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.