Monday, August 17, 2015

California Dreamin' And The Horrible Management Of American Open-Wheel Racing

Scott Dixon awaits the hand signal to start oval qualifications run at Auto Club Speedway from Race Control (by committee) Steward Brian Barnhart. While waiting for his turn to go, Dixon had to watch the since resigned INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations (hands over ears) Derrick Walker and Brian Barnhart carry on a discussion that, for them, could not wait until post qualifications process. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2015)

California Dreamin' And The Horrible Management Of American Open-Wheel Racing

To be able to race on an oval ... a record holding super-speedway oval ... will have to remain a dream for many who follow American open-wheel racing at its highest professional level for "who knows how long" since it was announced by INDYCAR August 14, 2015.

This excerpted and edited from The Daily Bulletin -

Auto Club Speedway not on 2016 IndyCar schedule
By Louis Brewster, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin - POSTED: 08/14/15, 11:12 AM PDT 

Open-wheel racing, Indy Car style, was a major factor in Roger Penske’s decision to convert a toxic Kaiser Steel mill site into a state-of-the-art race track in 1993. Once California Speedway opened in 1997, it was the home to some great races.

Now known as Auto Club Speedway, the 2-mile D-shaped oval was the venue for one of the greatest Indy Car events as Graham Rahal was the last of the 80 lead changes and won the MAVTV 500 on June 27. It’s a memory that will have to endure for some time.

After a four-year run at the facility, IndyCar announced Friday that Fontana will not be on the 2016 schedule. ACS and the sanctioning body had been engaged in negotiations for more than a year concerning the 2016 date but were unable to agree on a date or other issues, including a lesser sanctioning fee.
At issue was the date and Fontana’s position on the schedule.

Allen, who took over as president late last year, was adamant in seeking a date in late September or October and being the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale. From 2012 through 2014, ACS was the final race, but its 2015 date was moved to June when the sanctioning body opted to finish its season before the start of the NFL season.

We were offered three dates after Labor Day, but there were conditions we didn’t believe would work for us,” said Allen. “We took it on the chin for three years for the sport and thought we deserved a little better from them.”

In its prepared statement, IndyCar said it had “explored several options” later in the season. However, a major sticking point in the talks centered around the start time for the televised event that “would not adversely impact television viewership on the East Coast.”
In its four-year association with IndyCar, ACS had to endure four different dates. The initial race in 2012 was on Sept. 15 and drew a totally unexpected crowd of 30,000. A year later, attendance increased by a third for the Oct. 19 race.

But the crowd was sliced nearly in half for the Aug. 30 Saturday night race on Labor Day weekend, which ended after midnight on the East Coast. This year’s race attracted a crowd that was estimated anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000. The latter estimate was more accurate and would rank in the top half of this season’s crowds.

According to several sources within the industry who were unauthorized to speak officially, the track suffered a financial loss in June of about $500,000. The same sources also disclosed IndyCar charged a sanctioning fee of around $2 million.

The decision will deprive Southern California race fans from viewing two different IndyCar races. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach has been a staple of the series in April over the city streets. At ACS, the same cars ran wide open and on Oct, 28, 2000, Gil de Ferran set the world’s record with a qualifying lap of 241.428 mph driving for Penske.

In 2007, under the Indy Racing League banner, Sam Hornish Jr. won the 400-mile race at an average speed of 207.151, the first race in the country at more than 200 mph, a record that still stands.
There have been 14 Indy Car races at Fontana. Six were CART-sanctioned races and four each under Indy Racing League and IndyCar direction. Jimmy Vasser won two of the CART races, Hornish two IRL events and Adrian Fernandez one for CART and IRL.

With ACS falling off the schedule, IndyCar shows six ovals on its schedule. However, both Milwaukee and Pocono may also be missing in 2016. No promoter has been named at Milwaukee, and Pocono officials said the future will be dictated by the success of next week’s 500-mile race. In addition, New Orleans is not expected to return.

However, races at Road America and Boston have been added to the 2016 schedule. There are also reports the sanctioning body will rent Phoenix International Raceway for a race in 2016, two weeks ahead of the Long Beach event.
[Reference Here]

INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Derrick Walker and Race Control (by committee) Steward Brian Barnhart (right, back to camera) carry on a Friday afternoon meeting at the top of the MAVTv500 Q-Line during qualifications at Auto Club Speedway. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2015)

Tweets From Twitter:
Tony DiZinno @tonydizinno
@TheEDJE ACS got screwed. They were polite to have IndyCar back 4 straight years at 4 different dates.
Edmund Jenks @TheEDJE
@tonydizinno A season ending at the beginning of October would solve all the problems ... with ACS as season finale. #IndyCar #indyrivals
And this year was run under a $2 million sanctioning fee with the worst change of all - no season finale and no afternoon to evening hours racing!

Many wish to blame former 'Tennis Guru', Chief Executive Officer, Hulman & Company since 2012, Mark Miles for the demise of oval racing off of the schedule - see For The Love Of INDY by Raymond Hando.

Others have the attitude that Mark Miles treatment in scheduling - NO Pro Football season races and moving ACS dates - is the blame for Auto Club Speedway being off the schedule.

Lastly, an agreement that did not recognize East Coast daypart live television scheduling and late afternoon heat conspired to have Auto Club Speedway hit the dust off of the 2016 schedule - see Disciple of INDYCAR.

Evidence suggests that Mark Miles is not the real culprit because Mark Miles is a weak Motor Culture leader.

The real culprit in this demise of Auto Club Speedway being retained on the schedule for 2016 and beyond comes directly down on the Hulman & Company which owns, among other things, the Verizon IndyCar Series, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Clabber Girl Corporation, and the Mark Miles contract.

Hulman & Company probably also owns many assets that involve themselves with the NFL Indianapolis Colts Pro Football franchise. One such issue of contention follows.

From 1999 to 2009, a college - Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute - that the Hulman family is heavily vested ... name and all ... was the site for the Indianapolis Colts Training Camp ... over $20 million was raised and were invested into facilities in an attempt to keep the Colts happy and training there.

Anderson College won the transfer of Colts Training Camp largely through the efforts of Art Pepelea, an Anderson city councilman, who created a group that had been trying to draw the Colts back to Anderson, IN since he took office in 2003.

Colts president Bill Polian / Anderson Mayor Kris Ockomon quoted at the announcement in June, 2010 -

"We're excited about the facility, we're excited to be back in Anderson, we're excited that many of our fans who live nearby can come and watch the team," Polian said.

Polian and Ockomon agreed that the location, 45 miles from downtown Indianapolis, helped (the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is 78 miles). They also cited the population base surrounding the town of Anderson and the upgraded facilities were factors that made Anderson a prime location.

"We're glad to take the reins from Terre Haute," Ockomon said. "We hope to have the same success that they enjoyed over the past several years."
[Reference Here]

Chevrolet and Honda, powered and aerodynamically outfitted Dallara cars line up for Friday afternoon qualifications for the 4th (and final?) MAVTv500 at Auto Club Speedway. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2015)

ENTER Mark Miles as CEO of Hulman & Company in 2012.

This excerpted and edited from -

Hulman & Company is composed of Clabber Girl, Georgetown Realty, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, INDYCAR, IMS Productions and various other business entities (one assumes an operational interest in Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology as well).

Miles brings an impressive blend of experience from all phases of his career to his new role. In the sports world, he transformed the ATP, governing body of men's international professional tennis, from a start-up league to an international leader. During his 15-year tenure from 1990-2005, the ATP posted impressive revenue gains, launched innovative marketing initiatives and expanded its global presence through successful events in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

Bookending Miles' career are two major sports entertainment events which he successfully and profitably led: the Pan America Games in 1987 and ... the Super Bowl in 2012, a 10-day event that attracted more than a million fans and set a new standard for the NFL.

His most recent business career includes six years leading the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, Inc. (CICP), a consortium of the leading companies in Central Indiana working with the premiere university research institutions to strategically develop economic growth in the region.

During this same period, Miles has served on the board of The Pantry, one of the largest independently operated convenience store chains the country, with more than 1,500 stores in 13 states and annual revenues exceeding $6 billion. He is also a director for City Securities, a diversified financial services corporation based in Indianapolis.

Earlier in his career, Miles was executive director of corporate relations for Eli Lilly and Company, responsible for the company's local, state and national government affairs, communications and foundation.

Miles is a graduate of Wabash College and a member of its Athletic Hall of Fame.
[Reference Here]

The large racing surface of Auto Club Speedway allows for Verizon IndyCar Series to run in 3, 4, and even 5 cars wide which allowed for many of the drivers to pass each other with as many as 80 passes for the lead in 500 miles. For many, this race in 2015 was considered the toughest, most competitive 500 mile superspeedway race the sport had ever witnessed. Image Credit: Timo Hulett (2015)

The net understanding of all of this background is this - The Hulman/George family of enterprises ARE the sum of all parts ... in other words, owning a race track, having interests in the bragging rights and welfare of a fund raising entity by the name of the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, owning a $16 million annual revenue food products company based in Terre-Haute, Umbrella corporation based in Terre-Haute, real estate interests, and etc. may not necessarily be compatible with the focused interests of putting on, and managing a competitive professional motorsports racing series.

Losing Auto Club Speedway from the 2016 schedule is just a symptom of what is wrong with American open-wheel racing and its management.

The number one item that is limiting the Verizon IndyCar Series to expand and seek new opportunities is the Hulman & Company itself and its described framework and adherence to clearing the field (as it were) for NFL Professional Football. What does this have to do with motor culture and putting on a competitive racing series of the highest professional order? Is there a demographic studies component tied to this unusual non-compete stance or are we witnessing a 'management in decline' culture creeping into this country club style (the re-hiring of Brian Barnhart as example) of business stewardship?

The second largest item limiting the Verizon IndyCar Series to expand and seek new opportunities is the overall drive to protect the one oval race that matters exclusively to the Hulman & Company board of directors ... the Indianapolis 500 held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. All other potentially exciting large oval venues are treated as if they are to be shunned. There are additional rumors that the tri-oval superspeedway at Pocono (next weeks penultimate 2015 season race) may not make the 2016 season schedule either.

And lastly, having a CEO that answers to the above interests as well as oversee the additional and varied philanthropic and corporate interests that make up the Hulman & Company umbrella of interests and enterprises can not help with the template of thinking behind the making of a healthy competitive racing series of the highest professional order.

Not much that make up the largess of the Hulman & Company is relate-able to the overall understanding of race car drivers, race team owners, individual interests of racing venue cities and facilities, sponsorship based upon consistency, and etc. when all of the thinking comes from the small-town of Terre-Haute and Speedway, Indiana. In fact, an argument can be made that more conflicting interests are at play than the interests needed to guide a competitive racing series of the highest professional order.

This is not Mark Miles' fault. He is just the figurehead tool of an enterprise that can not, and will not, allow the interests of a healthy competitive racing series of the highest professional order be JOB ONE against all of the other interests that are Hulman & Company.

Let's mention that the variation of racing environments (superspeedway ovals - plural | bull-ring ovals - banked or flat | dedicated road courses | temporary street courses) in American open-wheel racing is still a cut above almost anything else upon which to judge a race driving championship and champion driver.

NEXT RACE >>> ABC Supply 500 - Sunday, August 23 - Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, PA

Until then, our California Dreamin' will have to concern itself with the last race of the season at Sonoma Raceway (GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma - August 30, 4:00pm ET - NBCSN - Sonoma, CA), where one of the worst managed (a season that begins with a canceled international race in Brazil, introduces new aerodynamic body parts without testing, and the unilateral resignation of Derrick Walker from Race Control by Committee), yet most exciting and competitive on-track professional open-wheel racing displays will come to, and end ... and where a deserving champion will be crowned for 2015.

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: Hulman & Company, Mark Miles, Auto Club Speedway, Dave Allen, NFL, Pro Football, Terre-Haute, Speedway, Colts, INDYCAR, Verizon IndyCar Series, For The Love Of INDY, Disciple of INDYCAR, The EDJE

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