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NASCAR help IndyCar?  Get Real!

by Brian Carroccio
Monday, July 29, 2013

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Brian France
To be fair, Brian France did not actually walk through Gasoline Alley with both middle fingers raised to the sky. Nor did the CEO and Chairman of NASCAR go on record in saying he might one day consider allowing everyone at the corner of 16th and Georgetown the privilege of kissing his royal behind.

But let's not beat around the bush here: he may as well have.

Of course, everyone knows that from a commercial and marketing standpoint the top-level NASCAR Sprint Cup Series left Indy car racing in the dust long ago. And while it pains me to say, no one can argue that the top-level Cup Series really has any time or use for IndyCar.

And that would be one thing to state. But in an interview Thursday with Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, France didn't stop there. 

When asked by Cavin about the possibility of a collaboration between NASCAR's second division Nationwide Series and IndyCar, specifically joint weekends, France answered with a clear "no."  To France, "Nationwide is significantly ahead of the Indy Racing League (yes, he went there) in terms of its television ratings and attendance and everything else with the exception, obviously, of the Indy 500."

No, from a pure metrics standpoint no one can argue with France. But France did not give some formulaic "we don't see much potential there as the two series draw different crowds, and scheduling would be difficult" type response. No, France said in no uncertain terms: our second division has nothing to gain from a collaboration with their first division, because our second division is better.

Also, when Cavin asked about the dwindling crowds in recent years for the Brickyard 400, France did not point to the weather, the economy or a number of the other oft-cited reasons. Rather, France pointed the finger straight at the Speedway, citing recent management turmoil at IMS as affecting the Brickyard. "We expect them to get settled as an organization and have their focus and effort at a higher level as we go down the road."

Allow that to settle for a minute. France did not talk about the mystique of the Speedway. He did not say how wonderful it was to visit such hallowed ground. He did not say how welcoming the Hulman-George family was, or wax poetic about adding to the legacy of the Brickyard.

He did no such thing. Rather, without impunity or fear of repercussion, he basically called IMS an incompetent, dysfunctional operation.
Now, I should pause the narrative here to add the following. Anyone who has studied the history of the relationship between NASCAR and Indy car racing would tell you that France's non-collaborative tone was not a surprise. The tone out of NASCAR for decades has been, at least publicly been non-agitating. 

Also, it should be noted that AutoRacing1.com has long maintained that NASCAR wants nothing more than to see IndyCar dead. Moreover, the continuation of the Brickyard 400, which allows IndyCar's mortal enemy access to Indy car racing's Holy Grail makes little sense. But that is a different discussion for a different day.

Where France departed from prior NASCAR executives was the tone and degree of transparency.  France basically told the world that IMS was an incompetent, dysfunctional organization that was not doing his company justice. Completely ignoring the fact NASCAR has witnessed declines in attendance across the board in recent years, France laid any perceived problems with Brickyard attendance squarely at the feet of IMS. And don't for a second think his Nationwide is kicking IndyCar's behind comment was not used to bolster his position. 

But were they listening at the corner of 16th and Georgetown? Yes, does IMS and IndyCar realize that France took a very aggressive, condescending tone? Do they realize the deferential tone that France's father Bill France, Jr. use to employ was completely absent in the words of his son? Or will they choose to carry on as usual, preferring to focus on the fact that France said in the same interview said IMS was a "friend?" Yes, quite a friend indeed.

I ask, because after Tuesday's news that NASCAR has signed a 10-year $4 billion deal with NBC Sports Network starting in 2015, some in the IndyCar world were giddy with excitement. Noting all the opportunities for "cross-promotion," between NASCAR and IndyCar, who is contracted with NBCSN through 2018, many just could not contain their excitement.

And maybe there is some potential for IndyCar to thrive on a common network as NASCAR. But I'm not the one anyone should be worried about.

Brian France on the other hand is.

And if people didn't realize in the five decades before Thursday that IndyCar and NASCAR were not allies, France should have provided more than enough clarity. He made it crystal clear, his organization has nothing to gain from IndyCar, and cares little to see it thrive. They have interest only in benefitting NASCAR and its associated properties. Even as France noted that he wanted the turmoil in the IMS offices to stabilize, he did so noting that it would benefit his race. He said that without impunity nor fear of repercussion.

So, go ahead and say that you think IndyCar will benefit from sharing a network with NASCAR. I don't agree, but so be it. 

Maybe, you could say IndyCar must work under the parameters currently in place, no matter how less-than-ideal they might be. That's probably a reasonable, if not encouraging position to take.

But don't for a second suggest that we're going to see some sort of cross-promotional, all-for-one-for-all Nirvana, when NASCAR moves to NBC in 2015. Don't for a second suggest NASCAR has any interest in some kum-ba-yah effort to grow motorsports in America.

And if you need any clarification, I'll go ahead and direct you to Brian France.

Brian Carroccio is an IndyCar Columnist for AutoRacing1.com. He can be contacted at BrianC@AutoRacing1.com.

Feedback can be sent to feedback@autoracing1.com

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