New Indy 500 qualifications rules sign of series' situation

April 12, 2010
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There’s a big difference between watching a National Football League and Arena Football League game.

Forget about the size, speed and overall skill of the players. We get that.

The main difference for me is that watching an NFL game gives me the distinct feeling that I’m watching a game that had its rules crafted in a time before mass media, namely television.

The rules of the game were invented to make the game fair, competitive and perhaps fun to play. The same goes for a college or high school game.

The biggest problem I had with AFL games is it felt like the game was invented for purely entertainment purposes. And when things are made up that way, they seldom work in my mind. Given the current status of the AFL, I’d say I’m not alone.

I’m not picking on the AFL. Just about every new league has this feel to me. Be it the XFL or whatever. The rules feel contrived, and in some cases a bit nonsensical.

Now some innovations have substance. The American Basketball Association ushered in the three-point era, and I’d still like to see the red-white-and-blue ball used.

While NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup seemed a little contrived to me at first, I can’t argue that it doesn’t make the series’ final races more exciting. I think it’s less fair than the previous system, which is a problem for me, but fairness doesn’t always sell. Excitement, I suppose, does.

But here’s the rub. A sport needs to be exciting on its own merits to truly be a long-term profit-making business prospect. That’s why the NFL is so successful. Yes, league officials occasionally tweak the rules, but more out of fairness and competitive balance than just as a way to drum up fan fervor.

NFL games are exciting because you get to see some of the biggest men on the face of the planet running at break-neck speeds often on a collision course. That’s the nature of the game and it sells.

That brings us to the IndyCar Series. It’s no secret that the open-wheel series is doing everything it can to catch peoples’ attention. I would say they’re trying to draw fans’ attention, but series officials’ efforts are much broader.

I applaud those efforts, but they’re walking a fine line. IndyCar racing needs more fans to survive long-term. But I’m not sure that inventing new qualifications rules for the Indianapolis 500—or any other race—is the answer.

Not even the drivers know what to make of it, as is evident from Helio Castroneves’ comments at Sunday’s race in Alabama.

The crux of the change is this: The fastest nine cars in traditional pole day qualifying will advance to a 90-minute end-of-day session during which the drivers will take shots at the pole (and special cash and prizes).

It feels a little like Let’s Make a Deal.

Here’s the real deal. Either IndyCar Series officials learn to sell their sport (to fans and sponsors) or they don’t. They learn to promote their drivers or not. Danica Patrick either learns to navigate a road course or becomes as irrelevant in this reincarnated open-wheel series as Milka Duno.

And at the end of the day, the series needs to get itself back to what made it rock and roll in the 1960s through the 1980s—if they can ever put its finger on just exactly what that was.

The series should emphasize speed, handling, pit crew skills and all the things that have made this sport popular with past masses.

Will people come back in the numbers they did when A.J., Mario and Mears made them stand on their feet? I don’t think anyone knows.

But the core product remains racing around a track as fast as possible and the personalities that pilot these four-wheeled rocket ships. Emphasis on cutting-edge cars and other technology might also be a novel idea. That sort of thing really appeals to people interested in watching cars go fast.

Trying to sell people made-for-TV rules and trumped up drama—especially when you’re talking about something with the historical significance of the Indianapolis 500—makes it look like desperation time for the IndyCar Series.

But then again, maybe it is.

Or Maybe this new qualifications format means series officials have their fingers on the pulse of what sports fans want, and this will restore May to what it once was.

Which scenario do you think is more likely?
 

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  • Hey Monty, Pick Me!
    Wow, what an incredibly bad idea. Right up there with the change to multi-class HS basketball tournaments in Indiana.

    If I understand these new Pole Qualifying rules, the IRL is basically making drivers of the 9 fastest cars hang around and re-qualify for the pole at the end of the day?! (Do they do this in the PBR?)

    If you only need to be one of the nine fastest cars to go for the pole later in the day, you only need to go fast enough to make the finals. This could suck any excitement out of the earlier qual attempts as there are maybe 9 drivers to begin with who have the talent and equipment to go pole fast.

    By the end of practice on Friday before quals you have a good idea of the handful of cars capable of posting pole position speeds.

    The IRL is a series of Have and Have Not teams. It's no secret who the fast teams are (they have the most $$$), so why make fans wait through a second round of qualifying to learn the pole winner?

    And why try something this stupid at your premier race with a 100yr tradition?

    You'd think the IRL would have learned something from NASCAR's trumped up Shoot Out format as ratings plummeted and race fans complained.

    If the IRL is so interested in reaching their fans, I wonder if they asked any what we thought of this bozo idea before announcing it to the public? My phone sure didn't ring.

    And you're so right that Danica better cut back on the modeling shoots and get out and learn how to drive road courses pronto or she'll continue fighting Milka Duno for back-marker Queen honors on any circuit that has left and right turns.



  • Indy series
    The difference from the old days compared to now is the drivers. No one will say it out loud for fears of being "politically incorrect", but the American public cannot relate to the majority of the field being foriegn born. I know everyone will say what about Mario? Wasn't he from the old school of drivers. The majority at the time "were Americans". There I said it for all those who want to pay attention.
  • The main difference between racing now and racing 50 years ago is the media age we live in. Back then, there was almost no tv, so you had to go to the track to see it. It was an event. Most likely you went to the qualifications or practices, but if you were lucky you had a ticket to race day. Even in the 70's I believe they would only show parts of the race as part of wide world of sports. Now between the internet, 24 hours sports channels and network tv coverage, thee is not a minute of the day you can't see some minute detail of the sport. Then you have racing games etc... that are so realistic you feel like you are there. I think the whole thing makes it less of an event.

    The other issue is innovation. 60's it was bring what you want. Diesels, 4 wheel drive, 6 wheeled vehicles, turbines, roadsters etc.... That was fine when there was not much competition for the sports dollar. Now with so much more to do and to see, the dollars are spread thin from sponsorship to fan dollars. Even F1, the high dollar sport is feeling the effects and making cut backs.

    Finally it is the track itself. We are finally at the point of maximum speed. Sure when they broke the 100, 150 and 200 mph barrier people said that was the upper limit, but 230-240 has got to be about it. Without G suits the drivers cannot endure much more, and fans would be hard pressed to make out what that 260 mph blur was.

    I am not a fan of gadgets and trickery. I still think the Chase is just a tv ploy to gain ratings and basically makes the regular season less important. I am not sure the new qual rules for pole day are needed, because typically you have the best cars attempting to qualify during happy hour. With 40 cars entered, there should be more of the bump day excitement as well. I do think there could be even more car driver combos if the second weekend had been left in because many top teams will sell rides after their cars have made it.
  • Qualifications need a lift
    Let's face it, except for "Happy Hour" at qualifications, the days can get really long waiting for news on who were the fastsest so far. Maybe a guaranteed "Happy Hour" featuring the top drivers is what will draw in more interest.
  • I LOVE IT!
    ANYTHING that breaks with tradition TARNISHES the sport of AOW at Indy. PERIOD.

    Why is this a great idea? BEcause it separates Indy from itself...all in the hands of the destructors of AOW, the IMS and the IRL.

    You've run off the veteran fans for some phoney race at the end. Sad.
  • Or maybe....
    Wouldn't it be nice to see the essence of racing again and not someone's idea of what will make good television? Four wheels, no fenders and a certain engine displacement. Then let's go racing. The haves will buy their rides; the have-nots will figure it out. The story lines will multiply and the characters will emerge. Didn't Bill France learn that once from Tony Hulman?
  • Pole Tournament
    The first time one of the 9 fastest cars hits the wall in the Pole Tournament, this made-for-TV insanity will end, because the owners will just say no.
  • I like it...
    Times change (forget the Chase, how's about G-W-C?), I think this will be fun. You people really overthink these things. Every race this season has had a good crowd and people seem to be enjoying themselves, so Indycar must be doing something right.
  • What does it matter.
    The little changes here or there to the weekend won't change the fact that the overall product sucks.
  • skeptics give it a chance
    I am skeptical for sure about this format change. I wonder who will take responsibility for this change? Was this the brainchild of Randy Bernard, Jeff Belskus or someone in sales and marketing or on the competition side. The origination of this idea says a lot about the motivation.
  • I like it too
    The fact of the matter is, bitter fans and the media tore this sport apart. There are several sports and other things I don't personally care for, but I don't waste a second of time yapping about it, nor creating some pointless blog. Either you're in or you're not. If not, please go away and discuss something else. The irony is most people who claim to despise it are teh biggest fans, yet fail to admit it.
    • must discuss issues
      RR2DAY and others, I am not bitter. As a lifelong resident of Indy and a paid employee of a publication that covers IndyCar, I have every reason to want this enterprise to succeed. Personally, I like Jeff Belskus and many others employed at 16th and Georgetown. But if you are not willing to acknowledge and address issues and challenges, how can you possibly hope to overcome them. I'm not here to say the series or the Indy 500 is doomed, just that discussion whenever is possible is a good thing. Thanks as always for reading.
    • Stupid
      This is awful. Terrible terrible terrible. There aren't enough adjectives to describe how bad an idea this is. It's like expanding the NCAA tourney to 96 teams, making the regular season irrelevant. The biggest problem with the IRL right now though is that they're stuck on Versus where no one with DirecTV can watch and most people don't flip to. I'm a huge Indy Car fan but when I can't watch the races it's hard to stay interested. I'll be at Indy, and I'll know who the point leader is because of reading recaps, but I probably won't know what his car looks like because I can't watch any races before then.
      • Comedy bronze
        There hasn't been a legitimate Indy 500 since 1995. This bit of nonsense won't do anything to change that.

        George Anthony nailed it - the product is garbage. It's an abject fraud. A farce.

        Sure is funny watching some of you Hulmanista trash blaming fans, media, or anything you can make up in your delusional brains, when you know full well who and what is to blame. Grow up.

        code = 3yp6k
      • people are smart?
        I used to think people, in general, were actually smart. After reading this, I think otherwise. You really think change tarnishes the history? If it wasn't for change, history wouldn't have started. Adaptation to the times is what makes a tradition. When Indy was built it was built on the principle of doing something no one else had done...500 miles in a car that didn't get 4 miles without breaking. This is new and innovative. Road course quals are much more exciting than ovals, thus the change. Is it perfect, no. But its an idea, a change to see what will or will not work. The fact each of you are so yet dissatified is actually good. You'll keep watchin hoping they will do something you like (that's called change), all the while the series could give two cents for you... They want new people and I applaud them for getting of their ancient, "tradition" based as$es and doing something about it... instead of sitting and crying about why people aren't watching. And for the record, The Chase is the biggest bunch of garbage ever created. If you are outside the top 12, why race?
      • Zzzzzz
        25/8, 24/9...whatever. I think they should run twin 125's too and have past champions provisionals. And, after running the B main, invert the field where the pole sitter (determined in the first qualifying session) has to start from the rear. If the pole sitter can win the A Main then he (not she) will win the Super Pole and get a 2 lap bye for the start of the race. All that is moot though IF the pole winner is of non-American nationality but drives a Dallara. New this year - if a car crashes during qualifying that car will automatically be in the race based on fastest speed it turned regardless of faster qualifying laps or speed.

        Stupid, huh? Well, that pretty much is what it looks like these days. FAke Gimmerky IRL garbage. The 18 - 35 year old demographic will love it though. Zzzzzz.
      • Hey andy
        YES, I do think change tarnishes the tradition of INDY. The IRL is a joke and has been since day 1 in 1996. You can't possibly believe that was the proudest day in the history of the speedway, do you?

        And now, after 15 years of IRL baloney on track and the reduction of the month of May and subsequent changes to qualifying (not at all in the tradition of INDY) you think this is good? They are re-painting yet another horribly disfigured face on the pig that is the IRL. They are on Versus for 10 years...TEN YEARS. Talk about 0.14 rating and fans that have given up over the mismanagement of the series and sport...and you think TRADITION isn't important? So, you'd be ok with lawnmowers out there too? or solar powered snails?

        Innovation, speed, tradition. They suck at all of it...the IRL that is.
      • Rather ironic reading that the cart lovers are concerned about change at Indy. Rather hypocritical really.

        Are these changes really that different then what goes on most years? Typically on Pole Day, you either get out early (first hour) or you go out late (happy hour) to run for the pole. IMS is just giving extra incentive to make the last hour even more exciting. Am I a fan of the new rules? Not really sure. I would have to see them in action to know. I am guessing IMS is wanting to make sure the best drivers are running in that last hour to give a good show for the national tv audience. Isn't that pretty much what the haters have been saying?

        Slowly it seems the tide is turning for the better in the IRL. Active title sponsor, 25 cars at the last race, 6 different teams in the top ten in points, 55,000 in the stands (without the claimed free Marlboro tickets) at the inaugural race deep in NASCAR Country and at least 40 cars entered for the 500. But of course we can't expect the haters to acknowledge any of the good stuff, nor the fact that the very things they have said, title sponsor, higher car counts, more diversity in the standings are coming true.

        OT, anyone notice that Phoenix had 10,000 unsold tickets for the race last week? Ratings are still down as well.

        http://times-news.com/localsports/x1687708605/NASCAR-TV-ratings-continue-to-dive
      • DirecTV
        Hey Long Time Race Fan, you might not have heard but Versus got their deal worked out with DirecTV last month. So now DirecTV subscribers can in fact watch IRL races.
      • New Rules
        While I understand your point, I would be careful about holding any major sport up to this type of scrutiny. For example, why does the NFL have the 2 minute warning? Why does the NBA allow so many timeouts to be taken at the end of the game? Talk about "made for TV rules." Neither of these is dictated by the game.

        Regarding the IRL rules - should be interesting to see how this plays out. I don't think it helps the small teams. It should add excitement.
      • Deflection shield ACTIVATED
        The IRL was designed to SAVE the 500 from CART robber barons. You know, CART wanted to CHANGE Indy so much with their orange juice and reduction of the month of May and such. GOOD THING Tony George CREATED the IRL!

        Now, all of that has been PREVENTED! So now, when changes TARNISH the traditions of the great race it's OK because it's on the Speedway's watch....I understand. Bump Day, ONLY 3 qualy attempts, Carb Day, start time, Happy Hour, Ludacris, Aerosmith, that goofy driver introduction garbage, climbing the fence, Brazilians, our cars don't fly, broken backs, 50G impact lights, SAFER Walls, exposed that 250,000 people attend not 400,000, NASCAR records eclipse AOW's at Indy, slow cars, imposter drivers, fake bump attempts, no snake pit, ride buyers, same chassis / engine for 8 years, same winners, lowest ratings since live TV.

        Let's embrace the future because the past 15 years stunk...but it's ok because Indyman sez so. Thumbs up IMS, no one even pays attention to the traditions anymore anyway...apparently.
      • Where's the IRL ratings?
        Speaking of Phoenix....where are the IRL's ratings for St. Pete (and the comparisons between last years race on Versus and this years on ABC/ESPN)? Must not be that good huh?

        Where are the overnight ratings from Alabama? I'm curious why the IRL doesn't post them...they wasted no time posting them for the Brazil race. Hmmmmm....must not be good huh?

        Yet some of you find consolation in pointing out NASCAR's weaknesses with 10,000 empty seats at Phoenix. Hmmmm, very telling if you ask me by deflecting the IRL's business woes by pointing out NASCAR's empty aluminum. I wonder how many seat will go unsold at INDY...oh, I forgot Penske said it's ok if 10's of thousands go unsold...no one will notice. Bwahahahhahaha!
      • Chief??
        Well anyone that names themselves 'Chief' has their own set of issues, but the biggest issue is that you still watch. Go away, let us enjoy what we want. We'll develop new traditions and embrace the older RELEVANT ones. I supposed with your love of tradition that steel should be made using old smolding methods, engineering based on 60's data, and seat beats removed from all cars because they aren't in the tradition of their design. You sound to be a very unhappy person, but using NASCAR as yuor strongpoint may actually be your weakest. NASCAR's whole sport started on the foundation of buying a car, putting slicks on it, and racing. But yea, that tradition remains well intact today with all cars even more identical that Dallara's. I'll keep enjoying this series because I enjoy it's nature for speed, and nothing in the world can surpass it.
      • Are you really fans or just want to complain?
        Long Time Race Fan... obviously you are not a huge fan of Indy Car because you don't know that you actually CAN watch the races now. Versus is back on Direct TV. It has been since the day after the Brazil race.

        In regards to people saying the Versus deal is horrible. Have you actually watched the Versus coverage? It is amazing!! It might be more difficult to get the random viewer to find Versus to watch the race if they don't know about it, but ESPN coverage was horrible! They cut away early, they don't give any information on the drivers, etc. At least Versus has interviews and fun segments on the drivers. Isn't that what a lot of you are saying? The driverâ??s personalities make the series?

        In regards to qualifying, have any of you actually watched a road course qualifying session? It is pretty exciting! The reason they are looking at a new qualifying format for the 500 is that they brought it down to one weekend of qualifying. You can't keep the same qualifying format if you don't have the same amount of time to qualify. Am I missing something here? I think the one weekend will be very exciting and more stressful because it is no longer the case that if you crash the first weekend you have another weekend to try to qualify. Anyways, you all must not be big fans because if you were you would have heard Brian Barnhart explain that nothing has actually been decided on qualifying yet so no need to freak out about what you hate before it has even been decided!

        Also, I can see how some might think that the Indy Car series is in serious trouble, but if that is the case, why is it that the car count is up at all three races so far and there are 40 cars for the 500... 40!

        If you think that the Indy Car series is so horrible and everything is tarnished, why are you watching or even reading this article? People seem to like to complain about anything and everything instead of actually trying to find positives.
      • Why not add Loopty Loops?
        No, the bigger issue is the hypocrisy of the IRL. At any point in it's history, it is why it's hated. They have tried just about EVERYTHING...now this runoff shootout for pole. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer!

        What's next, drop "BUMP DAY" for "Last Chance DASH", a NINE car 90 minute session for the NINE slowest cars trying to get into the field? What, did the fake "wedging" of Tony Stewart into a car not work to increase viewership enough for bump day? Do it...it's new traditions needed to capture the interest of the fans!!!!! NOT...

        Anthony Schoettle wrote this article, and I agree with him. Gimmicks only show desperation that the IRL / IMS is in...and sacrificing TRADITION to do it is what is forcing the fans from the sport.
      • Izod Indycar Series
        Where is that all American ISC oval based series TOney promised all you sheeple
        • the only consistent is change
          This could be the new great tradition in 50 years. If people hadn't innovated and changed rules, we front engine cars with the fenders ripped off with riding mechanics going 70mph down a brick road. Give it a chance.
        • the only consistent is change
          This could be the new great tradition in 50 years. If people hadn't innovated and changed rules, we front engine cars with the fenders ripped off with riding mechanics going 70mph down a brick road. Give it a chance.
        • I meant to say...
          This could be the new great tradition in 50 years. If people hadn't innovated and changed rules, we would still have front engine cars with the fenders ripped off with riding mechanics going 70mph down a brick road. Give it a chance.
        • Open Wheel
          There is an old but true postulate in business or team sports....either you get better or you get worse, as nothing stays the same. In this case, IRL/IMS cannot stand still, or they will continue on their perilous path to extinction.

          I indeed think the drivers are important in fan support, but currently there are so few core supporters, that there needs to be some marketing jump-start activities to interest spectators. So, whether this qualification change works, it is definitely better than doing nothing, as crowd growth will not occur without new and creative steps, as it has not over the past 15 years.

          Additionally, even when open wheel was in its heyday, the U.S. Media was never a big supporter, as they never bought into the danger and deaths that were associated with Open Wheel. Notably, the safety has markedly improved in the past 25 years, but the high number of open wheel deaths during the 50's, 60's and 70's were always a media black mark against the sport. The reason the sport survived and prospered had to do with three factors....1) There were established stars such as Foyt, Andretti, Donohue, Clarke, the Unsers, Ward, Mears, etc. who were on the scene for decades and and large numbers of core fans who loved them. 2) racing speeds continued to increase and technology advancements were rampant. And 3) NASCAR was a very regional sport with an isolated fan base that really did not compete with Open Wheel. So, the old stars retired, faster speeds and technology went away, NASCAR put together a great marketing program and brought in drivers that not only had regional, but also national appeal. Of course, Open wheel then destructed with their internal issues in '95, and NASCAR filled the void.

          So, in some respects, we need a new sheet of paper, but to some extent, improvement is occuring, although not to the needed extent.

          So, I'm OK with the any measures to enkindle fan interest, including this 500 qualification change,but we must recognize that more than one change will be necessary to revive the sport and indeed get it off the ventilator.

        • The Truth Hurts
          Tony tried to implement the All-American Oval-Only model into Indycar and it didn't work. I loved it but it didn't sell to the masses. I think tomorrow's IZOD Indycar Series is going to be a winner and today's IZOD Indycar series is headed in the right direction.
        • Qualifying Format
          Friday Night Draw out of the Hat.
          Line them all up Saturday.
          No pulling out of line.
          An Out, a Warm Up, Two Hots, a Cool Down.
          Average of Two or Take the First.
          Park and Wait.
          Field Set.
          The Bumping takes place naturally at the end of the line as 34, 35, 36, 37, etctera seek to get in. Anyone bumped gets one re-bump shot.
          Sunday is for reading about it in the paper. see you in one week.

          Oh yeah, this is after just one week do practice, Sunday through Friday, and that is mostly to have some days set aside in case of rain.
        • What else is expendable?
          What other Indy traditions are expendable? Maybe the Yellowshirts can now be brownshirts. Get Hersey's Milk Chocolate to sponsor that.

          How about NO MORE MILK in Victory Lane? Let's sell that off to Brazillian Orange Juice interests in exchange for fast $$$. APEX BRASIL already supplies the fuel, a race and several drivers...this would be a WINNER!

          Here's another great idea...instead of the "gunshot" at 6PM ending the days festivities they can get Warner Bros. to fork over $$$ to play Bugs Bunny's memorable "That's all folks", and each day make it a new character like Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Chicken Little, maybe even road runner and Wiley E. Coyote (but superimpose a legend like AJIV or Eddie Carpenter on the coyote face when he crashes to the ground). This will make it FUN for all the new fans!!!
        • One more idea
          Non-Qualifiers get to run a 25-lap Mulligan on Sunday,while everyone else reads the paper and goes fishing. Winner of that race gets in as a 34th starter and a guaranteed $100,000 win, lose, or draw on top of whatever else.
        • Two Words: BEER PONG!
          Yes...nothing brings in the 18 to 35 year olds like a hearty game of BEER PONG! Setup tables all around the concrete crappers in T1 and T3, double elimination tourney that will run during down times, yellows and wrecks! Beer sales would soar and new fans could be made with this simple idea!!! Kinda like a controlled snake pit with ping pong balls. Winner gets to wave pit road open / closed flag during a practice installation lap.

          And ferris wheels! See the whole track from one location! Wow, sky's the limit! AOW will be BACK baby!
        • Or better yet...
          Make Quals a one-day effort. Lien tehm all up. Everyone gets one, four lap shot. The quickest 33 are set. Anyone who wadded a car or blew a doomafliggy on a qual run can get in line if there is time and make a run, either in the car they first ran in, a backup, or a last-minute deal. Go from Noon to 6 PM. When the gun goes off, the field is set. One day. Done. See you next Sunday.
        • solid idea
          Burl, I have to admit, that's a solid idea! Control costs and ratchet up excitement.
        • Burl!
          That won't work...that's closer to tradition quals. They need CHANGE...new tarditions.

          Frankly, your ideas make too much cents.
        • I like it
          Quite frankly, the last few years of Indy Quals have been boring. I like the new format. More track action, more condensed, more incentive to take a risk and get back out there. For the first time in forever, I'm flying in from Nevada for 12 straight days of Indy. I'm sure the downtown merchants will like my money. Steak n Shake and St. Elmo's, here I come.
        • Ratings BONANZA
          St. Pete '09 = 0.3 Versus
          St. Pete '10 = 0.6 ABC Rainout
          ------------------------------
          IRL receives 100% increase in ratings due to RAINOUT. Woot! Everythings coming up roses!!!

          NOTE: the 0.6 may include the rebroadcast ratings on ESPN too (on Monday). DOUBLE WIN for IRL!
        • Indy Five Hunedred!
          Indy Five Hunedred!Indy Five Hunedred!Indy Five Hunedred!Indy Five Hunedred!

          Get yours now!
        • Izod Indycar Series
          What happened to that all American oval series TOney was going to start in order to perserve those Indy traditions?
        • Too mnayraces nobody cares about
          One problem the IRL has are too many events very few, and I mean very few, care about in truth. It has diminsihed down to a very small, core audience on par with third, if not possibly even fourth-tier sports.

          Out here in L.A. this morning, the only local TV coverage about the Long Beach race is on the ABC affiliate. And even then they not once mentioned the "IRL" or "Indy car Series". It is: "these international drivers", "these million dollar formula cars from around the world", and "Danica is here". Not even the term Indy car has been used. This smacks of a non-event for So Cal this weekend. I have seen this situation in Chicago too. IRL? Who? What?

          The IRL is trying to be something that is dead and gone in the minds of sports fans in particular, most racing fans in general. It is so niche now, it barely registers and the moniker IRL is virtually non-existent in the public conciousness.

          If and when Danica leaves, it is hard to imagine any of the current IRL drivers having any impact on the public. Outside the hard core Indy racing community and Danica herself, the identity of the IRL is "these international drivers" in "million dollar formula cars". That is it. Not even Helio Castroneves registers among the casual. DWTS was too long ago now to matter and his tax troubles didn't help. He's had his 15 minutes. Ryan Hunter-Reay? The handsome face of the Izod Indy car Series? Who reallyknows who that is outside the quarter of a million or so people in this country who follow Indy car racing. And some of them surely are unaware.

          The best course of action for this sport is to REALLY return to its roots in an affordable Indy Car on run a basic, small schedule of events that may draw 20-25K in most venues and focus on the Indy 500. I'd say Phoenix, Texas, Iowa, a return to New Hampshire, maybe get something started up at Pikes Peak again, see about Nashville, and throw in Mid-Ohio because it actually does draw, and run Fontana even if the place is a quarter full because those who did go to Fontana were the hard cores and the racing was good and, ironically, put the actual IRL name out there more so than Long Beach and why? Because local media identified Indy type cars with ovals.

          So there is a schedule. And possibly-only-maybe, a shot at salvation of this sport.

          Otherwise, it is just a nameless, faceless, cast of "international drivers" you could rename Teo Fabi and Tero Palmroth and nobody would know the difference or worse, care.

        • How bad is it?
          On KNX 1070 AM Los Angeles today they did a brief story on the Long Beach Grand Prix. The segment featured an interview with an LBGP official who spoke of the "six races taking place this weekend" and the "live music including Cheap Trick." Then they interviewed a race car driver about the "difficulty of the Long Beach circuit." His name: Ed Brown.

          Not a single mention of the IRL or Indy Cars in way, shape, or form. This on Southern California's premier all-news station.

          Ed Brown.
        • Not worth mentioning
          The IRL is pay drivers, in ugly old cars, that are painfully slow on road courses. Why would anyone trying to hype a race mention that??? ALMS should be the main event @ LB.

          Rumour has it that autoracing1 reported a 0.4 rating for the Barber race.
          There's nothing worth saving. Kill it off and start over...
        • Race Day Coverage in L.A.
          It gets better. Today there was no mention whatsoever of today's race in the morning sports report on local TV. None. And news radio only gave the weather report for Long Beach, "site of America's biggest street race." Not enough for you, how about the other local radio report that called today's event "the big Formula One race down in Long Beach." The IRL? Indy Car Series? Non-existent except for the small collection of Gomers that follow the series in denial. The IRL is not even a blip on the media radar screen outside Indianapolis. And yes, the cars are hideous in appearance. A guy ar work Friday, who does not watch the sport, said "God, those cars are ugly looking." That's the average man on the street.

          The IRL is done. It is a nasty, crappy league that is nothing more than a glorified club car series.
        • 500 Tradition?
          I can understand yhe need to pump up the IRL series. None of those tracks has the tradition of the 500. Why not build on that tradition at each track. Isn't it called the Indy Racing League? People who know Indy know that the race was about getting the pole or bumping in the old fashioned way- THAT was exciting. People love the underdog. Bring back the day when a guy could bring a car out to the track with an innovative approach, qualify up in the field and finish. Anyone with money can buy a setup car these days and compete. Set some chassis and weight dimensions, the usual rules and let em find a power plant that makes the car competitive. If you know racing you know there are 3 factors to going fast and tusning left-motor, chassis set-up, driver.
          Innovation is what the 500 was all about. Let them go FAST! What you cant get hurt at 200mph, I have to wear a seatbelt at 55mph. There is nothing new. They all drive the same basic car, same basic engine same same same same. Innovation drives profitability for the IRL and everyone else. Don't re invent the wheel. Why do you think no one is watching?
          I know, have 'Dancing with the Drivers" the night before the race, and that winner wins the 500! Think how safe that will be! the coke lot will never know.
        • "New Coke" all over again
          I think this idea is a brilliant as "New Coke". We all know how that turned out ...
          As for me I switched to Pepsi and now do not dring any soda pop at all. I'll be hiking in the mountains during the race. I gave up my tickets when they split.
        • What Indy lost
          What has, in my opinion, wrecked the mystique of Indy is the standardization of the cars. When innovations such as the turbine cars, the side winder engines, the mix of front and rear wheel drives, four wheel drives (even steering!) existed all contributed to the real magic. When the only real difference between the cars is the paint job, it loses its appeal
        • It Was a Blast!
          My wife and I went both days and really enjoyed it! The new qualifying format worked well and had plenty of drama on both days. See http://www.versus.com/blogs/indycar/indianapolis-500-qualifications/

          The series must continually balance innovation and tradition. Does anyone really want to go back to having the starting order determined by who mailed their entry in first?

          Is the new qualifying format a desperate move or a needed improvement? It probably depends on whether you see IndyCar as a dying series or an undervalued property. Only time will tell.

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