SO, IndyCar kicks off this weekend with a street race in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Sunday, March 30, 3:20 p.m. on ABC). Naturally, a lot of IndyCar fans are excited for the season opener. This is a good thing. Excitement, enjoyment … yay!
Yesterday, as my brain was decompressing from a week-long series of day-job meetings (meetings: necessary for revenue but not my favorite things), I began to muse about my evolution as a racing fan and popped off this series of Tweets:
If you like the road/street racing, then @IndyCar is a great choice. Not real competitive with @NASCAR for oval-centric fans, though.
A lot of @IndyCar's competitive disadvantage on ovals is that they drive too few during the year more than quality of the racing itself.
Fans who dig BOTH oval and street/road enough to watch every race of a diverse series like @IndyCar is a very small audience, IMO.
With that, I'll put on my Kevlar helmet and vest and wait for the INCOMING!
A bunch of good twitter-based discussion ensued. Some agreed with me, some disagreed and there was plenty of lamentation.
IndyCar has several competitive advantages, in my opinion (which not everyone agrees with, obviously). Top of my head:
First: It’s the only place to go for top-tier American-based road and street races. That’s the biggest, most obvious differentiator right there. "If you think driving fast and turning left for three hours is pointless, check out the twisties!"
Second: On ovals it’s a more subtle (and many argue skillful) proposition than NASCAR since there’s no beating and banging going on. I could make the case for IndyCar as Olympic hockey vs. NHL NASCAR (more reliance on skill, less on physical play and no fighting allowed). "Don't like all the grabasstic stuff and fights? Check out racing that relies on skill, not beating and banging!" Irony: contact is more of an element in road'/street racing in IndyCar that in oval racing. Chrome horning someone in a street race is often celebrated.
Third: IndyCar drivers have to be diversely talented to win the championship, even though that position was inexplicably (to me at least) weakened recently by the decision to make 500-mile oval races more valuable (pointswise) than other races. "NO other racing series demands such a diverse set of skills as IndyCar!"
Fourth: Speed. IndyCars on ovals are much faster than any other car on ovals. "201 on an oval? HAR. That's pretty good ... for third gear."
Fifth: The rocketman or rocketwoman effect. IndyCar drivers look like fighter pilots. They drive with their HEADS OUT IN THE WIND which is pretty bad ass, when you think about it. And the nature of the job requires them to be in better physical condition than drivers in other forms of racing. "Think race car drivers aren't athletes? Take a look at these abs!"
I could probably go on, but … why? (Besides, I have repeated all this so often that even I am all like "We've heard it before x92, Bill.") PLUS, I could be totally full of shit, and even if IndyCar poured $23 million a year into promoting one through five above, they wouldn’t move the needle.
To me, the hugely big question is this: are there enough potential customers out there for the road/street/oval schedule that IndyCar offers to sustain it even IF they poured whopping cash into promotion? I have no idea, honestly. I suspect there is some research that could give you an idea on that, so maybe (hopefully) IndyCar has seen that research and concluded that marketing advantages that don’t bring in customers is a waste of money (which it is). I continue to hope IndyCar has and does do market and customer research and uses that -– not the ramblings of me or anyone else -– to guide their decisions.
Which brings me to my current attitude: Don’t worry, be happy. I’m going to do this:
One: Let IndyCar and NASCAR and every other form of racing and sport compete for my attention however they want. I’ll leave it up to the people in each organization that get the big bucks to try to get my business (attention) however THEY see fit. It’s not, nor has it ever been, my job to promote IndyCar or NASCAR. So, boys have at it (getting my business).
Two: Take a look at my offers and make my choice. Americans (and many others around the globe) have about a zillion choices as to how we invest our free time and their disposable income. I’m taking a consumerist approach. Weighing the cost-benefit of my entertainment options (based largely on their marketing pitch and the results of my product sampling) and making my decision based on that calculation. Sometimes it will be IndyCar, sometimes NASCAR, sometimes neither (maybe they both lose to the idea of going to a race at Knoxville, a movie, reading a book, walking my dog, cleaning my toilets, whatever).
Three: Offer an opinion and let it go at that. I enjoy reasoned discussion on the state of racing and very often learn of interesting insights others have that I haven't thought of before, but I ain’t going to get into a circular argument where I make five arguments for A and someone else makes five arguments for B and then we just make the same arguments for A and B for five weeks, each of us growing in our fervor to convince the other because the FUTURE OF EVERYTHING WE LOVE IS ON THE LINE. Life is way too short. Again, it’s not up to me to “defend” or “promote” any entertainment option (unless I'm getting paid to do it). I enjoy offering and hearing opinions, but I’m gonna stop short of acting like we’re debating a cure for cancer.
With that, IndyCar and NASCAR are on this weekend. IndyCar has a great road-street racing product right now, so maybe give it a look? Or maybe not. Up to you! Weigh the pros and cons. Sample products. Make your choice. Spend your time and money as YOU see fit. Enjoy what you enjoy and let others do the same. Read this blog or don't. Be the boss of your time and money! That’s ‘Murica! Go in peace.