The schedule gets downsized

Posted by Iannucci | 12/18/2008 | 14 comments »
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Nashville is gone. Surfers Paradise, after one exhibition race, is also gone. And now, Belle Isle has been removed from the 2009 schedule. Yes friends, Roger Penske took his baby and, well he didn't exactly shoot it but he certainly put it in a voluntarily-induced coma.

Roger Penske, organizer of the Detroit Grand Prix, said today he couldn’t in good business sense continue the event with so many of his area businesses struggling.
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Also key was the loss of the factory Porsche and Audi programs in the American LeMans Series, the sports car series which was to share the spotlight with the Indy cars in the Sept. 5-6 event at Belle Isle.

“This is a real economic time of distress for everyone,” said Penske, who labeled the decision a postponement. “We couldn’t sit here and count on a lot of things happening (from a sponsorship standpoint) that we knew weren’t going to happen knowing that (Detroit) is so distressed with unemployment and all the things going on.”

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From an entertainment standpoint this isn't a huge loss, because despite the recent overhaul the Belle Isle circuit is still so narrow the race has to be decided by a judiciously awarded black flag. Racing without passing is like decaffeinated coffee - what exactly is the point?

But from a larger perspective this is disparaging. It's not quite Morrissey bad, but it's definitely in the Mellencamp to Springsteen range of rough times because if Roger Penske can't field an event then you know we're in uncharted waters. And not only that but the end of the schedule just went limp.

Here were the previously scheduled final four races of '09.
8/29 Chicagoland
9/06 Belle Isle
9/19 Motegi
10/10 Homestead


So now after Chicagoland we have two races in the final six weeks, and only one of those will be televised live while you are awake. Ugh! OK, maybe now we're moving down to the Depeche Mode level of despair.

14 comments

  1. AZZO45 // December 18, 2008 5:57 PM  

    The Pistons & the Redwings are doing deals to get people to the arenas. ( I refuse to mention the NFL team...) The corporate sky boxes have been non sell-outs as well.....

    ... so sadly, no surprise that corporate $$$ was not available for the Belle Isle race. We all know Roger id not a fan of spending his own $$$ on anything (& he reportedly WAS doing this for the DGP.

  2. Ryan // December 18, 2008 9:17 PM  

    I personally love Depeche Mode. They have some songs that aren't of despair. Take Master and Servant for instance.

    It's a bad deal. I hated the Belle Isle race but cheering over races being dropped due to economic reasons is very cannibalistic. All racing series are really hurting, as are companies in the real world. I got to experience co-workers getting laid off yesterday. It's not fun.

    Anyway, all we can do is just hope the people that run Indycar do the best for the series in the long-term. At the end of the day, auto racing is really just a toy. It's a wonderful toy for those of us that find enjoyment in the sport, but when hard times come we must remind ourselves of that.

  3. John in Speedway // December 18, 2008 9:34 PM  

    Well this is all because of the unions and the big 3. Neither of the aforementioned are in any way shape or form supportive of the IRL, so this wasn't a good fit to begin with. The unions are the cause of the downfall of the American auto industry, and it was only a matter of time before the big 3 would have to declare bankruptcy. I'm really glad the IRL isn't affiliated with the American auto industry, because if we were, we would be in a very bad position right now. The possibility exists that we can still add another race. Obviously I'm hoping for MIS, PP, Phoenix, or NH, but I'll take Portland or Road America if I'm forced to add another parade.

  4. Anonymous // December 19, 2008 4:59 AM  

    "Well this is all because of the unions and the big 3."

    If you hate them so much, just go get your gun and start killing them or commit arson you hopeless troll.

    Dear God, Honda announced they lost $1.4 billion the last six months of this year. Not unionized. The Japanese are scared to death about the U.S. car industry and what's going to happen to the suppliers. Also not unionized. Overall car sales are down in the 30-40% range. If you think that these entire problems are because of organized labor, you're a stupid and foolish idiot. You speak like a person that doesn't work an honest job and has no connection to how the real world works, you certainly know next to nothing about the car industry.

  5. BP in Louisville // December 19, 2008 6:49 AM  

    (1) I went to the Detroit Grand Prix for the 1st time in 08 and I was horribly disappointed after attending other road courses like St. Pete. At Detroit they keep all of the spectators in 1/4 of the track and cover half of the fences around the course with banners leaving you VERY limited vantage points. You can only watch from something like 3 or 4 corners or 2 grandstands. It also seemed as if the promoters were having a party and the racing was just a secondary thing.

    (2) The detroit "race fans" were nothing like race fans I'd seen. I saw a couple IRL drivers walking through crowds unnoticed. At the autograph session, Viso, Meira, Wilson and Rahal's tables were empty for several minute stints (although DP's line was huge as usual). I think most of the folks that came weren't motorsport fans.

    Just a couple observations...

  6. pressdog // December 19, 2008 7:44 AM  

    At first I thought the post blaming the UAW was a spoof. I still can't decide if it is or not. Excepting the whole call to violence thing at the beginning, I agree with anonymous on that issue. We're sorry that Belle Isle is going away? Dude. Easily the worst race on the schedule. Videotape your local July 4 parade an then watch it in fast-forward mode. Same thing.

  7. mmack // December 19, 2008 7:56 AM  

    If there is a ray of hope in this black cloud, perhaps MIS could host a race again. Or if need be, a race at Road America could fill the gap. Both have no events scheduled on the Belle Isle weekend.

    I know, wishful thinking in this economy, but looking for a bright light in all this darkness is better than moping around in gloom and doom.

    If it makes us at this site feel any better, we are not alone, with Honda pulling out of F-1, Subaru and Suzuki pulling out of World Rallying, and Porsche and Audi pulling out of ALMS. Indy Car racing has pulled through tougher times (The Great Depression and the "Junk Formula" of the 1930s, Arab Oil Crisis 1 [1973] and 2 [1979], The CART\USAC wars [1979-82], Nigel Mansell's ego :^P and the CART\IRL split [1996-2008]) and we'll make it through again somehow. It stinks to lose a race, but I can think of three tracks off the top of my head (Gateway, Chicago Motor Speedway, and Michigan International Speedway) that I've been to that don't host open wheel races any more. Heck, Chicago Motor Speedway isn't even in business any more.

    The best thing we can do as fans is spend our money when we can to attend races, watch races, and support our sport.

    Hey, if times really get tough, some of you "youngsters" might get to hear the low rumble of the old Offy roaring around the tracks again! 4 cylinders with dual overhead cams and a turbo with fuel injection for 2011? Dude, that is so 1970's! ;^)

  8. frankie detroit // December 19, 2008 8:25 AM  

    what races could possibly be added in place of that? somebody mentioned Road America. would bringing back Nashville be a possibility? I don't know--just curious.

  9. VitorFan // December 19, 2008 11:22 AM  

    Yes, things are very bad in Detroit right now. I do agree with the fact that Belle Isle was more of an "event" for non-motorsport fans. I still think they should bring back MIS, which is an awesome track and makes for awesome racing. However, I don't see that happening as MIS doesn't doesn't get the fan turnout it needs to support that race.

  10. AZZO45 // December 19, 2008 1:16 PM  

    John in Speedway: We are ALL now just a bit more DUMB after reading your BEYOND STUPID assessment of the Big 3 & UAW labor.

    There are more NON UNION employees working at Chrysler, Ford & GM so your "UAW killed 'em" B.S. makes no sense right off the bat.

    Guess you also missed the FACTS that about 12-14 automotive suppliers being very close to bankruptcy. These suppliers make parts for ALL the companies assembling in NA & have almost no UAW labor... WTF is your excuse for their problems?

    I also missed the part when the evil UAW designed, engineered, & marketed the same cars/ trucks they also built. Was big news that most UAW members took pay cuts & other concessions in their last few contracts... guess you missed that too.

    Almost every business in NA is suffering setbacks, layoffs, etc... & they are NOT unionized. Obviously there are bigger problems than union labor.

  11. Skip-SC // December 20, 2008 12:35 PM  

    Call me crazy, but Tony George has a solution to this problem right in his own back yard. How about a weekend program with Moto GP and IRL both at IMS? IRL could run the road course, making it signifcantly different from the 500.

    Above and beyond that, the two diverse crowds would mean an almost certain windfall for the Speedway and the leagues.

    And, to be perfectly honest, what's good for the Speedway is good for the IRL.

    Admittedly, I have no idea how practical this idea is from a facility standpoint, but if it is do-able, it seems like a "lay down" to me.

  12. frankie moto // December 20, 2008 1:50 PM  

    I like SkipSC's idea with the Indy twisty and motocycles at or around the same time. more bang for your buck and all that.

  13. BP in Louisville // December 20, 2008 4:50 PM  

    I'd love to see the IRL drivers run the IMS road course and a double header with a 2-wheel series would be great! I think that TG wouldn't do it because he might feel that it would take away from the 500. I would love to see the IRL run the road course and just call it the USGP if F1 isn't coming back.

    Not to change the subject, but as for changing some tracks around.. who would rather see the IRL at Fuji or Suzuka rather than Twin Ring Motegi? The Fuji speedway Formula Nippon races are usually good. Don't think it would happen due to the Honda/Motegi deal but I'd rather see the IRL run on some f1 style road circuits rather than parades like Detroit. Thoughts?

  14. Too Much Racing // December 23, 2008 3:24 PM  

    BP's comment above about running more road tracks is right, and they should start with Road America. They could even do the road course at Motegi. Open wheel cars look great on big road courses.
    As long as they also bring back Michigan and any other decent oval, too. Motegi isn't a decent oval, IMO..

    But I completely disagree with running the IMS road course, partly because that course sucks in a big way and partly because MotoGP would never go for it.