Please Don’t Sugarcoat This Schedule

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I hate to interrupt all of the feel-good, warm and fuzziness coming off of the great race in Kentucky — but there actually was a downer that came out of the weekend, and I don’t mean the weepers. Amidst all of Friday’s non-track time, the IRL announced the new 2010 schedule, with everyone trying to put their best spin on it. I must say it was a disappointment on several fronts.

First of all, the omission of Milwaukee is a mistake. There were too many last minute developments in Milwaukee to completely remove them from consideration. There had been problems with the previous race promoter in Milwaukee. NASCAR and the IRL are still owed money from races that took place at the Milwaukee Mile this season. But the Wisconsin State Fair Park Board finalized a deal with a new race promoter late Thursday night. Terry Angstadt, President, Commercial Division of the IndyCar Series claims that they worked up until Friday morning to get a deal done before crossing Milwaukee off of the list.

To me, this is unacceptable. Who set the deadline that the final schedule had to be announced by this weekend? I believe it was Terry Angstadt. There was no reason that this was a hard and fast deadline. With the last-minute developments with the Fair Board in Milwaukee, why could they not push the announcement back or call this a partial schedule? After all, it’s a partial schedule anyway since a solid date had not been decided for Kentucky in 2010 (it’s now Saturday, Sep 4), and the season-opening race in Brazil doesn’t even have a venue yet.

Milwaukee is almost as much a part of open-wheel heritage as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The rhetoric from Terry Angstadt is that the matter is closed, but they may return sometime in the future. My thinking is that the league should keep its options (and collective minds) open to work something out with The Milwaukee Mile for 2010. History has shown that once the IRL leaves a track, it doesn’t return.

Another great disappointment is the loss of Richmond, although I understand why that was dropped. ISC had no interest in renewing the deal since title sponsor SunTrust had pulled out, even though the race was well attended. Although this year’s race at Richmond was a boring parade, the IRL had a history of putting a good product on the track there. That didn’t stop ISC from landing a cheap shot citing “…here at Richmond we just didn’t have the racing that our fans have come to expect." Yet another shining example why the IRL needs to get out of bed with ISC and NASCAR.

Another example of bad dealings with ISC is the fact that Kansas will be run on May 1, which is a Saturday night. I have no problem with running a non-Indy race in May. It’s been done before. The ill-fated Charlotte race in 1999 was also run on a May 1 Saturday night. My problem is that the IRL essentially will run as a support race for the Sunday afternoon Camping World Truck Series. What???

But the biggest slap in the face to the fans; is the fact that of the seventeen races listed, nine of them are on non-ovals. Do the simple math and that means for the first time, street/road courses outnumber ovals. This was the final domain for the “vision” that was launched in 1996 as an oval-based series. Now that the majoirty of the races are now non-ovals, the transformation into CART-light is complete. Now every single reason for starting the destructive split, is now gone.

I am not a CART/Champ Car fan, nor an IRL loyalist. I am an open-wheel racing fan. But to see the IRL morph exactly into what was called the path of destruction of open-wheel racing, defies all logic. What was it all for? Now no one is happy. The IRL faithful are mad that the IRL has abandoned all of its originals intentions, while the Champ Car fanatics continue to whine that their brand of racing has been watered down. What we are left with is a family-run organization that seemingly cannot help tripping over themselves.

Earlier this summer, we were told that the IRL was starting with a clean sheet of paper and they would do their best to incorporate more Champ Car venues into the schedule. In the process, they dropped two traditional ovals and added two new road courses that neither series has ever raced on. In the meantime, we are left to wonder what happened to Cleveland, Houston or Road America, as well as New Hampshire and Las Vegas. There is no way to successfully spin this.

This schedule has the potential to alienate all fans of the sport. The season starts thousands of miles from the US. Six weeks will elapse before visiting the first oval. The IRL apparently refuses to work with one of the most traditional venues on the schedule and moves further away from its core values by making oval racing the minority. I am depressed.

Terry Angstadt didn’t help matters with his interviews on Versus by essentially telling us all to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, and that this is an exciting and well balanced schedule that we can all embrace. Right. This continued arrogance and condescending attitude on the part of the leadership of the IRL is what continues to drive fans away, instead of bringing in new ones. I just wish they could see it.

George Phillips

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14 Responses to “Please Don’t Sugarcoat This Schedule”

  1. George,

    Thanks for calling a Pig a Pig. I don’t think you’ll get many arguments to the contrary. I think that even the Champ Car fanatics won’t be happy with the choice of venues, with neither Cleveland or Elkhart Lake seeming any closer to returning to the series. Meanwhile the IRL is looking at temporary street courses in Parking Lots in suburban Boston? What’s wrong with this picture? (Answer: Everything)

    I understand that the economy is a mess, and the league has been hemorrhaging money but this is not the way to revive interest in Open Wheel racing. The Kentucky race was a reminder of how good oval racing can be. Let’s hope the folks at 16th & Georgetown were watching.

    Honestly though, having a schedule like this released all these years after “the split” makes you wonder WTF? If only Sherman & Mr. Peabody could show up with the Wayback Machine, I think both the IRL & Champ Car factions would gladly go back to 1995 and find a way to work things out. To think of all the $$$$ that have been squandered due to wrong headed decisions, atrocious management, and lack of regard for the fans makes me sick in the stomach. This would make a great case study in “How not to run a business”.

    Where is the vision? Where are they headed? Do they have any idea?

    Apparently not.

  2. Dude. The biggest slap in the face is that ovals are outnumbered by 1, due to factors that were beyond the IRL’s control? Is that your point?

    That’s a pretty weak point.

    If things worked out the way the IRL claims they wanted, then the ovals would be outnumbering the street/road courses by 1, right? And the IRL has stated repeatedly they want a 50/50 split, correct? So they’re pretty much running according to plan, and it’s not their fault that Milwaukee can’t seem to get their act together.

    BTW, Angstadt talked with a rep of the new group in Milwaukee, and then made is somewhat artful comments at KY. OBVIOUSLY, the sticking point here is not time. The date on the schedule is still open, and the IRL could stick Milwaukee back in there no problem. Clearly something else is going on here.

    Gee whiz… I wonder what it could be.

    If the Milwaukee group can’t cover outstanding debts, then why should the IRL run the risk of getting stiffed again. The only leverage they have over the situation in Milwaukee is to tell them, “No !@#$, no ride!”

    • Dude. I think you’re the one missing the point. What Oilpressure was saying is that it never should have gooten to this point. This is an OVAL based series. A few road courses are fine but not where it was even close to the majority of the races. A 50/50 split is not what the IRL was founded on. If you think thisd schedule is ok then GREAT. But most of us thinks it sucks. Tom above was right. Thanks for calling a pig a pig and this schedule is a pig.

  3. “But the biggest slap in the face to the fans; is the fact that of the seventeen races listed, nine of them are on non-ovals.”

    Halleluja…If you only want to watch ovals then just watch NASCAR. IRL today is not the same organization that was founded as an oval based series. CHAMP and IRL merged…there should be a 50/50 split when it comes to road courses or ovals on the schedule. If you don’t like the road courses, why do you watch an open wheel racing series? IRL and Indy lights are pretty much it for open wheel cars racing on ovals. These cars are made for road courses.

    • oilpressure Says:

      IndyCars are made for road courses? These cars were originally designed with the Indy 500 in mind. In CART’s heyday, Lola did all of its design work with one thing in mind…the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Yes, they are now designed with turning right in mind also, but to say these cars are only made for road courses is preposterous.

    • Steve, there’s one problem with your logic. That is that Champ Car went BROKE by forgetting about ovals. You can have all the precious techo whiz bangs you want on a car, but if you can rarely get the car out to full song, what is it worth?

      Let me see the return of the turbochargers, update the Dallara, (or go to something entirely different,) but for heaven’s sake, let me see them go real fast around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas, California, and (if they ever decided to re-pave the track) Pocono.

      Let me hear (before he dies) Tom Carnegie say, just one more time, “IT’S A NEEEEWWWWW TRAAAAACCCKK RECORD!.” That would go farther to enhance the spirit of the series than turning right/left/right at 95 mph.

  4. I’ve been wondering – Milwaukee with a new promoter now has over a year to at least try to claw back some of its dented finances.

    With the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 taking place in 2011, does anyone see a potential return to the series for the circuit to try and re-establish the race or could it do better in a different time of year?

    Lastly, are there any *good* oval tracks that are not under the jurisdiction of ISC, that happen to be in an area where the IRL has a growing or healthy fanbase and that may be interested in having a race, that may be willing to stump up the sanctioning fee – or am I asking for a little too much?

  5. Oval guy here, but…

    I like the challenge presented by the IRL to drivers. That you have to be proficient at both kinds of racing. I think this could be what makes the IRL a unique and interesting series in the future. You can’t just run ovals like Nascar (okay–minus two races) or just run twisties like F1. You have to be good at both–a pretty good measure of a driver and a car.

    The only measure of a track should be does it allow for good racing, does it give the fan his/her money’s worth, is it competitive and entertaining to watch?

    I happen to think that is mostly on ovals, but this year I’ve enjoyed Long Beach, Toronto and Watkins Glen as well.

    Lastly, I think the predominance of twisties was an accident, caused by the unexpected loss of a sponsor in Richmond and the mismanagement of a great oval in Milwaukee. And I’m not sure the Mile is completely out of the discussion for next year yet.

  6. I too have issues with the 2010 schedule. For one, it had often (though never directly by the powers that be) been suggested that Road America was not market sensible if the series was already running a race in Wisconsin. Well, with Milwaukee (sadly!) off the schedule, does that not open up the market demographic for Elkhart Lake?

    What about Cleveland? If reports are accurate that Lanigan couldn’t shore up sponsorship for Burke in ’10, than fine. That’s business. I understand. But….as much as look forward to seeing American Open-wheel venture to new venues, I miss Cleveland. I know I’m not the only fan who feels that way!

    Richmond. Ok, I can live without it. I know it popular with fans, but I can live without it…….but only if they at least replaced it with New Hampshire! It’s not that I’m comparing the merits of one curcuit vs. the other here. My point is, if they’re dropping one short oval, please replace it with another!

    Lastly, I do miss MIS, Phoenix, and Fontana, but maybe it’s time to simply get out of bed with ICS all together. Losing the Chi-town market for a few years will hurt, but I won’t miss Kansas and Miami. (Personal opinion) shame on those ICS bums for shutting down Naz PA!

  7. Editing dept.:

    “ISC” not “ICS”

    Long day at work. Bud Light might have had a hand in this typo!

    Sorry about that!

  8. I couldn’t agree more Oil pressure. This schedule is trash. The 50/50 balance is trash. I don’t mind a few street and road courses at the prestigious locations but come on this sucks. I live in Tampa now after a number of years in Indianapolis. I go to the St. Pete race (horrible from a real race fan perspective), Homestead and of course Indy. I have had my Indy tickets since 81′ and make the trek every Memorial Day. This schedule has made me really think that the 2011 race maybe my last unless they start adding back ovals. After this past Kentucky race you would hope somebody would get their head out of the damn sand and realize what will bring back the fans and the ratings!!!

  9. Sorry, I like the split. I get bored watching the same kind of thing every week. I don’t want to see predominantly one or the other. I realize they aren’t doing this as a way to help teams prepare, but in a perfect world for me, these things would alternate. Each time of racing offers things you don’t see in the others. We’ve seen a couple of very good races, including an oval and a road course, and we’ve seen some bores on both ovals and road courses.

    It’s one of the things that bothers me about F1 (all road courses) and Neckcar (they’re lost when they have to turn right). To me, the different kinds of circuits keep it fresh.

  10. The problem with the schedule is not the split as much as the tracks chosen. If we could get ride of Edmonton and Sonoma and add Montreal, Road America and Cleveland (and make sure the brazilian race is in Interlagos) on one side and drop Homestead, Chicagoland and Kansas for Loudon, Vegas, Pocono, Milwaukee and either Fontana or Michigan. We’d have a 50/50 20 race schedule that keep Apex, Honda and SMI happy, get as far from ISC as I think we can and have a very healthy schedule.

    • I agree, the problem lies more with the venues. As a young race fan, I grew up watching NASCAR and CART. In the late 90′s IRL wasn’t that exciting. Another commenter mentioned the schedule presents a unique challenge to the drivers due to mix of tracks and I agree with that sentiment. Each type of track has its place and challenges- great! It is the IICS’s task to schedule venues that accentuate these driver challenges and will have much fan support.

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