Posted by Iannucci | 8/21/2006 | 4 comments »
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I’ve been asked more than once why I started “My Name Is IRL” and the primary reason can be seen in the very first post. The entry relates to some know-it-all columnist and his conclusion – based on nothing other than the events of March 27th – that the IRL should not have raced at Homestead in lieu of Paul Dana’s death. I have no allegiance to Dana and knew very little of him before his death, but I was stunned at both the lack of any real reporting of the facts of his death and the deluge of baseless opinion after his tragic accident. I figured if others were going to provide such poor coverage of the league then I might as well give it a shot.

Now, this isn’t my ONLY reason for the site, but it is a large one. So whenever I see some “motorsports columnist” going off about something that makes no sense, I feel the need to show the poor soul the path to righteousness.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Roger Diez. I don’t know anything about Roger other than the fact that he clogged up the newswires recently with an abysmal piece in the Nevada Appeal entitled “IRL and Champ Clueless”. Take a look and determine who the “clueless” one is here.

I just don't understand it. Last Sunday, the Indy Racing League televised its race at Kentucky at the exact same time as Champ Car aired its Denver race.

Is that a compelling opening pair of sentences or what? Remember, he writes for a living.

With TV ratings for both series in the toilet, you would think that they might consider not going head to head and dividing up what viewers they have.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I read about this myth. Though not mutually exclusive, it’s foolish to presume Indy Racing League fans and Champ Car fans are all the same people. You would think a “motorsports columnist” would notice that the IRL races predominantly on ovals while CCWS features road courses. One has lots of speed and passing while the other has lots of turning and shifting.

I mean, Tony George spent a ton of money before the season started, hiring a media consulting group headed by Gene Simmons (formerly of KISS) to advise him. Well, other than the "We Are Indy" song, the firm hasn't done much in the way of promotion, if the sparsely-populated grandstands at Kentucky are any indication.

First off, the song is “I Am Indy” (well, “Mindy”). It’s truly awful, but I think Gene meant to use “Indy” as a slang for “Independent”, which would preclude any mentioning of “we”. Again, you cover these things for a living, right?

And if the “sparsely-populated grandstands at Kentucky are any indication” then the league is doomed. Only 30,000 or so fans showed up, but fortunately this is the lowest attendance of the season for any race. 250,000 fans in Indianapolis, 100,000 fans in Texas…Roger, feel free to do a quick internet search on actual attendance instead of looking at one race.

With only 19 cars starting the IRL race and 16 in the Champ Car field, it's no wonder that fans are tuning out in droves. Given the normal race attrition in open-wheel competition, a finishing field in the double digits is problematic.

I won’t say anything about CCWS, but the IRL hasn’t had less than 10 cars finish a race all year (and that was with 4 of the 20 qualifiers not starting in Homestead). Double-digits are not problematic. In fact, the last race in Kentucky had 18 of the 19 entrants finish the race. Maybe Roger should say “if the nearly full field at the end of the Kentucky race is any indication…” Oh, nevermind.

And although rumors of reconciliation between the two rival series surface periodically, there has never been a real, concerted effort on both sides to make it work, despite the best efforts of racing legends like Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney.

“Rumors”? How about “reports”? Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven have met several times this year, and I don’t think they’re talking about sharing a Fantasy Football team. If repeated meetings do not comprise a “real, concerted effort” then I’d like that vague phrase defined. Perhaps Mr. Diez is expecting everyone to hold a townhall meeting and have fans (or better yet, “motorsports columnists”) phone in their suggestions.

But if the two organizations were to join up, just think: no more conflicting races; fields of 30-35 cars; Newman-Haas and Forsythe teams mixing it up with Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti Green; actual drama on Bump Day at Indy. Why, it would be almost like . . . 1995!

Way to end with a bang. The ignorant suggestion here is to just have everyone run on the same track, which would be madness since the CCWS cars are turbocharged for more power. On the one side you have a series run by a track owner (George) and on the other side you have a series run by engine manufacturers (Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe of Cosworth). If you can’t see the possible conflicts that can arise here then you shouldn’t be a “motorsports columnist”.

The kicker is that Diez cites 1995 as some kind of open-wheel nirvana. Perhaps he doesn’t remember, but that was the lone year Roger Penske failed to qualify a car at Indianapolis on “Bump Day”. The defending champion did not appear in the race (Al Jr, a Penske driver), Stan Fox suffered neurological damage as a result of a horrific crash, the finish was in question as Scott Goodyear passed the pace car late and was black flagged, and the winner (Jacque Villeneuve) moved to Formula One at the conclusion of the season. Oh yeah, THIS is what we should seek from a series unification.

I’m not a “motorsports columnist”. I’m a fan of open-wheel racing, and as such I don’t think it’s too much to ask for those who cover racing to have at least a modicum of sense about the sport. If Mr. Diez is bent on spouting nonsensical garbage such as this, then perhaps he should seek a career in politics where that kind of thing is encouraged.


  1. Jennifer Coomer // August 21, 2006 2:57 PM  

    And very good point about the ignorant idea that fans of both series are the same. I know a few names of CHAMP drivers. But I've never watched a complete race of theirs. Sometimes I think I should try to get to know more about their drivers should the merger actually ever happen. The main reason I check in on their races is to hear Derek Daily say, "gar-age".

  2. Evlk // August 21, 2006 6:07 PM  

    I agree with your sentiments on "unification" which would mean half the number of people attending races in either series would be cut out of the mix.

    With the combined schedules currently devoid of such open-wheeled paradises of Laguna Seca, California Speedway and Mid-Ohio, I'm not sure a combined 16-18 race docket should be left to either Mr. Trollkoven (the first racing series principal created by Tolkien) or Mr. George (space left in for emphasis on cognitive abilities).

    And no doubt the prevailing CCWS theme of ride-buying Euro F1-wannabes would spread like a rash after a night with Paris Hilton.

  3. Jeff Iannucci // August 22, 2006 2:42 PM  

    Thanks, and I'd trade Rusty for Derek any day. I'd even throw in Brent Musberger.

    And "spread like a rash after a night with Paris Hilton" is definitely nominated for Simile of the Year!

  4. Independent1 // August 27, 2006 7:52 PM  

    I need to add a comment. 1995 was a pinnacle year for open wheel racing in America. CART was the premier racing league for fan allegiation, whereas its opposition, Nascar, was this little oval series that all the red-necks watched.

    The Indy 500 was such a premier event, ladened with talent-rich drivers, that the defending champion got bumped from the race. Bubble day was dramatic TV. Jeff Gordon couldn't get a ride in Indy, and went to Nascar instead as a 2nd choice. F1 guys like Nigel Mansell were coming to America to race Indy. Days of Thunder had Tom Cruises character using Nascar to try to work his way to Indy "You can't get to Indy without a fast car, and my name's not Andretti or Unser."

    Now, Nascar has joined the ranks of the NFL and NBA, while the IRL and CCWS have abissmal ratings. The CCWS has to buy TV time in order to be on TV, while the IRL is only on TV because Tony George won't let ABC show just the Indy 500---they have to show every race in order to show Indy (some through their affiliate ESPN). Drivers now use the IRL and CCWS to get to Nascar or F1 (ie.. Tony Stewart, Robbie Gordon, John Andretti, JP Montoya, etc...) When is the last time a driver tried to leave Nascar for open-wheel racing??? 1995?

    My point is, the writer of this article clearly is off-base on many things, but 1995 was a time when Indy-car racing was the premier event.

    Thank You King George for ruinign open-wheel racing.