Monday, July 20, 2020

Musings From the Weekend: Hello Greed

Team Penske had a dominant weekend. Josef Newgarden loves Iowa. The aeroscreen got its first validating incident. Carlin and Meyer Shank Racing had outstanding weekends. Formula one missed the rain in Hungary. American Logan Sargeant is second in the FIA Formula Three championship after three rounds, but still has some work to do. A drive-time violation determined a winner at Sebring. The Toyota Supra returned to competition in Super GT and it did not take long to reach the top. Many series started their 2020 seasons this weekend. There were a few first-time winners and Marc Márquez is already injured. Here is a rundown of what got me thinking.

Hello Greed
IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway are under new management and we are learning some of the new ways of the place.

The pandemic has curtailed certain initiatives for 2020, but we have seen some of the upgrades awaiting us. At the IndyCar/NASCAR combined weekend over Independence Day weekend, we got a glimpse of the new video boards around the 2.5-mile oval. The bathrooms showed incredible improvements. Other facilities tweaks were noted, including illuminating the front gate.

We knew Roger Penske was going to spruce up the joint. He is even spreading the wealth, having announced a $2 million purse increased back in February. However, during this pandemic, a few questionable decisions have been made and greed is at the wheel.

Plans have been made for the Indianapolis 500 to include spectators in attendance for next month's race. Around 175,000 tickets had already been sold and the hope is to be able to bring all those people through the gates next month.

For the record, it is becoming more and more foolish to think gathering 175,000 during this pandemic when the United States sets records for daily covid-19 cases on a regular basis is a good idea, especially when these 175,000 people are likely coming from around the country and potentially from around the globe. Cases in Indiana are up a little more than 9%.

Whether the Speedway reneges on its plans to have fans remains to be seen. We have a month until the event and I cannot imagine things will improve over the next 30 days to responsibly hold an event with over 100,000 people, but who said the Speedway was going to act responsibly?

Even if it is not responsible, Indianapolis Motor Speedway was ready to bring in 175,000 people. That's it. Maybe a few more but not many more; maybe fewer people actually show up, but the goal was 175,000 people at maximum capacity and the Speedway was going to keep the local blackout in place over the Indianapolis market.

The venue set a maximum attendance. It has likely sold all the tickets available for the event. That is the definition of a sellout and if it is a sellout, the blackout must be lifted. Tickets are not going to be sold race morning. A family will not be able to drive an hour and pick up four tickets race morning, at least they shouldn't be, but if you cannot get a ticket race morning then the blackout must be lifted.

On top of the blackout, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway released radio broadcast of the two editions of the Race of Two Worlds, the famed IndyCar/Formula One/sports car exhibition race held on the Monza oval in 1957 and 1958. After believing the broadcasts had been lost to history, the Speedway celebrated this find by... charging $9.99 for each broadcast to download.

I get capitalism and getting every dime you can get, but what audience is there for radio broadcasts for races held over 60 years ago? Is it justifiable to charge almost $20 for two radio broadcasts? It is only audio and you set a barrier to access history that should not exist. If these were television broadcasts, maybe I could understand the price, especially when movies are sold for $19.99.

These are two artifacts that should be easy for people to obtain. This could have been a gift to the people, something for motorsports fans to share and discuss, especially when many people are out of work or working from home and not traveling or attending races like they would have been. Instead, it becomes something a handful of people who have $20 to burn get to enjoy. It sets a barrier in fandom and that didn't have to be the case.

Charging for two radio broadcasts from over six decades ago is a poor choice and keeping the blackout is asinine during this time. It is ultimately a selfish play that should backfire and bite Penske and Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the ass.

There are plenty of local people who would have been at the track if they could be there and now they will not be able to watch the race in real-time. NBC will not be able to maximize its television rating on a non-holiday weekend and when NASCAR will be running races head-to-head with the biggest motorsports race in the network's catalog. This year's Indianapolis 500 will also likely be head-to-head with Stanley Cup playoff games, NBA playoff games, regular season baseball games and probably an NFL preseason game or two.

In 2020, this is not the year to squeeze out every cent from a person, nor is it time to make accessibility more difficult. This it the year to throw a bone or two out to people. This is the year to accept a loss and hope for a victory down the road. This is the year to build some goodwill. After years of raising ticket prices and having races not be easily available to the greatest number of people, it is time to provide a service for the people.

IndyCar is not in a position to set an entry fee for fandom, especially during a pandemic. If anything, IndyCar should throw the door open and be calling people to enter. It should be encouraging people to come in and have a good time. It should create an atmosphere people should want to return to when things return to normal.

The blackout is the least fan-friendly thing to do when people should be distanced from one another. You should not be creating more obstacles to something recreational when we have had to adopt many new restrictions in everyday life. People want easy access and access to not come at any extravagant additional cost, or in this case, without having a three or four-hour delay after the event has ended to view it.

I get that the blackout is accepted as one of the Indianapolis 500 traditions and it is in the Speedway's best business interests, but in 2020, during a pandemic, after all the adjustments we have made in our lives, it is time for Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar to make an adjustment as well. The blackout can return in 2021 or 2022 or whenever normal returns. For this year, we are already not racing on Memorial Day weekend, the blackout is another tradition to sideline for this year.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden but did you know...

Lewis Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix, his second victory of 2020.

Robert Shwartzman and Luca Ghiotto split the Formula Two races from Hungary. Théo Pourchaire and David Beckmann split the Formula Thee races.

Fabio Quartararo won MotoGP's Spanish Grand Prix, his first MotoGP victory. Luca Marini won the Moto2 race. Albert Arenas won the Moto3 race, his second consecutive victory. Eric Granado won the MotoE race.

Austin Dillon won the NASCAR Cup race from Texas. Austin Cindric won the Grand National Series race after Kyle Busch failed post-race inspection. It is Cindric's third consecutive victory. Kyle Busch won the Truck race on the road and inspection confirmed it.

The #31 Action Express Racing Cadillac of Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani won the IMSA race from Sebring. The #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca-Gibson of Spencer Pigot and Patrick Kelly won in the LMP2 class after Henrik Hedman did not meet minimum drive time in the #81 DragonSpeed Oreca. The #4 Corvette of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin won in GTLM class. The #14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus of Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz won in GTD class.

Scott McLaughlin, Nick Percat and Jack Le Brocq split the Supercars races from Sydney Motorsports Park. It was LeBrocq's first Supercars victory.

The #32 United Autosport Oreca-Gibson of Alex Brundle, Will Owen and Job van Uitert won the European Le Mans Series race from Circuit Paul Ricard. The #2 United Autosport Ligier-Nissan of Wayne Boyd, Tom Gamble and Robert Wheldon won in the LMP3 class. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Competition Porsche of Alessio Picariello, Michele Beretta and Christian Ried won in the GTE class.

The #37 TGR Team KeePer's Tom's Toyota of Nick Cassidy and Ryō Hirakawa won theSuper GT season opener from Fuji. The #52 Saitama Toyopet Green Brave Toyota of Kota Kawaai and Hiroki Yoshida won in GT300.

Coming Up This Weekend
NASCAR has a Thursday night race from Kansas.
MotoGP remains at Jerez for the Andalucía Grand Prix.
GT World Challenge Europe starts its European season at Imola.