Miles headed for crash with penny-pinching IndyCar team owners?

May 24, 2013
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When Mark Miles talks, people listen. Even people in IndyCar, and that’s not easy to do.

But some of Miles’ recent talk sounds a lot like Randy Bernard—with a dose of Tony George thrown in for good measure. That might make some IndyCar faithful cringe. But it’s the truth.

Miles this month has professed the need for speed. He has given his new lieutenant, Derrick Walker, his marching orders: Make IndyCars faster. Ratchet up the excitement at Indianapolis. Make the cars faster than they were when speed records were last set by open-wheel cars at the fabled Brickyard in 1996.

It sounds a lot like what Bernard told me last May while sitting in an IMS garage. That was five months before he was fired.

Bernard was criticized for trying to ratchet up on-track excitement without enough regard for safety. Some even contend that Bernard’s pursuit of thrills got Dan Wheldon killed at Las Vegas.

George, on the other hand, during his reign as IndyCar boss, put a premium on safety. He invested big bucks in developing safer barriers and soft walls—which debuted in 2002 and are now used widely in motorsports. There were certainly serious crashes—and even on-track death—during George’s watch, and while some criticized the overall design of the IndyCar and its tendency to take flight, fewer folks questioned his dedication to driver safety. After all, George himself was a former racer.

Miles, who like Bernard has no experience behind the wheel of a race car, seems to be combining Bernard’s desire for speed with George’s dedication to safety.

It appears to be a smart move and Miles’ quest has created some positive press as the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 approaches Sunday. Clearly, he’s trying to build momentum for the 100th Indy 500, claiming speed records will be broken by 2016.

But Miles’ quest won’t be easy. I’m not sure the current chassis and engine package is capable of breaking the one-lap 237.498 mph or four-lap 236.986 average that Arie Luyendyk hit to set the record in 1996.

This year’s pole-sitter, Ed Carpenter, had a single-lap high of 229.347 mph and a four-lap average of 228.762 mph. Setting the record will require a significant jump in speed. Attaining that type of increase can be expensive, and most of the teams run on perilously thin margins. Few team owners have deep pockets.

It’s interesting that Miles and Walker are talking about going “back to the future” and bringing back the innovative spirit to IndyCar and the IMS. That’s exactly what Bernard sought to do with chassis aero kits. But he couldn’t convince team owners to swallow the relatively small cost to rev up fan excitement. Team owners screamed that they were still digesting the cost of switching to a new chassis and engine package in 2012 and couldn’t afford the additional expense of aero kits.

The aero kits Bernard kept promising to fans never did come to fruition. They were supposed to be made by different manufacturing and engineering firms and bring a new look and level of innovation the open-wheel series hadn’t seen in years. Instead, the pushed-back promises only brought frustration to fans who have tired of what they consider a spec series.

It’s difficult to figure how team owners who claimed they couldn’t afford a five-figure or low-six-figure amount for aero kits just last year could suddenly afford the type of innovation Miles is demanding. Bernard is gone, but the series is still composed of the same owners who argued with Bernard about pennies on the dollar over parts prices last year. 

“In the short term, we’ll look for incremental changes to our cars through components such as aerodynamics, horsepower and tires,” Walker said.

Walker is talking about incremental changes to the cars, but a quantum leap in thinking.

It remains to be seen if sheer speed alone will sell—and if the series’ leadership, and more important, team owners, are prepared to shift gears and pay up to make it happen.

  • Honda was gone to set
    a new record at the '11 salebration until they realized that it was a futile effort to get their crapwagon moter and crapwagon car up speed. And then they just quietly slunk off into the night and never spoke of it again. Nothing to see here folks.
  • What Walker says is crazy
    Derrick Walker and Mark Miles can say whatever they want. And Marshall Pruett can feel free to take their talking points and turn it into an article if he likes. But 8 mph isn't going to just fall out of the sky. Those sorts of gains cost money, a lot of money. If Walker is going to be more than Miles' yes-man he's going to have to be realistic about who's going to pay for the enhancements that will be needed for the gain in speed. The money-losing series? The money-losing teams? Who is it going to be, Derrick? Maybe Miles can get corporate Indiana to pay for it. Or better yet, maybe Miles can go back to the Indiana General Assembly and get more money from taxpayers to pay for this initiative. Until Miles and Walker tell us where the money is coming from to break speed records, this is nothing but hollow talk. More of the same from the Hulman-George clan.
  • History Repeats Itself
    Best description of the history of this death-trap sport-spectacle.
  • Car is SO ugly
    Speed? Mark Miles are you daffy? Numero uno priority should be to make the cars LOOK sexy and get out of the ironclad TV contract with NBCSN. At least if they look good, they'll look good at slower speeds. And if the racing is so great and they look good, well, maybe folks might want to watch. Right now, the DW12 looks like possom-faced roadkill. Perception of the fans now equates to 99.82% of possible race fans are tuning out. If you needed $100M and Derrick Walker to figure that out for ya, youse guys are never gonna amount to nuttin.
    • On the heels of one of the most exciting 500's I have ever watched, I have to chuckle at the haters desperate attempts to rip on the race. Chiefs biggest complaint, besides not getting his personal apology from TG and IMS, is he does not think the cars look sexy? If that is his biggest complaint, then the series is doing pretty good. I have yet to hear anyone complain about the looks of the cars. And with last year's banzai run by Sato, followed by this year's record lead changes and record speed for a race, I am not sure how much better the racing can get. This is action that other series try to manufacture. Could that with the joy felt across the racing fraternity and fandom over TKs win, this was an incredible race. The track was the fullest I have seen in years which continues the trend of increasing attendance. I love Walters agreement with Advance America. If he knew what they did for, he would be backing away from them very quickly. Besides the fact that the Feb 14 article is completely out of date. Simmons comment is funny in the fact that it won't take money falling from the skies, but changes in the rules. I guess he forgets that the speed is there. But the rules reduce it. Loosen the rules and the speed will come. The question is, is there a maximum safe speed at Indy. They claimed that 100mph was unsafe. The same for 150, 200 and 220. Is 240 too fast? 250? Or when cars hit 300, will our kids be laughing at us for being too cautious? Whatever comes out of that, this was an incredible race with an incredible story line. Now it's time to get ready for the Pacers
    • After attempting to watch the debacle that is Charlotte, I am wondering why anyone watches NASCAR. They took out 10% of the seats, looks like they covered another 15,000 with banners, and there were still empty seats. Now a 45 minute delay because of a broken cable. Classic
    • Indy 500 was today
      who knew
    • Jake it was on the 26th, not the 27th, but you knew. CBS national news lead their sports this morning with coverage of the record seeing Indy 500, discussing how exciting it was with a record number of less changes, followed by the equipment failure at Charlotte that injured 10 and caused an hour delay. They interviewed several NASCAR fans who said they were concerned for their safety after several incidents injuring fans.
    • Indymans expectations...
      So, Indyman is always going on about the 'haters' an overused internet meme about as sophomoric as LOL. Yet, he takes his first chance to be one himself aiming his dislikes at NASCAR. So, obviously he has some discriminating tastes. Imagine that, discriminating tastes is okay for Indyman but not for anyone else. Maybe then he should consider others may have those same discriminating tastes in regards to how they view Indycar racing in the past and what it has devolved into today. 60+ meaningless passes would be a start. Rules that make being the leader of the race a problem on the last lap are wrong. Ask Ryan Hunter-Reay. Funny how the same rules that make all those entertaining passes really mean nothing if you don't want to be in front of someone when the last lap comes up. Pretty easy to pass when the car in front of you doesn't really want to be there. Sorry, that is not racing. And to say he knows of no one who thinks the Dallara spec car is an ugly duckling means he is either being completely dishonest or he never speaks with other race fans no matter what their current tastes. I have a feeling Indyman is very familiar with TrackForum, the home forum of many Indycar fans and has come across many actual Indycar fans that say they would like to see better looking cars and more manufacturers of them. So, maybe ol' Chief has some discriminating tastes and just like Indyman dumps on NASCAR Chief dumps on Indycar. If you are an Indycar fan it is okay to criticize NASCAR. If you are a former fan of Indycar it is not okay to criticize Indycar now. What kind of logic is that? Indy logic. So lets add to the cast of characters. You have your haters. And now you have your bully.
    • Very Enjoyable Day for Actual Fans
      Facts that actually matter: The Indy 500 outdrew Charlotte and Monaco combined. Passes for lead in Indy-68. Passes for lead in Monaco-0. Ugly cars? I watched all three races. I like what I saw in Indy. Thanks for watching.
      • Barren and missing grandstands
        Another CART bred driver wins...who'd a thunk it? You know these CART boys stick together. Indycar is the Jerry Lewis of racing. Goofy. Hey Indyman..there was grandstands missing and the poorest excuse for attendance since the 50s. Whats happening? 900 passes and race ends under caution...that'll sell more tickets.
      • why no talk about the actual race
        Just did a quick run over to Trackforum, you know the place where Indy is King. Way more threads about empty seats, missing stands and the incompetence of the Speedway to get anyone actually in the door on Sunday than anything that happened on the track. I guess Trackforum doesn't know what Indy means. To bad, they ran a hell of a NASCAR race there yesterday will all of the meaningless passes and a dumb-luck right place at the right time victory.
      • Great article Great analysis. This gentleman knows what the world knows EXCEPT the dolts that run the sport.
      • D likes what he saw at indy
        and so do I. I didn't watch a second of the 500, but I did see overhead shots that showed lots of empty seats, and the 3.8 overnight rating is sure to fall to a new record low final rating for "the only race that matters". :lol:
      • Back before Dipsicle became an IRL fan
        8.3 was a low number
      • Wow
        Same haters. Some with new made up screen names. But same old bs comments. Very comical. Ugly cars, empty seats, daddy hated me. I didn't watch it but I went out of my way to look at overhead crap. Pathetic.
      • Significance
        You do understand a few haters merely pointing out facts do not equate to failure at box office or with the TV audience, right? That alone is a product of the owners of the Speedway that is apparently putting bs product out there that the public knows stinks. No bumping, goofy pole day qualis! Ed didn't even run fastest 4 laps, gimmicks, no press coverage, empty stands, < 3.8 ratings....all time low. Ugly car, underpowered 6 cylinder engines, spec cars that stink. Yeah, your right BMC, things are looking up. 68 passes for the lead all worthless.
        • indy 500
          hi pat.. fyi... we need a change where the race must be finished under "GREEN".. big news Rog and I won the BUD OPEN.. each of us won $40....Hi to your bride... don
        • indy500
          sending again
        • Reality
          Let's stay on topic here. You say you are just stating facts. Hmmm. "butt ugly cars" That's just an opinion. Also I am pretty sure that you are really just on here to troll as you are every time. I get it. You enjoy playing around. Once again, Pathetic...That is my comment. Did you get it? Shall I try again?
        • Ugly, not necessarily an opinion
          While it's an opinion to say that the IndyCar race cars are ugly, it is not an opinion to say a lot of (or many) race fans or casual sports fans think the car is ugly. Especially if you have heard many race fans say they think the car looks fat, ugly, slow looking, etc. I in fact think the car looks bloated and ugly and I have heard quite a few other race fans say the same thing. The car looks especially fat and slow from the aerial TV views. In my opinion, they could definitely improve the look of the car. That doesn't mean I thought the Indy 500 was terrible to watch, but the look of the car needs improvement.
        • Fair enough
          Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In my humble opinion good looking wins out over ugly ANYDAY. But here's a fact....lowest attendance since the 50's and 3.8 TV ratings. Higher ticket prices and being taxed so IMS can upgrade the facility with amenities that no one needs or cares about. In my opinion, Indy place fans like the less is more concept. Mark Miles, you got your hands full. Maybe you can gaze into the Boston marketing survey and figure out why fans are turning away in droves. Haters had it figured out in 1996. 2008 has meant nothing...
        • Shut Up & Race!
          I don't why everyone thinks more speed would be unattainable or so expensive. Hell, stick a mid 80's Ilmor or Cosworth in those puppies now & they could praobably do 250. You could probably get 240 out of a '69 Offy! ;-) And what the heck is so wrong about racing being expensive anyway? Trying to cut costs & protect the little guy is what has nearly killed Indy. Indianpolis should be about speed & pushing the edge of the envelope. You find Racers like Vukovich, Bettenhausen, AJ & you know. Racers (I'm not going to say men. That would be un pc), but Racers w/guts. Who race for the glory & the thrill. Willing to lay it on the line to try to tame machines very few can drive. Would it be expensive? Sure! Would the likes of Penske & Ganassi dominate. Probably. But your Home Growner would be able to find a way to compete. They always have. In the mean time, w/the glamour of "New Track Records" would come other new rich & powerful egos (Can you say Sir Richard Branson or Andy Granetelli?). I bet you would have well over 40 cars trying to get in. Huh? What a concept? Am I forgeting about the rest of the series? Well maybe, but who cares? Call it the Indy Lights & tell those who complain to go pinch their pennies there.
        • Facts
          25,000 seats removed and there was still lots of empty seats. Lowest TV ratings EVER. State bailout for IMS. State funded cars for teams. Month of May cut and soon to be cut again. Isod set to bail. IMS selling sponsorship because they can't sell seats anymore. Ladder series running so few cars, after most of them crash out on the 1st lap, they're lucky to have enough finishers to have a podium ceremony. F1 expanding in the US market. All signs of a healthy and vibrant event/series, in the bizarro world of the .1rl. :roll:
          • A Letter to Mr. Miles
            Dear Mark: Thanks for hosting an incredible 2013 Indy 500. Rather than boost the positives above, I would like to offer a little additional observation from the fan experience. First, Carb Day offered a great day of practice, pit racing, and one of the best races I have ever seen with the four wide finish in the Indy Lights. Little complaint, only another band too cool for any reasonable start time. Did Poison end up actually preforming? Parking on Carb Day was a joke. The yellow jackets in the coke lot let in only one car at a time and lining cars in rows similar to a three year-olds coloring book. Parking could have easily been cut short by 75% with a little administration. Second, on Race Day it was a little sad to see so many empty seats, but the weather's threat and a broken series will always hold back Indy's potential. The biggest issue, however, came with the boosted security. The gates were not prepared to offer several avenues of entry and cooler examination, and, as a result, I stood with what I assumed were some 40,000 fans waiting for over thirty minutes trying to enter the north gate. Ironically, I know of some that did not even have their ticket pulled or a cooler inspected. The training and competence of some of the yellow jackets was a little disconcerting considering their duty. Third, while the sum is greater than its parts, there is no greater part to racing than the Indy 500 and there cannot be for at least 100 years. The race has always been the best for the same reasons Mr. Allen mentioned above - it former was the sacred ground to see cars race at the highest speeds for grand distances. It was not until the egos of the series divide racing interests and carved out spec formulations. I suggest you do what you can first, please fix the administration of the track and make ingress and egress welcoming to fans. Second, push for speed, safety, and all the themes Indy has cherished in its 104 year history. Specifically, let the gears open so the cars can accelerate faster in the straights and add cockpit fighterjet covers to ensure virtually complete driver protection. Then, if ever it can be done, offer the grandest purse in sports and welcome the fastest drivers in all the world to spend their time and money trying oh'so desperately to win still the reigning greatest spectacle in sports. Thanks, and let me know how I can help. Nick
            • Nick Know it all
              Dear Mista-Nick Know it All: Are you by any chance related to Ryan Hunter Reay. It was a shocking to read that flamboyant history. Not so American, not so brave and so not wanted by Izod the all- American clothing company apparently. No more cool Izod commercials because it isn't so cool after all. Great for Apex-Brasil...which does not share our core values. Very confusing messaging coming from this league of not so American Family Values. Helio Castroneves paid his taxes to the IRS and now that the government is making huge contributions, the laws of the country are even more applicable, not less. BTW it could be reasonably said that Inddycar is an adult entertainment business and not a sport. The executives love the entertainment the night before the race and the race is just a kicker. IMO
              • Still playing the "ugly" card...
                I'm amazed at how many people are fixated on the look of the cars. This design has produced some of the best IndyCar racing I've seen in the many decades I've been following. If you'd rather have "sleek and sexy" and have the leader win by seconds or even laps, have at it. But if "ugly" keeps providing the close and good racing we've seen in the last two years, give me more!
              • Walter, I uhhh . . .
       I do like my new name you proposed though . . . Thanks, Mista Nick
                • Intersting
                  Your comments are very interesting. What were the #'s for Charlotte?
                • Porblems
                  IRL cannot figure out their problems. No interesting drivers or cares. Speed has nothing to do with it. 200 mph should be the max at Indy. Put Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart in and Indy car for the month of May. Watch the place sell out. See?
                • Have a Nice Day
         The IRL hasn't been around for years...It is Indycar now. Your response was very unoriginal, have a nice day.

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                1. Great article and post scripts by Mike L (Great addition to IBJ BTW). Bobby's stubborn as a mule, and doubt if he ever comes back to IU. But the love he would receive would be enormous. Hope he shows some time, but not counting on it.

                2. When the Indiana GOP was going around the State selling the Voucher bill they were promising people that the vouchers would only be for public charter schools. They lied. As usual.

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                4. Jim, your "misleading" numbers comment is spot on. This is the spin these posers are putting on it. News flash, fans: these guys lie. They are not publicly traded so no one holds them accountable for anything they say. The TV numbers are so miniscule to begin with any "increase" produces double digit "growth" numbers. It's ridiculous to think that anything these guys have done has awakened the marketplace. What have they done? Consolidate the season so they run more races on consecutive weekends? And this creates "momentum." Is that the same momentum you enjoy when you don't race between August and March? Keep in mind that you are running teams who barely make ends meet ragged over the summer to accomplish this brilliant strategy of avoiding the NFL while you run your season finale at midnight on the East Coast. But I should not obfuscate my own point: any "ratings increase" is exactly what Jim points to - the increased availability of NBC Sports in households. Look fans, I love the sport to but these posers are running it off a cliff. Miles wants to declare victory and then run for Mayor. I could go on and on but bottom line for God's sake don't believe a word they say. Note to Anthony - try doing just a little research instead of reporting what these pretenders say and then offering an "opinion" no more informed than the average fan.

                5. If he's finally planning to do the right thing and resign, why not do it before the election? Waiting until after means what - s special election at tax payer expense? Appointment (by whom?) thus robbing the voters of their chance to choose? Does he accrue some additional financial advantage to waiting, like extra pension payments? What's in it for him? That's the question that needs to be asked.