Monday, August 17, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: I Don't Have Any Answers

MotoGP was back in action in the Czech Republic a week after competing at Indianapolis. There was a first-time winner at Brno. The golden rule of do unto others as you would want have them do unto you should be applied more in motorsports. Toyota had a good weekend in Michigan. It was more of meet the new boss, same as the old boss at the Knoxville Nationals. Other than that, there was not much motorsports action to talk about from this weekend. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

I Don't Have Any Answers
If you are a moderate IndyCar, you know about the lawsuit filed by former Andretti Sports Marketing employees John Lopes and Starke Taylor against Andretti Autosport, in which Lopes and Taylor claim the championship winning team is near insolvent.

If losing Fontana was a gut punch, this news was a sucker punch from behind that no one saw coming.

The lawsuit claims that Andretti Autosport is "$7 million in debt and has less than $2 million in unencumbered assets." While some point out that Lopes and Taylor were both fired and might be filing this lawsuit out of spite towards Michael Andretti, it can't all be false. Could it be somewhat exaggerated? Absolutely. Could Andretti Autosport not be in debt and are just breaking even? Possibly. We don't know. I certain don't know but Lopes and Taylor are more likely to know due to their association with Andretti.

Michael Andretti gave a quote to the Indianapolis Business Journal's Anthony Schoettle stating, "Neither Lopes nor Taylor are owners of Andretti Autosport, and as such they do not have access to the financial information concerning Andretti Autosport." Lopes and Taylor might not be owners of the race team but that doesn't mean there was no possible way they could have found out Andretti Autosport's financial record. Perhaps they found out after meeting with Andretti and Andretti left something up on his computer monitor that was viewable or he left a document on his desk that could easily be read or they heard an angry conversation Andretti was having on the telephone while sitting outside his office or they had lunch with another important figure at Andretti Autosport and they spilled the beans. Or they went the dirty and illegal route and hired hackers to get Andretti's financial records. There are plenty of ways Lopes and Taylor could have found out the information.

However, these issue Andretti Autosport are having, if you have been following IndyCar for a while are not surprising. But what is surprising is these are claims against one of the top teams in IndyCar. These claims wouldn't be shocking if they were against Bryan Herta Autosport or Dale Coyne Racing but since it is happening to one of the IndyCar teams that are at the top of the mountain, it just leaves an uneasy feeling that no team in IndyCar is safe.

And I don't have any answers how to fix it. I think I have more questions than answers. For starters, how could things have not improved since reunification? It appears everything was better when there were two series as there were more total cars, more races and more chassis and just as many engines as we have now.

Second, why has Andretti just let companies get away with sponsoring his cars without paying (Suretone, which sponsored Kurt Busch in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 and United Fiber and Data) especially if those account for $5-7 million of the alleged debt? To be fair, Andretti might be pursuing legal action against those companies but over a year has passed since the 2014 Indianapolis 500 and it's been nearly a year since the last time UFD appeared on a car. You would have thought we would have heard something by now if Andretti was pursuing legal action.

Third, how can this be prevented? Or another way to word it, how can IndyCar become more desirable? If a company such as UFD can put its logo on a car for a year and get away with not paying for it, than why should a big corporation that IndyCar really needs, such as Apple or Coca-Cola, feel like they should have to pay to be on a car? Let's be clear, the likelihood of a team joining IndyCar in the next three years is next to zero as there are probably teams hearing this news and are thinking, "if one of the top IndyCar teams are in this much trouble, why should I expect it to go better for me?"

And this isn't Mark Miles fault. I will rip Mark Miles for screwing over Fontana and for his stupid rules such as 9.3.8 but this type of issue has been following IndyCar for multiple administrations. From the originally television deal with Versus (now known as NBCSN) that took IndyCar season's from a mainstream television networks such as ESPN and ABC to a station that was on the outer edge of the television solar system with an occasional appearance on ABC to remind everyone that the series still existed or to the ICONIC committee that introduced a new chassis but has been a costly endeavor for the teams, IndyCar's problems have been rolling in like a Tsunami wave on the coast since reunification and it has just been building and building and now the wave is towering over the series and all involved like a tourist standing in front of the Empire States Building. The only question now is when is it going to crash and how much destruction will it cause?

To be fair, some good has come out of the things that have hurt the series. The move to what is now NBCSN got IndyCar a professional announce team, something that ABC didn't have until Allen Bestwick joined the booth and even then, Bestwick is the only one-third of the announce team. Two-thirds of the problem is still there. It has also put IndyCar squarely in the home for motorsports in the United States with NASCAR and Formula One as roommates and ratings are slightly up but still have a very long way to go. The ICONIC committee did produce a new chassis, initially had IndyCar at three engine manufactures but is now at two and we are in the first year of aero kits and while they have been costly, the competition on-track is just as competitive as when the DW-12 was first introduced and the addition of aero kits has opened the door for more companies to get involved than when IndyCar was truly a spec series.

I guess if there if I had to take a crack at an answer for IndyCar is keep things stable. I think that's why people were so upset after the announcement Fontana would not be returning. Not only was a great race lost but it's another year where the series can't keep a schedule together for consecutive years. It's why people are frustrated when the news that Derrick Walker was resigning. It's another upper management change at IndyCar and they feel like they come yearly. It's difficult for the series to move forward when it is constantly looking in the mirror and trying to rearrange the things it sees in their reflection.

While concerned, there is part of me that those it will be all right. IndyCar has stubbed its toes so many times but always finds a way to keep going. It is tiring to see and hear these problems continue to pop up around the series and at times it is hard to not let the politics get in the way of what is really good racing but ultimately, there is very little I or any other fan can do. Whether we like it or not, if we choose to tag along and be passengers all we can do is watch. To get involved and try to steer the ship in right direction costs more than any passenger can spend. Whether we like it or not, the wheel is in the hands of a few individuals. Let's just hope they all turn in the same direction.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Jorge Lorenzo but did you know...

Donny Schatz won the 55th Knoxville Nationals. It is Schatz's ninth Knoxville Nationals victory and fifth consecutive.

Matt Kenseth won the NASCAR Cup race at Michigan.

Johann Zarco won in Moto2 from Brno, extending his championship lead. It's Zarco's fourth victory of 2015. Niccolò Antonelli won in Moto3, his first career victory.

Regan Smith won the NASCAR Grand National Series race at Mid-Ohio. Kyle Busch won at Michigan, his second consecutive Truck series victory.

Coming Up This Weekend
The second round of Astor Cup August is at Pocono for the final leg of the IndyCar Triple Crown.
Formula One returns from summer break at Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix.
NASCAR will run under the lights at Bristol.
Pirelli World Challenges heads to Miller Motorsports Park for the final time.
V8 Supercars will be at Sydney Motorsports Park.
Virginia International Raceway plays hosts to the IMSA GTLM and GTD classes.
WRC hits the tarmac for Rally Deutschland.
Super Formula heads to Twin Ring Motegi.