The Fans Lose Again
Usually, there are two sides to every story. I’m sure this same principle applies to the cancellation of the Boston Grand Prix that was supposed to take place in about four months over Labor Day weekend.
It makes me mad that I’m even writing about this right now. I want to be discussing the upcoming festivities regarding the Month of May. I’d prefer to be writing a nostalgic post about Sam Hanks, Tony Bettenhausen or Eddie Sachs. Instead, I’m having to talk about the latest case of IndyCar mismanagement and who might have wronged whom.
This past weekend, there was no shortage of online articles pointing the finger of blame at either IndyCar or the city of Boston. Quite honestly, in a debacle this big, I think there is enough blame to go around for everyone. I think both parties are at fault. Throw in the promoter and that’s three separate groups you can blame.
I don’t claim to know the ins and outs of this deal. It was quite obvious perusing social media over the weekend that there was a ton of people that knew the details of the deal a lot more than I did – at least, so they claimed.
This much I remember from last fall – IndyCar CEO Mark Miles put the Boston GP on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule without having an iron-clad contract in hand. It raised a lot of eyebrows at the time, but we were continuously assured by Miles, the promoter and the mayor of Boston that the event would go forward. There were only minor details to be worked out.
Every time someone would say that the last obstacle had been crossed, a new group would arise and start complaining about anything they could regarding the event. Large civic groups and activists were protesting about the impending race that they claimed would wreak havoc on their neighborhoods. Noise, traffic, crowds, carbon footprint – you name it; there was always something to complain about. It became obvious months ago that even if the race managed to run, that it was very unpopular with the locals.
At the risk of offending any New England area readers, it doesn’t surprise me that IndyCar was not wanted in Boston. I saw one tweet that said (paraphrasing): “Anyone who has followed Boston politics for the past 200 years should not be surprised at all.”
I once had a friend that moved to Boston. When she came back to Tennessee to visit, everything out of her mouth was how much better everything was in Boston. Finally becoming irritated, I sarcastically said “Good Lord, you make it sound like Boston is the epicenter of the universe and they just throw the scraps out to the rest of us.” Her response? “Well, that’s really the way it is.” Uggh!
Something tells me that that mindset came into play. Bostonians have a reputation of turning their nose up at anything that didn’t originate there. This friend ended up getting engaged to a native Bostonian. She didn’t consider it strange at all that he currently lived, went to high school and college within a three-mile radius of where he was born and grew up. The only thing she found odd was that he had never traveled out of the state of Massachusetts in his life. Ever. And he was a grown man in his mid-forties. The friend said that was quite common up there, but she saw nothing wrong with it. Funny thing, she broke off the engagement and now lives in Atlanta.
So I hope I haven’t offended any of my Boston readers. Some will say I’m guilty of stereotyping, but I don’t think so. If I’m way off the mark with that assessment, please let me know. But I’ve been to Boston many times and what I witnessed on those trips backed up my opinion. If the locals that were protesting had that mindset, this race was doomed from the start.
And what about John Casey, the CEO of Grand Prix of Boston, who was the promoter of the event? How was he allowed to keep talking out of both sides of his mouth for the past eight months? IndyCar fans weren’t buying it. Everyone seemed to know this event was in deep trouble except for John Casey and Mark Miles. They kept feeding lines to the fans about what a great happening this event would become for years.
To me, that’s the most troubling thing. Mark Miles seems to consider fans to be stupid. On the contrary, I think IndyCar fans are some of the smartest of any sport. In what other sport do fans know the details of sponsor involvement like our sport? I’m an NFL fan, but I don’t know what the official soft-drink or beer of the NFL is currently. But I know that at IMS, the official soft-drink is Coke and MillerCoors is the official brewer.
By continuously muttering that all was well to the fan base, Mark Miles was insulting the intelligence of IndyCar fans. When pressed in interviews last fall about Boston, he would get a bit surly as if he was irritated that such a question would even be asked. Well, it’s obvious now that questions needed to be asked – lots of questions.
The question now is what can IndyCar do to salvage the Labor Day weekend? Right now, the Verizon IndyCar Series is a fifteen race season. That includes one double-header (Detroit) and a venue with two races (Indianapolis). They desperately need another race, but it’s a tall order to find a site, promote it and pull off the event in four months.
We’ve all seen the same possibilities; New Hampshire, Providence, Watkins Glen, Montreal, Gateway and Fontana are the ones getting the most play. New Hampshire Motor Speedway is probably off the table because they would be hosting a NASCAR Chase race just a few weeks later. Providence would be tough because of the planning and logistics it takes to put on a street race, specially for the first time. Fontana could be a possibility, but would not draw. If it couldn’t draw with a year to promote, imagine how empty the stands would look with just four months to plan.
My good friend and One Take Only cohort, John McLallen, keeps telling me that Nashville should be in the mix. While I would love that personally, I don’t think that is a possibility at this point. To stage a race with four months notice at a venue that has essentially been in moth balls for the past few years is simply too tall an order. Plus, I fear that Nashville Superspeedway is likely to be tied up in litigation at some point, when the shady group that has been trying to buy it moves to their next step and sues Dover Motorsport for eventually turning their offer down. Please overlook the fact that they’ve missed every deadline and have no real cash. Mark my word – they’ll eventually sue and tie up that track so no one can buy it. That’s another story for another day. But it would be disastrous if they rescheduled the event for Nashville, only for that event to be cancelled over a lawsuit.
To me, the sites that make the most sense are Watkins Glen, Gateway (St. Louis) and Montreal. Selfishly, I’d like to see them race at Gateway simply because it would be a four hour drive from me. But looking beyond that, it’s not ideal simply because Gateway may make its way onto the 2017 schedule. To suddenly go there at the last minute would undercut the proper promotional efforts that should take place for next year. Watkins Glen makes sense – a lot of sense; as does Montreal. I’d like to see both of those sites on the schedule in the future. I’ve always felt that Canada needed more races and who could complain about going back to Watkins Glen?
Both of those choices make sense which means neither one will happen, more than likely. John Casey, Mark Miles and IndyCar all have egg on their faces right now. Some might say that Boston does too, but I don’t think they really care. But unless a suitable replacement venue can be found very quickly, the biggest losers are going to be the fans – again. It seems like I’ve seen this movie before.