Friday, April 19, 2013

Mark Miles: Do Not Micromanage The Schedule

I love the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, the Indianapolis 500 is the only race at the Speedway that will capture my emotions to drive me to watch live streaming practice on a Wednesday afternoon with one car on track and have me on edge everyday for a month.

Running a road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway any time of the year is an abomination. Let me put it to you this way Mr. Miles, it would be like playing a second tournament at Wimbledon in early December. You don't do it. You go once and you return eleven months later. 

As someone outside the Indianapolis-area, I don't give a damn about a second race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It does nothing to expand IndyCar's fan base. Sure Indianapolis has fantastic IndyCar fans but what does it do for expanding IndyCar? Even if they run a second race in Indianapolis, how well will it draw, especially if it is on the road course? Everybody knows the race would not come close to a race on the oval and even if they get 50,000 people, the place would look uncomfortably empty. Seeing 75% of the Speedway empty for an IndyCar race does not sit well with me. Thinking about it makes me want to vomit.

The season finale has been pushed back to mid-October and that is ok. I have never been a fan of those who fear going head-to-head with the NFL season. You have to counter program the NFL every now and then. Besides, Fontana will be a Saturday night. No NFL to compete with that night, some college football, but that is not as big of a threat. The season finale does not need to be fudged with. Fontana produced thrilling racing and that is expected to carry over to this season. The IMS road course has only produced good racing for MotoGP but you could put those guys in your basement and they would put on a great show.

IndyCar should work to build the fan bases at these other tracks, instead of spending two years at a place and saying "f--- it" when the crowds aren't 70,000 people. Let's be realistic, 30,000 in year one for a race isn't bad for IndyCar this day in age. That's a good base and let's work from there. That is a better crowd than the Lakers, Clippers, Ducks or Kings draw any night and a fair amount of MLB teams would kill for a crowd of 30,000 people.

Should the reports be true, Mark Miles wants to end the season by Labor Day and begin with a few international races. 

IndyCar's big problem that has been mention by virtually everyone involved in IndyCar is date equity. Where the hell would Fontana go if the season ends by Labor Day and at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the road course? What about Baltimore and Houston? Moving dates around too much is where IndyCar gets themselves into trouble. Remember Kentucky? Produced really good racing and had a stable date in mid-August. Then in 2010 the race moved to Labor Day weekend. A year later Kentucky was moved to the beginning of October with a much smaller crowd. And after one race in October, Kentucky was off the schedule. 

There are plenty of tracks IndyCar can go to during the middle of the year. IndyCars should be looking to return to Road America, Kentucky, Richmond, Phoenix, Michigan and should be trying to add Austin. Austin is the premier track in the United States and anyone who thinks IndyCar should not go there because Formula One currently has a race weekend at the track is being ridiculous. I don't care if IndyCars are running slower lap times. If they produce a great race, who gives a damn what the lap times are?

As for international races, it depends how IndyCar does it. Miles mentioned doing an international championship. Is IndyCar that popular to have a separate international season? I don't think so. Now could IndyCar run a race or two in the beginning of the year, maybe in Australia? Sure.

My fear is Miles is following the Boston Consulting Group's report too closely. The report that called for a fifteen race season over nineteen weeks with a three race playoff,  Long Beach moved to August and races in the Boston, Miami, Seattle, Atlanta and Chicago markets while leaving races that draw decent crowds today: Iowa, Milwaukee, St. Petersburg and Barber. Is Miles going to walk from his best oval event outside of Indianapolis and his best natural terrain road course? How would that go over with the fan base? Mark Miles should take a step back for the rest of 2013 and look at what races are working and I am not necessarily talking about what races draw the best TV ratings or what races have the grandstands that look the fullest but look at where the best racing is, which fans are passionate for IndyCar and where the teams and driver like to go to. After you do that Miles, then you can start making decisions.