IndyCar hits major milestone; CEO still chasing solutions

September 8, 2010
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The IndyCar Series marked its 200th race at Kentucky Sept. 4. There didn’t seem to be much of a celebration. That’s probably because series CEO Randy Bernard is too focused on what the open-wheel race series will look like over the next 50 races rather than what has been accomplished in getting to this milestone.

But the 200 yard marker has some folks reflecting on the history of this series. And pondering, what next?

In reality, Bernard is probably a lot more focused on the next 17 or so races that will be on the slate next year. Then there’s the next great hope to drive up TV ratings and attendance; a new chassis that will be unveiled in 2012.

And if Bernard can lure a few more American drivers to the series that will draw even more interest to the series. Then if he can get at least a handful of races shifted from Versus cable channel to network television (NBC seems a logical spot), then certainly the television ratings will spike.

Ahh, I think we’ve landed on the hallmark of open-wheel’s first 200 races. If the series wrote an autobiography of itself, it would have to be called “In search of a BBD.” The problem is, I’m not sure a bigger, better deal is out there. And I’m not sure there ever was.

The prevailing thought was if costs were controlled, an all-oval format was offered and a platform for American drivers was built, the series would flourish. Then it went like this, if we could just get a few of the big boys back from CART. If only we could merge the two series back together. If only we could get a title sponsor. If only we could get in big markets like Chicago. If only we could get out of apathetic markets like Chicago. If only we could end the season in a glitzy town like Las Vegas. And this is my personal favorite … If only we could get Tony George back in control. And on and on and on and on.

So here we sit. Another owners riot averted for now. But still facing the same old problems the series has been having for years.

There’s no shortage of people that will tell you the IndyCar Series’ problems are simple. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “WE NEED MORE AMERICAN DRIVERS!!!!” Where are all the Tony Stewarts and A.J. Foyts and Jeff Gordons for crying out loud?!

Really? That’s the problem. Huh.

Consider this: In 1995, the last year before the open-wheel Civil War, there were 14 U.S. drivers in the Indianapolis 500. This year there were nine. You mean to tell me that five more American drivers is all it would take to put this once proud series’ pedal back to the metal.

Some how I don’t think so. And if Randy Bernard is as smart as some people say he is, I bet he doesn’t think so either.

I’m not sure what the solutions are. But I know this; Bernard’s first task is identifying the problems.

Not an easy job. And certainly not a simple dilemma.

  • Randy may be on to something
    Contriving the sport, such as Special Eddie's Pole Position at Kentucky, complete with a Versus special feature, may draw some interest. Hard to manufacture an actual victory, although NASCAR has, but maybe a Danica win at Motegi and/or Homsestead or maybe a gimme for Marco again like they did at Infineon in '06 for him, will help spark interest. Randy needs to blend the PBR with WWE models and just make 'em and fake 'em as they go. I liked the phony Special Ed Pole. It reminded me of the ones they contrived for Sarah and Danica. It was giood made-for-TV.
  • 'Special' Ed?
    Is that another of those cutesy cart 'fan' epithets that trivializes Down Syndrome? Ed has a pretty solid reputation in lots of cars and really shows his mettle on Indy Car ovals. Also, are you implying the Indy Car Series fixes races? IMHO what the series needs most is more mature fans and not jaded small children who refuse to budge from 1995.
  • Clean House??
    Maybe what the IRL needs is more new faces on the INSIDE. Or just some faces that have not become complacent in their jobs and think that just because they have been there forEVER that they cannot be replaced. There are a lot of talented, hard-working, go-getters out there that would love the chance to make this series something. It's time Randy took a step back and OBSERVED who gets the job done and who doesn't.
    And by the way, Mr. Bernard, no disrespect meant here, but when you're walking through the paddock you might want to stop quickly and see you runs into your back end - those are the people you don't need.
  • Defender, get with the times
    Spesh has been "Special Ed" ever since Daddy got him his first set of training wheels in USAC. The rest is historical footnote. You ought to know that. Edward is no Foyt the Fourth. No, he's a modest enough shoe, but help is help. It was Edward's turn, thst is all. And, no, I am not implying the IZODCAR Series fixes races. I am informing you they do.
  • problems
    Anthony compares the 14 drivers in 95 to the 9 drivers this year like it's only a difference of 5, no big deal. The difference is back then they didn't have ratings problems and had a long history of fans, most of which switched to NASCAR years ago. To get fans back, open wheel NEEDS American drivers on a regular basis, not just the 500, and they need drivers with personality. Conflict and strong personalities draw attention, without those there is no hope. As big as importance should also be the switch to all, or at least mostly, oval tracks. Street and road courses may be interesting and fun for the die hard fan, but the average American fan doesn't relate to that. It's just the truth. I consider myself a pretty big fan and even I can't stand much more than two of those races a year. If they don't fix those two issues, they may as well fold the league for a few years and just run the 500.
    • IRL??????
      The IRL is still racing??? You could have fooled me. I can't beleive they haven't folded yet, but I guess it's good that all of the American dirt guys have a place to race on ovals instead of all the euro ride buyers running street courses in places like St Petes and Toronto and some stupid airport in some ungodly place like Edmonton.

      Oh well back to ALMS and F1.

      BTW Defender, give it up your bleeting is getting old.
    • Chasing?
      Your headline hit the IndyCar Series' main problem right on the head. Series honchos have been "chasing" solutions from the beginning. Instead they need to get out in front of this sport and lead this thing. Maybe Bernard can be the leader this enterprise badly needs. Or maybe not. We'll soon find out.
    • Hallmark of OW's first 200 races?
      Anthony, I'm insulted by this accounting of IndyCar and Open Wheel hallmark races being counted by the history revisionists at 16th and Georgetown.

      To clarify: What was celebrated is the 200th race in the IRL's less-than-stellar history. This includes all races from the time it set out to destroy AOW racing in 1996 to the 2010 Kentucky race.

      15 to 25 million fans left the sport due to the idiotic IRL decisions by Tony George in 1996 and Randy Bernard is trying to get them back.

      Keep insulting the fanbase....WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENED, stop trying to act like it didn't. Keep on ignoring major parts of the history....your only destroying the sport more. A caustic middle eastern leader is saying the west lies about WWII atrocities.....what amazing similarity between that and what the IRL management is trying to do with the history of OW racing in this country.

      IF so, then only "15" of the last century's worth of Indy 500's are actually "IndyCar" based. What hypocrisy.

    • It is Spelled 'Bleating.'
      ...and I'm hearing a lot of it by the usual suspects. Speaking of one notes, all they tell me is that Indy Car is going out of business. It's been fifteen years so far and the 2011 schedule is being announced Friday. So when is this end of business thing going to actually occur?
    • You SHOULD know how to spell it...
      You are the definition of BLEATING.

      IRL...still in business, only now going to promote it's own races and rent it's own tracks. $675 million and getting deeper into the RED ink.

      IRL/IndyCar/IZOD has NEVER made a penny in all of it's 15 years. Keep staying in business and sucking up ALL the Hulman-George money. I love that business part of it...all.
    • Verizon deal
      I am not suggesting the IndyCar Series is going out of business, just that it has a steep hill to climb. To that point (the not going out of business point), I think it's fair to point out that the series recently signed a deal with Verizon that sources (in a position to know) tell me is a multi-year deal worth $1 million annually to the series. The deal has several elements including the creation of an IndyCar app that will allow Verizon users to get live timing and scoring and video of race highlights. The deal itself isn't the savior, but it is a sign there is some progress in the right direction. For more on that, read the upcoming IBJ print edition.
    • Races 199 and 200
      Were apparently the LOWEST attended races in IRL history at CHICAGOLAND and KENTUCKY. Both races averaged about .20 on 10 year contracted VERSUS TV network.

      IRL attendance = FALLING and FAILING
      IRL TV Viewership = FALLING and FAILING

      SAcred cows almost all of the 2010 schedule won't be on the 2011 schedule if Mr. Bernard's word can be taken as fact.
    • Falling ratings
      As this column's post have fallen into a typical "blame game", I would blame both the Chicago and Kentucky race track owners and promoters for low attendance. They were the ones who contracted IndyCar to race at their tracks. IndyCar can't be responsible to individually market their races - they don't have the money or the local knowledge of how to create interest, then ticket sales to the event.

      As for TV ratings falling, racing viewership as a whole typically falls off this time of year as King Football returns. I'd also question the type of race coverage VS delivers. To me, a VS IndyCar race views more like a video game than a sporting event. Too many cutaways, multi-screens and running crawls.

      But then, when your race consists of single file cars zooming round and round with little passing, you're going to bore viewers. The time of day for both races didn't help as late Saturday afternoon or evening starts might be live fan friendly but not home TV viewer friendly.

      Also, Versus network offers a gawd awful line-up of shows that I doubt reach potential IndyCar racing fans. Drumming up viewers who're watching MMA, bicycle races or bullriding (sorry, Randy) to an IndyCar race telecast isn't going to happen.
    • Is it a lack of American Drivers
      . . . or the fact that IRL Racing teams owned by Americans refuse to employ Americans? As long as this series continues to be dominated by Penske and Penske continues to employee foreign drivers it will be hard for an American driver to get a foot-hold in the public eye. If you consider Penske, Target Ganassi & Andretti Autosports the top 3 racing teams . . . it means only 3 out of 9 American Drivers. The only American talent is in the Andretti stable.
    • Here is the solution
      After the 2011 season, run only because they seem hell-bent on doing so despite it being entirely rediculous, the IZODCAR/Hulman-George Family should shut the league down completely. Just shut it down. Pull the plug. Throw the flag. Flush the toilet. Then start anew with a USAC IndyCar Series. Run Indy, Milwaukee, Nashville, the old Texas World. Phoenix, a fixed-up Pocono. Maybe run one roadie, Mid-Ohio. Expect 25,000 to be a "good" crowd. Get the thing on NBC Sports for a song. Run a spec chassis that sort of looks like an 80's Lola, but with a turbo V4. No factory. Just purpose-built cars and engines out of the shops. Total cost for a package: $100,000. Sponsors like: Steak & Shake and WD-40. Call it good. Run it. Make sure 75 percent of the drivers are named Frank or Vic, not Francesco or Vitor. And instead of Danica, make it Danny. This is a man's sport. The fact a 5'2", 100 lbs girl, or just the opposite of that, a fat 29-year old chick, can race in this series as it si today, tells you everything you need to know. It is THAT simple and easy and rediculous. Run it like it was in the 70's...with men in 900 horsepoer cars on ovals, Janet Guthrie and Mosport notwithstanding. It is an oval, man sport, serving a niche audience, with one major, historical event per year. And get rid of the other races that don't belong at the Speedway. Yesteryear is today. Seriously. Quit chasing it like it is a big thing anymore. Itis not. Niche sport that should be relatively inexpensive and not Mainstream with "25 million" fans. Not reality. No. The #79 Burger Chef/STP Oil Treatment Offy driven by Johnny American from Iowa in front of 15,000 loyal fans in the Twin 150's at Texas World Speedway on Saturday afternoon's NBC Sports special, is the future. Otherwise, call the whole thing off and forget about it.
      • Common man
        The solution is to run two Indys. A 500 and 400 in conjuction with the Brickyard. Also expand the field to 40 cards. One in May, the other in August. In between and every weekend, run Phoenix, Kentucky, Texas, Kansas, Vegas, and finish in Miami. That way fans know there's a race every week and on the same time every day. Stay in the country.
      • Chicken or the Egg?
        Which came first? If the IRL product is stale and dated....and on the shelve, who's gonna buy it (besides Defender and Iman)?

        If I'm a promoter, why invest $$$ in the same thing when it captures no ones interest?

        IRL is responsible for it's horrific performance PERIOD. And it had NOTHING to do with foreign drivers or ride buyers. IRL is the laughing stock of the racing universe. That's the problem and why promoters cant sell it, and IRL can't figure it out. Sucks to be them...
      • What about the Grandkids, Mari?
        Beyond doing a 100th Indy 500, why waste more of the stash on this? Think of the kids, mari. Have this dog put down now. Think of the savings! It has been a great run. Do a 100th and call it done.
      • Miami-HomeDead
        Another one bites the dust. Randy offers some Talkin' Terry-Speak in hopes they'll break 5,000 next month. TK cries. Bruton laughs. It's all good.
      • WOW!
        haha CW got hacked and so all the spotty angst ridden cart(which to quote D " went bust. twice") fans living in 1995 invaded ibj for the day.
      • IRL Simpletons
        Nobody seems to care about the massive undercurrent happening in the leagUe. ISC is kicking tour butts to the curb and off tracks. Your attendance sucks and tv ratings are non existent. all just act it all has no importance. Fascinating. It's like watching the knight in The Holy Grail get all of his appendages cut off. The IRL hobbles about on stumps bleeding out yet still talking trash.

        IRL...the series that olny sociopaths and psychopaths could love.
      • One google search
        and I see another IBJ article - wow - must be slow and posters must be part of the 10% unemployed.

        Monty Python - very good - "Throw out your dead..throw out your dead" Think that is what TG said when he was over at CART headquarters in Park 100 when they were closing the doors?
      • Oh yeah, I'm bored
        and your bitter and part of an irrelevant demographic.
      • TG and the Troll
        Naah Tuck, TG's role in Holy Grail was being too stupid to answer the three questions:

        AOW Bridge Troll: What is your name?
        Lord Sagamoron: Tony errr...George
        AOW Bridge Troll: What is your quest?
        Lord Sagamoron: To preserve AOW racing
        AOW Bridge Troll: What is your favorite color?
        Lord Sagamoron: Red, wait no greeeeeeeeen...err, ummmm, ahhh I don't know...........pfffffffttt.
      • Logistical Nightmare
        TK has been mindlessly turning in circles in 7-year old Dallara crap for far too long.
        Numbs the mind and mines the dumb.

        "I don't know the logistics of what happened so it's hard to criticize one part or another," driver Tony Kanaan told The AP. "To me, it's a shame. It's like losing my home race. It's the race all my friends get to see. It's the only race a lot of people here can afford to go see. It's the only opportunity I have to invite people to watch."

        Logistics? Yeah, I don't knbow the logistics of what happened either, I guess. I thought what they did was load up trucks and drive them down the road to the race track and off-load them. I thought those were the "logistics". mean, "particulars" of what happened. I see. I an IRL driver. That's right. And you are also around high-school drop out Danica and Marco all the time so that right there does not help. I feel for ya'. Yeah, well, anyhow, we don't know the particulars other than the ONLY people there were your invitees friends and some family members and a couple Trackforum posters in their Dollar General hats. You mean those particulars? As in there are more people wandering around in the Everglades bird-spotting than watching you hustle the 7-11 Mobile around in circles chasing Helio? Those particulars. I see. As for the logistics of the whole deal, well they won't have to worry about that but one more time. After that, logistics come down one more sorry season for some reason the sisters are foolish enough to allow more wad to be flushed on all for what? So Randy can save a little face? To give Special Ed a Spesh to win the last Indy 500 in? As if anybody cares anymore and will go to see that crap anyhow right? Incidentally, the early word on W. 16th is that next year's 500 may not crack 200,000. Run the dinosaur one last time for 100 year kicks and a chance for Special Ed and then pull the plug. Be like Tony and get scarce.
      • OH MY
        Another track IRL kicked off of? Homestead is a goner?

        More markets again penetrated by the IRL and they can't draw flies.

        The answer to the question no one asked back in 1996 has been answered: IRL NOT WANTED ANYWHERE.

        Hey...the Mickey Mouse course at Walt Disney World (where the IRL cut it's teeth in 1996 and broke it's first backs etc) is available. There's no grandstands up so it'll be easy to claim an IRL sellout.

        THE IRL IS PATHETIC. away from any sponsorship deal. Fast.
      • Gomers are sheep
        Defender and the rest of the gomers are nothing but sheep.
        They will watch anything that comes out of the pasture called the IMS. hopefully it will be turned into a parking lot very soon. What a disgusting pitiful place to be a fan of.
      • WADKINS GLEN Gone!!
        It's true.

        Here's prediction that came true: Absence of free Tix Marlboro gave out PLUS the end of NASCAR season ticketing requiring the package to include IRL tix too has resulted in the IRL being DUMPED from ALL ISC tracks in 2011.

        IRL had been propped up all those years! No fan base was developed and now they turn their back on the dozens of fans that bothered to go.

        What the heck...the IRL sucks. Iman...a prediction comes true and you are no where to be found. Figures.
      • 2010 IRL DEATHBLOW Continues today
        Now that the IRL has severed ties with ISC/NASCAR, how much longer will the Brickyard 400 be around?

        Now the IRL's signature fake OVAL races on ISC oval trCKS are what?

        WOW, this ain't your daddy's IRL anymore...

        RUMORS abound today that the IRL moniker goes BYE BYE today. DEATHBLOW 2010 continues...... Bwahahahahahaha!
      • Track Rentals
        IRL is now reduced to TRACK RENTALS. Milwaukee will be a TRACK RENTAL. I suspect New Hampshire is a track rental arrangement as well.

        What's next...the paperclip in Gateway or the Caesar's Palace parking lot?

        IRL.....the answer to a question NO oNE ASKED. Now $700 million in the red and CLIMBING. How much you figure it takes to rent a track for racing no one watches? Track sanction fees will PLUMMET at these types of events.
      • kansas is gone on there web site
        ahhhhhhhhhhhhh terry angstadt sucks
      • chicagoland is done too
        i think its right move by isc and i am irl fan terry angstadt has to go
      • IRL 2011 Schedule
        9 road courses versus 7 ovals.

        Looks like the $700 million the IRL spent was for NOTHING! And a TBA included.

        Also, I hear the press conference in Milwaukee today was BOTCHED up bad just like only the SPeedway can do it. No video, no audio. And BMG as the promoter...EEEEEgads, they did the horrible announcement of the Dallara kickback contract/ICOLONIC committee announcement.

        The IRL....good riddance?
      • stay away from streets 2 years of this disaster its getting old
        why blame isc how are you going to promote when irl wants to race patroit stadium start off the season 4 road course the real goat tony george terry angstadt bernard the irl mangerment just stinks they are lucky there tracks has birthday next year ok lets talk about good news new ovals a road track is drop how to fixs the mess next year add more laps to texas to 150 laps and stop split points double fail restart race at atlanta and charlotte my be buy memphis its really cheap its cheaper than a street race and you own the league you got to put on a good show league has to be american racing that only thing left with all the foreign driver
      • there is enough ovals out there
        history show there not best promotor smi dover was better they where ok miami richmond had ok croud they was no need to fight isc this all started at michigan you know pay back was coming all had to do keep them happy for few years / none of isc track is coming back in 2012 cat is out of box that does mean irl should be on the sidelines fight fight fight/ another snoozfist year i only watch ovals yeah again terry agstadt has to go
      • isc
      • IRL website promoting CART footage
        How come the IRL (on it's website) uses 15 year old CART footage to promote the 2011 Milwaukee race? they did the same for Mid-Ohio etc...

        Geez, I thought IRL would have had some good racing to promote itself with seeing as it raced at Milwaukee before. Guess not...

        Why not use CART footage...they use CART attendance numbers when attracting venues like New Hampshire and Baltimore and Toronto. Yet, the HAPLESS IRL can't draw flies. GEEZ, I wonder why????
      • CrapCar
        Pundits on the internet have already coined the supposed former IRL series as "CRAPCAR".

        Hey, why not call it CART too? I know why, because it'll NEVER be that. That would be an insult to CART....dead now tw!ce for over two to six years.
      • cart worst thing happen to american open wheel
        cart got open wheel into this mess right now come on now irl has best racing ever in motorsport in the entertiment factor
      • =irl use to
        =irl use to have best racing terry angstadt ruin it
      • New Milestone
        Jan 1st 2011, the day the irl dies and is replaced with "Ropin' Randy's Wild West Indycar Show". Free hats fur the kids!
      • isc done with indycar
        early then expecting irl give them easy way out these track are never every going to come back i am not buying spin by nascar and irl new war has started randy partner with misster nascar smi he is only doing this because ford miami sponser if come down to 40,000 fans our 160,000 fans i wonder who bruton is going to choose plus irl have gave him finger 2008 and 2009 irl should name formula indy1 because indy is going to be only oval left on schedule in the future terry angstadt has kill all oval fans at all oval tracks look at iowa did not sell out
      • Where's the apology?
        Anthony, how can WE forge forward to the IndyCar future when Randy glossed over the whole apology thingy regarding the IRL? I saw the press conference from Milwaukee and saw no mention of an apology OR accepting responsibility for the condition of the sport due to the IRL's creation.

        Is Randy trying to hoodwink us, the 15 to 25 million fans LOST in the open wheel split? I think he is.... Is the apology in fact the mothballing of the IRL name? I;m not sure that's a fair trade...
      • Haven't seen
        Haven't seen any IRL race TV ratings for a while now. Is the IRL too ashamed to let them out, or are the IRL races failing to even register on the Neilsen meters?
      • Who needs 'em?
        Apparently tv ratings and attendance are no longer necessary for IRL success, despite the horrifically low Tv ratings and attendance for 2010 IRL races. I mean historic LOWS too this year.

        All you need is dollars and a dream....

        IRL Sponsors and partners apparently could care less about it too as they continue to pour money into the losing IRL property. Makes no sense...

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