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Counterpoint: Should Bernard listen to fans re: races?

by
Paul Dalbey & Steph Wallcraft
| Jul 13, 2011


In Counterpoint, Paul Dalbey and Steph Wallcraft of MoreFrontWing.com face off on topics related to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Neither reviews the other's argument until after the article is compiled for posting. It's up to you to decide who's made the better case!

This week: should Randy Bernard listen to existing INDYCAR fans when planning the season schedule?

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PAUL'S POINT:

Now that the 2011 IZOD Indycar Series has passed its midway point, we can begin to look to 2012 and speculate about next season’s race schedule. Frankly, guessing at schedules is one of my least favorite things to do because there are just way too many moving parts and important variables that are beyond INDYCAR’s control. As we saw last year when major schedule adjustments were necessary because of shifts in NASCAR’s 2011 schedule, trying to guess what might happen if one domino falls is a tangled web that requires way too many ifs for us to figure out.

What is important, though, is that the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule be a reflection of the types of races that the fans are most interested in seeing. While it is true that the IICS cannot simply show up and put on a race at any track the fans choose, it is important that fans feel every effort is exhausted to include their favorites. Whether that's Phoenix or Road America or Cleveland, fans need to know that the tracks they are clamoring for most are considered before others about which they are mostly apathetic.

There is probably no more divisive topic in open-wheel racing than the composition of the schedule with regard to ovals vs. road/street courses. Just thinking of the topic makes my head spin and makes the argument over spec cars vs. open competition seem like child’s play. There are still small but passionate factions of fans who believe the IICS should be either 100% ovals or 100% twisties. We’ve already been there, and those schedules didn’t work. The original IRL model didn’t work because fans still want to see open-wheel cars take on the great road and street circuits of North America. Likewise, the Champ Car model failed because oval racing is the backbone of racing in America and to wipe it from the slate is to turn your back on over 100 years of racing heritage. Knowledgeable fans of the Series understand that the schedule really needs to be a diverse mix of racing on both road/street circuits and ovals and that maintaining that diversity is the best way to stabilize the current fan base and gain new fans over the long run. Should the schedule get off-balance as it was through the early 2000s, fans will again quickly lose interest in open-wheel racing, and the fledgling momentum that INDYCAR is currently enjoying will disappear.

The majority of fans have said they want to see a well-balanced mix of events, and as much as possible, Bernard has delivered and INDYCAR has done a good job of maintaining that balance. Last year, fans said they wanted to move away from so many dangerous 1.5-mile speedways (and particularly those owned by ISC, at which INDYCAR was largely treated like the red-headed stepchild) and toward short ovals. In response, Bernard dropped ISC-owned 1.5-mile ovals at Chicago and Kansas and added 1-mile ovals at Milwaukee and New Hampshire. Fans have asked to have Michigan back on the schedule, and while Bernard has not been able to deliver Michigan quite yet, he gave the next best thing in its sister track in Fontana, California, which was announced last week as being part of the 2012 schedule.

Bernard needs to be very careful of seeing too many dollar signs from new events that don’t really have a significant appeal to the INDYCAR fan base. Rumors of a second race in Brazil, a race in China and/or Qatar, or even the newly rumored street race in Fort Lauderdale are unlikely to significantly move the needle in terms of American appeal. Furthermore, their priority over events such as the aforementioned Phoenix and Road America races could be seen by some fans as an isolating move and cause fans to fear a return to the closed-off days of the George administration. In an era where uniting the fan base under the banner of INDYCAR has to be at the forefront of every decision, fostering memories of the divisiveness of the George era is the last thing that’s needed!

Obviously, there is no way that Randy Bernard could ever be given a crystal clear indication of the fans’ desires because of the diverse cross-section that makes up the INDYCAR fan base. Most fans realize that and understand that not every decision made by Bernard is necessarily going to meet with their approval. However, as long as Bernard and INDYCAR continue to listen to the fans, hear their concerns, and make every effort to satisfy the general sentiment of the fan base, the fans will continue to reward the Series with their loyalty and their support.

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STEPH'S POINT:

The fallout from this weekend's race sealed it for me -- INDYCAR's current core fan base doesn't know what's good for the growth of this sport, and Randy Bernard needs to stop putting so much weight on their opinions when it comes to scheduling races.

Let's use two very recent examples to illustrate this point: Milwaukee and Toronto.

The current fan base kicked and screamed and cried that Milwaukee needs to be on the schedule. It's the only track in America with a history older than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's an oval -- a flat short oval at that -- and unique oval tracks are becoming harder to come by. Plus, we need to maintain that precious 50/50 ratio, right?

Well, race weekend came around, and guess what -- the race was entertaining (in spite of some faults), but the crowd was terrible, the corporate and sponsorship support wasn't enough, and the TV numbers only hit a 0.8 rating on ABC after being promoted during the Indy 500 broadcast three weeks before (compare that to a 1.4 for the St. Petersburg race, the season opener).

Now, let's look at Toronto. There was the usual amount of criticism going in, but there was even more coming out. A faction of the sport's most dedicated fans complained that there was too much contact, it wasn't real racing, this type of track doesn't belong on the schedule, et cetera.

But again, look at the numbers: the grandstands were packed, corporate and sponsor support increased substantially, and not only did Versus pull its second-highest rating yet for an INDYCAR race at a 0.5 (not blockbuster but definitely an improvement), but TSN (the Canadian sports network) received its highest rating for a Toronto race since 1997 and the best rating for an INDYCAR event ever with more than 1.2 million unique viewers tuning in at some point during the broadcast.

What can we conclude from this? The current fan base is a very vocal minority that either doesn't always put their money where their mouths are or isn't large enough to pay the bills. There's a group of us that likes to think of INDYCAR as being a little family-run operation that puts people first, but it can't be. It's a sport and a business, and it needs to attract attention and earn profits to stay alive.

Randy Bernard has a job to do. The Toronto race brought in sorely needed outside attention and dollars, and he needs to figure out how to continue to do that. It's been demonstrated that it won't happen by going to places like Milwaukee or Chicagoland or Homestead. It can happen by going to city streets to take the racing to the fans, or to the oval in Vegas to create a destination weekend for out-of-town visitors, or to Sonoma to give his corporate clients an ideal place to entertain their guests, or to Iowa where enthusiastic fans sell out the grandstands and the drivers put on a great show.

There are certain issues for which Bernard should definitely go to the fan base for input. When a near-unanimous opinion exists among current fans, Bernard can use those strong feelings to define what makes INDYCAR racing unique in the world of motorsport, and he can then tout those attributes when marketing to new eyes. The off-season controversy about the Lucky Dog rule is a perfect example: nearly all INDYCAR fans vehemently opposed it, so Bernard can use what he learned from that passionate response to market to NASCAR fans who are growing tired of that organization's gimmicks. But now, it's easy to see that these sorts of issues are as far as input from current fans should go, and decisions like scheduling that drastically affect the bottom line need to be made independently.

There were some people who were so upset about this weekend's race that they threatened to walk away if a similar event unfolds in the future. It would be interesting to see how many of those same people complained about the nearly pass-free event at Barber last year -- or this year's entertaining race at Barber, for that matter. For some people, a race that's not exactly what they want to see -- whether that's wheel-to-wheel spec racing at an oval, a race on a road course with constant passing but zero contact, or even just the Indianapolis 500 and nothing else can measure up -- will always draw blustering and ire. A diverse schedule that demands a wide range of talent from its drivers is demonstrably the most commercially viable form of open-wheel racing on this continent, but some people can't see that through being so mired in wanting to see what they like and nothing else.

It's time for Randy Bernard to put all of this behind him and move forward with the best interest of the sport in mind. The question that he needs to ask himself is this: if one impossible-to-please fan walks away for every three enthusiastic new ones who walk in, should INDYCAR really care?

*

Paul Dalbey (@Fieldof33) and Steph Wallcraft (@99forever) are co-editors of MoreFrontWing.com (@MoreFrontWing), your source online for blogs, photos, podcasts and more covering the IZOD IndyCar Series and beyond. Reach them both at feedback@morefrontwing.com.

52 Comments

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  4. 4 Dnald M. Gawron 21 Jul

    One would think with GM/ Chevrolet back on board with the series, GM would like to have a race in their own backyard, either with Michigan Speedway or with Belle Isle, though not all that popular. So let's get back here!

     

  5. 5 Phil A 20 Jul
    Why doesn't IndyCar go to Indianapolis twice, the second time using the road course originally built for Formula 1?  It just seems that the INDYCar series would try to utilize things they already have, such as the INDY Speedway and the road course.  Just a thought.
  6. 6 Bob K 19 Jul
      I'll say this right up front but listen to what else I have to say.  I'm not an oval fan.  I think stock cars belong on an oval and higher class open wheel cars belong on road courses.  With that said, I know there are plenty of fans who think the exact oposite.  So what we need is balance, with close to equal number of road/street courses to ovals.  I'm willing to support this series as long as the mix is fairly equal.  If we want a world class series, the drivers need to be able to compete in both types of venues which is what sets us apart from F1.  I would have loved to go to Milwaukee this year as it's here in my home state and it will be the last year for normally aspirated V8's.  However two things conspired against it.  One, at this time I'm the only gainfully employed member of our household and two, I had National Guard drill, which is sort of ironic since they sponsor one of Sam Schmidt,s cars.  So I'm really sad the way things turned out at Milwaukee this year as it is a track that has a storied history of open wheel racing.  See, I do somewhat like ovals.  But what I really miss is that on any given race day, there is hope for more than just two teams to do well.  I believe we need diversity in chassis and powerplants to do that and shake things up so I hope that with next years rules we start to see that.  But before that can happen, Indy Car needs a winning business model so the series can mature to that point.  So everybody, stop the wining about more ovals or more road courses.  We need both for the series to survive.  As fans we also need to stop bickering amongst ourselves and support the series we love.  If you are a road course fan and there is an oval race close to you, go see it to support the series,  If you are an oval fan and there is a road cours race close to you, do the same.  I know in these trying economic time it might be difficult, tell me about it.  But lets support our series and put our differences aside,  Take care everyone. 
  7. 7 cliffspc 19 Jul

    Road/street courses are my preference, but enjoy watching the ovals too.  The combination is what makes this league unique, and you HAVE to be with competition on either side. 

    I really miss the video streaming this year, as I do not get to see all of the races on cable.  That's my biggest beef in 2011.

    The second beef is the number of commercials during the broadcasts!  At one point in the last oval race, they were doing commercials every 3 or 4 laps!  The action always invariably happened during the breaks.  Give us the old 'split-screen' again!

     I enjoy the FIL races too, it is a good undercard event.  I just wish they would show all the FIL races on cable too, like they did for Toronto...

    Looking forward to the first year of the new chassis and engine battles! WOOT:)

  8. 8 FASTDAWG53 19 Jul
    I would love to see Cleveland back on the schedule next year. The Roar by the Shore was always a great race to watch in person or on tv.  My only concern is getting the so called leadership of Northeast Ohio to do their part.  The race has been gone too long.  Dump Mid-Ohio and bring that race to C-town!
  9. 9 Hunter 18 Jul

    A good business always listens to it's customers. Whether you are sitting in the stands or sitting at home, we should be giving IndyCar constant feedback so that the product meets the customer's needs. We are witnessing the re-emergence of IndyCar and I'm proud to be a part of it as a member of IndyCar Nation.

  10. 10 brent nowostawski 16 Jul
         well , i just re-read paul & steph's article and realized through all my babbling , i didnt address the issue at hand.    i'm definately not a politician , but there are very valid points on both sides. of course you have to listen to the fans , however , this isnt american idol where fans vote for the winner (or stick & ball where fans vote for all-stars in the middle of the season) this is INDY CAR...and this series is more than just one race a year. i think thats what really needs to be addressed next , since the rules will be diverse as far as competition goes. next year will be a big year. people need to see it. the majority of casual fans (i'm guessing) get versus , but the casual fan will not go searching for it , looking through 300 channels (and like some one else mentioned), when green flag times vary quite a bit. i dont think thats a huge problem , but , i count  8 different starting times in 17 races. now , on any given sunday , you  can easily catch nascar usually around 1 or 2 oclock on a major network or a major cable network. plus hours of covering qualy's and practice on speed channel. even the nationwide series gets a shitload of coverage. hopefully , now that versus is owned by NBC , that will help. i know a long contract was signed w/ versus , but i just dont have knowledge of that situation.      as far as toronto goes , if they just fixed  that one turn , that would be a great race. the turn is so damn tight and the inside wall comes out to a point .   i wondered how any two cars would  get through there.    thats what  i dont care for in road courses is when they have to slow down to almost nothing cuz of a turn that tight. i'm sure thats what alot of people live for and why they like road/street races.        i love texas , but drawing for positions ????   at first , i was open-minded about it.  after i saw it.....no , no , no!   im  not a ganassi fan at all , but that whole idea is just not right. full field invert ?  fine.        lets not forget , we're trying to dig out of a recession here , so that has alot to do with most everything also.  milwaukee was a big disappointment that i can't explain.  i was excited to see it back.  i'm still not used to it not being the week after INDY.  it seems it was like that forever.   my last opinion (which i realize is a whole other issue)    i'm getting tired of having to defend danica.   i was listening to kyle petty , while watching nationwide practice.  he didnt understand why she is so popular , but nobody ever talks about jennifer jo cobb. he said jennifer jo came up the ranks , and is finally getting a chance in nationwide. he also mentioned one of derrick cope's nieces (angela i think , or ashley) is going to attempt to qualify........really ????        its sad to me but , the media rarely talks about anybody out of the top ten positions in the race or in points.   ANYBODY , that can qualify and run in IRL . indy lights , any division of nascar or arca  or usac midgets or world of outlaw....these people have big talent. some get breaks and some dont.  people act like danica came to INDY CAR with modeling pictures and big time sponsor money.   thats the perception some fans have and they hate and ridicule her.    obviously , k petty and many others have no idea this girl brings a pretty big portfolio with her and has come up the ranks and was successful.......THEN , her marketing exploded.....if she was to win INDY , just think of the tv ratings...and she is as capable as anybody to do just that. she came through the ranks and is successful because she is a  racer...period !        i personally dont like her running nationwide races in between her IRL schedule. i believe it takes too much energy and consentration away from her IRL schedule.....i hope like hell she stays w/IRL.    but , whatever she decides , my opinion is she needs to stay 100% .  it was a good idea to try it out the way she has , but this should be a decision year for her. i look foward to the day she wins INDY.  thats my personal , selfish opinion.  IRL is going to explode and i think she would be sorely missed. well , steph and paul.....i think i wrote more than you guys did !    i AM done for today , those are my opinions , from some one who thinks IRL is the #1 sport in the world.
  11. 11 Joe B 16 Jul

    I guess I qualify as on of those "small but passiionate factions" who believe that Tony George's promise to make a truly American Oval open wheel sport needs to be upheld.  I almost completely agree with Cliffy500's comment yesterday.  Get MORE ovals, get RID of the boring street courses, and stop listening to the exploited number being given by the promoters at the various venues.  We all know they have a vested interest in making "their" event look like the best, but just look at the stands on most weekends.  Even Indy this year has open areas.  And that breaks my heart to admit.

    What we really need to get this racing series back to the full potential that it once had is LESS rules, more INOVATION, and more pure racing.  Who in the world, except maybe a less than stellar driver, every complained about 'blocking"?  In a racing event, shouldn't the goal to get to the finish line FIRST.  If that means because you're a better driver and can put your car in places the other guy can't, so be it.  And when did we get "lanes" in racing?  And why do we have to have one chassis rule, one restrictive engine rule or a stuipid red/black tire rule?  We all know the hayday of Indy car was when rear-engines, turbines, and groundeffects all came on the scene.  Why?  Because it drew interest from the casual fan.  We need that back!

  12. 12 Intrepid 16 Jul

    Lot's of interesting opinions expressed. Like Ricky Nelson sings...'you can't please everyone...' I watch pretty much all racing but Indy Racing is by far my favorite, and have attended a few when possible as well. I confess I strongly prefer ovals, but a few other venues are enjoyable, Long Beach one of the better. Michigan? Absolutely bring it back. Pocono probably would need repaving but it would serve fans in the populated Northeast TriState area. Some of the newer tracks are so over-engineered that nothing happens on the track. Have you noticed? 

    In conclusion: Don't over do streets and road courses, and for heaven sakes, no racing overseas. They have F1 (boring) and simply will never take to the Indy cars.

    By the way, I think the two abreast restarts are the best addition in a long time. Keep it.

     

  13. 13 brent nowostawski 16 Jul

    i personally love the ovals , but with the cast of world wide drivers that we have , i think 50/50 is good. i feel safe to say , not very many people would like an oval champ , a road course champ , and a series champ (at least i hope this is true). that would be ludicrist !  this is the only major series (as far as i know)  that has long ovals , short ovals , street courses , and road coarses. in my opinion , F1 is the top series in the world , then IRL....then nascar.  F1 has no ovals and nascar has 2 road courses.   ONLY IRL drivers have to master EVERY type of race course.   IRL series champ has got to be considered THE best race car driver/team in the world.   i've been to almost every INDY 500 since the 70's....i dont think anyone can argue against the "500" is the biggest race in the world ever  , period. always will be.  so if nascar can be successful coming to INDY (and i have never attended a nascar race @INDY , still not crazy about the idea) does everyone think IRL can not pull it off in nascar country ?    would daytona or talledega be too much of a succes risk ?  good god , the speeds !!   in a perfect world , i would LOVE to see that happen AND be a succes.     maybe in the future ??                     as for now , i want michigan back and i think there are too many gaps in the schedule.....this year theres 17 races that cover 8 months !!  obviously a 20 race schedule would help that.  my opinion ?  start the last 2 weeks in april , and have the championship final race on labor day week-end. that would give 2 open week-ends. INDY would take up one of those week-ends for qualifying , so that would be  a grueling schedule.....maybe start the first of april.   i'm sure that would be impossible now , but maybe a  5 year goal ?   well , those are my opinions looking through my rose-colored glasses haha !    these last 10-15 years have been hell , but INDY CAR will always be #1 with me. and i drove a late-model sportsman (1/4 mile asphalt oval) for 10 years   (1980-90).   the drivers and teams of IRL are the ones i admire most by far .   i am very excited about the chevrolet program and next year ! and as much as i pull for andretti autosport (and still will)  i'm tired of ganassi #1  penske #2   andretti #3 , everyone else #4.  it will still be like that somewhat , but hopefully not as dominent.   one more thing before i'm done....i was so impressed with the comments on this article  and that is why i commented myself.  i'm a 52 year old , divorced , male , currently unemployed.  i look at comments on nascar sites and football sites. most of the comments are hateful , rude and just plain stupid.   it amazes me that there are so many (so-called) adults out there , that are so ignorant (and just dont get it) , and they continue to flaunt it to the whole world !!  i read 36 comments here and not one was ignorant or stupid. just all kinds of different opinions about the sport and "racing families" that we are passionate about.  i myself probably made the dumbest comments , hahaha..........O.K. , i'm done !....................for now.........

                                                                                                                         

  14. 14 Fast Freddy 16 Jul
    I think the current mix is way to many road courses. They only need to run where there can be lots of passing, overwise you end up with a wreck fest like last week.It looked to me like that corner was to narrow or sharp or both. If we have to have these twisties at least design the courses where a faster car and driver has more than one place on the course at a legitimate pass. Now that would be exciting. The way it is now sucks. Definately more ovals. It is slowly going back to the old CART formula of almost all road courses. It may be alot of fun to be there in person, but it is almost unbearable to watch on TV.
  15. 15 Scott L. 16 Jul

    I've been an Champ Car fan since the 60's and attended a lot of races (Indy, Milwaukee, Cleveland, MIS, Road America, Mid-Ohio) in the 70s and early 80s when there were many different kinds of cars.  What kept me coming was the strong personalities of the drivers.  I don't have anyone to root for any more.  Bland people with corporate personalities behind the wheels of the leading cars and buy-a-ride drivers in the back.  Sometimes I think they are all robots (maybe other than TK).

    The best racing to be had during the 70s and 80s was Milwaukee, but it really needs to be repaved to get the two and a half grooves back.  Even with limiters, it would be great.

  16. 16 Scott L. 16 Jul

    I've been an Champ Car fan since the 60's and attended a lot of races (Indy, Milwaukee, Cleveland, MIS, Road America, Mid-Ohio) in the 70s and early 80s when there were many different kinds of cars.  What kept me coming was the strong personalities of the drivers.  I don't have anyone to root for any more.  Bland people with corporate personalities behind the wheels of the leading cars and buy-a-ride drivers in the back.  Sometimes I think they are all robots (maybe other than TK).

    The best racing to be had during the 70s and 80s was Milwaukee, but it really needs to be repaved to get the two and a half grooves back.  Even with limiters, it would be great.

  17. 17 Bonnie Andrews 16 Jul
    Yes, he needs to listen so does Indycar Nation staff, he thinks he knows things but not true story. Membership marketing is different from other marketing and you can not sell things without giving back in return.
  18. 18 Gallagher 15 Jul
    I like road courses such as the famous Long Beach and St.Petersburg, but Indycar does need more ovals. There have always been more ovals than street courses and it should continue that way. Ovals will bring more fans and I personally believe it is more exciting. We definitely need Michigan back as well as Chicago. Pocono, Pikes Peak, Kansas, Phoenix, Atlanta, Homestead, and Nashville are some others that Indycar needs to get back. Like I stated before, I like Road and Street Courses but the ovals are more exciting and make for a great finish and close racing.
  19. 19 Gallagher 15 Jul
    I like road courses such as the famous Long Beach and St.Petersburg, but Indycar does need more ovals. There have always been more ovals than street courses and it should continue that way. Ovals will bring more fans and I personally believe it is more exciting. We definitely need Michigan back as well as Chicago. Pocono, Pikes Peak, Kansas, Phoenix, Atlanta, Homestead, and Nashville are some others that Indycar needs to get back. Like I stated before, I like Road and Street Courses but the ovals are more exciting and make for a great finish and close racing.
  20. 20 Steph 15 Jul

    It's a thing of beauty to see the number of comments here that perfectly demonstrate my point. One person believes that a 20-race schedule should be 75% ovals. I certainly don't. Someone else thinks the only two street races should be Long Beach and St. Petersburg (?!). I disagree completely.

    Can we all just accept that we all have very different opinions and trust Randy Bernard to crunch the numbers to figure out what the <em>majority</em> of current and future fans want so that he can help this sport grow?

  21. 21 paul miller 15 Jul
    The road street courses are what is killing the sport we need more ovals and not just double races at certain tracks let randy do his job listen to the fans and fix the problem
  22. 22 Steve P 15 Jul
      I think that the street racing is just fine would like to see them at ROAD AMERICA because the fans turn out to see the GREAT RACING that went on at the track. stay with the 20 race  schedule but PLEASE!!!!!!!! put ROAD AMERICA back on
  23. 23 Chuck A. 15 Jul
    Michigan is a must!! Some of the best and fastest racing took place on that track!!
  24. 24 Tom Lund 15 Jul

    I think, personally, the current mix is fine and a 20 race schedule also works.  The rub for me, and it's my only rub, as a fan of Indy Car racing since I saw my first Indy 500 in 1961 and some 30+ races since (I live in Fishers, a suburb of Indianapolis), is the current broadcasting set-up.  I agree with Daniel, whose comments are somewhere above mine, that it is abyssmal. My cable carrier doesn't carry Versus so I get to watch maybe 4 races other than the Indy 500 and with the streaming video that was previously available on the IndyCar Nation website turned off, it is really disappointing and frustrating.

    Having the races on ESPN or ABC would give you a much bigger audience and allow those of us who are diehard fans that have no current way to subscribe  to Versus, to actually see Toronto, for example.  I was able to read about it but that's about it.   At least Speed and FOX broadcast F1 so I get to see some open wheel action but to have a Sunday when I can access both F1 and IndyCar again would be fantastic and is sorely missed. 

    Randy, please find some way to fix this for the many fans that have been essentially cut-out of the viewing picture, so to speak, when the previous IMS/Indy Car brass decided on Versus.  Bring IndyCar back so those of us that love it can actually see it!

    Thanks 

     

  25. 25 mtl 15 Jul

    Supposing I start my comment with.."I've been going to every Indy 500 since 1978 and relish memories of those great races at THE MILE since the 60s blah blah blah..." Would that make me more of an expert regarding the racing circuit/scheduling for the IICS?  NO.

    I will comment that I remember my small southern Indiana home town having a banner that stretched across the two lanes of the -only-  state highway in town.  The Banner read...INDIANAPOLIS 500 MILE RACE,  May ----**.  Considering my town was 80+ miles away from Indianapolis it always gave me a since of awe, and enjoyed seeing that banner displayed for that month every year.   The business's in this town including my Dad's own grocery store would display checkered flags and other 500 paraphnelia during the month. 

    I only bring this up because, I am somewhat a casual fan of Indy car racing, But a huge fan of the the IMS and THE 500; so much so that, as I write this,  I'm forced to push my heart out of my throat and back into my chest where it belongs.

    To hint advice to Randy Bernard on how to turn me, a casual fan, into a hard core IICS fan would exaggerate my expertise.  Does it start with the Drivers? Is it the race courses? Is it the equipment? Or lack of diversity in the equipment? I would say for Americans, it is the Drivers; not to sound to nationalistic but do we identify with South American drivers? unless of course your TK.  Ireland? NZ?.  and Canadians..pffft? ...just kidding. Secondly I would think that Spec Racing does not turn on the gear head types, So diversity with that could improve the fan base. As far as the tracks; frankly, I enjoy watching the twisties. Partly because I have raced (not competitively) go carts and appreciate the talent it requires to run those courses. 

    I do listen and most often watch the Izod races; I know I can do my part in promoting the series, to turn it on to other I come in contact; and not just hate on, NAS, oops.. nascar. I want to support IZOD Series and see it grow, grow, grow. Then maybe sometime soon, my ole town will once again stretch that banner across the street and all the business will dress their store fronts with 500 and INDY CAR stuff; and maybe that same fanfare will spread to other towns that surround their race, be it an oval, street or road.

    You know what we want RB wish you good luck. Now, go do it; 

  26. 26 Donald Routier 15 Jul

    I do believe there needs to be a nice mix of oval and road BUT I personally would love to see the revival of the Triple Crown with three five hundred mile races at Indianapolis,Pocono and one on the west coast. The mile and a half ovals are a nice size but I'd increase the race length to 400 miles as opposed to 300 miles just to account for the cars being faster and the lap times being so very fast. Some road courses,specifically Mid Ohio and Watkins Glen are essential along with two street courses,Long Beach and St. Petersburg. Total this out to about twenty races with the new car and you should have an entertaining schedule. I believe the biggest problem with the current car and possibly the next car is the turning radius of the cars. The turning radius is way too long so there's no ability to attack the turns with more than one effective racing line. As far as blocking,get over it. It's part of racing and I'd let the drivers have at it and settle it on the track. If you're faster than me then go around me. Push to pass could easily enter into it with the faster qualifiers getting more than the backmarkers or vice versa but the amount of additional boost needs to be significant like a fifteen percent boost in horsepower not a couple of percent. And take off the rev limiters please. If I want to wind it out and risk a blown engine to get to the front so be it. If I don't want to risk and settle for a top five finish then fine...  but let's open this thing up and get as far from a spec series as possible....

     

     

  27. 27 Hillary A 15 Jul

    I have been going to the Toronto race since 1998 and was at last weekend's race, so I have a few points to throw around. Why the high numbers on TSN?

    1. Paul Tracy. The man is a racing god in Canada and any race he runs on Canadian soil will make people watch. Now that he races part time he's our underdog and we'll watch to see how he does. Expect decent ratings for Edmonton as well. 

    2. The race is well promoted, not just on tv but in general. Drivers make promo appearances in Toronto a few months before the race (mainly the Canadian drivers). There are support events in downtown Toronto during the week leading up to the race. The race receives good press in the papers in the days leading up to race weekend. Friday is free admission (with the option of a donation to Make A Wish Foundation) is also well advertised. If people know the race exists they're more likely to watch it.

    3. Yes, the crowds aren't as big as they were in the 1990's, but the attendance was higher than it's been in the past couple years. The crowds were really small a few years ago- the combination of the race losing it's title sponsor and having the race cancelled in 2008 really hurt the event. It's still on it's way back, but every year since the merger there's more and more people there on race day.

    One of the strengths of IndyCar is that the drivers need to be well-rounded and able to drive on a number of types of courses. The Indy/Cart split showed that being oval heavy does not make a great series. Diversity helps makes IndyCar different than Nascar, which is great thing in my book. There was some great passing in Toronto's race, unfortunately the drivers who decided to knock their competition out of the way overshadowed that. Street racing has a place in IndyCar's future.

  28. 28 Curt Christensen 15 Jul
    If I had my choice of races in Wisconsin, it would definitely be Road America. Back in the middle '90's the place was packed and the drivers loved to race there. "Road Racing at it's Best". Why doesn't anyone talk about a return to Pocano? That track was made for Indy Cars! The three corners are replicas of other tracks (Milwaukee Mile, Indianapolis, can't recall the 3rd) frequented by open wheel cars.
  29. 29 Paul B. 15 Jul

    Just wanted to add that I disagree with Mike B (who wants: 20 race schedule - 15 ovals.  With at least 5 being 400+ miles.  None being fewer than 300 miles). I think that many ovals and long races would make IndyCar boring just like nascar. The vast majority of IndyCar races should be about 200 miles (a little longer than F1 but way shorter than nascar.

    My suggestion:

    -approx 6 street courses

    -approx 6 road courses (preferably Road America, Mid-Ohio, Sonoma,Watkins Glen,Portland, Alabama)(in my dreams add Spa and Laguna Seca)

    approx 6 ovals (three at the most 500 milers but one would be just fine)

     

     

  30. 30 Paul B 15 Jul

    Firstly yes Randy Bernard needs to listen to the fans. But he has to balance the fans needs/wishes with those of the other stake holders (in no particular order tracks/promoters/sponsors/teams/television). Not an easy task but he has to find compromises that will keep all of the stake holders relatively happy and the series helathy.

    Secondly as far as sejarzo's July 13 question: To what do most folks in Canada attribute the large bump in TV viewership, I wonder?

    I suspect that the Toronto Indy was heavily promoted in Southern Ontario (Canada's most heavily populated region) as in the past. This combined with the slow but positive upswing trend in the series of more recent times contributed to the good Canadian TV ratings. Further I suspect that the ratings increase on the west coast of Canada was more modest as inetrest here really tanked during the split and when we lost the Molson Indy Vancouver to Edmonton in 2005.

  31. 31 John H 15 Jul
    I loved PIR in AZ bring ot back if you can! They repaved it and made the dog leg more agresive. It should make for a very very awsome race. It is a oval with lots to work for the driver and the set up with 2 very dif turns and a fast dog leg.Iowa fast but just round I like though I think PIR has a bad attitude with character a very big challenge for all and a fun race for all.
  32. 32 Doug D. 15 Jul

    First off let me say that I have attended every Indy 500 Race since 1981 & all Indy Car events at Dover DE.!  Now wether I am considered an 'Avid' Indy fan or not I can't say. I have also tried to get Hotel arrangements for the Indy Baltimore Race on the Day it was announced only to be told that every Hotel for a 10 Mile Radius around the track were completely sold out. So apparently someone knew before hand about the Date!! This was not to Fan Friendly to me! 

    My suggestion on creating a larger fan base would be to correct ESPN's failure to input Indy Car in their Scoreguide listings as they display 'Nascar'. This would insure many potential Indy Fans would indeed know when a Race is held & at what time along with race results as are displayed for 'Nascar'.

    I am not sure if this has been thought off but seeing that ESPN is a Sister Station of ABC it should almost be a 'NO BRAINER'.

    I just cannot stand to see all the ESPN 'Nascar' Hype & nearly none for Indy Car. 

    I am also interested in seeing a mixture of Oval & Street Course Racing.

  33. 33 Cliffy500 15 Jul

    Some observations regarding the IndyCar schedule!

    1. DUMP the idiotic street races!

    2. I beg to disagree about the attendance at Toronto! It was DISMAL. I watched from the best vantage point, in front of my TV in Michigan, the stands were AT BEST, 50%-65% filled!

    3. DUMP Mid-Ohio! (or at least get them to reconfigure it so it allows passing)

    4. And the SINGLE BIGGEST item for IndyCar to address is OFFICIATING! It's time for Barnhardt to go! I don't care what track, what venue your racing on, but if you can't play by, and enforce the rules, then you will be KILLING any chance that IndyCar has of surviving, except in the smallest of markets!

    The IndyCar series seems to take one step forward, two steps backwards! A step forward is the fact several cars/teams are actually competitive, the two steps backwards, is the DRAWING for a starting position in a points race!

    Next we can expect the elephants to show up at this circus!

     

     

     

     

     

  34. 34 John H 15 Jul
    I loved PIR in AZ bring ot back if you can! They repaved it and made the dog leg more agresive. It should make for a very very awsome race. It is a oval with lots to work for the driver and the set up with 2 very dif turns and a fast dog leg.Iowa fast but just round I like though I think PIR has a bad attitude with character a very big challenge for all and a fun race for all.
  35. 35 Daniel 15 Jul

    Well, I have been a long time CART fan and I like the current mix. But to answer to the question about Canadians and large TV viewership are 2 things:

    1. TV promotion, TSN did a really good job in promoting it. So people knew. every other race it seems flying under the radar. Indy NEEDS a better TV deal. WTH is Versus? Really? Who gets it? and that leads me to the next point:

    2. Stop confusing us with the times and dates races start! Look at the schedule! 8pm Saturday night race? One weekend 3.30pm start, another one at 11am. Really??? I know that I tend to miss most of the races as I usually dont know when they take place and without any TV promos, they tend to fly under the radar. And I'm a fan! Now you will say, why dont you check the schedule, but come on, the key here is to attract and retain the casual fan like me. Not the fanatic, Indybreathing person, but someone like me who will read occassionaly the website, has attended races, enjoy watching them and supports the brand. I truly believe that if the start of a race is kept at a traditional time, qualifying at a standard time AND the promotion gets much better, there will be an uptake in viewership and support numbers just like in Toronto.

  36. 36 openwheelfan62 15 Jul

    I have been to probably 20 or more Indy Car races over the years ... IMS, MIS, Mid Ohio and Detroit, and have watched hundreds more on TV.  I want to see a mix of big ovals, short ovals, pure road courses with just two or three street courses a year.  I would put a premium on racing at Road America and Walkins Glen over any street course or even Mid Ohio or Barber where the circuits are just too tight.  When the best racing of the weekend is qualifying (i.e. St Pete or Mid Ohio) the track is too tight.

    Too others who think NASCAR with 90+% Oval and less than 10% road courses has about the right mix ... there are only two NASCAR races that are must watch TV for me: Sonoma and Walkins Glen.

  37. 37 Mike B 15 Jul

    20 race schedule

    - 15 ovals.  With at least 5 being 400+ miles.  None being fewer than 300 miles.

    - 3 permanent road courses (must have Elkhart Lake, and Indy road course).

    - 2 street courses (St. Pete & Long Beach).

  38. 38 Mike B 15 Jul

    20 race schedule

    - 15 ovals.  With at least 5 being 400+ miles.  None being fewer than 300 miles.

    - 3 permanent road courses (must have Elkhart Lake, and Indy road course).

    - 2 street courses (St. Pete & Long Beach).

  39. 39 Tom 15 Jul

    Yes, he should listen to the fans.  The fans are the sport.  It is the fan who buys the ticket, who turns on the TV to the station with the race, who buys the products that on listed on the cars, that advertise on TV, and buy the products in those souvenier trailors.  Empty seats or filled seats?  Is that really a question?  If it is being asked then we have a bigger problem.  If they don't want filled seats, then look for another job. 

    More ovals less road races.

  40. 40 John Bear 15 Jul

    First let me say, I enjoy open wheel ovals much more than the road courses.   That said, there are some great road courses for the driver's and the fans.    One that has not been mention in several years is Cleveland.   This had great wide turns, the races where always sold out.   The drivers loved it, the fans loved it.   The city of Cleveland loved it and always rolled out the red carpet it is one that should be considered first on the schedule.

    Michigan is a must.   Some very exciting racing there over the years and it is very fast too, something to consider with the new cars and engines coming up.

    I love seeing Fontana on the schedule but the times I have gone, I am one of the few diehards in the stands.   Unless some magic of promotions happens I fear it will not be supported.

     

  41. 41 Dean L 15 Jul

    First I would like to say that I am not a NASCAR fan at all, but I think they have the right format figured out. There should only be 2 or 3 road courses on the schedule for the season. These races are boring and there is just too much contact with no passing. The only decent road course race I have seen in the last 30 years was at the Cleveland airport. Plenty of room to pass on that track. I have been an Indy Car fan for my whole life and have not missed an Indy 500 in 32 years. This 50/50 schedule does not work. 80/20 Oval/Road Corse should be the new model. Getting the Michigan race back would be a big boost too. That is a race we would go to every year. I do travel to some of the other oval races but would not waste my time even watching Indy Car road course race on TV.

    The other thing that really makes me wonder what Bernard is thinking is having a road course champ, an oval champ and a series champ. What is this PEEWEE baseball. Why don't we give everybody a trophy for showing up. The best thing that they can do is to put on a great show every race, but with the current format that just won't happen.

    While I am on my pedestal, just want to say what a travesty it is not having my man Dan Weldon as a full time driver in the series. He is one of the top 5 drivers in Indy Car and can't even get a decent ride. What a shame. He is doing an excellent job in the broad cast booth, but I can only shake my head and wonder why he is not out there. Makes no sense to me.
     

  42. 42 Steve P 15 Jul
    If fans have any memory at all think back to 1995. Indy & Napcar were equal in fans,sponsers, and tv veiwers. This series is much much better then the competition. We need to race all the tracks. Why race Sonoma when Laguna Seca  surpasses it. I attended the first CART town meeting in Columbus Ohio back in 02 and many people had intellegent ideas. Maybe Randy should bring those back and listen to the fans. I have observed races at Texas Motor Speedway, Michigan International, Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, Kentucky Speedway, and yes even the father of all oval racing The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and know American open wheel racing can improve. I truly hate spec racing. Having a variety of engine & chassis designs will help right the ship Tony George ran into the reefs of our adversary. I have an idea how the series can attract new fans and maybe even take some from the opposition.  I have seen this series at its highest and  its lowest. Think outside the box. This form of racing is twice as old as our rivals yes rivals. If you don't admit that there is contention then this series won't last another hundred years.
  43. 43 Nick Vento 15 Jul
    Milwaukee was pooly, very poorly, promoted.  I live in an area served by Green Bay television, never saw an ad.  Past ticket holders were not given any priority on seating, or even notified by the new promoter about the race back in 2010.  The lost year really hurt.  Loosing the date, first race after Indy also hurt.  The fan area was a sparce collection of sponsor trailers and other vendors.  You had to pay admitnace just to walk around, first time ever in Milwaukee for NASCAR or Indy Car, CART, IRL or whatever you want to call it.  I've been attending racing at the Mile since the 50's, open wheel always drew well, always.  Give it a chance and promote. 
  44. 44 Bill 15 Jul

    Cleveland does need to be back on the schedule.  The fan base was huge in Cleveland and most of the people that attended the race were new to open wheel.  These same fans in Cleveland are not the same fans that venture down to Mid-Ohio for that race.  That's why when both facilities had races in the 80's, both facilities had packed houses.  There is no track on the Indycar circuit that allows for the wide open race surface that Cleveland provided to the FANS.  Pit access was easy and FANS could see the entire tracks action from any seat in the grandstands. 

  45. 45 open wheeler 15 Jul
    One disgruntled fan out the door and three in? Where I see us headed is disgruntled fans out the door and no one in. And, it is a tough conondrum. Support lousy races with great crowds or great races with lousy crowds? How do you fix both? I think every race has to be analyzed individually. In others words a one size fits will NOT work.
  46. 46 racingAsh 14 Jul

    Steph, you are becoming one my favorite IndyCar writers because your opinions are fresh.   I was just thinking about this today!  What do IndyCar fans want?  The Honda Indy Toronto turned out to be a great event in terms of numbers.  Yet, so many people complained.  Personally, I thought Milwaukee had to be on the IndyCar calendar.  The Milwaukee Mile speaks for itself.  The history is amazing.  I get goose bumps every time I see an IndyCar field go into turn one. Wow, it is a great oval!  Without a NASCAR race (at the track) and a one year absence of racing, I thought the race would be a glowing success.  Talk about surprised!  I still do not know what happened.  I was part of the huge chorus of people excited to see Milwaukee return.  Unfortunately, when I got to the track, not many others showed up.  Actually, I don’t think any of the bloggers I follow went to Milwaukee.  IndyCar fans do realize how special that track is?  Don’t they?  We have had decades and decades of residual marketing to draw upon and generations of fans have attended that race.  They knew the date and the time.  If they did not know, they are not following IndyCar.

    In racing, you either make money through the front door (the fans) or you pay for the event through the back door (the teams participating).  To the average fan, this is a great way to see lots of racing.  The reality is when a promoter has lots of classes of racing, they are trying to recoup their money through the participating teams (ie: pit passes for the teams, family members and sponsors…).  I say this because it was the first thing my step-father said to me when he looked at the schedule for Milwaukee.  It turned out to be an ominous prediction.

    I thought Toronto was an eye opener in 2009.  Outside of Indianapolis, it was the first time I ever attended an IndyCar race, where everyone asked me if I was in town for the race.  This wasn’t grass roots America and yet the people of Toronto had a passion for IndyCar racing that I hadn’t seen in any of the other races that I had attended in the United States.  It seemed like everyone was talking about the race (and interest had supposedly dwindled).  Since that time, we have started to attend races in Long Beach.  People that feel these street races are wine and cheese affairs have never been to a street race.  Sure wine and cheese are consumed by people, but the wealthy get out of town.   In any case, these are everyday people, enjoying a race weekend, in there home town. 

    I still love my oval racing, but I have learned there is a lot of value in these street races. Personally, I love the current mixture of ovals, road and street course.

  47. 47 Lee Robison 13 Jul
    Randy needs to listen to the fans but he doesn't have to follow what we say.  Randy look at all the angles and make your judgement accordingly.
  48. 48 Will Mazeo 13 Jul

    Man... "STEPH'S POINT" was totally based on a minority of fans that don't even deserve to be mentioned. What makes everyone see that Randy B still hast to listen the fans. He knows the fans that really support the series I guess.

  49. 49 sejarzo 13 Jul

    The Des Moines metro area has a total population of about 650,000. There are very few hotel rooms near the track, none of them particularly nice, and even relatively fewer fine dining options that would begin to attract "the corporate crowd." For the most part, hotels, dining, and other evening entertainment are at least 35 miles away. There were over 35,000 people in attendance this year, even though there was no "hoity-toity hoopla" surrounding the race...in a state where the entire population is a bit over 3 million, or only slightly more than that within the Chicago city limits.
    Certainly there were folks in attendance who drove quite a distance to the race, but I think it's valid to look at the ratio between local population and attendance, and that shows attendance equaled 5.4% of the residents of the MSA.

    The Chicago MSA has 9.5 million total residents. The consensus was that only about 15,000 fans showed up for the 2010 race, so attendance was only 0.16% of the local population. In other words, if the ratio of local to non-local attendees was the same for both tracks, the 2011 race in Iowa was roughly 35 times as popular a draw with the local population as was the 2010 race at Chicagoland.

    Why? There's obviously far more competition for the disposable entertainment dollar in Chicago, but promotion has been essentially non-existent in recent years versus the prime attendance years from 2001-2004. Both Chicagoland and Iowa Speedways have put on great oval shows (and I dare say that the quality of the show increased at Chicago at the same time attendance dropped.)

    There is simply no way that racing of equal quality in Iowa would logically merit 35 times the local interest as the events at Chicagoland. In other words, it's not that the ovals are inherently bad for the series and people are not interested in attending, it's that they have not been promoted properly in the local market.

    Anyone who believes a street race in downtown Chicago is a viable event that would reinvigorate local interest needs to take a look at the entire picture. The only reasonable location, should accessible public transit be a vital consideration, is the Grant Park/Museum Campus area and possibly southward toward McCormick Place. Streets through Grant Park are already shut down for weeks during Taste of Chicago (which isn't going to disappear) plus shorter periods throughout all the potential race months for the Marathon, Lollapalooza, and other well-entrenched events. There's no way that the city would tolerate, much less actively support, another such event, especially when it's been losing population to the suburbs for decades, and the city residents are seeing an increased tax burden. For the bulk of the metro population here, it's as much or more of a hassle to go downtown than it is drive from suburban areas out to Chicagoland Speedway. So in the third largest metro area in the US, a street race is just not going to happen.

    Even more importantly, The Milwaukee Mile is not out in the boondocks, it's just two miles away from Miller Field where the Packers certainly have no attendance issues. It's smack dab in the middle of the city, and the quality of the racing has always been great. RB admitted himself that the promoter was the problem this year.

    Promotion, promotion, promotion is the key, regardless of the venue. Adding street races in US metros is clearly not a one-size-fits-all solution.
     

     

  50. 50 sejarzo 13 Jul
    To what do most folks in Canada attribute the large bump in TV viewership, I wonder? What was done before the race started to encourage that? I think that's as valid a question as any for RB to consider, because without first increasing TV viewership, it's not likely that actual attendance is going to see a strong increase. There will be good races and bad races at street, road, or oval tracks, and no one can really predict the quality of the racing beforehand to make a decision on whether or not to attend.
  51. 51 Brad C. 13 Jul
    These are certainly some of the most difficult questions being address by the IndyCar leadership.  I see merit in both views (nice job Paul and Steph).  However, there is any old saying that says "when you are walking on eggs, don't hop!"  IndyCar is walking on eggs so it will be very important for Randy and the team to have a balanced approach to growth and track selection.  The wishes of the hardcore fans, that have carried the sport through the darkest of times, must be considered.  But, not at the expense of overall commercial viability.  There is room for BOTH approaches, especially if the target is a 20 race schedule.  There should be room for old favorites and profitable events.  Like many, I'll be very curious to see how this shakes out... 
  52. 52 dave g 13 Jul
    I agree with both points,i am from michigan,and would love to have the super speedway back,the speeds are incredible,but our last race because of weather in 2007,we had about 58,000 people there,but we have raced since the 60,s there,the stands were full in the 70,s 80,s and 90,s,but we lost the lack of coporate sponsorship if we could get that back,we could fill the stands again.Get someone or the new indy to really back this race,We have die hard fans in michigan and the surrounding areas of the irish hills.But the question,Yes listen to the fans,we spend the money and we do follow the sport very closely.And i personally am a indy car junkie since i was a child,love the sport.

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