Posted by Iannucci | 7/31/2008 | 10 comments »
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Here’s a note to “Self” and others who have graciously taken the time to comment on the “Descending into scheduling madness” post - and that includes the entire Anonymous family.

Although sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, I try to stay on focused whenever I’m posting on a subject such as the above. In that instance my point was that this is a nation more impressed with oval racing, and as such adding non-ovals to the schedule - particularly street courses - seems to be counterintuitive to the growth of the league. That was what I was trying to say, using what ratings information I could find to corroborate that.

But I’m not blind, and as much as races like Watkins Glen and Mid Ohio appear to me to have huge helpings of dullness, I recognize that they are in fact popular with many other racing fans. In my best Richard M Nixon voice, “let me make this perfectly clear…”

At no time have I EVER said the schedule should be ALL ovals.

I just wanted to get that out there, so please reference that whenever necessary. I want the Indy Racing League to grow because I think it’s the best racing on earth, and I recognize that holding races at different types of circuits can be used to draw quality owners, drivers, team members and most importantly fans to the sport. I get that.

But (big but here) I am in NO WAY a proponent of adding races for any reason other than helping to grow the series. I’m not a fan of the “50-50” racing league officials spoke of because it sounds to me that the league is on some Quixotic quest in search of the perfect track formula. We’re talking about a racing schedule, not some sort of Sudoku box that has to perfectly balance.

The realities of scheduling are that some tracks have good promoters and some have bad ones. Some tracks are in areas that can draw lots of race fans and some aren’t. Some are in places with accommodating weather and some events just get rained on every year. Some have one racing groove, others more.

This is why I have never written down my dream schedule, because it would be forever incomplete. I guess my “dream list” would include Indy, Phoenix, Michigan, Texas, Chicagoland, Milwaukee and based on this year Iowa, but beyond that the rest could be filled with any other number of tracks so long as they contributed to helping grow the popularity of the sport so that it kept those first events in existence. I’m all about viability, which seems to be related more towards ovals.

And speaking of dream schedules, let’s try not to get too carried away with making it 1995 again. Yes, the PPG CART IndyCar Series was quite popular, drawing drivers from other series around the world while hosting a roster of impressive names. It was a wonderful time, the sky was always blue and the birds sang sweet songs and never pooped on your windshield.

You know what? It’s never going to be 1995 again. Or 1953. Or whenever you harken back to as your favorite era of racing. We are never going to have another Mario Andretti who competes successfully in nearly every racing series on four wheels. We are never going to have another AJ Foyt who races competitively for 35 years. We aren’t going to have another Unser family who collectively win 9 Indy 500s. Heck, we aren’t even going to have record crowds at Carb Day since they’ve wisely capped the speeds there.

On the other hand we do have a few things going for us in the here and now. We have the opportunity to showcase great drivers of both genders. We have incredible tools like High Definition broadcasts and live telemetry to bring each of us closer to the visceral thrill of racing. We’ve got drivers bearing the names of Andretti and Foyt and Rahal who connect us with those previous generations. We’ve got an incredible number of options for future engine development. And amazingly, we have a unified series built around the one race everyone would agree to have on his or her own dream schedule.

I just wanted to these things out there before I get accused of holding any more positions that I don’t have. As much as I don’t care for street races I could handle half a schedule full of them if they somehow gave me all of the few races on my “dream list” above. But it's not for you and me to decide - it's up to Mr Market - so hopefully the powers that be can secure enough viable events wherever to help grow the IndyCar series and showcase a superior form of entertainment for 2009 and beyond.

Thanks for hearing me out, and thanks for hanging around. You may now safely return to throwing bricks at me or any other commenters.


  1. schelcj // August 01, 2008 5:31 AM  

    >But it's not for you and me to decide - >it's up to Mr Market

    but you, i and everyone reading this blog are the "market"!

  2. redd // August 01, 2008 5:55 AM  

    No one could make up a schedule to please all open-wheel fans. It seems, because of the IRL/CART polarization, that people are desperate for "their side" to win the track battle. My take is even though I enjoy ovals, I'm okay with 50/50. I'd just prefer road courses over street. And, for my own education, having never been to a street race--can you see anything at all in person at one?

  3. mikebdot // August 01, 2008 6:57 AM  

    Agreed. Just wanted to be clear, I like looking at actual data as much as the next guy, but I don't like to draw conclusions from insufficient data. Especially when having preconceived notions about the data I can find that supports the conclusion I've already drawn. Which is to say, you could be 100% correct in saying road/street races aren't going to get ratings that are as good, but I would not buy that argument based on the previously presented data.

    My biggest beef with the league is their promotion. Gene Simmons is a laughingstock and I don't know why the powers that be don't get that. Do KISS fans still exist? I thought they were all in middle management by now worrying about their golf game. Rocker turned yuppie scum.

  4. Jeff Iannucci // August 01, 2008 7:44 AM  

    but you, i and everyone reading this blog are the "market"!

    I'm flattered, but I think you greatly overestimate the scope of my readership.

  5. pressdog // August 01, 2008 8:46 AM  

    To pump a few more slugs into this dead horse .... I 100% agree that comparisons with 1997 are of very limited value. Competition for the sports fan/viewer has changed dramatically. You have to formulate your strategy and shape your product with today's competition in mind, not that of a decade ago. Pretty sure if Target, for example, based its strategy on what worked in 1997 they'd be belly up inside six months. I think the IRL should shoot for at least 60-40 oval/twisty ratio. I'll leave it to the experts in the league to pick the tracks (as long as Iowa, Chicago and Kansas are in there). As with any business, the IRL should also have a maniacal focus on customers (FANS, not sponsors. Sponsors are only there because fans are). It's not complex: 1) Find out what turns fans on, 2) do more of that. I think the IRL loses sight of pleasing fans and sometimes puts teams, drivers, sponsors, track owners etc. etc. ahead of the fans who ultimately pay the bills. Attract masses of fans and the rest will take care of itself. Here ends my discussion of the schedule for the foreseeable future.

  6. Anonymous Jr. // August 01, 2008 9:31 AM  

    appeasing all open wheel fans maybe its just me or maybe they should stick to the keeping happy of the Indy fans, hope half of the few CC fans jump on the wagon and then work on getting new fans. I mean lets face it even if we could make a series that appealed to all open wheel fans it would attract all of a 1.4 max on TV viewing.
    I mean anyone with any sporting background knows that this schedule is a joke. Seriously Miami during the peak of hurricane season (football and weather) during the baseball post season. on the same day the dolphins will be playing, right when the heat get going in preseason exibitions. Hmmm add that with the Florida Florida St. game which i think is around that weekend.
    Now Indy will take on NASCAR NCAA football NFL football MLB post season NBA pre season, and mother nature. Luckily before they signed the deed for the land deal in Florida they realized the necessity of staging the race 2 weeks after the race that no one in the states can watch (aka montegi)

    on a side note maybe the petite Le Mans will be that week to take away even more fans.

  7. Chris (former anonymous) // August 01, 2008 1:26 PM  

    The fact that we slam you for some points you make, and yet keep on returning to hear what you have to say should tell you something. Either we are really, really stupid, OR you make some legitimately good arguments and you write one of the very few blogs worth reading. We may disagree sometimes, but we still support you.

  8. Jeff Iannucci // August 01, 2008 2:33 PM  

    Thanks, I appreciate that. But I'm not going to hug or anything because then it would get awkward.

  9. the american mutt // August 01, 2008 2:38 PM  

    I tend to think if ESPN would actually do a decent job of airing races, you'd see some events (Edmonton) getting better ratings. If the leaders aren't passing because they're doing their little fuel thing rather than race, then show us the battles that ARE going on. THough I'm of a mind that ESPN is deliberately sabotaging their coverage in order to get that revenue sharing bullshit.

    Take this with you--I went to Kentucky last year (and will be there this year, and next year and as long as they race there)--I went there, and I saw a great race. I came home, and days later watched a recording of the same race. I saw two totally different events. At the track I saw battles galore from fourth to eleventh--on the tv I saw two or three cars in the lead holding position.

    P-DOG--thank you for stating the obvious point that I often forget--the FANS are who Terry and Tony and Brian and Tony C. should be worrying about. They sometimes sound like they have a little kewl kids club, and keeping their standing with the teams and drivers matters more--would certainly explain that layer of dust caked on the black flag.

  10. J E Clerk // August 01, 2008 3:32 PM  

    at least the IRL won't throw competition yellows every 12 laps... and Firestone can build a working race tire.

    just sayin...ya know?