You know it’s interesting watching Indycar try and rebuild its fanbase. The drop in attendance and viewership since the fabled split into IRL and Champ Car was sad to watch as both parties battled for teams and title rights. There’s no denying that it was a major blow to the sport that it hasn’t recovered from. For the most part it is some pretty good racing, but yet it is struggling to put people in the seats and watch on TV.
I wonder if Indycar wouldn’t be better served cutting the schedule down, focus on what works and growing slowly? This season has 16 races on tap, with 3 already in the books. St Petersburg, Phoenix and Long Beach. The Phoenix race was very poorly attended , with estimates on the generous side around 20,000 while the NASCAR race was around 45,000 in a track that seats 51,000. But both St. Pete and Long Beach both had well over 100,000 on site. As we look forward we can count on Indy and Toronto having good crowds, the rest will be a crap-shoot.
The races that do well are the ones that bring the full carnival atmosphere and spectacle into the community, with the fanfests and sponsor displays. The week in Long Beach has been a marathon of activities. In this day and age of racing, it’s not enough to roll into a community, set up and race; the fans want more. If we look towards Nascar and the pre race activity’s that surround all their races and understand all the commitment that it takes to make a race successful. The driver meet and greets, the race car displays, the hauler parade as well as all the at the track activity’s. Just look at Daytona and the new Daytona rising build. The Icon of Nascar tracks recognized that it needed to give a more fan friendly experience and it delivered.
It appears that the Indycar drivers are willing to do what’s asked of them, and the teams are up to helping as well. I know CFH racing is always up and ready to display when asked. It’s up to Indycar to figure out how best to use their assets to grow the sport.
Because, even though, and it always surprises me, they seem to have an endless supply of Major sponsor dollars. Sooner or later those will dry up if there is no TV ratings growth and race attendance. Already we see Toyota with a major commitment to Nascar and the NHRA, and there are the ever present rumours of another major car manufacturer looking at Nascar. Indycar needs to look at cutting races, focusing on what works and growing with solid steady moves that don’t hurt them, but help them. Even if that means a short term suspension in some markets.
North America has a long and fabled history of “Indycar” style open wheel racing, it would be nice to see it return to some of it’s past glory.
Aryton Senna in the rain. (Montreal)
Haas F1. What an interesting development. F1 has never been the darling of American Motorsports, all you need to do is look back at all the failed attempts to put a solid race here in the States. I was sure that Indy would be the place where F1 would find a permanent stable home. How could it fail, it’s a legendary racing venue, known worldwide. You say Indy around the globe and people think racing. Nascar, Indycar..a Keystone NHRA racetrack just up the road and surrounded in the state by legendary short tracks, but it wasn’t to be. The myriad of reason are to numerous to list here, except the worst one. “the track was not a good F1 track”..if this was truly the case it’s the worst excuse ever. A track can be fixed, rebuilt correctly. It wasn’t the track that killed the Indy F1 race.
But regardless of that, we have an American team. I’ll admit, I wasn’t very keen on the team, for the simple reason that I couldn’t figure out how they could get the American public on board. Except for 1 race a year in the U.S. and the race up in Montreal there is very little chance of direct interaction with the team. But that’s changed a little. There is a way to generate interest and support now. I know I’m on board.
Haas F1 took the rule book, designed a conmen sense team around it and have had a surprising amount of success early in the season. But this has sparked some of the established F1 teams to cry foul. Really, just whining about how could Haas have success while we are mired back here struggling to get any traction in the sport. The way I see it, Gene Haas has done a masterful job putting this team together, when you really look at the nuts and bolts of his decisions you have to give him credit. He shunned the traditional way teams are assembled and broke the mold creating his.
Suddenly, it has become very much a case of us vs. them in the world of F1, American ingenuity vs. traditional methods. I can totally see heading to the Montreal race to show my support, as I can imagine anyone in the Texas area for the U.S. race.
I would suggest this to Haas F1. The merch they have available is very F1 centric and designed as most of the other teams, you have deviated from the norm in creating your team, now deviate in terms of your merch. I suspect many others would totally buy Badass Haas F1 gear. A kick ass Grosjean shirt or Haas F1 hat, look to Stewart Hass Racing for inspiration and take cues from them. They now how to sell the American public products to support their favorites.
As for the F1 race at Circuit of the Americas, look, at the end of the day the race has got to support itself, we almost lost it when Texas cut it’s government subsidy’s for the track, and ticket prices are outrageous. The cheapest price to walk in the gates, general admission is set at $179.00 with a high of $1,539.00 for Club grandstands. You have got to get those ticket prices down. For comparison, Montreal has a range from $65.00 to $649.00 and that’s in Canadian dollars.
It’s really been since Michael Andretti raced in F1 that Americans had something to root for, and now we have a team of our own, let’s get behind them and keep tabs on how they are doing, I’ll see them in June, hope you get a chance in October. We owe it to Mr. Haas for the effort he put forth.
For WFO Joe, Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari Ride. #28
Be Safe, Have fun.