Pandering to NASCAR hurts IndyCar's brand

December 5, 2012
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Every time there’s talk about a great racer from another series coming to Indianapolis or some other IndyCar venue, I have the same thought.

Is this smart marketing or does it have the look of desperation?

Over and over we’ve heard from the keepers of American open-wheel that the Indianapolis 500 is the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and the IndyCar Series features the most talented drivers who do battle under the most varied set of conditions in racing.

So if the Indy 500 is such a spectacle and the drivers in IndyCar so proficient—and worthy of fans’ attention—why do series officials and IndyCar team owners continue to cast bait for NASCAR pilots and those involved in other two- and four-wheeled endeavors?

We all know about Randy Bernard’s attempt to draw various competitors to Las Vegas in 2011. In the end, there weren’t many takers for his big-money challenge.

For years there have been efforts to try to draw NASCAR drivers to the Indianapolis 500 to do the double. NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 is run later the same day as the Indianapolis 500.

If a crossover is so good for racing, why isn’t NASCAR trying to lure over any IndyCar stars of today? I won’t answer that question. But the one-way initiative doesn’t look good for IndyCar.

In the latest IndyCar come-hither, Roger Penske is offering a race car to NASCAR star Tony Stewart for next year’s Indianapolis 500. Indianapolis Motor Speedway followed up by putting a petition on its website for fans to sign to beg the racer affectionately known as Smoke to bring his talents to 16th and Georgetown.

There’s even talk about bumping the Indy 500’s start time up to accommodate Stewart or other NASCAR drivers who might want to try the double in 2013. It’s not the first time there’s been talk of adjusting the start time.

Should the Greatest Spectacle be adjusting for drivers of fendered cars and their series?

Sure, Stewart, who started his career in open wheel, would draw a few more eyeballs to the Indy telecast. It could even drive a short-term revenue bump.

But the message of such efforts is clear: We don’t have the drivers to attract viewers on our own. The secondary message is that driving an IndyCar is so easy, a guy like Stewart or even someone who has never raced an open-wheeler can jump in and drive the thing at 220-plus mph.

Here’s a new statement IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials might consider: The Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar racing are for highly-skilled specialists, not someone who can “drive the wheels off anything from a Dixie Chopper to a Camaro.”

Marketing and selling is all about positioning. If you want people to believe your product has certain qualities, the maker and seller of that product had better act like it actually has those qualities.

If I’m selling the IndyCar Series, I tell my people to sell what they’ve got and stop trying to sell something they don’t have—and probably shouldn’t want.

After all, the series already has the very best, most versatile drivers in the world. Right? And the true Brickyard classic held each May already is the biggest, best-motorized race on the planet.

Are those statements reality, a dream of a bygone era or a vision of a new open-wheel leader?

I’m not sure.

But the first step to being great—in many instances—is to start acting like it.

  • Red Carpet
    What? Burl/Chief et al have not been by to tell us how the whole thing is in death throes? LOL As a lifelong Indy racing fan I think it would be fabulous to have Tony Stewart or anyone else from that side take part. I do not believe accommodating it by changing times is wise, however. I want to see an entire field of brave drivers with a lifelong burning desire to win it. 33 Tony Kanaan-like racers, for example. If Stewart wants to give it a go in a top 4-level car, welcome. But not if it means bending over at the expense of the rest of the regulars. We're over halfway to May...can't wait either way.
  • Huh?
    Anthony... What color is the sky in your world? First - Tony Stewart is beloved in Indianapolis and I can't think of many race fans who wouldn't LOVE to see him win the one race that has / had been his lifelong dream. Period. Second - We all know that NASCAR has a bigger following than Indycar. That is a fact. Why wouldn't Indycar want to draw some of those eyeballs to their most successful event as a way of sampling the product? Lastly - The Indy 500 is the biggest race in the world. Not even the death-callers can argue that. They don't have to "act" like Indy is great. It's still the king.
  • Earth to J
    Uh, J, have you seen the TV ratings of the Indy 500 lately? It may be a great spectacle, it's just not spectated by nearly as many people as it used to be and not by as many people as watch the biggest NASCAR races. And on another note, NASCAR grew without begging for IndyCar racers to join their series. IndyCar should do the same.
  • Merge the two series
    Both series are hurting. My idea is this, merge NASCAR and Indycar. Have the Busch series race on Friday, alternate Sprint Cup and Indycar between Saturday and Sunday race times, all in the same weekend.
  • shortcummings
    Tony, a double, maybe a double cheeseburger. Is Rodger trying to tell his drivers something?
  • The message is openness.
    Anthony, I respectfully disagree with your view of sending wrong messages. The reason why Daytona or Charlotte does not invite Indy Car drivers to their track is because unlike Indy, most don't dream as kids to race at Daytona or Charlotte. I think they are right to market the Indy 500 as the greatest race in the world and make it open to all who want to try to qualify.
  • Smells of desperation to me
    Look, Anthony raises a great question here. Stewart isn't seeking an Indy ride, it's being OFFERED by one of the biggest pimp daddy's that came over from CART. Why not offer it to Travis Pastrana or Michael Schumacher? Or Tyce Carlson? IT'S A GIMMICK and it exposes just how far the SPEEDWAY has fallen in the eyes of the motorsports world...both in reputation and respect. If Tony wanted to be here he would be here....but he is not. END OF STORY. Since 1996 gimmicks have KILLED Indy and the series. Otherwise, they wouldn't have to rely on trying to pursuade a NASCAR bum to "run the double" and change everything to accommodate him to do it. Good job exposed the self-centered knuckle-draggers as the Indycentric gomers they are. Expect 3.9's for Indy, and the series to fall off the map after Indy, like usual. 0.18 for Iowa...Bwahahhahhah! If you want to do something, get Tony for a full season otherwise he's just another piece of dried up wood for the fire, like Jean Alesi was. What an embarassing joke that gimmick was. Remember Indy fans?
  • Bygone Era
    Yep, stick a fork in it. Either they make radical changes to their format, or the whole thing is over. BTW, Schumacher will not race in the 500... ever. It is a dangerous relic. The entire concept of spec racing has ruined motorsports in the US. It's like a disease that has now even taken over sportscar racing. Good luck with that crap too.
  • What's in a Name?
    I have two thoughts. First: I trust the new Indycar management to weigh what they would like to do to encourage and promote the IndyCar series. Secondly, Roger Penske's idea of getting tony Stewart back in an Indy car does not come from a man whose racing roots come from the NASCAR world. Choosing from the elite and bringing them into the Indy Car world is no different than NASCAR's push to get former Indy Car drivers in their world. If I were Mark Miles and/or whomever runs IndyCar, I'd love to have a meeting with Tony Stewart and, for starters, the Hendrick's family in to discuss how getting Jeff Gordon into the mix could be accomplished. Like it or not, those two drivers, in particular, would sell a lot of seats,create real excitement, and add another glow of greatness to the Indy 500 gentlemen...Let's do start their engines.
  • A
    You are not much of a sports person in this area if do not relish the thought of Tony Stewart running INDY
  • Anthony and Chief... it for what it is. But to answer Anthony's question, the Indianapolis 500 of today is a "dream of a bygone era". Contrived. Very contrived. The Indianapolis 500 of today is a cheap, knock off, discount special and people are not buying it. Repackaged, AGAIN, as a "Tony Stewart Does The Double" is so desperate I have to question if the "500" is long for this world. My guess is the spector of glistening aluminum next May is keeping Speedway officials up nights. Roger Penske did their bidding this time. Who or what is next? Justin Beiber in the "500"? Let's face it. The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race was once grand. No more. Let it die peacefully and with some dignity, albeit ever so slowly. It'll take time after the life support is pulled. So be it.
    • Dead?
      Unless those were all corpses in the seats last May, I'd say the Indy 500 is quite the opposite of dead. Strongest attendance I've seen since the mid-90's. Can't wait to hear your "spin" on the matter. Actually, don't bother as I won't be continuing the conversation. It's clearly going nowhere. Same argument you boys have been having for the last 5 years. Your death predictions keep getting pushed back. You must be polititicans...
    • Pandering
      I generally agree that it looks bad. I propose that the "500" be run on Monday and be an "open" championship and double or triple the prize money. In the hedday of the '60's, because the race was run on the 30th, there usually was no conflict with other series. I believe these two changes would once again elevate the Indy 500 to the status it deserves - the greatest race in the world!
    • Lack of Personality? No track records.
      I think part of the problem is the lack of personality the IndyCar series seems to have. Other than Helio, who among the top drivers (especially with Danica gone) has any kind of personality or other traits to distinguish themselves from the driver next to them? I miss the days of AJ Foyt, Mario (is slowing down) Andretti, Rick Mears, Little Al and Johnny Rutherford. Maybe it's just me, but today's crop of drivers are just too homogeneous and cookie-cutter. Young folks picked and raised through the ranks so they can be packaged up and marketed to sponsors. Bring back the guys who could not only drive the car, but could build it. And maybe even more importantly, a big part of the draw was watching the speeds go up every year. Anticipating the new records. That's gone and needs to come back. The IMS record goes back to what, the 90s? With Arie Luyendyk? Snore.
    • More gimmicks...
      While some of you Indy lovers think small, the real AOW fans think large. Tony may prop up "sagging interest" in the once great Indy 500, but you short thinkers miss the point: It negates the Indycar brand, which is made of almost entirely of the INDYCAR Series. Tony for the 500 is great for the 500, but it really translates to nothing for the series. That's all you guys are in this for, the 500, right? That myopic vision is why the sport is in the toilet and nothing can convince you OR Mark Miles as to why. More blind leading the blind....
    • not so fast my friend...
      Penske is his own man and i think it is shear genius. Smoke is arguably one of the best racers now if not ever - he would dramatically increase penske's chance of winning another 500. win - win for everyone if you ask me...
    • Build the Base
      Indy needs to build their base locally. First: Televise the race locally. This would get more local fans--possibly at an early age. People who currently don't go to the race, don't care about the race. After a few years of exposing the race to a larger demographic, you can expand the audience. New fans will want to attend events; and, the track will eventually sell more tickets. Second: Have more events, throught the calender, at the track. Familiarize people with the track, and get them used to going there for events--none racing events. Build a banquet hall, update the hotel, get conventions, etc. Make it more of a destination. Work with the local tourism and convention boards to get people there.
    • opinions
      Hi Anthony, it would be fun to see you join in on this discussion:
    • Amen
      Gotta agree with the article. Indycar needs to differentiate itself from nascar. It should be a race of the best engineering by the fastest drivers and teams. Open up the car specs and let the car manuafacturers turn it into the battle of engineering. Let the series be a pure marketing vehicle for commerical car makers and you'll see money pour in. Hell, they could even make a reality tv series about the car teams battling it out. Nascar can be about the good old boys driving big chevys in circle. Make Indycar the venue of the best and fastest.
    • Indy 500 drivers
      To me there was no greater time to be a Indy 500 Fan than the 1960s when many drivers from Formula One (Clark, Stewart, Hill, Brabham, etc) and NASCAR (Yarboroughs, Allisons, Richmond, etc)competed with the best in USAC in Indianapolis.
    • T-Stew was OURS first anyways
      If I may remind folks, Tony Stewart was with IndyCar first, before he went to Nascar. He was a series champion, for crying out BOTH series. How would this remotely be construed as "pandering"? Roger Penske panders to NOBODY, I can promise you that. He makes the best of opportunities that come his way and if there's an opportunity that he could put Stewart in one of his a race that Stewart has raced in many times before...Why WOULDN'T he offer it to him? That's not pandering. If I wanted to hire you off the street to come work for me at my law firm, would that be pandering on my part? Hardly.
    • Huh?
      First, it is important to note that a team owner, not the league, approched Stewart. The Indy 500 has a long history of featuring drivers from other series. Finally, if IndyCar runs some 20+ cars and the Indy 500 has 33 spots, where does the author sugggest that the additional cars come from. I think he needs to research before writing.
    • 25/8
      Smoke rejects the hapless IRL*/ICS*. Again. What's the next gimmick? It's all about Indy*? LOL.
    • Rejected
      So, I suggest Penske offer the ride to Bobby East or Travis Pastrana now the Indy 500's Tony Stewart has rejected Penske's offer to get gratered. You know the race and series is hurtin when the Smoke rumors start flying before the end of the NASCAR banquet. Maybe they should promote the race as the Greatest Gangnam Style Evah by capitalizing on Psy's popularity! Or, bring back DANIKA! The captain could win 4th place!
    • Field Day For the Ignorant
      And now, a more mature analysis of the situation. Tony Stewart is the most successful driver/owner in NASCAR today, and he is growing his team. He freely admits he no longer has the skill set to compete effectively at the level of IndyCar without a lot of practice, even with Penske. Nothing wrong with that. The mistake the children tossing juvenile taunts in this (and every other IndyCar) thread make is that IndyCar is 'desperate' when in reality this little stunt harkens back to the oldest trick in the book. Using an innocuous situation to keep the series top of mind in the off season, and its genesis occurred at NASCAR's big end of season banquet. Perhaps the funniest (or most pathetic) interpretation is that the stunt is the latest 'sky if falling' scenario for IndyCar. I am sure the folks at 16th & G-town appreciate the rabid support because all of you bought in. My only wish is that the most rabidly obsessed would add maturity to their repertoires and start acting like real racing fans.
    • Can the indycar brand be hurt any more than it already has been?
      I mean, it's synonymous with suck. It's racing's equivalent to poop on a stick. They could offer the Pope a drive for the 500, and nobody would give a rat's behind... And then there's defender, who says "I am sure the folks at 16th & G-town appreciate the rabid support because all of you bought in." Yes, all that support from the people who hate your product. The rabid support that saw TV ratings and attendance drop big. Such HUGE support... BTW, d. What color is the sky in your world?
    • Color of the Sky In My World: Realistic
      Hey, nice 3rd grade taunting along with an impressive chicken little interpretation. Last time I checked the Indianapolis 500 still drew hundreds of thousands, the ratings were good and the race compelling. Matter of fact, attendance for the year of well over million was great too. Sure the ratings were down. As they are for most sports and entertainment offerings in an increasingly crowded landscape. Just because a few radical children of the cart dislike it (but oddly remain obsessed with it) does not mean the failure you have incorrectly predicted for sixteen years. Your desperation becomes more amusing by the minute. Grow up.
    • Where there is Smoke...
      ...there is no fire. Tony Stewart lumbers around in FATCAR, all sweaty and unshaven, pooping in his suit, belching Steak & Shake, and fooling his fans. He never was the world-class, superstar the gomers think. He was in the IRL when dentists, and old ladies, and Racin Gardner drove. Off to stock cars, which, a very well known NASCAR racer of note once said "is easy." The Indianapolis 500 may be an old relic these days, but Tony is correct in his determination his celluoid arms are too floppy for the big cars. The old gas bag is better suited to run the thunder cars in circles all day. Beats a day job. And Tony's career outside racing if he never got into it, was pizza guy. So he wins any way you look at it. Makes lots of money driving the heavy equipment.
    • How Quaint
      Let's compare his annual income with yours. Realize it takes zero talent to squat and package fat jokes and IRL slamming together. That's how the children of the cart roll. Real racing fans wish Stewart luck and give many a reason to watch NASCAR from time to time.
    • Weak, Dipsicle
      Measuring a person's worth and accomplishment in life by their income is very revealing. I fugured you for someone like that. Of coursem Smoke makes more money. But I have plenty myself and could care less what his or anyone else has. But you are of the mind, aren't you, Dipsicle. Which is why you fail to see the proverbial forest for the trees, each and every time. Actually, I kind of have empathy for guys like you. Sad. As sad as the IMS trying to lure the old suit pooper to run the "500", which he now admits is out of his skill. Kind of like, rational thinking is out of yours.
    • Ease Up, Homey. Chill Pill Time
      If not income why not compare Stewart's accomplishments in life with yours. Again, no comparison. His track record is filled with success. Yours? Clever epithets on the Internet. Think about it, kid.
    • Nice try, but...
      ...sorry pops. 'Ol stinky britches drives cars in circles. I get paid nicely as an international research analyst and advisor for what shall remain classified. I also graduated college. A prestigous one. Can 'ol burrito eater even read? I come here for funnen. You messin' with a big 'ol boy, pops. Nice, try,though. Racing is a neat sport. I like it. But at the end of the day it is still just machines going around in circles for a determined length at which point, in conclusion, an individual in determined to be victor. Small taters on the world scene, Dips. Small taters. 'Ol Steak & Shake is a just a guy who, otherwise, would be delivering the pizzas he didn't eat. But he gets paid to drive machines in circles instead. He is skilled at the operation of the machine. But again, that is his accomplishment. He drives and promotes the operation of amchinery, disguised as sport, for compensation. Some of us work on your freedom, a sustainable world, and answers to things that ail humanity. Nice try, Dips.
    • Freudianian Slip
      '...things that ail society.' That is evident by your peachy demeanor. LOL. In today's ADD-addled society, Tony Stewart matters a lot more than you do. You could be Ghandi and that would still be true.
    • If the Indy 500 was important
      They'd all be there. But, instead, back in 1994 Tony George let NASCAR kiss the bricks and climb the fences....and ever since then they don't have a need to be at the 500. In essence the Speedway cut it's own throat, diminished it's Indy 500 brand and forever tarnished the Indycar brand. Anything else is just a gimmick. No brag, just facts all you actual adults out there. You want Smoke? Go see him and all the USAC hoosier hiro's in early August. Why won't Penske give a local dirt racing kid who doesn't have star power a chance??? You know, just like the old days? Forgitaboutit.
    • Huh?
      Compare: A) Attendance for the 500, B) Attendance for the Brickyard 400, and C) USGP since 2000 at IMS. Those facts will render your cute attempt at a 'point' irrelevant.
    • My point
      Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart have SIX (6) wins between them at Indy. There is no need to race the 5oo. That's what matters...they don't need the 5oo and it's mired-in-the-low 4.0 tv ratings. The run of the mill NASCAR race get higher ratings that the lowly Indy 500. That's why getting Tony wedged in a crapwagon was a big deal. Or should I say not so big a deal now. Hahahaha!
    • LA Office CLOSED
      The brilliant Indy West office is now closed. Another prognostication by the haters came true, the office was another money pit for the speedway. How much was gained in ROI? Marketing exposure? ZILTCH. The cars are ugly yet they can't fix it and 0.18 US TV rating households care less and less every year. Mark Miles, I want to run Indycar...I could no worse than you idiots that are ruining this sport for the past 16 years. $800Million plus now with this new Indy failure. Gimmicks that fail. Sickening.
    • More Pandering on it's way???
      So, I see the new boss has mentioned he is considering a NASCAR-type chase format for Indycar next year. More pandering? Clueless? One would think a super successful series that has all that evolutionary history going for it could find ways to regain some stature without looking for greener grass on the other side of the fence. Also, I have come to realize I no longer know the definition of the word mature. What are you gonna do?
    • INDY loses 33% of engine suppliers
      Yet another failure for the hapless Indycar series. Buh Bye Jean Alesi.
    • Happy Anniversary
      Hey guess what? We're coming up on the fifth anniversary of the final failure of the remnants of cart, when IndyCar acquired remaining 'assets' in a glorified fire sale. How many more years before the childfren of the cart begin to move forward like adults?
    • 5 years later
      The sport is an embarassment. All at the hands of the Hulman George family. When will the idiotic attempt to run an AOW series by the Speedway begin to show life? "Money loser" was the description that the IBJ used just yesterday to describe the series 5 years Happy Anniversary morons! $800MILLIONS and counting! And now with THE CHASE (copycats). MORE Indy Fail!!! Bwahahhahaha you 1959 ticket buyer!
    • Reality check
      Reality check for self proclaimed :media insiders" who worship the failed "vision" at 16th and Jonestown. if the Indianer 500* is all that then why resort to gimmicks? Hot wheels jumps, burnout lead singers butchering the national anthem, tape delayed renditions from 1960's B stars on their death beds. The powers at be in the dysfunctional Hulman George clan continue to be stuck in 1970's mentality while the rest of the racing world leaves then in the dust. See revenue, ratings, sponsorship and manufacturer involvement for direct evidence. And speaking of the USGP, it was wonderful to see how successful the Austin race was. It is enlightening to see a real F-1 track in the US and not a "mickey mouse" course like Lord Sagamore put together. Austin has set it self up to be successful for many years with F-1, Moto GP, ALMS/GA and V8 Supercars and nary a hint of the hapless ICS*.
    • Stinkyard 400
      Chief got it right earlier when he mentioned the advent of the Stinkyard 400. That is the seminal moment when IMS became just another race course. It was a dunderhead move by TG and the clan that only a real smart guy like say, Disciple, could do even worse. At least there is one Albert E. on the ladder below TG. The Stinkyard was brought about to earn cash for the Indy Racing League, which was brought about to save the "500". Which is also why Tony Stewart exists. All of it is an insult to the olafactory senses comparable only to Tony's racing seat after a "Round and Round They Go Drudgery 500 Presented by No-Doz" NASCAR race. IMS instantly made the "500-Mile Race" just another race and IMS just another place when they invited the hillbilly mobiles to lumber around in hypnotic delight for the trailer classes. Low-brow America caught on and suddenly the "500" was too gay. And no, Disciple, Tony Stewart is certainly not more important than me. It is people like me, doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes, so guys like that have an opportuntity to live in a country that pays a person millions to operate equipment in circles and say stupid things before they head off to fill their jowls with Steak & Shake. I will admit, my efforts and sacrafices never have such people in mind. Rather I endeavor to make the world a better place for say, the poor trailer-ite from Kokomo who pays their hard-earned White Castle check to watch an unshaven slob like Smoke do what millions of others could do too, if given opportunity. But Smoke is a citizen too. So be it...

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