Motorsport ramblings as the holidays approach
Contrived. Arbitrary. A pathetic appeal to society's ever-growing appetite for entertainment in lieu of what is sporting and fair.
Formula One’s decision to award double points in next season’s finale at Abu Dhabi is all those things. And for the record, count this writer amongst the very large and very vocal chorus of naysayers lambasting the idea for the reasons mentioned above, and more.
Nonetheless, I understand the reasons this measure was introduced.
For one, F1 wants to avoid a less-than-ideal scenario such as this past year, when Sebastien Vettel clinched the world championship in India. As is the case with many of the "flyaway" races, the Grand Prix of India aired in F1's home base of Europe sometime late Sunday morning. The Abu Dhabi race is different of course because it runs in the evening local time, and is compatible with the traditional Sunday afternoon time slot in Europe.
Moreover, F1 wants to guard against another Vettel-type runaway, as the sensational German won the last 9 races, and clinched his fourth consecutive world title with three races remaining. Although at the rate Vettel is going, a double points finale may be a moot point in the coming years, this scenario does improve the chances the championship will remain in the balance longer resulting in increased interest, viewership, media coverage, etc.
Combine these factors with the large check the Abu Dhabi organizers probably just forked over to host the finale, their desire for the championship to still in the balance, signed, and voila we have the new, incredibly unpopular double points finale.
Let me begin by saying, I have no intention of inciting some rebellion against Hulman & Co., CEO Mark Miles. I’m of the opinion, Miles has one of the toughest jobs imaginable, as there are years of ineptitude, a culture of failure and endless layers of complicated company dynamics to work through at the corner of 16th and Georgetown. Throw in the current economic climate and the declining relevance of racing, and suffice to say, Miles is facing an uphill battle.
Also, while I have commended some of this measures and criticized others, the fact Miles has been on the job less than a year, renders the sample-size too small to draw any firm conclusions.
Thus, any criticisms here should be interpreted as questions being raised about specific measures, decisions or comments, and not a crusade against Miles.
And as many of you likely know, Miles spoke yesterday at the Performance Race Industry Trade Show. While Miles covered a myriad of topics, I found one particularly intriguing, as the leader of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway noted his organization had "not necessarily dealt well with race tracks and promoters in recent years."
All kidding aside, there was significant irony in those comments which did not slip past this writer. Remember, Miles recently awarded 4 of his series’ 7 precious network television dates, and over 70% of the series’ aggregate television time not to fellow promoters, but to events at the track his company owns. And what did he do with two of the other seven network dates? Those were given to Roger Penske.
Is it just me, or was that an alarming lack of self-awareness on the part of Miles?
To be fair, I know Miles was trying to leverage IMS to get ABC/ESPN behind the sport's showcase event. heck, I even suggested such a measure months back in this very space. I also Miles wasn't exactly negotiating from a position of strength, and had only a few network hours to spread around. Last, I am in no way forwarding the preposterous notion that there was malice or flippancy in Miles’ comments.
But as the leader of a company which outside central-Indiana is perceived as being aloof, clueless, arrogant, incompetent, provincial and incredibly self-serving, greater self-awareness is needed from the leadership at 16th and Georgetown. And while there is interpretation that can be applied to Miles comments, there is no interpretation regarding this: if the prominence of IndyCar and IMS are ever restored to their rightful place in the American consciousness, such obliviousness from the Hulman empire must be moved permanently to the ashbin of history.
Speaking of Miles and Tracks:
I’ve long advocated IndyCar taking an equity stake in race facilities as a way to grow their overall business, and also help insure the company's future on oval tracks. Considering Gateway, Pikes Peak, and Nashville amongst others are all recently built facilities that have experienced financial difficulties in recent years, there is currently opportunity for IndyCar to invest in these facilities for pennies on the dollar. However, Miles made clear today that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, as he is currently focused on growing his company’s revenues.
But I have to ask: what are Miles and company doing to facilitate the growth of IndyCar? I know his company is devoting precious time, resources and taxpayer money to “lipstick on pig” type-endeavors such as bringing back the apron at IMS in a futile attempt to liven up the Brickyard 400.
What about IndyCar? Where does IndyCar fit in to the overall goals of Hulman & Co.? Are the only changes to IndyCar we should expect the IMS road course race, an event in the Middle East, and a continued six-month off-season? Worse, does Miles' company only see IndyCar as a necessary auxiliary piece to their showcase event, the Indianapolis 500?
If anyone can shed light on answers to these questions, see below for my contact information.
The Ganassi Racing vacancy created by Dario Franchitti’s retirement will be filled by Ryan Briscoe. Tony Kanaan will move to Franchitti's #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and Briscoe will take over the #8 NTT Data seat originally earmarked for Kanaan.
Briscoe is a gentleman, professional racer, as his resume suggests. However, for a sport that is desperate for new blood and compelling storylines, Briscoe does little to help in that department.
While I enjoy Twitter as much as the next guy, social media not the appropriate venue for "breaking news." Of course, a rather prominent Indianapolis reporter shared the news Briscoe was headed to Ganassi Wednesday evening on Twitter. Although, I compliment the reporter for ascertaining the information and going through the process of confirming with credible sources, announcing news regarding one of the sport's iconic seats via twitter was in my opinion, insulting.
Moreover, Briscoe, Kanaan, the Ganassi team, IndyCar fans, and everyone involved with the sport for that matter deserved better.
Brian Carroccio is an IndyCar Columnist for AutoRacing1.com. He can be contacted at BrianC@AutoRacing1.com.
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