Who Gets The Blame At Pocono?

Last Thursday, on the eve of the Pocono IndyCar 500, Pocono track president Brandon Igdalsky made headlines when he said that ticket sales were “scary” when compared to last year’s race. He went on to say that he wasn’t sure if his facility would fulfill the final race in the contract for next year. In 2013, open-wheel racing returned to the Poconos after a twenty-three year absence. The first year back produced a surprisingly good crowd of 30,000 to 35,000 that brought a smile to Igdalsky’s face. It was thought that the decent crowd size was a good number to start from as the event grew over the next few years.

Unfortunately, the crowd for this year’s race was significantly smaller. By the time the race aired on Sunday, I was expecting to see an empty grandstand and no one milling about the paddock. That was not the case. Maybe the walk-up crowd was better than expected or fans responded to the threat of actually losing the race after only two years. It was better than I expected, but still visibly down from last year’s race. The estimates I’ve seen guess that there was anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 in attendance on Sunday. I can see where Igdalsky would be concerned. That drop is unacceptable.

Many fingers were pointing as to who to blame for this phenomenon. Igdalsky called out the IndyCar oval fans in the Northeast who had been moaning for years to see a return to the scenic track. Many on Twitter accused oval fans everywhere for not putting their money where their mouth was. There’s ammunition for that argument. One doesn’t need to look past the recent struggles at Milwaukee or New Hampshire to vindicate that accusation.

Others say it’s not just oval fans, that road racing fans keep crying for a return to Road America but the fear is that few will come. Mid-Ohio returned to the schedule in 2007. They seem to have a nice crowd there, but it doesn’t appear to come close to what CART used to bring in the nineties. Watkins Glen disappeared from the schedule as quickly as it showed up, mostly for…poor attendance.

Some say IndyCar fans are all blow and no go. Others say the hard-cores are showing up. It’s the casual fans on the fringe that aren’t buying tickets.

What do I say? I say it is all of the above, and more. Who do I think is to blame? I think there is enough blame to go around for everyone to share in – the series, the fans, the tracks and promoters – all have a hand in this; but not necessarily in that order.

During Sunday’s broadcast, Bob Varsha shared a Twitter question that essentially asked – If you were commissioner, what would be the one thing that you would change in order to improve the series? I think it was Varsha (but I’m not sure) who hit the nail on the head when he said to improve marketing and promotion. Whoever said it went on to say that the on-track product is better than it has ever been, but no one knows about it. IndyCar and their partners need to really step up their game, when it comes to promoting this series. By partners, I mean ESPN/ABC, NBCSN, Verizon and the myriad of associate sponsors all need to up the ante – not only in cash, but in the effort it takes to get this thing off the ground. Some strides have been made, but they need to do so much more.

My degree is in marketing, but I earned that over thirty years ago and I no longer use it. It is a different business world from the one I entered in the early eighties. I throw that out there as a way of saying – I don’t have any great ideas. However, I do have faith in one of the new faces brought in last fall; Chief Marketing Officer CJ O’Donnell. I’ve heard O’Donnell interviewed on Trackside and I was very impressed. There are several people that I trust immensely that say that O’Donnell is the right man for the job. Marketing concepts are not introduced and implemented overnight. These things take time – and continuity. Continuity is a word I’ll use a lot here, because the lack of it has been a huge part of the problem. 2014 has already been designated as a transition year for IndyCar and the new management team brought in after Randy Bernard’s departure. Hopefully, we’ll begin to see the results of their efforts by 2015.

But the tracks and track promoters share a large portion of the blame. In general, we hear of most tracks that host NASCAR events treating their IndyCar date as an unwanted stepchild. Worse than that, they market the race as they would a well-established NASCAR event – remind people of the date and they will come. You can’t treat both audiences the same. One is in the adult stage, while the other is in the incubation stage.

In the case of Pocono, one wonders if Mr. Igdalsky assumed that all that were there last year would return in droves. You would think that the novelty of a new venue would wear off for a few, but not half of them. Perhaps the traffic situation that was reported after last year’s race was too much for last year’s attendees to bear. I think those issues were addressed, but maybe those in attendance last year didn’t get the message.

Marginal fans are a fickle bunch. That’s why they are marginal fans to begin with. They need to constantly be reminded that there is a race coming up. In addition to that, they have to be given new and different reasons to attend the same race each year. Just that the race is coming around again is no longer an enticement for the marginal fan to show up. Some of the comments here on Monday indicate that there was little or no promotion in the Northeast. I live in Nashville, almost 850 miles away from Pocono, so I cannot attest to how much or little promotion went on. But I’ve seen where several said that there was none and I’ve not seen anyone contradicting that so I’m assuming it is true. If that is the case, then Mr. Igdalsky should turn one of his fingers of blame back to himself.

But one of his fingers of blame should be pointed squarely at the fans. Some have criticized Igdalsky for calling the fans out, saying he is insulting his customers. I disagree. I’m told Pocono is only about a two hour drive from both Philadelphia and New York City. That is a gigantic market from which to draw. Are you going to tell me that there are only 15,000 to 20,000 IndyCar fans within those two huge nearby metropolitan areas?

Igdalsky mentioned that they had countless surveys from IndyCar fans in the area to indicate that there would be no problem filling the stands for an IndyCar race. Somewhere along the way, there was a major disconnect. Either it was bad information or the respondents lied. I have no problem with Igdalsky calling out fans in that area for not showing up. It’s become a common occurrence.

I’m preaching to the choir here, because many readers of this site do attend races – lots of races. Most attend more than I do, which has been averaging out to be only two or three per year. But many do not, nor do they intend to. Yet some of them are the loudest critics of the series.

Roger Curtis, the track president at Michigan International Speedway, has been a Trackside guest on numerous occasions. He has said repeatedly that if everyone who told them they would buy a ticket to see an IndyCar race at MIS, actually would – having an IndyCar event there would be a no-brainer. Maybe Mr. Curtis knows something that Mr. Igdalsky has just found out – fans don’t always follow through with their promises.

It costs time and money to attend IndyCar races. About a month ago, I paid $419 to renew my tickets for next year’s Indianapolis 500. That was just a couple of weeks after shelling out $850 for hotel bills over the three weekends I stayed there, along with the cost of six tanks of gas, plus meals and the souvenirs I bought – and several days of vacation time I burned in the process. That’s a pretty big commitment; both financially and in time.

But NFL fans in the Northeast do it many times a year without batting an eye. NASCAR fans travel much greater distances, in droves, than the two hours it takes to get to Pocono from Philadelphia or New York. Why? Because they are committed fans. How did they become committed fans? It developed over a period of years through continuity.

Fans of the New York Giants know they will see eight regular season games at home from September through December. They also know they will see the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys in their home stadium every single year. That’s continuity. Generations have grown up despising those teams and rivalries developed from that continuity over the years.

For all we complain about NASCAR, they do a lot of things right. They acknowledge the importance of date equity. If you are a NASCAR fan; you know every year, your season starts in Daytona. You also know your series is back in Daytona each and every Fourth of July weekend. You also know there is a 600-mile race in Charlotte over Memorial Day weekend. You can also bank on a daytime race in Bristol in late March as well as a mid-August night race there as well. Plus, there is the late July race at IMS.

You get the picture. The Verizon IndyCar Series would like to have date equity as well, but it’s been hard to achieve it. Outside of the Indianapolis 500 over Memorial Day weekend, most other dates are somewhat fluid. There is little or no continuity. Here’s a quiz – how long has St. Petersburg been the “traditional” IndyCar opener? Since all the way back to 2011. The year before that, they opened at Brazil. In 2008, they opened at Homestead before it became the traditional site of the season finale – that is before it dropped off the schedule after 2010.

Traditions don’t last long in this series because there is no continuity. For the past three seasons, watching the series race the streets of Baltimore was a nice way to spend Labor Day weekend. This year, it’s watching the season finale at Fontana. In 2010, we watched the oval race at Kentucky over Labor Day. Now, IndyCar is trying a new Fourth of July tradition at Pocono. It’s a good weekend for a Sunday race with Daytona always the night before (unless there is a rain delay, like this year). But now, we learn that Pocono is in jeopardy of going the way so many other tracks have gone.

Nothing is settled. There is no continuity. Fans like to know that they can travel to certain venues at the same time every year. They can plan and budget for them. That’s what I do for Indianapolis. I budget money and vacation time every year around the month of May. I couldn’t and wouldn’t do that if it moved around on the calendar or was in jeopardy of falling off the schedule.

I could go on and on in circles about this. It’s the old chicken and the egg theory. Some will say it doesn’t matter who is to blame, but I disagree. All parties are to blame for what happened this year at Pocono – the series, the track and the fans that live nearby and chose not to show up. It doesn’t matter if you’re an oval fan, or a fan of road and street courses. You’re an IndyCar fan. When those in charge of the Verizon IndyCar Series act in arrogance, we are all fond of saying that this series wouldn’t exist without the fans. That statement is a double-edged sword. It’s also up to the fans to do their part and support this series – by not only watching races, but by attending them when possible. If you don’t have a personal stake in this series, you really don’t have much room to complain.

George Phillips


42 Responses to “Who Gets The Blame At Pocono?”

  1. It is an interesting subject that often just gets circular. But two assumptions that I think are too hastily arrived at. First, most discussion among fans starts with “the product is fantastic, so it must be something else.” Just categorically ruling out product quality with the certainty of saying “there is gravity” seems to dismiss a potential issue too quickly. Second, as George says: “I live in Nashville, almost 850 miles away from Pocono, so I cannot attest to how much or little promotion went on. But I’ve seen where several said that there was none and I’ve not seen anyone contradicting that so I’m assuming it is true.” Judging the amount of promotion Pocono does based on Twitter and social media mentions? Grossly unfair to the promoter. Fact is we don’t know how much promotion he did. Basing judgements based on what people recall from mass media is just unfair. Third, IndyCar. Take Iowa for example. What has IndyCar done to promote Iowa? Very little.They sent Jack Hawksworth to a farm near the track for a PR photo deal. That’s it as far as I know, and I’m on the track PR email list. Go to IndyCar.com right now and check out all the exciting information they have there on what’s going on at the track. Zero on Saturday. No fan zone schedule. No driver appearance schedule (at the track or elsewhere), nothing. Indy 500 fans are super spoiled in that it’s a Festival of Promotion and Communication from IndyCar. Everywhere else … not so much. So, I agree, all of the above, but don’t leave IndyCar out and don’t just say “the product is awesome” and let it go at that.

    • Phil Kaiser Says:

      Uh, you left out the promoter for the Iowa race here, Bill. You live in Iowa, what has the promoter done/not done? Isn’t it “(g)rossly unfair” to call out IndyCar while not mentioning what the promoter has or hasn’t done in Iowa’s case? I think Andretti is responsible for the “carnival atmosphere” at tracks like Milwaukee and he’s the PROMOTER, it has nothing to do with IndyCar. What’s Iowa’s promoter doing? Sounds like not much.

      Man, Indianapolis (and the attention it receives) really is stuck in your craw, ain’t it Bill? I keep trying to remind you it’s IndyCar, not IowaCar and without the majestic Indianapolis 500 Iowa, Mid-Ohio, Long Beach and the rest would quickly die on the vine. DRINK, ye Bastard, and smell the roses, lol!

      Phil Kaiser

    • Chris Lukens Says:

      Bill, I see they have dropped the qualifying races at Iowa. Do you know if this was the promoters idea or a request ( demand ) from the owners ? In light of the complaints about lack of on-track activity at ovals, this seems like a dumb idea.

  2. sejarzo Says:

    If I understand some comments from Igdalsky correctly, they surveyed their existing fan base (which had to be mostly NASCAR fans) about adding the Indycar race. Is it just me, or does anybody else think that if a NASCAR fan says “Sure, I’d go!” that it’s not the same thing an Indycar fan saying the same thing? I posit that
    NASCAR fans are far more likely to think it’s a fine idea but then not attend when it’s time to buy the ticket…or go once and then realize it was not their cup of tea after all…just like Chicagoland. (Sorry, Pressdog.)

    • Chicagoland …sob. That’s OK. I’ve moved on (mostly) from lamenting the loss of Chicagoland. That ship has sailed with the new anti-pack sentiment, and perhaps rightly so. Chicagoland would host an IndyCar race … if there was little or no sanctioning fee, but that ain’t gonna happen, so I’ve moved along.

  3. Ron Ford Says:

    IMHO Andretti Autosports does the best job of promoting the Milwaukee Mile race that has ever been done. IndyCar? Not much.

    Certainly continuity is vital to the success of a race. And with regard to putting people in the stands, I don’t think one can overlook the effect that TV coverage has. When there were 30-40,000 people in the stands at Milwaukee the TV coverage was either non-existant or the broadcast quality was poor. Contrast that with the mostly excellent TV race coverage today.

    I will just keep beating this drum: In addition to stepping up their marketing efforts for races other than Indy, IndyCar needs to find a way to lower their sanctioning fees to reflect the reality of today’s market.

    • Phil Kaiser Says:

      I think people tend to forget IndyCar is a SANCTIONING BODY, not a promotional arm, just sayin’….

  4. It’s not hard for me to believe that there are only 20,000 Indycar fans between Philadelphia and New York City. There’s only about 800,000 of us in the whole country, at least according to TV ratings.

    And I don’t see that number growing because young people have no interest in automobile racing.

    So Indycar is selling a product nobody under 40 wants to see. I’m not sure there is a solution except to continue sell events (concerts, ferris wheels, etc.) instead of races.

    • Phil Kaiser Says:

      You should see my three year-old granddaughter race her Indy cars around my oval-shaped rug, then climb into her electric car to run (counterclockwise) around the four trees in my front yard! You have to teach them early and they will love it! Anecdotal evidence, I know, but true nonetheless….

  5. Jim Gray Says:

    While IndyCar has to step up their game, I feel that promotions should be squarely on the track promoters shoulders. They pay a sanctioning fee (whatever that may be) to get a product and they know dang well what that product is and how it has been doing before they make that commitment. If they want to increase their attendance and their gate purchases then they need to work to do so. I have seen people say that IndyCar just shows up and doesn’t do much but what about tracks who pay a fee, expecting big returns, and then just wait for people to arrive? It certainly goes both ways, and they should work together, but if you don’t like your attendance at your track then you need to work to make it better.

    • I agree with this comment in spirit, but I also think this is why a lot of tracks like Chicagoland, Kansas, New Hampshire, KY have decided not to make the commitment. I believe they see the benefit of having a race as not worth the cost. In other words, they don’t think the cost of the product (sanctioning fee) plus the investment needed to market it to get butts in seats is worth the time money and effort based on the ROI they can expect.

      • Jim Gray Says:

        Sadly I cannot disagree w/ anything you said. Sad that it has come to this point but positive that w/ some changes it can be improved. Will it? Only time will tell but I will be attending until there are no cars left on track!

      • Phil Kaiser Says:

        I lived in southern Maine when that race in New Hampshire was scheduled and the promoter there did NOTHING but wait for folks to show up, nary an ad on TV, radio or in the papers… nothing! Then went on to blame IndyCar when nobody (on a cold rainy day) showed up.

        Just how in the hell do you people think the Indianapolis 500 got to where it is? By sitting around waiting for folks to show up? If you think that there are a few books you need to read (500 Miles To Go by Al Bloemker is the best) and you also need to take Donald Davidson’s Indianapolis 500 History class and you might understand a bit more what made “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” what it was and is.

        PS: I LOVE YOUR STUFF BILL, you are funny as hell, but I just don’t always agree with you.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    It would appear to me that your marketing degree is serving you well here, George. Solutions are, unfortunately, not simple, and CJ O’Donnell and co. have their work cut out for them.

    My own worthless opinion on the matter is that while the buck stops with the promoter, the series ought to work (harder) to make things easier for them. Pressdog’s suggestions on increasing event-specific communication would be a good start. In the days following the races in Houston, the series/Verizon bought Houston-area print and radio ads to promote the Pocono race broadcast; perhaps this type of promotion could be employed in key markets prior to races too (or in lieu of). Some tracks are less expensive for the series to contest and/or televise than others, perhaps some of those savings could be passed on. I’ve harped on the Labor Day deadline far too much, but it is also something the series has control over that poses a challenge for some current and potential race promoters.

    If all else fails… free Danny Sullivan’s Indy Heat video game cartridges with each ticket purchased. What do you mean “it’s not 1992”?

  7. Many good points are made above. Here is something I haven’t yet see mentioned, but suspect is a major factor.
    In the ’60s, if you wanted to see an auto race, you had to go to it. As we moved through the 70s and 80s, auto racing began to be more readily available on TV, then as we moved on into the 90s and the 21st century, the internet became a major source of accessing all kinds of information and entertainment.
    Through all that, the technology of sending information evolved greatly, to the point to which now, the most informative way to follow an auto race in live, via electronic media. We now have a much better idea of what is happening during a race, we can see from any angles, we can hear communications between drivers and crews, we get instant replays, and we don’t have to invest time and money to travel and put up with traffic.
    In short, auto racing has become a sport which people choose to experience in front of a screen in their homes.
    IndyCar and Verizon have recognized that and are working to make that experience even more attractive.
    Continuing to focus on getting people to go to the tracks, is probably trying to drive down a very short, dead-end road.
    Sometimes to find the answers, one must start with the right question.
    The answers in 2014 won’t come from thinking with a 1970s perspective.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      Spot on Mark. Given what you have pointed out, I think that IndyCar needs to adjust their business model accordingly and find ways to reduce their sanctioning fees.

  8. I agree with Paul Tracy’s assessment that the series needs marketing and promotion. I do not agree with him on the quality of the “product”. I believe the reason the core fan base left and hasn’t returned falls squarely on the poor quality of the “product”. The cars are spec, ugly and slow; and we’re stuck with them for years to come. The new lights car is a much better design. Car counts are miserable. Why would anyone pay good money to see 21 cars get lost on a 2.5 mile speedway? They never should have shown that snippet from the 84 race during the broadcast, it just emphasized the smallness of the field. The drivers, for the most part are corporate robot, rock star wannabes. All you have to do is follow them on Twitter and see their obsession with $200k supercars, $10k watches $1k headphones. This is a complete disconnect with the fans who are trying to figure out how their going to pay for gas to get to a track. The ownership/management is directly aligned with IMS. Their position is that the series exists solely for the purpose of supporting the Speedway and the other races are unimportant. Officiating is inconsistent and arbitrary.

    Unless there is a complete paradigm shift the IndyCar series will continue its death spiral.

    • On the other hand, you could take a few of those sentiments and look at them an entirely different way. Yes, the 1984 race had a full 33 car field, but how truly competitive was that field? The recordbook shows four cars on the lead lap at the end (Sullivan, Mears, Rahal and Sneva, who combined to lead all but 8 laps), and 10th place was fully EIGHT laps down, all even with having 10 cautions for 68 laps to bunch the field back up. And the 30 MPH difference between pole and slowest in qualifying tells me that the field might not have been all that close at all after 10-15 laps. In light of that, the fact that on Sunday we had a 5-car lead pack that brawled nearly to the last lap, plus the 5-10 other cars that were on the lead lap most of the day in spite of the insanely long green flag stretch tells me that things might not be all that bad right now. Smaller fields? Definitely, but the overall quality is as strong as any in the entire history of the sport.

      And I just can’t get my head around how the current cars are “slow” (I don’t mind how they look, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I understand that the fact that there is but one chassis means that the cars are likely 50% cheaper than they’d be with more than one manufacturer, but we’ll leave that alone here). Pocono pole speed was almost 224 MPH, on a track that is pretty darn hard to run flat out. And, for a like-for-like comparison of the current cars to the vaunted, glorious CART-era cars (which, yes, I also loved), last year’s Mid-Ohio pole speed was 0.0049 seconds off of the all-time track record that was set in 1999 by Dario Franchitti (which was tied the following year by Gil de Ferran, to the 0.0001 of a second). How’s that “slow”, exactly?

      And I guess if you want to brand the entire field of drivers “robot, rock star wannabes” by the things that you might see 2-3 of them posting on Twitter (I have a feeling who you’re probably referring to), go right ahead. Nothing I say here is going to have any effect on your opinion.

      • Agreed – it’s all about opinion but I ask you one question. If the competition is so good where are the fans, the TV ratings, the sponsors, and the purse money?

        • I don’t have first hand knowledge, but I’ve got about a hundred guesses. People now have a million different ways to spend their time that they didn’t have in 1984 (or whatever year you want to look at prior to about 1995). People can now watch just about any movie that they want with 2-3 mouse clicks. They can play umpteen hundred different “real-er than real life” video games on any one of a half dozen different gaming consoles. They can while away untold hours interacting with people, watching videos or just generally screwing around on the internet, for basically free. They can use their 60″ flat screen TVs to watch any of about 500 different high definition TV channels that cater to their own, personal, super-focused interests. They (or their kids) can play any number of sports, and even on teams that travel extensively outside of their hometown (when I was a kid 20-30 years ago, only the 20 or so absolute best in any sport in my hometown got to travel; nowadays, there are travelling teams for basically any kid that wants to, starting from the age of about 6). Most of these things (minus that last one) can be done without leaving your own house and coughing up several hundred dollars for hotels, tickets, gas money, etc., etc. (not to be underestimated in an economy that’s yet to fully rebound in the blue collar sector), and they also don’t require going outside in the baking sun and paying $8 for a lukewarm light beer. I could go on, but I think my point’s made. These are the reasons that in-person attendance is down for many other sports, too.

          The world has changed immensely since IndyCar was king among American motorsports. IndyCar has changed as well, but the world of IndyCar sure looks a whole lot more like it did in 1995 than the rest of the world looks like it did in 1995. Fortunately for me, I like the way that IndyCar 2014 looks, just as I liked the way it looked in 1995. Unfortunately for anybody who’s wishing that IndyCar starts growing back to the point where it fills grandstands and/or pulls 2.0+ TV ratings (I stopped wishing for those things a year or two ago), that train has probably sailed for good. In the meantime, the on track product is pretty good, I like most of the drivers, and the Series, the track owners/promoters, the sponsors and the team owners have apparently reached a financial situation that’s at least semi-sustainable, if not growing leaps and bounds. I’m pretty happy with that.

          • So you agree that the best we can hope for is that the series will continue to limp along on life support until someone pulls the plug. In its current state it is not even semi-sustainable (IMS is even on the public dole – seeking and accepting tax dollars). I can’t help but chuckle a the image of a train sailing into the sunset – perhaps an appropriate metaphor for IndyCar.

          • That’s incorrect that I “agree that the best we can hope for is that the series will continue limp along on life support until someone pulls the plug”. That’s far from what I said above. What I was getting at is that for the most part, the Series is kind of cruising along (you say “limp”, I say “cruise”…to-may-to/to-mah-to), with most events managing to attract enough sponsorship and/or ticket sales to underwrite the sanctioning fee. It would appear, from the way that Detroit, Houston, St. Pete and several other races have played out this year, if there’s a modest amount of title sponsorship available for a race, then an event can break even on as few as 25-40,000 tickets sold. Nobody is making a mint, of course, but the promoter makes his vig back, the Series gets the sanction fee that allows it to function, the teams all get paid through the Leaders Circle, the sponsors get their value through B-2-B deals or being able to bring employees/partners out to the track, and everybody goes home happy. Well, except for the folks who are holding their breath for 1994-level attendance and TV numbers again. Is this sustainable in the long term (thinking more than 3-5 years out here)? I don’t know. Maybe yes, maybe no. If yes, then great. IndyCar gets to cruise along (there’s that phrase again) as it’s doing, while hoping they can introduce a tweak or two here or there that lands it back in the zeitgeist (or maybe just get really lucky with the debut of a new driver or engine manufacturer that captures the public’s attention). If this isn’t sustainable long term, well, they’ve apparently got a couple of years before they will have to make sweeping changes and rethink the entire enterprise. I just think we’re far, far from “pull the plug” time.

          • Agree, the only way to get 94 attendance and TV rating is to bring the product up to 94 levels. IndyCar is more about pre-race concerts and selling tee-shirts than competition. The Hulman family is not going to continue to bleed money much longer. An IPO is probably not feasible so an out right sale of the Speedway may be the only option. If it weren’t for the news about the NACAR owner’s new RTA I would probably say that NASCAR would own the Speedway and the Series in a couple of years but it looks like they have enough problems of their own right now.

          • Phil Kaiser Says:

            My GOD you NAILED IT! BRAVO!!!!!!!

          • Phil Kaiser Says:

            And by the way, throughthecatchfence, IMS is NOT TAKING TAXPAYER’S MONEY! They are getting to keep the sales tax normally charged when you buy something at the Track instead of turning it over to the State, then investing the monies back into the Track. COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! Do some research before spouting off the same old tired cliches, will you?

            And I was saying The Speedgeek nailed it, just to be sure….

          • And that’s not taking taxpayers money? HUH?

          • Phil Kaiser Says:

            No, it is not. It’s IMS’ money, not yours or the government’s. What the government does is CONFISCATE money you earn and hand it out to those who don’t. Not too hard to understand. Ever look at your pay stub? That’s your money the government is taking nearly fifty cents on the dollar out of and giving it to folks who sit on their front porches all day.

            Man, I wish schools did their jobs and actually taught economics these days….

    • billytheskink Says:

      When some enterprising person with access to a screen-printing machine makes a t-shirt with a picture of a DW-12 that reads “Indycar is SPEC – tacular”, I am going to be first in line to buy one.

  9. Paul Peters Says:

    A few things…
    1) I was there. I drove from Lyndhurst (by Giants Stadium) it took 4 hrs to get there THURS & 5hrs to get home Sunday. The 4th of July traffic going to NJ/NYC from PA is insane. Still, I’ll go for yr 3. Other ppl, probably not. A normally 90min drive to Pocono vs 5hrs…
    2) lots of kids. Everywhere I turned in the paddock there were kids & they were stoked. This is a good thing.
    3) 4th of July date is a bad idea. It’s going to be tough to sell those tix. Especially when it falls on a 3 consecutive day wknd. People are going to visit family & such. They are not going to go to an IndyCar race unless die hard. Especially in this area.
    4) Finding other entertainment, dining is tough. There are places but they are on the local roads & off beaten path. I would assume that w/a family you need to choices & there aren’t many. You’d have to look on line or actually search the area.

    Otherwise great article, as usual.
    Hopefully in time there will be less of these conversations on how to remedy ailing IndyCar attendance.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      Thanks for your comments Paul. Perhaps you could forward those thoughts to the track promoter whose name I can’t spell. It is good to get some insight from someone who was there. Your comments about traffic were echoed by Kevin Lee last night on trackside.

    • I went to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, OH on the evening of Saturday July 5th. That is traditionally one the busiest (if not the busiest) days for the park all year. The place was amazingly empty — we virtually walked onto most of their star roller coasters. I say all this because I think there might be a reason why people were not at Pocono as well. If Cedar Point struggled for attendees (apparently they had 10,000 people less than expected) then Pocono might have struggled for the reasons. Lack of people traveling in general? Visiting family? People traveled further given the 3 day weekend?

  10. Ballyhoo Says:

    Thanks George and all for our comments on Pocono. I hoped to be there this year, but it didn’t work out. I am coming out from the West Coast, so travel and accommodations are a concern but the track fascinates me and I really hope to go next year.

    I am spoiled with Long Beach being my local race. The festival atmosphere is envigorating to fans. I read somewhere this week that there was not any other racing besides IC and the Lights. Maybe the track needs to work on other support activities. I wonder what driver appearances were scheduled before the weekend in the Phily and NYC environs.

    Yes, it would be great to know that a certain race will be on a certain weekend each year. Planning is quite an issue for all of us no matter how close a track is to your homebase. I have enjoyed the product the last few years and am so glad I finally got off the couch and started going to races. Can’t beat it live!

    • Phil Kaiser Says:

      Wow, does IndyCar bring that “festival atmosphere” to Long Beach, or does the PROMOTER do that, hmmm?

      Pretty sure it’s the promoter….

      • Ballyhoo Says:

        I am sure you are right, Phil. I don’t think IC is that swift (or smart). The LB promoter is fantastic, but we still may lose out to F1 in the future, which would be a shame.

        • Ballyhoo Says:

          I just saw this on the NBC Sports site. Look at what Andretti sports is doing to promote Milwaukie!! And has been at it since MARCH!!


        • Phil Kaiser Says:

          It’s not IndyCar’s job to promote, only to sanction….

          • Sorry Phil, you are wrong. It is a two way street, and in fact some of the onus lies with the drivers as well to help the series promote events,(which by my observations Indycar drivers do as well as NHRA racers and better than NASCAR racers), to their fans and followers.

            All sanctions, (and I’m speaking from the standpoint of having been involved in short track open wheel racing), need to work with promoters on how best to promote the product. They, (sanctions), need to take an active role in guiding and directing the promotion of their series and it’s sponsors, and need to work on training and encouraging driver involvement for the promoter and his event sponsors. This leads to a multi-faceted approach and as long as there is a single vision it will always work better than saying it’s “their” job not ours.

            It doesn’t mean it’s an easy deal, nor is it cheap. It takes a lot of time, effort and dedication by ALL parties to make a promotion successful. BTW I’m not in the majority of racers or race fans that have it out for promoters or think they are just a bunch of greedy non-purse paying S.O.Bs., but I can agree that many times so called ‘promoters’ are nothing more than “track operators” simply looking at the back gate receipts.

            Also, I’d have to disagree about IMS taking taxpayers money. Like it or not, most of us in the Hoosier state that live north of Kokomo, even those like me that BLEED Indianapolis Motor Speedway, don’t agree with the deal IMS cut with the state. It reminds us of having the IN Toll Road sold to an out of country entity with jobs lost in N. IN and all the money from the sale going downstate for the lease….errr….sale.

            Regardless of your thoughts on how things should be taught in school, (and I don’t disagree with you there), it all comes down to perception, and whether you or anyone else wants to be believe it, the brokering of the deal wasn’t received all that well by those of us here that pay attention to such things. Especially since the income for the race basically stays in central, (read Indianapolis), IN and we won’t see any of the returns,(financial income by tourism by a privately held company), these improvements are supposed to make. And please note, we aren’t asking for handouts, nor do I personally think the Hulman family shouldn’t make money. The rest of the non-voting public probably doesn’t even know where The Speedway is and ultimately lack of awareness is why the deal passed and why attendance is down.

  11. What do IndyCar contracts look like? Are their provisions on promotion? Are there clauses that allow for both parties to share profits and losses, or is the sanctioning fee just a flat rate and the track is on its own? There are too many unknowns.

    Street courses just have a more festive atmosphere that is close to home for the casual fan. They are as much a community event as 4th of July fireworks.

    The road courses I see as proper open wheel racing and I do not think I am the only person. I have been going to Mid-Ohio since 2010 which is an hour and a half up the road. I can sleep in my own bed each night. The race plays out like an F1 race which I love. The fastest car with the fastest pit crew tends to win and there are few cautions which IndyCar tends to drag out forever.

    Another plus to street and road courses are the track stays busy. There is action non-stop all morning through the main event for three days in a row. Ovals do not have this and when they have anything else it is a six car Indy Lights field. That doesn’t help. Pairing with the Trucks Series is great, but that race is Friday, not Sunday morning or Saturday Afternoon.

    What is clear to me is ovals are not popular in most places. I am not a dirt history expert, but ovals near places with a dirt heritage seem to do well. Iowa and Indy come to mind. Perhaps this is coincidence, but it is just a thought.

    Some ovals are in the middle of nowhere and require a hotel stay or camping. Asking my wife to camp at this point is a definite no. The hotel hits the wallet. If we do stay in a hotel, it better be someplace cool. Long Pond, Newton (great attendance), Joliet, and Lebanon just don’t cut it. Phoenix, Milwaukee (bad attendance), and Indianapolis do.

    We are going again to Mid-Ohio and it is costing us a whopping $80 for (2) tickets, we bring our own food and drink. What value for a full day of racing.

  12. Speaking as an open-wheel fan on Long Island, NY and who went to
    the New Hampshire race a few years ago, I considered going to Pocono but didn’t. Why? Even if there was no traffic, it’s a 6+ plus round trip car trip….more like 9 with holiday traffic. Figure the gas, tolls, aggravation,etc. And consider it’s broadcast live and if it rains or delay, there are hundreds of other entertainment options at home. Finally I decided to buy a ticket to Global Rallycross, which I know little about, but is locally at Nassau Coliseum this month. I think the location of tracks ln remote areas in an era of $4 gas is a major factor in declining attendance, coupled with large screen HDTVs.

    I think people use the “track did lousy promotion” as a crutch. The vast majority of the population just isn’t into IndyCars anymore.
    Maybe it will change but if it does it will take decades.

  13. jhall14 Says:

    I went to Pocono. I arrived in Strousberg, PA on 7/3. I saw 1 TV station which showed info/drivers for INDYCAR on 7/3. I saw no other mentions on TV. I heard no other mentions on radio. What did the Pocono Speedway brass think was going to happen. And then afterb the race, it took me 2 hours to make a 30 minutem drive back to the motel. Thank God it wasn’t full, I would still be on Interstate 80.

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