The Bland Driver Atittude

INDYCAR drivers have arguably the most talent and skills racing open-wheel cars in the world. Heck, some of them, like Simon Pagenaud, are in all forms of motorsports.

The notion that these drivers not only can drive in any sort of venues (road, street, ovals, dirt) is, not only impressive, but these skills need to be promoted constantly in primetime television.

The IndyCar brand will only gain a great Return on Investment (ROI) by purchasing TV time (say ESPN) to show some In-Car Camera shots like the series is showing on YouTube.

But, the one issue we have with today’s drivers is how bland they have become. The don’t want to be exposed by either facing danger racing cars (REALLY!!!) and being way too polite.

Although I was not a fan of Sam Hornish Jr, he was what an open-wheel drivers should be: fearless and not a whiner. When Tony Kanaan, Oriol Servia, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti started to complain about high-speed ovals is the day I wanted them to retire. Can you imagine AJ Foyt, Mario or Michael Andretti, or any Unser complain about the dangers of the sport?

In that last paragraph lies the problem with INDYCAR today. Its best asset, the drivers, is sometimes the worst asset. How can you sell you have the best drivers in the world when they complain about speed, high banked ovals, super speedways, and any other related complaint you can add.

IndyCar drivers should be all about guts, speed records, pushing the limit of the car, and being the best in history. That’s what INDYCAR has been all about in 100 years.

The Corporate-bland image the series promotes cannot be extended anymore. Let drivers have spats on Twitter or in Television. The notion that sponsors will retract dollars for any “negative” endeavor is foolish. The airtime these drivers can give is only good for sponsors.

I recommend each one of you to go back and see races from 20 or 30 years ago. See the tempers, the energy to push to the limit, to be fearless, to challenge others, to simply be: the best driver in the world, not the politically-correct and whining driver.

Why People Are Not Watching INDYCAR racing?

When I watched CART I was 18 years old and was fascinated by oval racing and the daring drivers. When CART went full blast with road and street racing I lost interest. The foreign drivers were not an issue for me (my favorite driver at the time was Emerson Fittipaldi) as it brought the best in the world to the sport.

The IRL brought back the daring drivers, the ovals, and the excitement toward IndyCar racing until 2006. After that, the model went slowly but surely the CART model but with spec cars.

Now, we need more Americans to be able to get rides. You cannot keep losing the Jeff Gordon’s, Hildebrand’s, Larson’s and so forth. That right there is INDYCAR’s mistake. You need to be able to bring those people into the series. It all about funding and sponsors.


First, be realistic, the sanctioning fee for ovals HAS to be LOWER. Help the promoter get its investment on track.

Second, bring sponsors that ARE business partners. Is not all about the money (CASH) but how you promote and sell your brand. In the heyday you would see lots of commercial make reference to IndyCar and its drivers (by the way, Emerson was in a few of those).

Third, enough talk about how costs cannot bring technology and new chassis or grandfather old ones. That right there is what sold tickets before. You can name it whatever you want, people came to see the drivers race fast in those beautiful AND different car combinations: THE CARS ARE THE STARS!

Fourth, You have to make the Indy 500 exciting again but not with false aero tricks to have 68 passes for the lead. Make qualifying difficult and an honor as it used to be. Pay more to the entrants; a minimum of $350,000 so it covers the costs if one team does not make the show (more on this on another later post). Bring more entrepreneurs to be enamored with the mystic and tradition IMS brings.

This four (4) items should be a blueprint to bring back INDYCAR where it should be. Anything less is just band-aids and to procrastinate the problem. Think big and you will get there…think small and with fear and you will get nothing. IT IS THAT SIMPLE IN BUSINESS!

Understanding INDYCAR’s Logic

Yes, I’m writing again thanks to a couple of days of heavy conversations on Twitter with buddies like Steve (@sejarzo) Matt (@bauerracing) and Chris (@andhesonit).

The conversation started basically as I was watching YouTube videos of Chicagoland Speedway Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 races from 2005 until 2010. My frustration with this matter is that INDYCAR could not come to an agreement with Chicagoland to stay there. If you see this races from 2001 until 2008 (afternoon races) the stands were full with an estimate 50,000 on average (75,000 seating capacity). In fact, the better thing is that INDYCAR crowned its Champion twice with full stands and you can hear the crowd clapping this moment. In Homestead or Fontana, not that much. The icing on the cake: the close racing was beautiful and unbelievable. When you make Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear call races almost without breath you know you have a great on-track product.

I want Homestead and Fontana for many years to come (add Phoenix, Michigan and Richmond) but you need to understand that your best race should be the season finale on a Top 5 market. With the new cars and new aero package for 1.5- mile oval tracks it is time to bring back Chicagoland to IndyCar history.

On a previous post I wrote about the Oval Track Business and how INDYCAR needs to “give some to get some”. The 3-year plan I lay out it is achievable and financially responsible. As a former Operations Manager myself I understand that your customers sometimes need some “financial break” in order to keep coming back and putting the effort to be loyal to your brand. You may not like it but at the end it helps both parties.

I created and started writing this blog when Randy Bernard (RB) was INDYCAR’s CEO. I still think he was the right man for the job and he “gets it” when it comes to understanding the paying customer, the show, and what needs to happen on the business side. Yes, his determination on keeping sanctioning fees at $1.5MM as much as possible could hurt some venues but he was starting to see how to view other options including renting the venues. Examples: Las Vegas Motorspeedway (rent), Milwaukee (lower fees), Texas (share TV costs for primetime slot).

That’s the leader we had and was let go by Hulman & CO by listening to the wrong group, car owners. The buying customer is the one who adds staying power to your brand. RB was great on listening to this fan and even writing back on ideas. The idea you run a company only as a profit & loss accountant is mistaken. Yes, the ultimate goal is running in the “black” but if your product remains marginal, at best, then that’s what you are going to get.

Bring back Chicagoland and the other ovals I mentioned before and help track presidents buy-in on your brand. There is no question the product is great.

If INDYCAR wants to be known as a marginal and niche sport then they are doing it right. For us, the attending fans, that’s not acceptable to keep helping a brand that just does not care.

Itaipava Sao Paolo Indy 300 Presented by Nestle – What Did I See?

A street race that you can pass!?!? A straight that you hit 193MPH on a street race!?!? Josef Newgarden going for the win!?!? Takuma Sato leading until the last corner, going for TWO wins in a row!?!? Penske and Ganassi boys not a factor!?!?

Well, if you saw the same race as I did, you could appreciate another awesome street race. Yes, I wrote that very clearly. I think it is time that everyone takes notice that IndyCar is on the rise, doing very well but needs Mark Miles to make a big splash by making NBC, ABC, or someone show ALL races on Network TV. No more waiting, no more excuses, no more being the black sheep of motorsports.

As a fan I’m static that IndyCar product is sooo good. As a businessman I’m dissapointed that this product is being missed by much of America mainstream due to a TV deal that at the time made sense but now is just an anchor holding back the series.

The Sambadrome was full of Brazilians showing the big support and fans IndyCar has outside mainland US. The series needs to appeal all fans and having international races helps promote the IndyCar product.

One big plus of having Sato (Japan), Hinchcliffe (Canada), Servia (Spain), Kanaan (Brazil), and Newgarden (USA) battling for the lead and win is the potential attention-grabbing news and highlights that can bring new and old fans back to IndyCar from different countries.

Congrats to James Hinchcliffe on his 2nd win as well as Takuma Sato, Marco Andretti for the podium finish. My BIG applause goes to Josef Newgarden who finally is showing his skills with results. He should win one by the end of the year (you read it here first!).


Season Opener – Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – What Did I See?

There are many race fans that complaint about anything on IndyCar’s current state: not enough fans, not enough ovals (count me in), low ratings, underpowered engines, so and so. Well, we just witnessed one of the best street course races EVER with the deepest field EVER (have doubts on this, listen to last week’s trackside and find out why!).

The most dramatic thing is that in all of this hoopla we had a 1st time winner in James Hinchcliffe (@hinchtown) who has shown he is as good as advertised (pun intended with the GoDaddy sponsorship!).

Maiden Victory for the Mayor of Hinchtown

Maiden Victory for the Mayor of Hinchtown

My predicted Top 5 was mared by technical difficulties all race long but my darkhorse Simona was right there until the final 400 meters. Call me crazy but Simona could win at Long Beach or Baltimore. The street races suit her strengths.

Helio Castroneves once again proved why he is my favorite driver. He knew when to attack, when to lead, and when to concede that he needs points to win the champioship. I want Helio to have his championship this season.

KV Racing Technologies looked impressive and it seems the pairing of Tony Kanaan and Simona is good to go. I expect KV to at least win a race this year.

Will Power was not in my Top 5 because for some reason he misses more than he hits on strategies at street courses. St Pete has not been kind to him.

Also, I predicted that the Ganassi boys will not sniff the Top 5 as they seem “slow” compared to the Chevy-powered drivers. I still don’t know how but Scott Dixon edge Simona at the finish line for that Top 5 spot. I have to finally understand that Dixie is an impressive driver, even if he drives forthe hated Ganassi team.

This year’s race dull moments were the long, long cautions (10 laps on a street circuit is WAY too long!) that dilute the great racing. Still, I would put it as the best edition closely followed by the 2012 edition.

NBC Sports Network hit a Home Run in having Leigh Diffey (@leighdiffey) as their broadcast anchor. I hadmy doubts basedon his primary experience in Formula 1 and though he would fumble names and data. Boy, was I wrong! He did not fail ONCE! He has a new fan in me. Also, having Jon Beekhuis (@JonBeekhuis) at the pits was a concern as I thought he brought the fan lots on information from the booth. Again, nice move as we had his customary technical information available plus he could interview drivers directly. Great job!

IndyCar is on the rise and with many moves still pending on the business side by Mark Miles (Hulman Company CEO) there is plenty of upside available.

This Randy Bernard fan says…”it is time to move on!” “IndyCar is going up because of RB’s contributions and he has made his mark”. “Thanks Boss!”

IndyCar 2013 Season Opener – St. Petersburg Grand Prix

It is that time of the year, people! After a 6-month hiatus from along, long offseason, we have IndyCar racing back.

Last year’s race was kind of a 3-part race: exciting, then dull, then exciting! Helio Castroneves (my favorite driver, if you are not tired of reading this!) is the defending Champion of the race. Every lap, pole, start and win Mr. Castroneves completes he pushes himself into IndyCar lore.

The field of drivers is the most competitive in years and the championship should be decided again at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California’s Season Finale. More on my predicitions on a later blog post.

Now, the weather could be a factor at St Pete as rain is expected in the afternoon. My trusted friend, IndyCar Weatherman (@Indycar_Wxman) has confirmed this: “@IndyCar_Raider right now I think race starts dry, with rain to the north moving into TB/StP area in 2-3pm timeframe…” . So we could see a flurry of strategies going overboard as the rain could catch up by the last 10-20 laps.

My Top 5 for the race are Castroneves, De Silvestro (yes, you read right!), Bourdais, Pagenaud and Hunter-Reay. As you can read Will Power is not on the Top 5. He has dominated all practices and spring training but strategy usually hurts his chances as this venue and will do so again. The Ganassi boys have looked slow and they are hurting from the, dare to say, the Honda’s lack of power.

There will be lots of contact as these drivers are still rusty from the long offseason and weather could be a factor.

The race will air on the NBC Sports Network (Dish Network Channel 159) at noon with pre-race coverage. Today is the qualifying efforts brought to you LIVE by NBC Sports Network at 2:30pm EST.

The Cars Are The Stars!

When I fell in love with IndyCar racing watching the 1989 Indy 500 race it was based on two things: the awe of watching drivers push the envelop on the corners to gain more speed and the cars (livery, engines, tires, chassis) how they performed.

To write that I knew every chassis manufacturer and its aerodynamic packages by looking it at the TV would be a classic lie. I still would not be able to properly identify them but it was nice to know that teams would make everything in the name of innovation to have the best car.

IndyCar racing IS innovation. Is that simple. Having a series that is spec racing is simply not the way to attract old or new fans to the sport. You can say whatever you like to justify costs and bring a leveled playing field, you still need open competition to assure you keep pushing the envelop and be relevant in today’s sports landscape.

I do think that there is no place for 900+ horsepower engines in this day in age. That premise of powerful engines is way out of touch in today’s production vehicles specially as hybrid engines keep digging on the market pie chart. You need relevant engines that are technically better, more efficient, and produce a fast and attractive race car that does not pollute the environment and it is fuel efficient.

It is no secret that my chassis of choice was the Swift over the Dallara. Yet, why can we have both of them? Again, conversation surrounds costs…but this would not be a problem if INDYCAR and the team owners understood that it would be a hard one or two years but when the interest grows (fans AND sponsors) then it will not matter.

You need to bring entertainment to the forefront and it costs money to invest in your future. You cannot have everything you can be without sacrifices and giving some to get some. I still keep my confidence that 2014 will be the breakout year for IndyCar racing. Therefore, it is time to shed aside the inferiority complex and put an agenda to finally bring the full load of innovation and entertainment you stars can provide…and it starts with your protagonists: your IndyCars!

The Approved INDYCAR CEO Business Plan

Ok, I have to bring the truth to light as I have not been hired or even contacted for the most “thankless job” on Earth. But, on that note, here I present to you my “Moving Forward” plan to run INDYCAR on a 3-year timeline. This plan would be examined at that time to assess sucesses and failures. If 50% of this plan comes to fruition, I will resign from my entrusted post. The success rate expected should be at 80% which is an above-average grade and therefore could be considered successful. The plan cannot be altered from this 3-year span in order to give it time to work.


The sport has been staganat for almost a decade and it appears that last year the overall fan perspective (live attendance and TV Ratings) dropped from 2011. In order to immediately stop the “bleeding” and bring more eyeballs to the sport, this 3 points would be established:

  1. The current TV package with NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) is not bringing our great brand to mainstream America and Western Hemisphere. After 4 years, the ratings are still way below as the Network is hard to reach by the casual fan. The proposal is have NBCSN immediately move to 1st tier status on all TV carriers. This will allow ANY casual fan to actually have the NBCSN channel on its basic cable package. If NBCSN cannot do this, then INDYCAR will move to a buyout option to move its property to its cable channel of choice.
  2. If option #1 is no, then this option will move INDYCAR brand to ESPN 2 which has the reach of basic cable. There would be some money given by INDYCAR to buy our way into the channel but more of this “investment” would be to bring spinoff programs to market the sport (read more under Marketing). The agreement would be that ESPN will pay more as years are added to the contract based on TV Ratings previously agreed (ie: Year 1 ESPN agrees to pay 60% of production costs but, if TV ratings are not met then the Network pays 100%) . This would ensure BOTH parties have invested interests to grow and market the sport.
  3. All racing venues would be working under the “same” TV contract format for Sanctioning Fees. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assure to grow the sport to avoid “penalties” or obtain “gains” based on crowd attedance at each race based on pre-determined standards. (ie: TMS hits 90,000 and above and it will receive a 25% discount on sactioning fee credit – received after race confirmation but $1.5MM fee is payable by October 31st of the previous year when season schedule is confirmed).
  4. No TV contract would be longer than 5 years giving INDYCAR and the Network time to value the property as it grows or diminishes. The only option to cancel this contract is by a “Buyout” option that has to meet (or fail) some pre-established standards.


The sport has the most diversed and fastest drivers in the world and yet they are not marketed properly. The IndyCar 36 program from NBCSN is an on-track marketing tool that is brilliant and yet it does not reach the drivers households and interest in a “full-blown” Reality Show format. The Marketing Startegy needs to move at the same rythm as society’s interests.

  1. Through the Los Angeles Marketing Office establish a Reality Show which will evolve not only on racing season but most importantly in the Off-Season. There in lies the interest and important stuff for an IndyCar driver outside the track. The program’s Premiere target date should be by the INDYCAR World Champioship race at Auto Club Speedway.
  2. INDYCAR will hire/promote a Spectacle Marketing Director (SMD) that will work with EVERY racing venue to assure the brand is marketed as needed based on the 3-Know-Your-Brand Way: (TV ads, Radio Drivers Interviews, Downtown Exposure). (The monies potentially come from the reduced sanctioning fee obtained on the Growth Section).
  3. Sponsor activation will matter as much as cashing a big check. The sponsor would be on contract that the “investment” would include a Marketing section that will empower them to market the series and the drivers. The amount should be 25% of the agreed total money used equally each year on contract. This would work on a credit basis as the SMD will receive and approve the event and spending in conjuction with sponsor (ie: 5-year $50M contract which $12.5M would be exclusively for Marketing purposes; Auto Club uses $1M on TV ads and SMD approves the credit toward MAVTV).

Competition and Innovation:

INDYCAR’s history and legacy has been that innovation was by far the biggest attraction to fans and manufacturers around the world. As the sport started the road to spec racing everything fell off. Even though this is the 3rd and final assessment on the INDYCAR plan, it is actually the root for the previous two to work. All manufacturers agreements would be for 3 years. No contract can be canceled before the 1st year is completed and has to be approved by the Competition Committee.

  1. Open competition is OK for up to 3 manufacturers for engines, chassis and tires. Safety will still be the main barometer when reaching the competition levels at each car area. The Safety standards will still be headed by the Competition Committee and its Director.
  2. Each manufacturer’s team selection allows up to 3 teams of their choice and then, based on car count by December 31st, the alloted percentage cannot be over 40% of the field. Therefore after each manufacturer determines its 10% of the field, the rest would be filled based on FIFO standards (First In – First Out) by the previous year’s final entry standings. No applying team should be left without any part.
  3. Engines will still be “Production Car” relevant therefore V6 powerplant, turbocharged, and using 97% Ethanol fuel would be required.
  4. Chassis would be permitted but following the “Safety Cell” concept already in place. Aero kits will be allowed within the manufacturer of choice, including those already on the chassis the team signs a 3-year contract.
  5. Tires would also be regulated to comply with Safety Standards but testing would be more recurrent paid in full by team/manufacturer combination on 1st year entering INDYCAR. This fee will decrease toward team/manufacturer by 10% each year based on improved safety track record until reaching 70%. The other amount would be paid by the sanctioning body.
  6. Each manufacturer would be required to promote 2 races of their choice (based on INDYCAR Growth Plan) and supporting the event as the Spectacle Marketing Director (SMD) considers suitable. The manufacturers Marketing budget would reflect 25% on “invested money” toward 2 races AND INDYCAR’s overall exposure to mainstrean America and Western Hemisphere markets. (Please read monies credit process on both Marketing and Growth Strategies).

Raising Capital:

As any business venture, there needs to be outside capital investment to keep INDYCAR influx of cash flow even when the series is running a superavit budget. The expense based on this outside investment should not be more than 20% of the Operating Budget. The idea is having cash available to buy or bring new ventures toward the series.

Business/Competition Decisions:

INDYCAR will manage its competition and new business opportunities decisions through a 11-member Assessment Committee (IAC) that will include 2 members of the following represented groups (Selected by each group and CEO is part of this IAC):

  1. Indianapolis Motor Speedway
  3. Track Promoters
  4. Team Owners
  5. Manufacturers

Fan Interaction:

The fan is the most important asset the series has to grow the sport outside the business walls of INDYCAR. Based on this premise, INDYCAR will select 15-20 fans to participate on Brand and Product Improvement Initiatives to which each individual would sign a “Confidentiality Agreement” that would not be permitted to disclose any information until INDYCAR allows it to. The importance is to recognize the “feeling” toward customers and receive a barometer on how successful the endeavour could be. This will not deter the Committee to pursue their ideas even if fan polling goes below 50% but rejection should occur by reaching only 30% of approval.

This plan will be in full effect starting Thursday, November 1, 2012 in order to be up and running by the season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida. This plan is in effect until October 31, 2015.


INDYCAR Rumblings – The All-Around Stuff

Hey, people…I’m back! There has been lots of news and comments around the league since it came to a close 1 month ago (needs to go faster!!!)

  • Drivers’ changing teams – this was supposed to be fast and furious by this time and yet nothing has happened. There were talks that Rahal, Barichello, and even Wilson would be in the news fairly quick on team changes. Still waiting…
  • That BIG gap on the schedule – there is a lot of noise that an italian race might happen (there are 3 tracks in the pipeline) and the front runner is Mugello for probably September 2013. I hope this happens as it will bring IndyCar back to Europe and to a market that loves open-wheel racing + it is at Dallara Automobili’s(chassis supplier) home. It has my vote…
  • Tony George’s 2nd Vision – apparently there is a very big check that may be coming from TG to buy the series he founded. Apparently he knows people who can run better the series than Randy Bernard. Apparently he would hire someone else to run the series since he understands he cannot. Apparently he can bring more ovals. Apparently INDYCAR is not for sale by the IMS Corporation (owner of Indy Racing League, LLC). Apparently there are too many apparentlies to even consider this an option. My take: this is way too much distraction for teams and drivers at the point of the year were the sponsors open their wallets. This needs to be buried until at least 2014 (Randy’s last year of the 5-year contract).
  • Dan Wheldon’s fan affection – now, imagine if Dario Franchitti had the time to enjoy fans as DW did. He would probably be a popular guy. The fan affection pouring on Tweeter was amazing and the support for Holly Wheldon (sister), Susie Wheldon (wife) and the whole family has been outstanding. There is only one remark that will make DW eternal on INDYCAR: we will ALWAYS miss him!

We have one month down…four (4) to go…just too many until March 24th season premiere at St. Petersburg.

The BIG Announcement – 2013 Season Schedule

Today at 9pm on Speed TV (Channel 150 on Dish Network), Randy Bernard will announce the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule. There have been so many leaks on this schedule like the roof of my previous employer.

It has already been mentioned by Jeff Olson from USA Today, and apparently some quotes coming directly from Mr. Bernard himself, the details of the schedule and what’s to expect. Then the question to ponder is: why would you make all the fuss of going into prime time to show your apparent masterpiece when you are going to mouth-off the details for the digital print of USA Today? My take…we may be for a bigger surprise and RB just showed half his cards…the deck is even bigger!

We have already been told that there will be 19 races (RB’s goal) and probably as much as THREE doubleheaders (Detroit, Toronto, Houston) and new venues at Pocono and Houston (we already knew the last one). One nugget: one race on the doubleheader will have standing starts while the other would have the traditional IndyCar flying start.

Yet, even though this would be an improvement from the recently-finished 2012 schedule their is still one BIG gap in the 2013 schedule. The 5-week gap from Baltimore (September 1st) to Houston (October 6th) tells me there is some negotiation still going on. I would go on a limb and suggest that Kentucky Speedway is a possible scenario  for this spot. Another TWO possibilities are the newly FIA-approved Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas and Phoenix International Raceway (although I would put this as the season opener) if it cannot open the season in either 2013 or 2014.

Although I love the idea about the doubleheaders it keeps balancing the scale toward road/street courses. I like the idea proposed by my Tweeter fellow Joel (@WhateverJoel) to have heat races at some ovals. This would provide opportunities to those drivers which are better on ovals + more entertainment value on the venue therefore bringing more butts to the seats.

Another venue INDYCAR needs to comeback is Las Vegas Motor Speedway (which has been paid for). It is time to move on the Dan Wheldon tragedy and get back in the saddle. The new car has shown it can work on the 1.5-mile high-banked oval. Their is no excuse for not coming back. Racing is dangerous and another driver could die in the future…it is just the way our beloved sport brings inherent risks every time the drivers strap themselves into the cockpit. They know it…we know it…and we need to accept this once and for all.

There could be plenty more surprises on the horizon tonight if Randy Bernard and INDYCAR played their cards hand right. Hopefully, the drama and euphoria was not killed Friday night by Mr. Olson and USA Today.