No heroes is holding IndyCar back (4th Update)

UPDATE #4 Another reader writes, Dear, While many feel that the racing at Indy and Detroit was among the best fans have seen in years, this is still not drawing in the fans. The article written by Derek Daly has some very valid points, and I do think that this is part of the problem that the sport has in connecting with the fans/viewers. However I think that many of the fans are now turning to NASCAR drivers as their "American Heroes" in motorsports. Guys like Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, and Jimmie Johnson (Who's 5 straight Championships was never equaled in IndyCar) are the new heroes for race fans.

The problem that IndyCar has right now with foreign drivers is that the are also "ride buyers" that come and go with the check. The fans do not have time to connect with a driver before they are onto something else when their sponsorship dries up. IndyCar has had many foreign drivers over the years that have been very successful and popular, such as Emerson Fittipaldi, Teo Fabi, Tony Kanaan, David Hobbs, Mario Andretti, Helio Castroneves, Raul Boesel, and the list goes on. It is not whether they are non-American, it is whether or not they are talented, and can live up to the Hero-like standard.

Right now, there are very few American Drivers with the extreme talent of a Rick Mears or Jimmie Johnson in IndyCar. Yes, Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Championship but he has yet to win the Indy 500. Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal are not the best American drivers in terms of race victories. IndyCar fans want to see the best drivers, not just American drivers. Steve Sudler, Managing Partner, Sports Marketing Consultants

06/07/13 Another reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1, The writer of the previous email is Dr. Steve Olvey who for many years was the chief medical officer for CART and ChampCar. Dr. Olvey is very knowledgeable about motorsports generally having consulted with virtually every major series in the world from F1 to karting.

He is spot on in his comments, as have so many other supporters of IndyCar been. It is about the drivers and unless, and until, IndyCar promotes the DRIVERS the sports fan base will continue to decline.

For the past decade or more one of the biggest challenges facing IndyCar was to have an American Champion of the series to herald.

Then for the first time in a unified IndyCar series since Al Unser Jr. in 1994 an American Champion was crowned in 2012, Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Yet spectacularly, as Dario Franchitti pointed out in his Racer Magazine interview 'RHR' is the least heralded Champion of IndyCar, of any nationality, in memory.

In the off season IndyCar did not have a single promotion or PR effort for this deserving American Champion despite the fact the Championship came down to the last lap of the last race and that drivers story of determination, tenacity, and come from behind to earn the Championship was a story made for promoting. Not only did 'RHR' have the most wins of any driver last year he won on all of IndyCars' diverse circuits of ovals, street and road courses picking up not only the overall Championship but the IndyCar road racing championship as well. Racer magazine name Hunter-Reay 'Racer of the Year' across all forms of motorsports.

'RHR' is a public relations dream. Good looking, articulate, polite, and a tireless volunteer to promote IndyCar. Yet, nothing or very little from IndyCar.

As you have pointed out in your previous editorials advocating promoting the drivers, and as Dr. Olvey and countless others have begged over and over to promote the drivers you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink and someone at IndyCar needs to get with the program if there are going to be 'Heroes’' for fans to support as the fans will remain unaware of the story behind the champion world class caliber drivers that populate IndyCar unless IndyCar markets them. Steven Ardell, Long Island, NY

Dear Steve, All valid points, IndyCar must promote drivers like Ryan who is very very good, but you cannot make a 'hero' from PR. Heroes rise above all others with their talent and personality and fans gravitate toward them. Ayrton Senna did not have good PR. He just went out and smoked everyone on the track week-in and week-out. Heroes are so good they do the extraordinary. PR just puts icing on that cake. The equality in IndyCar today is interesting, but it breeds a ho-hum reaction from the fans until a driver or two starts destroying all others in the same 'spec' car. Then you know they are special – the best on the playing field, and fans watch them do extraordinary things with a race car the others simply cannot do. Mark C.

06/06/13 A reader writes, Dear Autoracing1 and Derek, About 12 years ago, I talked with the then CEO of CART. I asked him very pointedly why more was not done to promote the drivers. His answer was swift. “If we did that, they would all want more money." There was no understanding of the fundamental aspect of professional sports. The top professionals in nearly all sports make a lot of money, and in return the owners, the sponsors, and everyone else involved makes a lot of money. I answered the CEO by pointing out that I doubted anyone went to a golf tournament to watch Tiger Woods’ golf clubs or Jimmy Conner’s tennis racket. Derek and Mark C. are right-on in their assessment of the state of affairs in Indy Car. It has been that way for the last 20 years. Let’s hope it is not too late to save. Stephen E. Olvey, M.D.

06/05/13 See feature article by Derek Daly on our home page addressing this very important topic, that if not addressed will result in the death of IndyCar Racing.

06/04/13 A reader asks, Dear, Fourteen different IndyCar winners in the last 22 races. More passing on every kind of track than we’ve ever seen. A truly level playing field. “We don’t have the star power of a Mansell, Zanardi or Montoya right now but I’m telling you this field is as deep as the late ‘90s in CART," said Dario Franchitti. “It’s not outrageous to say but there are 20 drivers who could win one of these races." We know all this great racing hasn’t translated into television ratings. Why? Barb Miller

Dear Barb, All successful sports programs ride on the back of true heroes, athletes that rise above their sport and pretty much dominate. All the drivers Dario mentioned in that quote dominated. As did AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Richard Petty, Ayrton Senna, etc. They all possessed talent that transcended the sport and fans followed their every move at the track and on TV.

It used to be Foyt vs. Andretti and Petty vs. Pearson, and Senna vs. Prost, etc. Talented opponents that outperformed all others week-in and week-out.

IndyCar's success won't be based on the car. Never was and never will be. When a superstar or two come to the fore and show talent that make fans go 'wow', then and only then will IndyCar begin to grow. Racing is a sport, and like every sport, performance on the playing field is a what fans want. That is why Danica Patrick is getting booed now – her performance on the playing field has yet to equal her popularity in the autograph line. Mark C.

Leave a Reply