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DATE News (chronologically)
01/23/13
IRL
Bobby Rahal confident in IndyCar's future
Bobby Rahal quotes on the upcoming IndyCar season as told to AutoWeek in an interview.

“I think IndyCar's on-track product is second to none,” he said. “I think IndyCar racing has the best quality as exemplified by this last year and Indy last year.

“I'm optimistic on IndyCar. The steps that were made recently with Jeff and Mark Miles coming in. I've had time to spend with Mark and he's a very impressive guy who has the expertise. At that level you don't have to have racing knowledge; if you have good people by your side, it's about being a leader and having sound business principles and imagination putting on events.”

“Guys like Jeff Belskus and Mark Miles have the organizational sophistication to create an organization equal to the on-track product,” Rahal said. “I feel that we have the right people at the helm. All up from here.”

“Despite everything you read about [Formula One] they're all pretty happy because they're all getting rich,” Rahal said with a bit of a small laugh. “They've all been made multi-millionaires as a result of Bernie [Ecclestone's] business acumen. As a result you don't want to kill the golden goose. I was in the principals' meeting [during my time in F1] which [addressed] sporting issues, but when you're making a lot of money usually the issues aren't very big.

“If we were all making money here the owners wouldn't be involved politically. They'd be much more involved going to the bank all the time as they do in Formula One,” he said with a bigger laugh.

“The owners here are a lot of successful businessmen who have opinions, who have worked hard to get where they are. When they see things not pursued on a similar type basis they're going to voice their opinions. If there was a lot of money involved and all the teams were fine, the owners would be a lot less vocal. Also [the owner's discontent] was based on the lack of confidence they've had here in Indy-car racing over the years.”

“With the direction the Hulman family has taken which is so critical to the future -- not just to the 500 but to the sport of IndyCar as a whole -- gives you a whole lot more confidence as to the direction it will take. I think you'll find the owners to be a lot less vocal over the short period of time due to that confidence. At times the owners can be their own worst enemies. They see leadership at the helm of the series, and capability in the series, you'll find people to be a lot less vocal than they have been.”

“It's much recognized at IndyCar today that reconnecting and building the fan base is crucial,” Rahal said. “And investing money to do that. Obviously the television ratings need to improve which really has been the Achilles heel of the series for the last ten years. Racetrack attendance for the last ten years has been good.

“Getting people to watch the broadcast requires a very aggressive communication platform and programs. As late as yesterday I had a conversation with a board member. There's complete agreement that those are the areas that need to be focused upon to grow the sport. It's not like you have to tell them what's wrong. I think they know what's wrong and they are committed to fixing it.”

As a parting shot, Rahal echoed the sentiment of many within the sport.

“If we didn't have a good product we'd been in trouble, but we have a great product.”

[Editor's Note: That is all well and good but Tony George did irreparable damage to the sport of IndyCar when he created the IRL and drove it so low into the gutter that getting out of it has proven to be difficult if not impossible. The fact that TV ratings trended much lower last year was a good indication that fans are washing their hands of the spec-car series. Meanwhile F1 is thriving because they allow innovation and technical advancement. Next year's F1 engine will be so sophisticated it makes IndyCar look like Formula Ford. The fact all the cars look the same underscores that analogy - a spec series for racers in training supported largely by how big a check the driver can bring.]
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