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March 22, 2010


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Chad Paff

Yes they don't have anything in the mid Atlantic, because they left Richmond. You know, that place that has a real race track.

Pretty soon this series will be 15 street races (from anyone with a pulse who will give them a check) and about 2 ovals. And I am not kidding. That's where its heading.


Randy-o, Randy-o, wherefore art thou oval?

Leigh O'Gorman

Didn't Richmond kick the IRL out rather than the IRL "leaving"?


Yeah, after two years of putrid racing at Richmond, the track said "don't let the turnstile hit you in the attenuator on the way out." Fortunately, I guess, for the IRL it doesn't matter how lethally boring a street/road race is, they just want you to keep coming back!


Ugh, another street course. Worse, Houston and Cleveland are promoted by the same person, and suposedly they want Houston over Cleveland.

Richmond wasn't the best oval race, and last year it was pretty awful. But, mid atlantic are has VIR, a road course, and Charlotte Motor Speedway, an oval, so there's options.

I invision Baltimore as another Valencia, but that's just me, and how it looks in my head, that's not, I hope, what it really will look like...


Okay, add Baltimore streets. As long as you also add Milwaukee, Michigan, maybe Pocono...

Mike Hare

Maybe I'm not a "typical" Indy fan, whatever that is, but I love road and street racing, especially if it's half as entertaining as Sao Paulo and it would not surprise me if Baltimore was better. The Inner Harbor and Camden Yard are beautiful and would be a grand venue for a race weekend. They have some of the best food on the East Coast and excellent transportation for remote parking. There are ample opportunities to set up a course with passing zones so I say, bring it on!!

Leigh O'Gorman

As long as the racing is good Mike - great sandwiches don't make for a great race

Demond Sanders

They badly need races on the East coast.


I don't care where they race, so long as it's a good one. That said, I'd like to see some big ovals to even it out though. Michigan, Pocono, Cali, whatever so long as they can hit top speed and go wheel to wheel.


Chad, there are some fans who prefer road/street courses over ovals. If the series goes 15-2 in favor of road courses, I would be MORE than happy!


I doubt that the Indycar series will race at VIR. While it is a nice track, it is out in the middle of nowhere. Fans from Northern Virginia or Hampton Roads would be driving over two hours to get to the course and besides the track there is nothing in that part of Virginia to attract fans. While dedicated fans, such as the sportscar and motorcycle fans who currently attend events at VIR, will go, it would be nearly impossible to get casual fans to go and the minimal attendance would make it a money losing proposition for the series and the track.

Mike Hare,
I don't see how Baltimore will be a good race. I also like road/street races, but this will probably look like the ALMS course at RFK Stadium in DC back in 2002. That race was around a stadium parking lot and I can't remember ever watching a good parking lot race. Also, the Inner Harbor already has a lot of tourist traffic, so I don't know how much access Indycar would have to the street grid in that area. The main goal of these races is to increase tourism and Baltimore will have to ensure that the race logistics do not interfere with the current tourism in the area.

However, we can hope that this track will be like Sao Paulo and not Edmonton.

Chad Paff

"Chad, there are some fans who prefer road/street courses over ovals."

In this country, there aren't many.

If road and street races were so damn exciting and worthwhile, why hasn't NASCAR gotten in on the act? NOBODY puts on a bigger party then NASCAR. You think people in Baltimore or Houston really give a crap what type of car is racing there or what type of race they end up with? ISC or SMI could promote a street race if they wanted to. They could buy Elkhart Lake or Mid Ohio if they wanted to, too.

Places like Michigan, Pocano, Richmond, Phoenix, Fontana, Milwaukee and Las Vegas aren't coming back. Not when all the sport is looking for is a check from a Baltimore or Gillette Stadium or a Houston or a Tora Bora. That is truly ALL that matters. And with road/street course lovers now with more power then ever in the sport, that's what we are going to get.

Richmond "kicked out" the IRL, because their asking price was out-of-whack with the reality of what the sport is worth. Richmond still got 40-50 thousand paying customers, even with crappy racing the past 2 years. Just as much as Brazil, St. Pete or most street races have ever gotten.

If Indy Car TRULY wanted to be at Richmond, they'd still be there.

Andy Bernstein

In addition to hosting a race that left the drivers apologizing to the fans, the Richmond event lost its title sponsor as a result of the banking meltdown.

There are lots of great ovals to hold a race, and the gate won't justify the sanctioning fee. So you race someplace for free, with empty sections of grandstands?


More roads more streets please!


I'm reminded of the National Grand Prix that was held in Washington, D.C. for the American Le Mans Series. They held it for one year, all hailed it as a success, and then the National Grand Prix organizers abruptly stopped after there was supposed to be a long-term deal in place. Which when those happen, you figure the financial numbers made no sense after they saw how much money they actually made in comparison to how much they spent.

The Speedgeek

Andy has a good point there. I've heard a lot of complaining about where we may or may not be racing, but not many people addressing the core problem: the League needs money to operate. That's both the front office and the teams. Are you going to go race at an oval (Richmond, say, or Michigan) for a $100 sanctioning fee, and then pray and hope that the track promotes the race, then pray and hope that people show up, and then pray and hope that you put on a good show? Or do you go run a street course (and I'm not remotely convinced that the city of Baltimore can afford it) for a healthy (publicly funded) sanction fee, knowing that you'll get a decent crowd, even if that crowd will fail to tune in for the next race on TV? I don't have the answer here, I'm asking.

I do know that the thinking behind going to street courses and places who are actively asking for IndyCars to come race (except for Loudon, which I can't figure out why we're not there this year) is that sponsors are in short supply right now, and the series needs money to survive. While I wish this weren't the reality of the situation, and that every car had a Fortune 500 company on the sidepod, I understand that it is the reality of the situation, and I'm not going to complain and scream about it as long as it keeps our series afloat until they can get the finances fully figured out.


IndyCar finds itself in a sellers market, trackwise. Unlike the league (seemingly), the tracks have to be concerned with attracting actual paying customers. Don't kid yourself -- if IndyCar packed the track they would have many many ovals to chose from. Track owners want to put butts in seats. I don't think they care much what kind of racing does it, as long as they fill the place. IndyCar does not fill the place, because they are not sufficiently focused on the customer. Instead we get this nonsense about how TV ratings don't matter and how the teams have to be kept happy and how we have to have good hospitality suites for sponsors. Once again ... wrong. Fans drive the bus. Attract masses of fans, and everyone from teams up to sponsors and track owners are happy. Why? Because they all see positive ROI (they all make money). It's a good point that street races offer immediate revenue for the league. I believe that is why they are adding them. Quick cash is better than no cash. But Champ Car proved (again) that just taking the money from street/road venues isn't sustainable long-term. TV numbers (which translate into packed tracks as well). That's what long-term survival is all about.

The Speedgeek

Hmmm. Reading your reply makes me realize that I sort of forgot to close my own loop there. I meant to also say that in a long-term situation, I'd like to see us going to certain places: Phoenix, Michigan, Road America, maybe Cleveland, maybe a couple of other places. However, like you point out, 'Dog, people aren't buying what IndyCar is selling at the moment, so those tracks apparently aren't interested in playing. That's what I meant about the short-term thing that I sort of mentioned right at the end of my post.

I think, for the next year or two, IndyCar is going to have to take some checks, from wherever wants to pay for them to come to town. Hear me out. Izod is only a few months into a long-term deal, and they're making almost weekly strides in promoting the League. Versus is back on DirecTV, and I think that we're going to see a solid uptick in ratings this year, especially with Izod's help. Then, with momentum heading in the right direction and more fans tuning in, you can get more sponsors on board, and more tracks will be willing to bring you in the gate.

I know, it's the Age of the Internet, and people want fixes right now. It seems like this is my catchphrase in almost every comment I leave anywhere, but I think we've got to have some patience. The ship (American open wheel racing) has been headed in the wrong direction for a solid 13-14 years now, and it's going to take a little while to get the ship turned around. Just hang in there.

Mike M

NASCAR is no longer selling out ovals. It's because their fans are turning away. But these tracks need events that make money. If the ovals can make a profit, they'll add IndyCar. Two CUP dates a the one track is too much now. IndyCar should step in.

But in the meantime, bring back Pikes Peak, the Mile, Nashville. If Baltimore wants a race, they need to build a real track. If not, make an oval in the street. An oval street race!!! That would be unique.

John S

Serious question, someone who knows tell me this: From a cost point of view, I would think an oval track would have a huge advantage. A street course has to shut down streets, build walls, build grandstands, remove paint from the street. An oval track is idle if its not a race weekend. So how is it that street courses can come up with money and an oval can't? I think a street provides a weekend festival atmosphere, why can't an oval do the same? It is all about the $.

PS: I miss Jamie Little.


John S. Street race promoters sell governments on economic benefit. They claim the race attracts x-many people to the area, who all spend x-many dollars, which provides x-much economic activity and x-amount of tax revenue which theoretically more than compensates the local gov. for the cost of production. Whether that is actually the case or not is the subject of much much much heated debate.

The Speedgeek

Mike M,
That is a good point as well, but I sort of have a feeling that it might be 2012 before we see those oval tracks really come to bear. Pre-existing deals with street races (namely, St. Pete) and undesirable ovals (ahem, Motegi) may mean that the schedule will be too cluttered to add much for next year. I will say that I hope that Randy and Terry will be making field trips to those ovals in the sort term (like, in the next 3-4 months) in order to make some sales pitches. If they can go to Phoenix, Michigan and the like with increased TV numbers in hand and some swanky Izod models milling around behind them, that'll make a far more convincing pitch than they could have made even 6 months ago.


I think a lot of the issue is how many races the series runs. Right now, it's at 17, so street courses and international races keep other (better, RE: Phoniex, Loudon, Vegas, Road America, Sebring ect.) events off. But, if the scheduale were to expand to say 22 races, then adding a street course or two wouldn't be so bad.

But even though it's hard to convince the oval owners, particulalry ISC, to hold Indycar races, they need to try. Because NASCAr is losingfans by the bucketload each week. And who's going to pick them up? Indycar is well posistioned to do that,but not by running parades around Baltimore. Right now, NHRA is getting a better pick up from the upset NASCAR fans...


The series is willing to go wherever anyone will pay the tab; ergo Sao Paulo or Baltimore. It's been said by others, it's all about who can justify the money to pay.

Regarding disgruntled NASCAR fans: Are they angry or are they no longer able to pay the price of entry, including travel, lodging, tickets, etc.? Lots of empty seats at Bristol this past weekend, a traditional stronghold of the series.

I think it's a general economic effect in conjunction with car racing having reached its peak in popularity. People are finding cheaper alternatives they find more interesting.

Chad Paff

"I sort of have a feeling that it might be 2012 before we see those oval tracks really come to bear."

I don't share that same feeling.

If Indy Car is still alive in 2012, it will have weathered this mess by taking checks from street race promoters getting themselves out from a HUGE debt of cash. They will have reduced ovals down to bare-bones numbers and made the series into a F1 Junior Series with the Indy 500 as its centerpiece. Just like some in the sport now ALWAYS wanted.

If anything, there will be more of these bogus street festivals, from all over the world. Remember, Randy Bernard says we should be looking for "the best drivers from all over the world". And you don't do that, by continuing to slog around tracks in Newton, Iowa and Sparta, KY.

Indy Car is not interested in oval racing anymore. American drivers? Yea, right. At St. Pete this weekend, 40 Indy Car and Lights drivers will be in cars. All of 5 will be from the USA. FIVE! Now that TG is gone and Chitwood is gone and about anyone linked with TG over the years is either already gone or likely gone soon, the CART/Champ Car folks have truly taken over and will make the sport the way they had it going in the mid 90's. Which means more Baltimore's and Gillette Stadiums and whoever else will write them a check and put on a race in front of party-going "race fans", and less Iowa's, Kentucky's and Elkhart Lake's, who cater to real race fans at real race tracks.

Chad Paff

"Regarding disgruntled NASCAR fans: Are they angry or are they no longer able to pay the price of entry, including travel, lodging, tickets, etc.? Lots of empty seats at Bristol this past weekend, a traditional stronghold of the series."

There are many reasons for NASCAR's downturn.

1. People are tired of Jimmie Johnson. As good a driver as he is, he is dreadfully boring and does not appeal to many traditional NASCAR fans. Him winning all the time, has gotten predictable (and NASCAR HATES the word "predictable") The racing itself is no worse or better then its ever been. Jimmie Johnson's domination has been bad for the sport though.

2. The tickets at most of these places are too high. Especially in this economy. If you can't even sell out Bristol, then something needs to be done. NASCAR has gouged their fans for years. That time is over. People just don't have the money to spend anymore.

3. NASCAR was naturally going to fall back at some point. NASCAR rode a wave of popularity for years. It continued to get bigger and bigger through the late 80's through the mid 2000's. There was no way that could continue forever. Racing has a limit to just how big it can get. Once NASCAR got to that point, it had to go back down. Its still a very popular and very important TV sport in this country. It just likely won't ever reach the levels it reached at its zenith (the few years after Dale Sr.'s death).

4. Oversaturation. NASCAR oversaturated themselves and it turned off some folks. Their schedule is bad now too. Continuing to go to places like Michigan, Fontana, Pocono, Loudon, Martinsville and Dover TWICE a year is pointless. One race at these places is more then enough. The demand to see two races at Michigan or Fontana has never been there and never will be. Either scale your schedule back or find a few new markets to race at. Some fresh blood and fresh markets is what they need.



And you don't equate any of the reasons we both cited as affecting Indycar as well?

More oval track owners aren't willing to pay the IRL sanctioning fees because not enough fans attend for them to make money. End of story.

Until that dynamic changes there will be no increase in oval track events.

I still think the mix of oval and road-track circuits is a good formula. Finding ways to regenerate interest in the series is the key to their survival.


"Instead we get this nonsense about how TV ratings don't matter and how the teams have to be kept happy and how we have to have good hospitality suites for sponsors. Once again ... wrong."

Actually, you are wrong. Last year the average TV rating for road/street courses was considerably higher than the rating for non-Indy ovals. The idea that fans want ovals is a pernicious myth which has been around ever since Tony George embarked on his ill-advised adventure 16 years ago. The fact is that oval fans watch NASCAR, not OW, and OW fans prefer road-racing.

It's one of the reasons why CART-Indycar was so successful in the pre-IRL era, and why the IRL has never, ever so much as broken even, let alone shown a profit. Ratings don't lie - oval-lovers are a minority within OW fandom, even today when many old CART fans no longer watch.


Chris: The central point was that IndyCar needs to build an audience of sufficient size and the right makeup to succeed. I think that will require mostly ovals, you think it can be done with mostly twisties. Either or, the central point is still true. As much as I'd love to debate ovals vs. twisties for seven to ten more weeks straight, I don't think either of us is going to change our view. Ultimately, the market has a crazy way of deciding these things.

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