Information leaks threaten to sink IndyCar, Speedway

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I wasn’t as interested in the content of the Boston Consulting Group’s blueprint for the IndyCar Series’ future as I was with how that information was disseminated, or rather leaked to the press last week.

I suspect Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles or one of his minions might have intentionally leaked the report as a way to gauge public response to some of BCG’s recommendations such as a season-ending IndyCar road race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or a three-race postseason format.

Since I was informed this week—even after the Associated Press got a hold of a copy—that the blueprint was strictly an internal document, I have to assume the leak was an inside job.

When I asked Speedway officials how AP got the information, I received a three paragraph non-answer to that question. This curious sentence was included in the explanation: “At this point, there has been no authorized release of any of the work product that BCG provided to Hulman & Company during its engagement.”

So I have to assume, if I’m being told the truth, that the release was unauthorized. If I’m Miles and I didn’t poke my finger in the information dam myself, I’m finding out pretty quickly who’s responsible.

It probably seems odd that I would argue that such leaks must stop, since I have been the benefactor of leaks about IndyCar and Speedway happenings in the past. And no, this isn’t sour grapes. I applaud the AP for breaking the news last weekend.

But in the case of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series, the continual dripping of information out of the mothership is making the organization look unprofessional at best and dysfunctional at worst.

Are the information leaks Miles' biggest worry? Maybe not. But the scariest thing for the Speedway and IndyCar Series is that the breaches could indicate there are forces within the organization’s leadership pushing in different directions. If I’m a sponsor or a potential sponsor, that gives me pause to get involved with such an organization.

The drippy faucet act at 16th and Georgetown goes all the way back to the firing of Tony George as the head of the Speedway in 2009. How does something like that leak out when most members of your board of directors have the same last name? There’s really no excuse. Even if you’re grinding an ax, at some point you have to realize you’re hurting the business.

Last year, the firing of IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard was leaked out so many times that when it really happened, no one believed the IBJ when we reported it. For the record, that tip back in October did not come from a Hulman-George family member. It came from a source within the racing industry because Speedway officials did a poor job of managing the information flowing from their business.

In the past few weeks, the drips have kept coming, and the integrity of this organization is getting soaked. The dismissal of several IndyCar Series middle managers and a change in position for a couple high-ranking Speedway executives seeped out, and then the Boston Consulting Group recommendations. The Indianapolis Star Statehouse reporters who in February sniffed out the $100 million tax break the Speedway was seeking seemed to catch IMS officials totally flat-footed.

How could someone as politically savvy as Miles, who has worked for high-level Republicans Richard Lugar, Dan Quayle and Bill Hudnut, not know some ink-stained wretch was going to seize that tasty tidbit of information? A proactive approach, rather than a reactive one, might have worked better there.

If Speedway and IndyCar officials are annoyed that the rumor about the series and Speedway being for sale keeps cropping up in the media, they only have themselves to blame.

With so many leaks at the Speedway’s ivory tower, every piece of information—and even misinformation—must be scrutinized by the media. Those leaks have created a slick of confusion reminiscent of when the Indy Racing League split from CART.

Team owners and other paddock insiders aren’t without blame. They chatter more than teenage girls at a Friday night football game. They’ve yakked out of school about things like the series’ tire deal and parts prices, not to mention Bernard’s future—when they’d have been better served by shutting their traps and letting the information be disseminated in an orderly fashion.

Leaks are good for the journalism industry. They’re certainly good fodder for blogs, chat rooms and message boards.

But for the IndyCar Series, it makes it look like the wheels are falling off.

As a journalist, I say keep the leaks coming and let the good times roll.

As a native Hoosier and one who has no interest in seeing this series self-destruct, I say someone needs to put the brakes on this nonsense.

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