SBD/March 6, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Columnists, Critics Denounce IndyCar Report, Claim Suggestions Would Not Work

IndyCar's 15-race season works against the feasibility of a playoff
The “good news” in the Boston Consulting Group’s recent report on IndyCar parent company Hulman & Co. is that the BCG “told Hulman to keep its hands” on Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series, according to Jeff Pappone of the GLOBE & MAIL. On the other hand, the fact that IndyCar said that it has “changed or revised some of the recommendations is a good thing because a few are downright silly.” The idea of “having a NASCAR-style playoff at the end of the season to determine the series champion is simply dumb.” The problem with this idea “is twofold.” First, and “most importantly, the declining number of fans shows that this contrived format isn’t popular with NASCAR fans.” The second reason that a Chase-style playoff “wouldn’t work is the length of the IndyCar season.” With only 15 events to play with as opposed to NASCAR’s 36, having a separate championship “doesn’t make sense.” Pappone wrote the “strangest recommendation of the report is the idea that the series should focus on marketing IndyCar’s drivers as the ‘most skilled, daredevil drivers,’ rather than their personalities.” Trying to sell “highly-skilled racers as 1930s-style barnstorming daredevils will not secure the future of the sport.” The reality is that “most people who go to a race or watch one on TV will never really understand the skill level needed to pilot an IndyCar and painting it as some sort of modern day thrill show will only turn IndyCar into a curiosity.” Promoting drivers’ personalities “works” for IndyCar. The circuit’s brass “needs to stop commissioning reports and start following” driver James Hinchcliffe around “during a race weekend, and take some notes while they are at it.” Hinchcliffe’s “authentic, down-to-earth approach made him the series’ most popular driver last year and there’s little doubt he will repeat as the crowd favourite this year.” That is “something IndyCar needs to embrace if it wants to turn things around” (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/5).

PLAYOFF, SCHMLAYOFF: The AP’s Jenna Fryer wrote where the BCG may have "erred ... is in declaring that IndyCar was ‘the best pure racing motorsports league in the U.S.’ then offering a handful of ideas that essentially gimmick up the series.” Among the “most polarizing suggestions are a 15-race U.S. schedule held over 19 weeks, a three-race playoff at the end of the season and a finale on the IMS road course.” Purists “don’t want a playoff.” Fryer: “Then there’s BCG’s marketing ploy of paying a ‘big personality’ to join the series.” That would “enrage the purists.” The only way a “paid A-list driver would have any long-term affect on the series is by being competitive, and there's a pretty shallow pool of talent willing and capable of jumping into an Indy car and running up front.” However, not everything in the report is “outlandish, and some of it makes sense.” The ticketing structure at IMS “probably does need to be overhauled.” If the most expensive seats sell and the mid-priced tickets do not, then “raise the cost of the stuff in high demand and adjust the price of stalled inventory” (AP, 3/4).

KRAZY FOR KIDS: In Baltimore, Chris Korman reports Grand Prix of Baltimore race promoter Race On yesterday announced “a revised ticket plan ... that will allow each adult with a general admissions ticket to bring one child 12-years-old or younger to the Labor Day event.” Race On Founder J.P. Grant said that the new ticket policy was “not prompted by concern over the rate of ticket sales.” A general admission three-day pass “for juniors costs $25.” A Race On spokesperson said that fans who “already purchased general admissions seats have been contacted by Race On and advised of the new policy and will be able to adjust their ticket orders accordingly” (Baltimore SUN, 3/6).
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