Tony George: 'I didn't start the split, I helped end it'

June 16, 2011
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Two days after this year’s Indianapolis 500, former Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series boss Tony George sat down for an in-studio conversation during the JMV show on WFNI-AM 1070 The Fan.

I’d heard that George mentioned my name and an article I had written in May 2009 that discussed the series’ profitability. He wasn’t complimentary.

Naturally, I was curious, so I listened to the whole 80-plus minute podcast. What George said about me, my article and the Indianapolis Business Journal wasn’t nearly as interesting as the other nuggets I gleaned from the discussion, which included one of George’s biggest critics over the years: motorsports journalist Robin Miller.

The first thing that struck me was George’s take on the split between IndyCar and CART/Champ Car. “I didn’t start the split, I helped end it,” he said.

To be fair, there was a quite a bit of dissention in open-wheel circles before George formed the Indy Racing League in 1996. Still, I’m not sure many fans or open-wheel insiders would share that view.

Also, George spoke about his relationship with IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard. George clearly is miffed Bernard hasn’t asked for advice from his predecessor.

“I am disappointed Randy hasn’t sought my counsel on things I am well informed on, but wastes no time seeking the counsel of people like Robin Miller,” George said, adding that he likes Bernard and thinks he is doing a good job.

George also said he turned down an offer to be the series CEO because he didn’t want to answer to new Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus.

Miller, who also was in the studio, was on his best behavior and didn’t become too combative, though he pointed out that in 1995—the year before the split—there were 28 fully-funded cars and 12 American drivers.

Miller also accused George of getting him fired from his job as columnist and motorsports reporter at the Indianapolis Star and from a radio show on WNDE-AM 1260.

George laughed that off, saying he didn’t have that kind of power. Miller pointed out that the year he was fired, the Star and IMS entered an extensive business partnership.

One of the strangest parts of the interview was when George talked about the possible sale of the Speedway, which has been rumored for more than a year. It sounded as if George was on the outside looking in, though he sits on the Hulman and Co. board of directors that essentially controls the future of the facility. George is not on the IMS board, but his mom and three sisters are, so you’d think he’d have an insider’s perspective.

For starters, George said he doesn’t think the track is for sale.

“I’m not privy to any conversations,” George said of a possible sale of the mammoth facility. “That’s not to say overtures haven’t been made … I guess if the family were contemplating it, they haven’t mentioned it to me.

“If they are contemplating it, I would be disappointed if they didn’t offer me an opportunity to get in on the bidding.”

George added that he is “sure that people would be interested and are interested” in buying the track.

Other tidbits:

--George lauded the 5 percent attendance increase at this year’s Indianapolis 500 when other sports are seeing double-digit percentage declines.

--He said the only good place for double-file restarts for IndyCar was at Texas Motor Speedway.

--The Brickyard 400 NASCAR race is profitable, he said, and would be profitable even if the track was only half-full on race day.

As for George’s future involvement in the IMS and IndyCar Series, George told JMV he doesn’t want to be involved at this point day-to-day, though he clearly has an interest in the future direction of both enterprises.

“Make no mistake,” George added, “I have an interest in it. I have a passion and a love for it.”

Since George accused my 2-year-old article of taking his comments about the series’ profitability out of context, feel free to long onto WFNI’s website and listen to the podcast yourself.

  • Pretty Cool To Get Info From The Horse's Mouth
    Very interesting discussion by Tony and Robin. It appears Tony did not spend over $500 million after all.
  • REALLY Tony???
    Helped end it??? Maybe George bought out the picked over carcass of ChampCar...but to be so cavalier as to ignore his role in the split is hubris on par with LeBron James comments the night of the conclusion of the NBA Finals. Tony George brought us into the abyss, thank Heaven Randy has been his own man to help direct IndyCar out of the ditch and it is VERY reassuring that his mother and sisters are keeping his role to a minimum.
  • Old news
    Listen if you can stand unlimited "um's" and "I don't knows" from Mumbles. But really nothing of substance. How amusing is it that George is put off that Bernard has not sought his counsel? How many people sought advice from the Captain of the Titanic after it sank? Nice Texas ratings by the way -LMAO.
  • It was Leo Mehl!
    I guess it was Leo Mehl's fault? Silly us for piling on the guy in charge.
  • Another thumb to the eye
    And people wonder why the sport is hated?

    Mr. George, you are THE blowhard of all blowhards. May the sport continue to suffer the death spiral of Hulman-George leadership.

    The Titanic analogy from Brett in Indy couldn't be more dead-on. Tony, you ARE that captain.
  • Poor Chief
    I guess no apology for you. Too bad.
  • denial
    I have to say that there was a rift forming in the ranks of open wheel, but to say he didn't start it, he ended it ... well Tony, I'd like to ask, "how is it living in the land of denial." You have to believe that Tony's views (and those of his sisters) is one big reason Randy Bernard hasn't apologized to racing fans for the IRL's part in the split.
  • A Quick Lesson On How To Advance Beyond Hate
    No apologies are needed. Just contrite maturity by those who lost but refuse to budge from that prior point in history. Tony George saved the sport from itself. He is worthy of praise. Not scorn borne of cluelessness or hostility. It is 2011. Let's all just be there for a change.
  • Rose Coloured Glasses.
    Frankly I though the interview was extraordinary. It is still unbelievable how aloof George is. He still doesn't get it and his refusal to start looking at history? It sounds like he might be doomed to repeat it. Ugh.
  • TG not aloof
    I listened to the JMV show and was fascinated by Tony George's candor and self perceived honesty. Rather than being aloof, TG has never been a dynamic public speaker and it sounded to me as if he was being very careful with everything he said. He did have comments he wanted to make, points to get across and an opinion on the present state of open wheel racing. All of this made for a very compelling insight into a man who I always thought was put into a situation for which he wasn't well suited. Do I feel TG caused the downfall of the AOW racing? Not totally but he sure did grease the skids for failure. As he said, "I shouldn't have given so much power to the car owners."

    If anything TG came across as a lonely person with no particular career path these days, a beaten down by his family man who wants to be somewhat appreciated for what he tried to do - even if most of us never understood or agreed with his methods or the end results.

    Regardless, I was impressed TG would get in a room and talk so openly for such a long time with Robin Miller.
  • Real .1rl business news
    How about some TV ratings for the clown cars???
    How about TV ratings for F1 in Canada for comparison???
    Can't use Nielsen not giving you the info anymore as an excuse.

    How about a nice article on Milwaukee giving away tickets for the League nobody wanted:

    When Canada lost their F1 race for 2009, I don't recall them giving away free tickets for the 2010 race as an apology for losing the race for 1 year. They sold the place out, lickedy split. The place was packed again this year even with a 2 hour rain delay and all with no buy one get one free, or freebies on cases of Coors.
    F1: OWR in demand.
    .1rl: So bad, they can't even give it away.

  • Fine by me
    They'll never get a penny of my money as long as the series and indy in that family's control. They are the murderers of the sport and should be punished for their crimes.

    HISTORY will remember what really happened.
  • Hypocrisy Personified
    When will they stop receiving your rapt attention?
  • chief, you need to learn history. You need to remember what you said. You said cart killed itself. How did IRL murder a suicide? If cart killed itself, and there was no IRL, aow would be dead.

    So how long have you been sneaking into the track? You have posted several times.about being there, how did you get in without paying?

    Don't worry, the other 250,000+ will pickup the slack. still the largest single day sporting event in the world.
  • Fascinating again
    Yet, they can't muster even a single FULL ratings point. Indy 500 has second lowest rating ALL TIME.

    Yeah, you won. Brock Yates said "pyrrhic", I agree, Indy must die completely.
  • More Street races
    Yep...another seaside village lured by the siren of stupidity.

    How do you Speedway Apologists and paid spokespeople live with yourselves? Ovals stink under IRL rule. Milwaukee is an example.
  • tg not TH
    tony george is not Tony Hulman and it is glaringly obvious. tg does not have the business acumen, the passion, nor the intelligence, to be in the position he was.
    To make IMS the trump card in a ploy that not only diminished "The greatest Spectacle in Racing" for 12 years, but severely injured the sport of open wheel racing, to me, shows nothing but incompetence.
  • Iman can't admit I'm right
    Fascinating rebuild and moving forward up there in Milwaukee.

    Free tix, 2 fer 1 deals STILL couldn't get people to show up for the race.

    Tony George is responsible for the horrific destruction of the sport. milwaukee used to sellout, what happened? The IRL is crap and the fans know why. A simple apology coulda helped. Now, it's too late.
  • The State of Open Wheel Racing
    courtesy of indyman, Dipsicle, and Tony
  • Chief, pay attention, you said cart killed itself. If you are right, blaming the IRL for it is just sour grapes.
  • Half the people there, didn't buy a ticket.
    Nice embiggenable picture of the HUGE .1rl fan base. Nice bit of writing there too. Doesn't make it sound like Milwaukee will be hosting a huge loser like the .1rl again. The fans have spoken. All 4 of them. And 2 of them got in for FREE!!! :lol:
  • rich get richer poor get screwed and feel like a idiot
    real split happen in 70's tg usa open wheel hero no won show up for the mile what a shame it was a great race mile allways had a good croud the fans are tied of 4 years formula indy and the greedy abuse the schedule get worst every year danica is right cart was a joke was going to fail without tg country club racing sucks
  • Why can't the IRL draw in Milwaukee?
    Iman knows why, but won't admit it.

    Tony George knows why, but won't admit it.

    Seems like you are all in denial about the ineffective "sport" called the irl.
  • IZOD doesnt do ovals
    I wonder why the IRLs title sponsor thinks ovals suck?
  • The Milwaukee Mile
    just the most recent in a long line of tracks boycotting the IRL
  • For Sale Or Not For Sale That is The Question
    Interesting comments from Tony regarding the potential sale of IMS. You would think he knows more. I'll admit, I have been punked by people in Indy who intimated to me the facility was on the market. I've heard it for at least a year or two now. Is it true? I think I'll choose to just sit back and watch and see instead off piling on with the rumor. We have no idea do we? I do think Tony knows more about this than he is letting on. One thing: There are som many people with so many opinions out there about the future of IMS and the sport in general, I am thinking the smart thing to do is just sit back and watch the races. Let's see what happens. I am tired of viewing this sport through a dirtied lens. The sport is not very good now. But it CAN get better.
  • Tony's Right, Remember Your History
    In the last few years, many fans and journalists incorrectly state that the formation of the IRL is known as "The Split". If they would remember their history correctly, the IRL took no drivers, no teams, no cars, and no tracks from CART. So where's the split?

    The REAL SPLIT occurred in 1979 when CART was formed. It was at that point that the teams, drivers, tracks, and cars were "taken" from the United States Auto Club (USAC) sanctioning body. I saw this first hand and I lived through this, working as an USAC official at the time. It wasn't long until USAC had only Indianapolis left and a skeleton cast of drivers. (Remember "race fans", CART was never the sanctioning body at the Speedway.)

    Now, Tony George is correct when he says that, "I didn't creat the Split, I helped end it." And end it he did, Remember the struggling Kalkoven-led Champ Car organization as they went through their rounds in Court? Remember that the Indy Racing League won those rounds? OK, where is that split now? None, nada, gone. And TG ended it by financing those battles in court, thank you very much.
  • The split now
    is between the millions who used to be fans and the handful of Marion County gomers who wont buy tickets and who wont pay $5 a month to their TV service providers to get Versus
  • 17 years
    ICNJon, you proved exactly why the sport is in shambles. Tony had a vendetta against CART and used the 500 and speedway as the tools to settle the vendetta.

    Unfortunately us fans that supported the sport were destroyed in the crossfire.

    It help end the SPORT. I hope you're happy.
  • Now I understand...
    This has been enlightening Anthony. What you wrote, added into the comments by some of the true believers leads me to believe the Hulman/George clan saw the intial setting up of CART as a good ol' fashioned feud.

    Yep, just like the Hatfields and McCoys...Anton "Devil Anse" George was told by the family to get out there with your shotgun hammer and take back what was rightfully ours and put those Yankee CART McCoys in their place.

    Too funny. They got it back...and now the sport finds itself right back in 70's mode...the big race and a handful of events no one cares for.

    Lets just keep repeating the history and learn nothing form it. Oh wait, we are.
  • 25 guaranteed spots
    That means ONLY 8 cars from CART had a chance of qualifying under Tony's rules in the IRL 500. Indy NEVER had guaranteed starting positions! Thats what killed qualifying weekends. If just say no TG would of been truthful of helping midget-sprintcar drivers at the time Indy Lights was forsale at a cheap price. He could of put all those guys in rear engine cars for his feeder system and been a hero instead of a zero! No SPONSOR was going to spend millions to fight for 8 SPOTS!

Post a comment to this blog

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by