Q: IndyCar should want to end its season with an exciting oval race, worthy of double points, that will deliver good attendance, and more importantly, good TV numbers. That is the return on investment that sponsors are looking for. You can wine and dine sponsors all you want, but if they are not getting what they feel is a good return on their investment, they will stop being sponsors. If car owners feel that St. Louis is not appealing enough to entertain their sponsors for a non-racing good time than an adjustment needs to be made.
I see two options to end the season on the right double-points race note. End the season at Gateway with an exciting oval race that should have good attendance and hopefully good TV numbers to impress the sponsors. Then the following weekend, have a season-ending celebration in Northern California or Las Vegas with current sponsors and potential new sponsors. The car owners would not be distracted by racing activities and could spend the entire weekend working their sponsors in a desirable location that the sponsors will enjoy. End the season with an exciting oval race at Texas Motor Speedway in September or October. Dallas/Fort Worth may be more appealing to car owners and sponsors than St. Louis. Having not been to either city, I don’t know how they compare for entertaining.
As much as I love road racing, I think both these ideas make more sense from a marketing and IndyCar racing point of view than ending the season on a road course. I’m surprised that the brain trust at IndyCar hasn’t already realized that this would be the best marketing solution for ending its season and convinced the car owners of the wisdom and value of doing it this way.
Michael Aldea, Hawthorne, NJ
RM: I’m sure the owners would only want to woo the sponsors on a race weekend, and Eddie Gossage said a long time ago he wasn’t going up against college or pro football in September. IndyCar’s decision-makers liked the idea of an oval finale, but sometimes you can’t reason with car owners, and other factors played into the decision to end at Laguna. But the overall attitude that ending at Gateway was a bad idea is what made me mad.
Q: If a Juncos, Shank or Reinbold were able to find a sponsor that enabled them to run a full-time entry, because the sponsor happened to like crab legs more than ribs, would it be worth it? Laguna Seca has three years to prove itself, just as Phoenix did. Why doesn’t it receive the same benefit of the doubt? Plus, if it doesn’t work out, then I suspect Gateway will get its shot.
RM: If taking a prospective sponsor to Laguna to eat and drink is the deal-maker and has nothing to do with the quality of the race or the attendance, then that’s great – make it the next-to-last race of the year. Then fly them to Gateway for a steak in St. Louis to watch the season finale in front a good crowd, and they’ll feel like it’s a big event.
Q: Why listen to IndyCar supporters? I became disgusted and more or less lost interest during TG’s attempt to destroy this form of racing once. By eliminating the core fan and catering to his perceived money crowd (suites, F1, elimination of infield party atmosphere, etc.) and basically changing the atmosphere and aura that was Indy, he basically spit on the real racer. I returned over the past four-five years and am now again discovering that the fans voice is being ignored. Put the sport back in focus with the fan, or choose to look like a complete idiot and repeat the same disastrous business plan that failed before. The season-finale needs to be in the Midwest and on an oval. Sponsors only benefit if the consumer takes notice.
RM: When you go to Road America, Mid-Ohio, Iowa and Gateway you always feel like you’re in the heart of IndyCar country because of all the T-shirts, hats and educated fans. They watch the races on NBCSN, read RACER.com and all the other IndyCar websites, and they identify with the drivers. There are already three buses from Indy going to Gateway, and you know if it hosted the season finale they might have to open that Turn 1 grandstand.
Q: See you at Laguna Seca next year. Yes, there are IndyCar fans on the West Coast. I was there for The Pass and Mario’s Last. Looking forward to the return.
Michael McGill, San Diego, CA
RM: Absolutely, Michael. I’m always telling people who say that claim Long Beach is just a party with no real race fans that there are thousands of die-hard IndyCar fans at The Beach, and they all came from those days at Riverside, Ontario and Fontana.
Q: I appreciate your article about the location of next year’s finale. I feel so cheated! Trading one mediocre road course for another, and probably with double-points too, just isn’t a smart move for fans. After having the pleasure of experiencing Road America, Sonoma and Laguna Seca pale in comparison. Not that I might not go next year. I am a big fan of the Monterey Peninsula area and have wanted to experience Laguna Seca for a long time, but just not for an IndyCar race. So the dream of ending the season on an oval with a great size crowd from the Midwest just isn’t enough for the sponsors? That is a sad commentary on the state of the series. Thanks for the photo from the last episode of Wind Tunnel in last week’s Mailbag. It made me smile, although very wistfully. My Sunday nights just haven’t been the same.
RM: I’m not sure the sponsors had any say, nor did the owners vote, but almost to a man (you can guess the two who were opposed) made it sound like it was inconceivable to have the finale in the Midwest at an oval when Laguna or Sonoma were available.