Sell the thing……

This is a special editorial written by AR1’s own Brian Carroccio. What you will read is not only the position of the writer, rather that of the publication’s management and ownership. Although we wish this piece had a more positive tone, we cannot deny the compelling truth Brian so eloquently brings to light.

And in an age when you have many outlets to choose from in gathering your news, we take seriously, and very much appreciate the fact you choose For now, we will turn you over to Brian.

It’s time.

I’ve been holding off on this, waiting for something to change my mind, waiting for something — anything — that may be encouraging.

But as I watch another year go by without seeing the IndyCar Series champion make public appearances; another year watching popular drivers unable to stay in the series because of a lack of sponsorship; another year of silly band-aid solutions to bullet wounds; another year where the M.O. is to treat symptoms without actually understanding the root cause of the problems, I realize that it’s time — in fact, well past time — the Hulman-George family and Hulman & Co., CEO Mark Miles do what is best for their company, the many people who make a living within Indy Car racing, and those who harbor a deep passion for it and divest their ownership of the IndyCar Series.

Let me be clear: I take no pleasure in writing that.

While I was a diehard CART/Champ Car loyalist throughout the open-wheel schism and could be easily labeled a “hater," I very much embraced unification in 2008. At the time, I realized that personal preferences aside, continued civil war served no purpose. Even though, I didn’t care for the IRL cars, the pack racing, and other elements of the merger, to me the years of stupid civil war taught me that such things were relatively speaking, small details. The important thing then was the simple fact everyone finally being under one roof.

I also believe that ideally, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series should work in unison. IMS is the Mecca of American open-wheel racing and always will be. It stands to reason the Speedway would be the logical entity to lead the sport.

Further, I want to make clear this is not an indictment of Miles. I am aware of Miles’ impressive resume in running world-class sporting organizations and events. And while Miles has his supporters and detractors let’s be fair: relatively speaking, Miles has been in charge of Hulman & Co., about five minutes. The problems, however, were here long before, and its naïve to presume they will end with him.

Plus, sometimes we forget what Miles’ role actually is. It is not to serve IndyCar per se. Rather, Miles is CEO of IndyCar’s parent company, and serves the interests of Hulman & Co. and its stakeholders.

And it is here, where my concern lies.

See, the great failure of American open-wheel racing at least over the last four decades or so, has been the inability of the sport to ever successfully integrate a viable racing series around its most sacred ground—IMS. Granted, multiple entities share in this failure and it would be intellectually lazy to lay these failures at the feet of one family or The Speedway.

But what is perhaps worse than the actual failure is the failure to understand its causes. And the great failure of Indy Car racing can find its roots in a flawed, antiquated paradigm that greatly misunderstands not only the present, but also the past and in particular, how the two relate.

Now, to understand the past, one must acknowledge that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was and to a certain extent still is, on no uncertain terms, an American success story of epic proportions. While there are parallel stories to IMS, think about this: the track was able to employ a full-time, year round staff of around 100 employees and make incredible profits off one event a year.

When you consider the current struggles of racetracks and decline of live events in recent years, it becomes all the more impressive. But the simple truth is, in years gone by, IMS did just fine without an Indy Car series. One event a year was all it needed to survive and then some, which brings me to my next point.

The man responsible for IMS as we currently know it was of course Terre Haute, IN native Anton (Tony) Hulman, Jr. After World War II, which brought a halt to the Indianapolis 500, the Speedway property was reportedly being looked at as a housing project for the returning soldiers. That was until Hulman purchased the dilapidated facility, and “saved" the 500.

Hulman also was instrumental in another important, although less celebrated, contribution a decade later. After AAA got out of race sanctioning in the aftermath of the 1955 Le Mans disaster, Hulman helped form USAC. Essentially, Hulman within the span of a decade helped orchestrate two landmark deals that insured American open-wheel racing would continue. Because of his contributions, Hulman is rightfully referred to as The Savior of the 500.

But here’s what Hulman didn’t do.

Tony Hulman did not, nor did he ever, have an interest in ruling Championship racing. Yes, he took an interest in it. And there were times he stepped in to help a failing racetrack or prop up a short-on-cash promoter. But Hulman did not lord over racing like many presume.

Rather Hulman’s interest always was the 500. The charismatic, good-looking, classy Hulman displayed panache and charm when giving the command to start engines, and waving the green flag for his beloved 500. He took great pride in saving the great race and saw it as his civic duty to insure its health. Yes, Hulman was an influential player, most definitely a stabilizing presence, but again, Hulman did operate not Championship racing.

Probably, because he didn’t have to.

Remember, Hulman was fabulously wealthy, and that wealth allowed him to purchase the Speedway. But Hulman was not like NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. whose business was racing, and became wealthy because of racing.

Yes, understand the fundamental distinction. Hulman’s wealth allowed him to get into racing. Racing is how France became wealthy.

Consequently, France was constantly working to build NASCAR; constantly working to improve events; constantly investing in ways to make NASCAR more viable. After all, NASCAR was his livelihood. And these practices passed down to France’s son Bill, Jr. and later Bill, Jr.’s son Brian.

Now, I want to be clear, this is not in the least bit a criticism of Mr. Hulman. The dignified Hulman is rightfully adored, and in my opinion, other than founder Carl Fisher, the most important figure in Speedway history. But understanding the family dynamic difference between NASCAR and IndyCar, both of which remain essentially family businesses to this day, is crucial to understanding the current situation. Remember, NASCAR (racing) is how the France became wealthy. Wealth allowed the Hulman family to get into racing, but the Hulman family never has made its livelihood from racing.

Of, things got a little dicey for the Hulman-George family (it became the Hulman-George after Tony’s only daughter Mari married Elmer George) when Mr. Hulman passed in 1977. USAC, which had sanctioned Championship Racing since its inception, came under attack for not providing adequate leadership. And the old sanctioning body wasn’t helped when a plane carrying numerous USAC officials crashed in April of 1978. Plus, there was no charismatic, transcendent personality such as Hulman in place to keep the divisive factions on the same course.

In 1979, citing weak sponsorship revenues, media coverage and television interest, a group of team owners formed Championship Auto Racing Teams and set out on their own course. And while CART and IMS did compromise enough so that CART would run the Indy 500 annually, the relationship between the two remained uneasy for a decade and a half.

As CART grew in power and stature, IMS became concerned about protecting its sacred event against a powerful organization of car owners. Then IMS President and Hulman’s grandson Tony George started the Indy Racing League as a rival to CART in 1996, leveraging the Indy 500 to get the IRL going. While both entities floundered during the futile, senseless Indy Car civil war, the IRL absorbed the remnants of Champ Car, which had formed in 2004 from the remnants of CART, which went bankrupt in 2003.

Of course, unification was not all sunshine and daisies. In fact, one could argue that the situation was similar to 1979, as TV viewership, sponsorship and media coverage were limited. But at least the uphill climb would be made with everyone together under one roof.

Funny, but relative to now, 2008 was the good old days.

Yes, think about it. Back then, the series had McDonald’s, 7-11, Philip Morris, Motorola, Danica Patrick, and every race on ESPN. Now, entering the seventh year of post-unification, I implore anyone to offer me one metric that indicates anything—anything at all—is better?

Some people will note that the unpopular George no longer lords over the Speedway and series he founded. But remember George was the one who started the IRL (now IndyCar) and his legacy is largely attached to it. Plus, back then he still had access to the Hulman coffers as President of IMS. But that account has since closed, as George was removed from power in 2009, presumably over frustration regarding his fortune-draining IRL.

The result of George’s deposing means the one Hulman-George family member that has ever shown an interest in the success of the IndyCar Series.

Yes, it is another incredible irony of American open-wheel racing. IMS was pound foolish in destroying a viable open-wheel racing series (CART), yet is penny wise when it comes to nurturing one they happen to own (IndyCar).

Nevertheless, fast-forward five years after George’s removal, and his family along with the Hulman board remain a rudderless ship, unable to successfully incorporate the distressed IndyCar Series into their overall business. Clearly, they would be happy to get the red ink off their books, but who would want the beleaguered series without the sport’s most sacred cathedral—IMS—as part of the deal? Contrarily, why would the family want to sell for pennies on the dollar something that costly as it might be, protects their revered grandfather’s sacred Indy 500?

Unwilling to invest more money in a distressed asset, yet hesitant to divest of a key, but money draining auxiliary, the Hulman-George family carries on with an asset no family member other than George has ever showed an iota of interest. All the while many of the same people who have assisted in creating the current unfortunate state of affairs remain of the job; being asked to clean up the mess they helped create.

Further, the company which has shown itself so proficient in creating said mess carries on with absolutely zero historical reference regarding how to build a viable racing series around their crown jewel race.

Again, I take no pleasure in writing that. While I know the tone of this piece is not positive, I would hope that my passion for open-wheel racing is clear in my regular writing in this space. I want nothing more than this to see this great sport thrive. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to one day admit I was wrong on this matter.

Michael Andretti would do a better job of running the IndyCar series, but that would mean his father would have to take over the team because it would be a conflict of interest for Michael to field a team and also run the series. It is also a conflict of interest that one track owner (Hulman-George)owns the series and favors the event they own.

That said, there are numerous people within the IndyCar who have shown incredible proficiency at building racing businesses in spite of the current economic situation. Specifically, I’m thinking of Michael Andretti and Dan Andersen. Both are shrewd businessmen with a passion for the sport. Both have also lived the life of owning race teams, managing a racing staff, promoting events, and attracting corporate sponsorship. Both also have a vested interest in the IndyCar Series thriving.

Possibly, an arrangement could be made similar to Andersen’s ownership of Indy Lights. IMS can continue to have an interest, yet Andersen or Andretti can run the series, which would be forever tied to the Hulman-George family’s baby the Indy 500.

But other than the fact they hold the deed to the sport’s most iconic ground there is nothing — not one thing — from the last four decades I can point indicating the Hulman-George family and IndyCar’s parent company, Hulman &Co., are capable of stewarding the sport forward. Simply put, the company has never adequately led a racing series.

The sooner that sobering reality becomes apparent, the sooner everyone realizes the current situation cannot be fixed {using the paradigm in which it was concocted}, the sooner everything will improve for all involved.

Brian Carroccio is an IndyCar Columnist for He can be contacted at

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