may or may not agree with their line of tactics (I'm "a little from Column A and a little from Column B" on that front myself), but they are undoubtedly trying to not have to close their doors. I can't really fault them for that.

One last thing: I don't really understand the upset at a perceived increase in "Indy centric-ness" because of the planned improvements at IMS (which are being funded by State of Indiana dollars, which can't really be spent elsewhere) or because of the Indy Grand Prix (which is effectively running an extra race with a $0 sanctioning fee, but will cost the teams and IndyCar very, very little extra cash...I still have serious doubts as to whether or not the IndyGP will have any effect on the awareness of the 500 or any other race, but I understand why they're doing it). IndyCar DOES appear to be exploring other markets (as they basically say every year) and they DO appear to be on the verge of going to some international locales (as a profit center; the point of those races is to create another revenue stream for IndyCar and all the teams through having the international locale pay all the attached costs for going to said international locale, plus hopefully a little extra cash that the teams get to pocket). IndyCar isn't making big, splashy sanctioning-fee-free moves to new domestic tracks or putting up ads during the Super Bowl or (insert a million different things that would cost a lot of money) because they can't afford to do so. It's the same as any other business would do.

pressdog

Always appreciate your comments, Geek, and glad to see you didn't get sucked int other spam filter. To be honest, I decided not to write the post above about four times before I finally did write it. Because if "they're doing their best" and "they never promised a rose garden" and "they can invest in IMS if they want to" are sufficient, then there's no need for anyone to comment on anything ever. My point was more like "same stuff, different year," to the point that just hearing the latest plans make me hear Cat Stevens (who is really Harry Chapin) every time I hear of any new effort. Is that worth the words that I gave it? Probably not. But I do think I speak for a lot of fans when I say IndyCar (both super fans and league) sounds like a lot of "yada yada yada" lately.

ramblinman

I believe it was 1993 when a few of the Nascar teams stopped by Indy to do a tire test. To me that spelled the beginning of the end for Indycar at it's height of popularity. 1994 Brickyard 400 was a sell out. 1995 was too. Time to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

1996 was "join our league or die" and the sport was set back a few decades. We are still in the mire of that debacle and may never rise out of it.

It is ironic that before, during, and since, the Indy 500 is the only hope. The Indy 500 is as good as racing gets IMO. It's as if Tony and Company not only shot themselves in the foot, they shot the right foot. The one on the gas.

Just my 2 cents. Thanks pressdog.

The Speedgeek

My take as far as all the latest missives (and all of the ones that came before it, be it new car, doubleheaders, road/oval trophies, Triple Crown, whatever) is that at the point that IndyCar is at right now (roughly 250,000 people seem to care), things can't really get much worse. What is the difference between a 0.3 and a 0.2 rating at this point? That is a rounding error. Meanwhile, for whatever reason(s), sponsors do still come into/stay in the sport. I'm as flabbergasted as anybody else as to why that is, but I guess they (and by "they", I mean Target, the National Guard, Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group, any other sponsor that's been around long enough to know that 0.2-0.3 TV ratings are not just a 2013 thing) get enough bang for their sponsorship buck by A) being in the Indy 500, B) having those 5-6 other ABC races that get 0.8-1.2 ratings, C) B2B relationships that they can build at the track, D) entertaining clients/employees at the track, E) being able to hand out samples/make in-person impressions on the 25,000-50,000 people who actually go to the races, F) some intangible gain as perceived by somebody in a high office within the company, and G) some combination of any or all of the above. For all of those reasons, I think that the "INDYCAR IS ON THE CUSP OF GOING AWAY!!!1!" people are many years away from being even close to correct. Some level of sponsorship is going to be around for some time. If 2-3 years of sub-0.5 TV numbers aren't enough to drive away those companies, I have a feeling that a couple more won't, either. In the meantime, IndyCar has time to keep trying new missives (aerokits, increased speeds, hopefully some new venues, hopefully improved TV product, improved ladder system that brings more marketable drivers into the Series, etc.) that'll bring in new fans (you and I both know that for the reasons that GeorgeK hit on above make instant, huge gains basically impossible, but that doesn't mean that IndyCar should stop trying), while things basically cruise along as they are now.

Yeah, I get the frustration about the whole "the more things change, the more they stay the same" deal. I've spent my share of time rending my garments about that, too. But, I've stopped wishing and hoping that IndyCar regains its (in my mind) rightful place in the motorsports and overall sporting world. I think that ship has probably sailed, about 10 years ago. They'll be lucky to top out at 1.0s on NBCSN and 1.5s on ABC, and those numbers are probably years off, if they're even achievable at all. Whatever. I enjoy the on track product, I think that 90-95% of the drivers belong in the series (and the 5-10% that don't hardly even appear on TV, anyway, so whatever), I enjoy most of the venues that IndyCar goes to (not that I didn't wish that they also went to Road America and a couple other personal faves), I think most of the officiating calls are pretty defensible now, and I'm not even all that offended by how the DW12 looks. That's the stuff that I choose to focus on. It's how I manage to get through my day.

Phil Kaiser, Indianapolis, IN

Just one criticism of your post Pressdog: PLEASE do some research on this tax topic because the funds the IMS are using ARE NOT TAXPAYER'S MONEY! This has been so incorrectly reported it's insane. What IS happening is that the state of Indiana granted a waiver to the IMS from paying income taxes for a couple of years. In other words the IMS is getting to KEEP THE MONEY IT EARNS at the track without paying taxes on it. That is FAR DIFFERENT than taking money FROM Indiana taxpayers like the Indianapolis Colts and the Indiana Paces have done in the past! Please Pressdog, check this out, it is not what you, Oilpressure or several others have reported and it's frustrating. I know economics, taxes and local government are difficult to understand sometimes (my BA degree is in Political Science), and the average news media sports guys know NOTHING about them, so they have reported it all wrong all along. Somebody says "Indiana taxpayers footing the bill for IMS refurbishment," and the other folks in the media follow along and report that without doing some very important fact-checking. That never was the deal nor is it now. The IMS is famous for never taking one single cent of taxpayer money in over 100 years of existence and now is no different; they are just being allowed to keep what they earn out there to spend on capital improvements and that is all.

Love your work, keep it up!

Phil Kaiser
Indianapolis

Mark Wilkinson (@newtrackrecord)

Taking popular music and making a comparison to IndyCar? I like it. It's one of my favorite conceits on my own blog. Of course, I now have that damn song rolling around in my head.

I think a number of people make valid points here. You know I am Indy-centric and an unabashed lover of ovals. I also have been critical, in my yin yang way, of just about everyone connected to the series. Even so, I continue to hold out hope for the series I love. Mark Miles is fashioning a business model that appears to be based not only on the bottom line but also on the managed growth of a struggling business. This is what the series has needed: to be treated as a business, not just a hobby or a cash cow. I understand that the series has had a decade to improve the model. Even so, I have a good feeling that Hulman Racing is in good hands. Finally.

Who knows how long it will take. One of the effects of the mismanagement, lack of leadership, and interminable delay of needed change is the loss of engaged fans like yourself. Your criticism of the series and its leaders is always thoughtful and reasoned. I may occasionally disagree, but I am never offended. As Mark Twain said, "It is difference of opinion that makes horse races."

I hope you keep writing about IndyCar. Those dissenting opinions keep it interesting.

redcar

Indycar (despite all you mention that is largely true) is much more interesting to watch than either Nascar or F1. Beats heck outta me why no one wants to watch it, but then that's not my job.

I don't begrudge them spending money to fix up IMS and stage a road race there. IMS is the engine that drives the series.

It would be interesting to see the books and find out how much is spent, made, etc. from race to race.

I'm willing to wait until 2015 to see if all Miles' plans come together. Just bring back Simona.

neti1

I think the reality is that nobody knows how to fix IndyCar's popularity problem - although many fans like to insist that their suggestion represent the One Infallible Solution.

Management has tried any number of ideas, with no success. I suspect that the only solution with a high probability of success would be out of reach of the budget the Hulmans are willing to allow - i.e. buy out the terrible TV contract, pay to put all the races on network TV (or at worst, most on network and some on ESPN), and pay for a massive, saturation marketing campaign.

Absent such a fairytale strategy, I wonder if the problem is simply unfixable ...

Ted Wolfram

Things have continued to decline since 2005 (Danica leads 500 year)and with 68 passes by 14 different drivers at last years "500" on ABC and the audience was the smallest in years. So what is wrong? Could it be the product which "The Powers to Be" is presenting isn't just the drivers? You can't see the drivers they might as well be robots

May I suggest that the product that might make people tune into watch is the race cars. Now since the cars all look alike, sound alike, drive alike, fewer and fewer people even bother to tune in to the broadcast.

Since we can't go back.....does it mean we can't learn from the past? Obviously.

Since if we mention that the Novi brought fans, or that the first Chapman rear engine car brought fans, or the advent of the first Watson brought fans, or the George Salih laydown brought fans, we are accused of wishing for the past to return.

I don't want the past....I've enjoyed that...I want a great future. I want to see the next new thing, and since a committee now declares what we will see and hear there will be no new, no great innovation...we'll have "spec" racing.

BLAH!!!

Ron Ford

Well, I am not sure exactly what your point is here Bill, but I would like to know what your definition of a "Super Fan" is. If it is just someone who actually goes to a race, then in 2013 there were more than twice your 250,000 figure who went to a race. (Not counting Indy)

I am not going to worry about the current level of popularity of IndyCar and I am certainly not going to worry about TV ratings. What goes around comes around over the years. I am simply going to do my part by going to as many races as I can afford, enjoy what I see and hear, and leave the hand wringing to others. And by the way, those wonderful folks in TV land have once again screwed the folks who actually go to races in 2014 by starting them later.

DZ

I never wanted to admit it, but "Won't Get Fooled Again" also seems far too apropos for Indycar.

"I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
And I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again."

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss"

Mike C.

For years and years, Indycar survived on small time sponsors (Joe Hunt Magneto Spl., Bryant Heating and Cooling, Bowes Seal Fast, and Dean Van Lines, and others). Very few national advertisers were involved and definitely no media campaigns were attributed to Indycar outside of maybe Firestone or Champion. Despite all the negative comments, I do believe some form of Indycar will survive. It may not be as prestigious as we would like for it to be, but it will carry on.

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