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DATE News (chronologically)
03/05/13
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Agreeing with AR1.com - Hulman-George proves that they no business owning IMS or Indy Car  From Autoextremist.com - I suppose it should be surprising to no one that the Hulman-George family had to hire a consulting firm from Boston to evaluate "business operations," according to a Jenna Fryer/Associated Press story that appeared last week. But for the record, that's exactly what happened. The Boston Consulting Group came back with a passel of recommendations that ranged from the obvious to the flat-out ridiculous. The highlights of ideas they came up with, according to Fryer: "a 15-race IndyCar schedule in major American cities held over 19 weeks; a three-race playoff with a season finale on the road course at Indy; a new marketing strategy promoting IndyCar's ''daredevil drivers'; using just one U.S. television partner instead of both ABC/ESPN and NBC Sports Network; overhauling the ticket pricing at IMS in tiers that would raise the cost of the most expensive Indy 500 ticket from $150 to $200 and lower almost every ticket for the Brickyard 400 and Red Bull Grand Prix."

Let's break it down, shall we?

First of all, a "15-race IndyCar schedule in major American cities held over 19 weeks." Really? IndyCar street racing is some of the most tedious, predictable and boring racing that the series presents, made up of ridiculous "tracks" with tub-cracking surfaces, no passing and stupid ticket prices. That's "The Future"? Oh my. That old "bring the racing to the people" argument was flawed when it first emerged decades ago. (Long Beach is a singular race that survives because of massive quantities of Toyota cash and the sheer force of will from the locals who support it every year.)

The fact of the matter is that the rest of the street races come and go based on the cities that succumb to promoters looking to extract massive quantities of dollars out of a city, sometimes with no rhyme or reason as to why, other than the giant $ signs in their eyes. It goes something like this: 1. Talk a mayor of some city into the idea. 2. Promote the shit out of a special "inaugural" event. 3. Have a "successful" inaugural event even though the reality is that it's fraught with financing difficulties and inflated attendance figures. 4. The original promoter is removed and/or goes broke. 5. The new promoters promise all kinds of "new" and "better" ideas. 6. The second event draws approximately half the crowd of the inaugural event. 7. The mayor loses reelection, or the city and the local media start decrying the event as a "waste" of money and resources. And then the event disappears from the schedule altogether.

And they're recommending more of this? This country has some of the most spectacular natural-terrain road racing circuits in the world and the official recommendation is to ignore them altogether? What a joke. (And another recommendation was to promote an international series of races in the "off" season. That's even more of a joke.)

Next up? "A three-race playoff with a season finale on the road course at Indy." A "playoff"? Are you kidding me? NASCAR's "Chase" for the Sprint Cup is such a rousing success that someone is actually thinking that one for IndyCar racing would be an even better idea? Truly pathetic. And let's be real about the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: It's a featureless, Micky Mouse disaster of a layout that has all the appeal of running around cones in a parking lot. Tony George mortgaged the soul of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to appease Bernie Ecclestone and when Formula 1 embarrassed itself, Ecclestone grew tired of the whole deal and walked away - but only after he realized he couldn't extract even more money out of Tony George. And The Speedway has never recovered from it, frankly.

And I love this one: "A new marketing strategy promoting IndyCar's 'daredevil drivers.'" Seriously? "Daredevil drivers"? Are we going to recreate the early barnstorming days of flying while we're at it? What, are they recommending bringing Gene Simmons back too? This isn't a marketing strategy, oh no, it's a blatant admission that these people don't even have a shred of a clue. And they conducted focus groups to arrive at this idea, too, which is even worse. I'd love to know how much the Hulman-George family paid for this pile of horseshit. (Since posting this piece, Robin Miller pointed out to me that it was Jeff Belskus who commissioned the Boston Consulting Group, to the tune of $1.2 million.)

And "using just one television partner"? That's a splendid idea too. And how will this deliver something more than 0.5 ratings? They haven't founded the Wishing and Hoping (WAH) television network yet, to my knowledge. And as for raising or lowering ticket prices at The Speedway, aren't we getting ahead of ourselves just a little bit? Yes. Because if you're even thinking of raising ticket prices you have to create demand for the product.

And what about the product? Because that's where this discussion should have begun in the first place.

I have the perfect analogy here. It's kind of like the car business, folks. The car business always has been and always will be about the product. You can have the greatest marketing strategy and advertising executions in the world but if, as a manufacturer, your particular automobile is a mediocre excuse for a competitive entry you will go nowhere. And right now the Indy car racing product is a mediocre excuse for a competitive, desirable racing series. It's sick, frankly. And not in a good, half-pipe smokin' way either. Sick as in uninspired and directionless with - except for the Indianapolis 500 - little or nothing to get excited about.

Ryan Hunter-Reay's magnificent 2012 season aside, IndyCar racing's television ratings barely even register except for the Indy 500.

But the real problem with all of this? It's that the Hulman-George family allowed an outside consulting firm to do their thinking for them in the first place. Really? After all of these years this is the best they can come up with? The fundamental lack of understanding is mind-boggling. But the fundamental absence of any apparent vision whatsoever in the Hulman-George family is stunning and flat-out embarrassing.

But of course, according to Fryer, Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles said in a statement late Friday night the company is only taking the report under advisement and it doesn't mean all that much, or something like that. ''The work BCG has done provides conversation points around several important areas of our business as we shape our thinking about the future, but our strategy has not yet been finalized,'' Miles said in his statement. ''As part of finalizing our strategy, we will be sharing information with our stakeholders and listening to their feedback and ideas before we come to any final conclusions. We are in the early stages of this process and will be communicating to our stakeholders and fans as we define our strategy for the future.''

I'm not buying that for a second. Conversation points? Please. The minute a company starts talking about "stakeholders" and "listening to their feedback" it sends up a red flag to me. It suggests a grasping at straws or worse, a willingness to throw the kitchen sink up against the wall in order to see what sticks. Because like the "Boston Consulting Group" they just don't have a frickin' clue. Not one.

Racked by a fundamental lack of understanding of reality and a relentless incompetence that borderlines on abject stupidity, this is a family that has been presiding over a declining empire for decades. And the Boston Consulting Group is recommending that the Hulman-George family should retain ownership of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

That's the biggest joke of all.

To say that the Hulman-George family is clueless and incapable of contributing a vision to the greatest facility in the racing world and the sport of Indy car racing itself is the understatement of this or any other year.

For the very future of American open-wheel racing and for the greater good of the sport itself, the Hulman-George family needs to divest itself of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar series immediately.

I'm afraid any other scenario would spell the end of Indy car racing in this country and maybe even the demise of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway itself.

A giant steaming bowl of Not Good, in other words. Autoextremist.com
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