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Sports Business

Tony, tires, Danica make news

July 28, 2008
KEYWORDS Sports Business
The big stories in the world of motorsports have been coming at such a high rate of speed, it’s been difficult to keep up.

The long weekend kicked off with Tony Stewart getting into an altercation with a U.S. Auto Club official at O’Reilly Raceway Park Thursday night. The incident was caught by a WTHR-TV Channel 13 FanCam, and aired repeatedly by ESPN over the weekend. Friday, an apologetic Stewart emerged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Stewart was there to unveil his new No. 14 Chevrolet, which he will drive next year. I’m sure his sponsors loved the mixed message.

A strong contingent of fans gathered in Edmonton to watch the Indy Racing League race there Saturday. It looks like a solid IRL market going forward. Scott Dixon won, but fans likely found several sub-plots more interesting. First, Marco Andretti took out his Andretti Green Racing teammate Danica Patrick, who was waving her fist even before she exited the car. After the race, Michael Andretti called a behind-closed-doors meeting for his drivers and team principals. Rumors have begun to circulate that AGR driver Tony Kanaan may look to go elsewhere next year. Meanwhile, Canada’s favorite son, Paul Tracy, shocked much of the racing world by emerging from a long hibernation to take fourth at Edmonton. Fans at the track, not surprisingly, went crazy, sparking speculation that a sponsorship package could come together to put Tracy on the track for the remainder of the IRL season, or at least for some of the races.

IRL and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chairman Tony George was having a pretty good weekend until Sunday, when the Brickyard 400 nightmare unfolded. Last minute and walk-up ticket sales weren’t what IMS officials hoped for, and the crowd at the Speedway for the annual NASCAR race was noticeably down from years past. And the disjointed race with numerous yellow flags due to tire problems fans witnessed yesterday won’t help sell tickets for next year. Naturally, IMS officials deflected criticism to NASCAR and its tire supplier, Goodyear. And certainly, NASCAR’s new, heavier car is partly to blame. But motorsports insiders said with two serious tire issues—including the Formula One fiasco of 2005—in recent years, it’s time for Speedway officials to re-examine their track surface.

So tell us, do you think Tony George should be smiling or frowning today? And which of this weekend’s developments will have the biggest, long-term impact on the local racing scene?
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