Overheard in Milwaukee – Saturday (3rd Update)

UPDATE #3 A reader writes, Dear AR1.com, It looks like Marshall Pruett and Racer.com had to eat their words. First he wrote an article dismissing the AR1.com rumor that an offer was being prepared to buy the IndyCar series and now he wrote a 2nd article dismissing your rumor again and then in his latest article talks about the X1 project. It's old news now. I guess he had to swallow hard. Mordichai Rosen, Los Angeles, CA

09/01/15 You can now read more on the rumor we revealed before Milwaukee about a group that was interested in buying the IndyCar series in today's feature article.


How will Miles and 'the family' react to a new idea?

Regarding the rumor below of one or two groups preparing an offer to buy the series, "It's not a difficult question to answer; I've heard nothing about it and IndyCar is not for sale," IndyCar boss Mark Miles, who heads Hulman & Company told racer.com. "If there's a group out there, they haven't come to us and we're not looking to sell the series." [Editor's Note: That is correct, IndyCar has not been approached to sell the series……yet. But if rumors are to be believed, the plan could turn the series around to strong growth while allowing the Hulman George family a partial ownership. As we said below, the racing is too good for the fan base to be so small. There has to be someone who has an idea to turn this thing upward. Unfortunately we do not yet know the details and do not know if the plan is good or not.]

07/11/15 It was good to get back to Milwaukee after a couple of year absence for me personally. This place just reeks with history. Michael Andretti told me that attendance really depends on the walk-up crowd and with the weather forecast calling for possible thunderstorms there might be some long faces on Sunday. Rumor has it that 30,000 tickets were sold and the place holds 37,000. We hear ABC may have given away 7,000 tickets as part of their sponsorship of this race. But will they show up if it rains? Let's hope it stays dry.

I asked him about New Orleans but he said he could not talk about it because of the lawsuit he has with the track owner over Andretti Sports Marketing not fully compensated for their services. I did ask him if he thought the race has potential for the future and he said, "definitely, I was surprised how many people showed up given the weather."

Spoke to Honda boss Art St. Cyr and it sounds like Honda probably will renew their contract with IndyCar, which expires at the end of this year. "We want to be in the top levels of motorsports and that is why Honda is in F1 and IndyCar." Honda's questions are around the future of the engine rules package and where the sport is headed overall." We did have a philosophical discussion about what the future engines need to be and there was a difference in opinion. St. Cyr said "for Honda there must be relevance between what we race and our passenger cars." There are CAFE requirements imposed on manufacturers that will require them to meet higher fuel mileage averages for their fleet of cars.

That likely means the next generation IndyCar engine will be of some hybrid variety. From a fan excitement standpoint this is of course is the worst thing that can happen as hybrid engines tend to be quiet and non-screamers. The current engine is already too quiet and puts fans asleep. AR1's opinion is that we are letting the R&D budgets and engineers of manufacturers dictate the future direction of the sport, which is completely wrong. The future direction of the sport should be dictated by what the paying customer wants, i.e.. it should be a marketing endeavor not an engineering endeavor. By a wide majority, IndyCar fans responding to an AR1.com poll want a screaming engine:

What is the #1 thing IndyCar should do to turn the sport around?

Sell the series to NASCAR (69) 1%
Make the engines scream (5225) 53%
Get all races off NBCSN and onto ABC (2250) 23%
Give the cars 1,000 HP (163) 2%
Make the cars look awesome again (718) 7%
Get the NCAA to recognize go-kart racing as a sport (1245) 13%
Fix the ugly paint schemes on most of the cars (107) 1%

Total Votes: 9780

St Cyr. also said there was discussion on how to lower costs. "You either have to lower costs for these teams to compete, or you have to increase the amount of money the teams can generate." While we did not get into details that probably means lower RPM and longer lasting engines, meaning that instead of screaming at higher RPM the RPMs will probably drop and the engines will get more quiet and more boring. Taking it to the extreme they can go all-electric and really put the fans to sleep. Formula E is based on a flawed economic model. Race fans will not pay high tickets prices to see quiet race cars. The series can't go too many more years losing over $200 million per year (that was the first year bloodbath) before someone realizes that there is zero relevance between 'green' passenger cars and what race fans want and need, and the plug gets pulled.

Remember what we said, racing will only be successful when it is a marketing driven endeavor and not an engineering driven endeavor. In NASCAR manufacturers compete to sell cars, not develop new technology. When is open wheel racing going to come to the realization that to grow a large fan base racing has to be all about the 'wow' factor. High fuel mileage and long lasting engines is not what race fans come to see. It's boring. 'Green' is boring. Racing cannot survive without a wow factor that keeps fans on the edge of their seat.

I spoke to Mark Miles about the IndyCar TV deal. He is stuck with a deal that runs until 2018 and he is trying to renegotiate the deal. He would like ABC to take the first portion of the schedule and NBC the 2nd. He is trying to get ABC to allow NBC to put some races on network TV. "If we get three more races on network TV that would increase our annual viewership by 40%," Miles said. No kidding, AR1 has said for 10 years that all races should be on network TV if the sport is to ever grow. He did admit that he needs to ween the teams off the Leader Circle Welfare program because that money is better spent on a better TV package.

As for next year's schedule Miles said "We hope to get it out before the end of the season (end of August)." He did admit that NASCAR was the 800 pound gorilla in the room at NBC sucking up all the best TV time slots. AR1 put together the ideal 2016 IndyCar schedule, but it's too good so IndyCar won't do it we're sure.

But the big rumor in the paddock that AR1.com has gotten wind of is there are two different competing groups putting together a deal to buy the series from the Hulman George family. Whether those deals go anywhere remains to be seen but something needs to be done because the racing is too good for no one to be watching. This series needs a fresh approach with some significant financial backing to turn this thing around. Mark C. reporting from Milwaukee

Ideal 2016 IndyCar Schedule as proposed by AR1.com

No. Date Location Type Comment
1 Jan. 31 Fontana, CA Oval Spectacular racing to kick off season week before Super Bowl
2 Feb 14 Homestead, FL Oval Its only NASCAR race in Nov. Track needs early season date
3 Feb 28 New Orleans, LA RC Mardi Gras Feb 9
4 Mar 13 St. Petersburg, FL Street Traditional Date
Mar 27 Easter – No Race Families home
5 Apr. 10 Long Beach, CA* Street Confirmed Date
6 Apr 24 Birmingham, AL RC Traditional Date
7 May 14 GP of Indianapolis RC Saturday Traditional Date
8 May 29 Indy 500 Oval Confirmed Date
9 Jun 5 Detroit, MI Street Traditional Date
10 Jun 19 Milwaukee, WI Oval Wisconsin Double Back-To-Back weekends
11 Jun 26 Elkhart Lake WI RC Wisconsin Double Back-To-Back weekends
Jul 3 July 4th weekend No race, families home
12 Jul 10 Toronto, CAN Street Back to traditional date
13 Jul 23 Newton, IA Oval Sat. Night
14 Aug 7 Lexington, OH RC Traditional Date
15 Aug 14 Sonoma, CA RC Switch with Pocono to reduce travel
16 Aug 28 Pocono, PA Oval 1 week further from NASCAR weekend
17 Sep 4 Boston MA Street New race on Labor Day weekend
18 Sep 17 Ft. Worth, TX Oval Sat Night, NASCAR race not until Nov.
19 Oct 2 Indy 400 Oval Season Finale at the only place IndyCar should end season

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