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April 13, 2011


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Calabro's Hair

Barber ratings...

A sterling 0.22

Down from the only slightly less sucky 0.40 of last year.

I guess many of of those that sampled the season opening "race" at St. Pete saw it and passed on Race 2.

Its a boring-ass product with boring-ass foreign drivers. The CUSTOMER (as Bill accurately points out) has turned their noses to this crap for years.

But it will be all better when we have crisp new Dallara's, whiney turbocharged engines and another American driver or two (even though I have no idea where they are going to come from with so few in Lights or Star Mazda).

Good luck Randy. You better get a bigger plug to stop this damn break though.


I have contended for a while -- and I may very well be wrong and kind of hope I am -- that Americans won't buy into watching Twisty races in large enough numbers to make it work. Many disagree with me. The market will have the final say. I think there is more potential audience with ovals. Whether that potential is realized is a whole separate discussion. BUT, I will say twisties do give IndyCar a differentiator, as Nard Dog points out. Overall, I'm glad I'm not Randy Bernard who has to try and figure out how to grow TV ratings.

The Speedgeek

Just curious, 'Dog, why the recent constant drum beating on this topic? This has been one of your pet topics since I started reading your blog in 2008 (rightly so, I should say, although let me repeat this for the folks who breeze through my comment and think that I'm disagreeing with you - Bill is RIGHT in saying that IndyCar oughta listen to what the fans want), but it's something that I've noticed you've been posting about relentlessly for the last 4-5 weeks, multiple times per week. You're clearly agitated. How come? Is it the pushback that some of the drivers have been giving over the double file restarts? The fact that there's no oval race before Indy? No Kansas Speedway to enjoy an early May afternoon at? The fact that Dario and Power (i.e. the same guys who won a lot last year) won the first two races? I'm seriously not being snarky here, just curious, because it seems like what you're demanding IndyCar should do (again, let me reiterate, RIGHTLY so) is exactly what they have been doing for the last 13-14 months. It seems to me like you should be encouraged by a lot of what's going on, but I guess you're not. How come?

Mr. Calabro's Hair,
I sort of imagine you're one of the folks that I always engage whenever a comment like that gets posted (and therefore I'll probably get a snark filled answer to my actual legit question), but I'm not sure what you're suggesting Randy or anybody else should do, outside of all that they've done so far and all that they've got in the hopper to increase fan awareness and help improve the on track product (not an overnight process). Should Randy be driving around Indy with a van full of USAC drivers (and Robin Miller riding shotgun, I'm sure), going door to door to all the teams and saying, "sorry, Takuma Sato doesn't drive for you anymore. Chad Boat is your new driver. Here he is. Chad, meet Mr. Vasser and Mr. Kalkhoven." Drive down the street. "Sorry, Sebastian Saavedra is no longer welcome here, Mr. Bachelart. Levi Jones is about his height. He can use Sebastian's seat and driving suit. See you at the track next week."? Should we be breaking the TV contract with Versus right now and start paying ABC to run all the races on ABC/Disney/ESPN channels? Suggestions?


"I have contended for a while -- and I may very well be wrong and kind of hope I am -- that Americans won't buy into watching Twisty races in large enough numbers to make it work."

You keep pushing this misinformation, and I keep pointing out that apart from Indy, in '09 and '10 the ICS "twisties" had significantly better average ratings than the ovals (separated for ABC and VS, obviously). When their biases collide with reality, sensible businesses go with the reality. Perhaps you should adopt the same business strategy you're suggesting for ICS?

Or are you actually doing that, because your "customers" want to be told that ovals are more popular with AOW fans, even when that isn't true?


Geek ... One of the reasons I keep coming back to this is that we've had spells of fan focus in the past, only to have them slowly fade away as attention goes back to pleasing drivers and teams. Crap ratings come out and the excuses flow, like The Masters etc etc etc. Lately it's "wait until the new car comes out." This is me saying "stay on target, stay on target." It's also in reaction to some drivers reticence to make changes aimed at attracting fans. Chris -- if you throw out the most popular oval of them all, Indy, then twisties averaged better (I have not done the math, but will take your word for it). At no point did I say otherwise. Since the focus here is on potential growth, I said "I think there is more potential audience with ovals. Whether that potential is realized is a whole separate discussion." If you read that as "ovals (excluding the most popular one) draw better than road/street tracks right NOW" I can't help you, because that's not what I said. Clearly the ratings on road/street and ovals (if for some reason you discard the most popular oval) are equally crap and must go up. Is there enough up side on road/streets to make it work? I do not think so. It seems to me this is a legitimate opinion, as is the opinion that a predominately twisty schedule is the answer. I disagree with that opinion, but reasonable people can disagree.


Personally, the only reason I watch the twisties is to see my drivers. If my drivers aren't doing well then I usually will tune out. I much prefer the oval racing...why because there actually seems to be a chance for someone to pass without wrecking the other driver.

Currently, the twisties are all about qualifying. Maybe the new cars will make road course racing more competitive and I'll change my tune. But we'll have to wait and see.

Unfortunately, another problem I have with the twisties is the tv product is just not very good...there is simply no way to keep up to date with where everyone is on the track and what action may or may not be occurring.

I also am not a fan of the schedule that bunches up the twisties at the beginning of the season. I don't get to see a race type that I prefer until the season is 3 months old. I know they say this is a problem with the cost to switch the current car setups between road/street setup to oval setup but this needs to be fixed.


As Winston Churchill famously said, probably:



There may not be a market for American open-wheel racing. There are many more options competing for the viewing and entertainment dollar than there were 15 years ago and maybe the generation of fans that were lost during the split has forever relegated Indycar to a niche sport with a very small audience.

But I think we need to be patient for a couple of years before we pronounce it dead. And if we find there isn't an audience, it's not due to a lack of work and understanding of the importance of fans on the part of R. Bernard.


Hey Pressdog,

This is kind of off topic, but I think one way we can get more fans involved is for you to tweet a list of certain catch phrases, (lock step or holding station for example) to all of your twitter followers before each race that we should drink to each time one of the announcers utters said phrase. Our own version of a drinking game. The list could be different for each race depending on if it's a road course or an oval or for each time EJ Viso crashes. Just a thought, but it could turn into something big.


Nothing new written here in regard to fans being the end all be all for any success.

As a die hard fan of road racing who also enjoys the good oval races, I am prepared to toss in the towel and state if it means the survival of Indycars, then shit can all of the twisties and let's see what an all oval schedule would do for the expansion of the fan base.

Not really sure where the salvation of the series lies, but for sure they are past any simplistic approaches.

Time for radical thinking to generate a new, expanded fan base. But I'm beginning to believe were watching a series die in place from simple lack of interest.


Potentially there is a market for road racing, but it has to be good road racing, there has to be winning Americans, and there has to still be a lot of ovals. I think Bernard get's it, and it's not easy to do, but that's what has got to happen. Indycar's got to pray it shows a good oval race or two to the NASCAR fans and converts a few. That'll jump start the ratings.

John Reid

What a minute, the two lowest rated and least attended races last year were on ovals, where was this sentiment then? And by the by they came in a string of 4 straight oval races, by your estimation that should have been ratings gold?


I really don't want to rehash the oval vs. road/street thing yet again. Everyone is well on record. We'll all just repeat the same arguments over and over and nobody will change their view so why bother? Fact is, all the ratings on all tracks suck (and Indy's are fading as well), and they all gotta improve dramatically. It is clear that an all-oval schedule is NOT the panacea here. I'm tempted to list what I think the challenges are, but I've listed them all previously, several times, and it will just set off another circular argument that accomplishes nothing, and don't want to constantly beat the drum more than I have already.

The Speedgeek

To be sure, 'Dog, things are not great. I personally think things are on the upswing, and I think there's some good upward momentum in the series (more sponsors, more teams, new manufacturers coming in for next year, even more teams rumored to be thinking about switching to IndyCar, double the number of full-time Americans in the series as compared to this time last year, plus a couple of Canadians, less complete stiffs behind the steering wheels in comparison to this time last year), but the ratings thing is the puzzle. You're also right in saying that it's not real clear what the right combo is, and what can fix that. All ovals? Been tried. Didn't really pan out. All (or almost all, anyway) road courses? Ditto. Yeah, I'm wildly oversimplifying here, but like you say, we'll be here all month if we want to list everything that went wrong and all the pros and cons.

My feeling is this: Randy Bernard (yep, I'm a fan) is working tirelessly on things, trying stuff out, evaluating races and hopefully re-evaluating whether or not certain tracks should be on the schedule as contracts come up while constantly seeking out new tracks that can replace the ones that fall by the wayside, attracting yet more sponsors, trying new rules (I was lukewarm on "two abreast restarts" when they announced it, but I'm not anymore; those stay, because they're awesome, and the drivers better deal with it), taking measures to make the ladder system make more sense (Lights on TV is a big move in the right direction), working on the TV package, etc. Again, nothing is perfect. Not yet, anyway. But, I feel like he's doing a great job of listening to the fans, working with the teams when possible, working with the tracks, and keeping the drivers involved while not cowtowing to any of the above groups. Should people keep him on the e-mail equivalent of speed dial until things are worked out? Absolutely. Just nobody should give up and/or freak out because we had a 0.2 (allegedly, anyway, because have they released a real ratings number yet?) follow St. Pete's 1.2. That's my feeling, anyway.


The problem may lie not with the type of racing, but where the racing is seen. And not seen live--because they seem to be doing very well there--but on the TUBE.

St. Pete twisty got a decent 1.2 on ABC with a typical ABC broadcast.

Barber twisty pulls a 0.2 (0.2!)on a 5 hr. Versus broadcast with all the bells and whistles available to Versus.

It makes me curious to see how Indycar does on ABC in Long Beach and Indy before the Queen Mary is abandoned.

Dustin Dearman

First off, IndyCar tried the All-American Oval Racing League before. I believe it was called the Indy Racing League.

Twisties are part of racing. I think mixing the upside of F1 and NASCAR can make an intriguing racing series. Road/Street courses in new markets...good idea (Baltimore, Sao Paolo), established historical events (Long Beach, Sonoma) and an international race (Canadia maybe Mexico) I could also see something work where they rotate twisties in Detroit, Portland, Cleveland, etc as semi annual races.

BUT the Ovals are the excitement. Saturday night races, under the lights. Kansas would have been a good night race if they had lights. Texas is a great night race.

Right now, teams believe they can be more productive on the road and street courses because their drivers are twisty drivers. The ovals are something else they do (other than Indy). Move some ovals earlier in the year to force those teams to focus on their oval program which will make the latter season racing more competitive.

I rambled a little. Take it for what it's worth.

Brian McKay

I read Calabro the troll's comments, "Barber ratings... 0.22 ... I guess many of of those that sampled the season opening "race"... passed on Race 2. Its a boring-ass product with boring-ass foreign drivers," and I thought, "Huh? the second race was on Versus, not broadcast teevee (ABC)!
And I see that reader "redcar" gets that.

Customers are king. To sustain a business, one must supply a desirable product or service to customers.
That means MAKE AND PROVIDE it! Yes, distribute products to customers rather than hide them (on Versus and a buggy website).

By the way, I'm an unabashed fan of natural-terrain road course racing and street-course racing. However, I will go along with whatever sustains this sport/show business -- whatever the majority of fans at turnstiles or in front of TVs desire. And it seems that all-oval IRL and all-twisties ChampCar are not as successful as a mixed-track series which offers races in a variety to appeal to various race fans.
All I can say is let's race in markets where fans will flock to the venue to lay down their dough, and let's air all races on NBC.

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