IndyCar and SMI “dis” the Indianapolis 500

Many IndyCar fans and even long-time journalists are applauding the recent announcement by IndyCar and Las Vegas Motor Speedway (SMI) of a 5 million dollar bonus to any non IndyCar regular that would win the season-ending race at that track.  I say it’s a smear against the Indianapolis 500.

If the Indianapolis 500 is your marquis event of the season, why then does a piddly season ending race pay almost twice as much to win as does the Indianapolis 500? (Dario Franchitti took home 2.75 million this past May for winning “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”)

The reason is simple.  Bruton Smith, the man behind SMI and LVMS along with IndyCar want to try and bring interest to a race that won’t come close to selling out without something big. (Don’t look for a sellout even with this.)

If there is to be a bonus for a non-regular, why not Indianapolis?  Maybe they could get some of the great names of racing who at one time made it to Indianapolis to race once a year return? And is a bonus for an outsider really fair to those that work hard every week?

I know it’s a very long shot for a non-regular to win at LVMS but to me it makes no sense to pay someone more for winning that race than the Indianapolis 500.  Oh and throw this in.  The season champion that runs all of the IndyCar events only gets a 1 million dollar paycheck.

IndyCar has gotten so desperate to survive with its declining fan base and driver recognition that they are more than willing to do gimmick after gimmick with SMI.

I refuse to drink the Kool-aid and sadly this just confirms my belief that the Indianapolis 500 has now become just another race in the IndyCar season.

Two-wide restarts for IndyCar on ovals? What a joke!

IndyCar right now is looking for anything to generate a scintilla of excitement around a series which has lost much of its luster.  One new change that follows Nascar’s lead is for double-file restarts on oval tracks.

On paper, this sounds like a good idea.  However, paper is not reality.

Let’s look at what has gone on for at least 10 years under the “brilliant” leadership of Brian Barnhart, President of Competition and Racing Operations of the series shall we?

IndyCarThe Indianapolis 500 was always known for it’s three-wide, 11 rows of three “Flying Start.” All the rows would come off turn 4, perfectly lined up, and the green flag would fly. That tradition ended under Barnhart who has let the field start stringing out in TURN 3 BEFORE THE GREEN FLAG and be almost single file to start the race!

If these are the best drivers in the world, then let them come to the start of the race the way the great names in racing did! I guess Barnhart doesn’t’ have much faith in them.

This starting in turn 3 also took place at every other oval on the IndyCar Series schedule and also on every restart.

IndyCar says it is addressing that “situation” in its press release on the two-wide restarts.

When the field hears “green next time by,” the restart zone will be closer to the start/finish line and be identified according to each venue’s characteristics. On ovals, the restart area had been between Turns 3 and 4.

“It’s a fan’s expectation that it’s where the restart should take place. It should be an exciting change,” Barnhart said.”

You mean the fans actually expect the field to be on the main straightaway where they at least can see the start/finish line before restarting?  How novel an idea!

As I’ve said before, I’m a Neanderthal when it comes to the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar racing, but the problem isn’t tricks and marketing, it’s the racing..and gimmicks won’t cure the problem.

PT Barnum is alive and well with IndyCar!

Wahlberg-Andretti I am ready to go Rambo on the IndyCar series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! First they keep trashing normal month of May traditions and now they will have a 34th car on the track coming to the green flag of the Indianapolis 500!

In their best PT Barnum impersonation, IndyCar is unveiling the “Izod Fastest Seat in Sports” at the Indianapolis 500.  This will be the series two-seater piloted by Michael Andretti with movie/television star and producer Mark Wahlberg as a passenger following the field to the green flag for the race on Sunday.  Oh, and Mario Andretti will be on the headset talking to them during the parade and pace laps. Here are all the details. (Click here )

THIS IS THE INDIANAPOLIS 500! WE DON’T NEED GIMMICKS AND SIDESHOWS!

Did I state that strong enough?  Let me repeat.  THIS IS THE INDIANAPOLIS 500! WE DON’T NEED GIMMICKS AND SIDESHOWS!

What brilliant idiot came up with this idea?  Why take away from what use to be the “Flying Start” to the Indianapolis 500?

I know some will applaud this move as “bringing in new fans” to the sport.  That’s not bringing fans into the sport, that’s amusing them like a YouTube video does.

One more move like this and IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 is going to turn off what is left of its shrinking died-in-the-wool fan base that has stuck with this type of racing through thick and thin. 

I’m done and now headed to Dr. Phil’s couch to get some much needed help to handle this abomination.

Does tradition really matter at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

ims-centennial-sm Let me start by stating that I know I’m a Neanderthal when it comes to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500. I am guilty of being stuck in the past and see every change made around this iconic event as a travesty.

When the Indianapolis Motor Speedway added a Nascar event back in 1994 the Brickyard 400, I saw that as lowering the uniqueness of the Indianapolis 500.

When Formula One came to town with a road course being constructed and a lot of the infield area for fans including the infamous Snake Pit going away I saw that as a slap in the face.

When the “Flying Start” tradition of the Indianapolis 500 became the race starting in Turn three BEFORE the green flag dropped instead of rows of three coming down the main straightaway told me these no longer were the best racers in the world because they couldn’t do a start that had been done for years. (IRL decision to let them race before the green)

When the number of attempts a car could make in qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 went from a total of 3 for the month of May to three attempts each day of qualifying meaning a team had 12 tries to make the Indianapolis 500 I was angry.

This year two days of qualifying made more changes.  Now you got three chances on Pole Day to make the “Fast 9” and then as many tries as one could get to improve your starting position and take the pole. They also limited the number of cars that could qualify on Day One to 24. To me those were gimmicks violating tradition.

I’m not the only one that believes the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been trampling tradition in its quest to regain its once revered position as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser who has never been shy about giving his opinion on anything agrees many traditions around the Indianapolis 500 have gone by the wayside in the quest for “innovation.” I talked to Bobby on this week’s Pit Pass USA show on the PowerUp Motorsports Channel. (Listen to archived show here) He agrees traditions are quickly being eroded or eliminated and has his own ideas on how to turn things around which he shares as only Bobby can.

Again, I know I’m stuck in the past but have we gotten to the point where tradition doesn’t matter? Just how far can a tradition be “modified” and “modernized” before it’s nothing more than a marketing ploy? Is all of this making the Indianapolis 500 just another race with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just another race track?

Those are questions I have with very few answers at this time.  I just know that to me the Indianapolis 500 and the Speedway aren’t as special as they once were and that makes me sad.

A 30 Year Indianapolis 500 Flashback

Imsradio I’m headed to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend.  30 years ago I was headed there as a “rookie” with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.

I received a phone call that spring from then “Voice of the 500” Paul Page along with Bob Jenkins informing me I was going to be a part of the network.  At the time though they told me I was just going to be more of a “helper” than actually being one of the voices of the race.

As was the tradition back then, the network held a breakfast for everyone on Wednesday before practice began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hotel.  It was at that breakfast I was informed I would be part of the broadcast as the announcer on the back stretch position. (The position was discontinued after the 1981 race when I moved to the third turn.)

I remember the excitement at the start of the race and seeing those 33 cars come by me on the the first parade lap. When the green flag flew it was down to business.

Just 9 laps into the 1980 Indianapolis 500, Bill Whittington crashed coming off turn 2 and suddenly I was describing to the world the incident and aftermath.  Quite something for a guy that had grown up in a small  southern Indiana town listening to the Indianapolis 500 as a boy.

Johnny Rutherford would go on to win that 1980 Indianapolis 500 but I also won that day.

Being a part of that broadcast and 14 more of them before heading to the CART series to do radio for them in 1996 fueled my love of auto racing. It opened the door to many opportunities with the sport.  It allowed me to travel to such places as Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico and Canada to broadcast races.  It gave me the opportunity to do radio for the last Formula One race in Las Vegas at Caesar’s Palace. It also allowed me to make lasting friendships with so many involved in racing from drivers to owners to series officials to media members and race fans themselves.

No matter what my personal feelings are about the state of IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today, I will always be grateful for the opportunity I was given in 1980 that allowed me to be doing what I am today.

IndyCar, please stop the gimmicks!

DSC_0190 Desperate times require desperate measures I guess but IndyCar’s propensity for gimmicks over improved product and listening to the REAL fans of Indy car racing is driving me even crazier than I normally am.

First came the Indianapolis Motor Speedway changing qualifying rules AGAIN by saying you have to qualify TWICE to win the pole for the Indianapolis 500. (Read the story here)

Now in its infinite wisdom, IndyCar has decided that  crowning a series champion isn’t enough, they need a champion for the road/street circuit portion of their season, one for ovals, and then an overall champion! (Here are the details on this insanity!)

New CEO Randy Bernard says he did this to create more “major” races outside the Indianapolis 500.  What, saying they go for a “championship” make them “major?” Sorry dude, get a clue!

What makes a race major are the participants not the gimmicks.

The Indianapolis 500 became what it was (my opinion to use past tense) because of the men and women that raced there.  There was a time when the best-of- the-best raced at Indianapolis. Fans went to 16th and Georgetown because the heroes of racing from the USAC ranks, Nascar, Formula One and even road racing came to Indianapolis.  There was also the mixture of exotic cars. (Read previous post)

Not that long ago people were drawn to the races to see the likes of Rick Mears, Al Unser Sr. and Jr., Mario and Michael Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Emerson Fittipaldi, Nigel Mansell, Gil deFerran and so many more.  Hideki Mutoh just doesn’t do it.

What IndyCar fans want is great racing, great stars, great cars and an understanding of WHY they are IndyCar fans!

How about LISTENING to the fans. Not the ones that come to a race and barely know a race is going on because they are busy partying and schmoozing but the real fans that sacrifice their hard earned money and time to attend an event because it’s a passion to them.

I truly believe that the best days of Indy car type racing is in its past.  However, that doesn’t mean that IndyCar racing can’t become respectable and relevant again.  It just takes leadership that gets its collective head out of its ass Gimmicks just won’t do it.

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