What Happened To Mark Miles’s Present?

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Most IndyCar fans have already taken note that there was one item missing from under our tree this season. In early November, while describing his ideas for revamping qualifying procedures for this year’s Indianapolis 500 – Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles dropped a little nugget to tease us with by saying that the series might be receiving a “Christmas Present” in the form of a new title sponsor. With the recent departure of IZOD, most of us had expected the series to run in 2014 (or longer) with no title sponsor. When Miles dropped that in our laps, we all (myself included) began wild speculation as to who it might be.

So here we are in mid-January. Christmas came and went and I’ve heard not even a whisper about a title sponsor since Miles mentioned it off the cuff in early November. Granted, I unplugged myself from most IndyCar news for a couple of days surrounding Christmas, so I may have missed an announcement – but I doubt it. It’s now quite apparent that whatever Miles thought was going to happen, did not – or at least not yet.

This is the type of thing that Randy Bernard’s detractors would have had a field-day with. Randy was very transparent. He would sometimes toss ideas out into the air, just to see what the reaction of the fan base would be. When he floated the trial-balloon for a rule similar to NASCAR’s “Lucky Dog”; it was met with such opposition that he knew not to bring that up anymore. There were those that said he was too quick to shoot off his mouth or that he led by the seat of his pants, without thinking things through.

I saw it differently. I considered Randy Bernard to be an idea guy that listened to the fans, valued their opinions and trusted their instincts.

But, if Randy Bernard was accused of speaking without thinking – what was it that Mark Miles did in early November?

I walk a thin line here. During Randy Bernard’s tenure, I was accused more than once of being a Randy Bernard apologist. It’s no secret that I was a huge fan of Randy Bernard’s. I considered him the most effective leader of American Open-Wheel Racing since Tony Hulman. But I also realize that Randy is gone, and he’s not coming back. There is no future in pining for his return. All we can do is either support the current regime and hold them accountable when they falter or we can sit back and hope they fail. I’m not sure there is any purpose in that. After all, I’m assuming we all want the same thing – for IndyCar to grow and prosper.

Mark Miles and his cronies are far smarter than I am when it comes to running a property such as IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I fully believe that. But I also believe that no one is infallible. Randy Bernard certainly wasn’t. I cringed when he sent out the tweet that some owners were trying to get him fired. I am certain that if he had it to do over, he would have handled the situation completely differently. But, Randy was an open book. You knew exactly how he felt and what was going on in his mind.

By teasing us with the thought that we might have a title sponsor in place by Christmas, shows us that Mark Miles is not infallible either. Unless he was certain that he would have something tangible to announce by Christmas, he should have kept this little secret to himself. The deal either fell through completely or had some serious delays. Keep in mind, we are only seventy-five days away from the first practice at St. Petersburg. The end of the offseason is quickly approaching. Given all the new logos that would have to be designed and printed for every sign, car, shirt, and driver’s uniform – time is of the essence. I would think it’s safe to assume that it isn’t going to happen for 2014 – which is exactly what every fan expected before Miles got our hopes up in November.

This was a rookie mistake from a sports executive that is not a rookie. Keep in mind that Miles led the ATP Tour for fifteen years as well as leading the committee that brought Super Bowl XLVI to Indianapolis in 2012. This is a savvy sports executive with a lot of clout. One wonders how or why he was seduced into teasing fans with something he wasn’t one-hundred percent certain would happen.

Now he has egg on his face, and what’s left of the IndyCar fan base has another reason to think that nothing is being done behind the scenes. I want to believe in Mark Miles. I really do. What choice do I have? I understand that he is not as approachable as Randy Bernard. Few CEO’s are. But in a little more than a year, we’ve seen very little activity. Hiring Derrick Walker was a positive move, but besides that – can you tell me what positive moves have been made for the series? We are told that 2014 is a transition season and to expect big changes for 2015. I am holding out hope that is the case, because most of what I see is a regression back into the Tony George bunker mentality where the fans are nothing more than a necessary evil.

Even if this Christmas present materializes this week and there is a glorious announcement that some new company is stepping forward to lead our series into the Promised Land – our view of Mark Miles has been tainted. I will always question what is coming out of his mouth, after his amateurish move of dangling a carrot that never came to pass for IndyCar fans. His credibility will always be just a little bit in doubt.

When Randy Bernard was fired in late October of 2012; I said then that whoever was chosen to take his place, may be the most important hire in IndyCar’s short history. I still believe that. I am waiting for Mark Miles to show us he and his staff are the right people for the job.

George Phillips

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17 Responses to “What Happened To Mark Miles’s Present?”

  1. It’s like that girl that’s says she will call and never does. It’s obvious the bunker mentality is the soup of the day, over this post Randy Bernard era. Miles is like the father that is rarely home making hollow promises that some day he will take the kids to Disneyland and then never does. He probably knows he can’t take it back, or his ego took its first hit and so what does he do? He retreats. Boys and girls here is a small glimpse of things to come. The management has exposed its MO.

  2. Regardless of how effective one might be as a CEO, if one takes the place of a very communicative predecessor but never provides more than sparse comments and nothing concrete to back them up…for over a year…and announces that there will be changes to your core product “but we’re still thinking about them” without specifics…for well over a year…one cannot be taken seriously by employees, partners, and customers. One will be assumed to be clueless.

    • Agreed. I think Miles has patently misunderstood the depth of the fans’ cynicism and critical view of Indycar management. That lack of clear communication with the fans seems emblematic of a Modus Operandi, as Dan has said, and that process begs the question of how the sport communicates with another of its most essential relationships – the sponsors.

      Many of we fans have had nearly 20 years to digest, review, and pontificate on the matters of Indycar the sport. While IMS and the 500 seem to have clicked along relatively unabated in relationship to Indycar, the sport, much as the fans, also appears to be seen as a necessary evil.

      The apparent retreating also seems a function of Miles original purpose, to reorganize Hulman and Company, with Indycar down the ‘To-Do’ list a bit. Like any relationship though, clear communication is clearly essential. Fans (and who knows what potential/existing sponsors have been told) have been given yet another carrot of 2015 promises (much as we’ve had in some major form nearly every year since 2008), and little else.

      “smile and grin at the change all around,
      pick up my guitar and play,
      just like yesterday,
      then I get on my knees and pray,
      we don’t get fooled again.
      Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss”

  3. Not to let the cat out of the bag, but I’ve figured out who the next title sponsor will be…NASCAR.

    The series will be rebranded NASCAR’S INDYCAR SERIES. This will allow NASCAR to seem like they’ve bought the series without actually doing it. They will also sell the naming rights to the 500 as a part of the package. So it will be known as “The NASCAR Indianapolis 500.

    It’s a win/win.

    • billytheskink Says:

      That, amazingly, would still be less confusing than their Sprint Cup racing without Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz.

  4. Whatever. I never thought that title sponsorship was all that serious a possibility for 2014, even after Miles made the comment (at the late date it was made, it sounded a little “wishful thinking-y” to me). So, I’m not all that upset. At this point, to me, title sponsorship of any sort, at any time now or in the future is a bonus. Desirable, yes, but not expected (at least by me).

  5. Miles gave an interview to one of your fellow bloggers on December 23rd, or so, in which he reiterated is confidence that there will be a title sponsor signed in 2014. I cannot recall which blog site. But it was a 30 minute podcast interview.

  6. “And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon …”

  7. OK, sorry, here’s a more substantive comment: First, I think Randy had weaknesses. His strengths are well outlined by George above, but his weakness was a shoot-from-the-hip approach, almost the opposite of the glacially deliberative Miles, and I don’t think Randy won over the hearts and minds of those he led and definitely not the teams, which led to his downfall. If we could have a combination of Randy’s get ‘er done and fan communication style and Mile’s deliberativeness, that would be awesome. Second, Miles’ strategy appears to be fall back to the capital (Indianapolis), find ways to increase profit (using IMS and overseas road races), try to regroup for 2015 or 2016, no later than mid-2017!!. From his perspective, there’s not a lot to lose in this strategy since probably 25% of fans live outside Indiana and IMS is by far the cash driver for the league. It’s a “focus on your strength” strategy. Third, at this point I just mentally add “if everything works out, God willing and the creeks don’t rise” to any forward-looking statement anyone in IndyCar administration makes, including having a title sponsor by some time.

  8. As I was reading about the new liveries for the four Andretti cars, I wondered if there had been any progress on the series title sponsor. It could still happen before the end of March, but I am holding my breath.

  9. I don’t recall what Mark Miles promised or didn’t promise and don’t much care. What does bother me is that the PR department for IndyCar is invisible. Does anyone remember who won the championship last year? Other than the token appearence on Letterman he has not been in the news anywhere. (Not to mention Emma. More Emma Dixon PLEASE!) My internet default news page is MSN.com. There is seldom a week during the off season that there is not some kind of NASCAR so-called news there. Last week the story was about Jr. getting a new crew chief next year. That was just regurgitated old news, but it got coverage for 2-3 days. Sure there are some fluff stories on the IndyCar website and some good stuff at Racer.com, but that stuff gets read by us. There is nothing in the national news about IndyCar anywhere anytime.

    I will say this: Andretti Autosports does a good job. I get a email from them each week about something. Today it was about their new liveries. Most of the IndyCar teams do not help themselves much in the PR department either. The next thing you know they will hire a driver from, oh, I don’t know………Russia. Boy, that will bring in the fans!

    • I totally agree with you that the PR department at 16th and Georgetown isn’t earning its keep. There are lots of opportunities out there to publicize the series on a national basis.

  10. FOR SALE ……………………… :o)

  11. Unrelatedly, I haven’t heard from Tsong in a while. Hopefully he gets this message:

    你好我的朋友?我今天有一個美味的湯,但沒有麵條。餐廳不肯告訴我那裡的麵條。我喜歡的餐廳非常多,繼續回去。印地就像是我的湯。

  12. 美味的麵條和充滿活力的城市令人興奮的蓮花花園的種子。命令廚師的特殊。

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