Q: Roger Penske’s purchase of IndyCar and the Speedway has me thinking back to the formation of CART and the formation of the IRL in response. As I recall, CART was formed to gain control of open-wheel racing with the goal of improving the economics of the sport. I remember a TV interview with Penske and Chris Economaki on ABC’s Wide World of Sports where Penske said “I’ve got a $100,000 car racing for a $10,000 purse and that just doesn’t make sense” at a race in Trenton.
When Tony George formed the IRL, CART staged the U.S. 500 at Michigan in 1996 as an Indy 500 alternative. Why did CART stop the U.S. 500 after one year? It seems that CART’s ultimate objective should have been to run the IRL and the Indy 500 out of business; part of that strategy should have been to continue to have an alternate to the 500. Then, with the IRL gone, CART returns to the Speedway as the sanctioning body and achieves its objective. Instead, all CART talked about was “finding a way to get back to Indy” after that first U.S. 500.
Who was running the business strategy at CART? Did they really have a plan, or did they just expect USAC and the Speedway to fold? Obviously, CART had no Plan B. All of that is very un-Penske-like. Why didn’t CART aggressively try to run the Speedway out of business? Instead of the IRL buying Champ Car out of bankruptcy, it would have been the other way around.
Ultimately, Penske abandoned CART when the tobacco advertising rules prohibited him from running his Marlboro-branded cars both in races sanctioned by CART and the IRL sanctioned Indy 500. He had to pick one sanctioning body. Once Penske left, CART was finished. Had the tobacco advertising restrictions not been so tight, would Penske have continued with CART? During his press conference announcing the Speedway purchase, he made some oblique reference to breaking away with CART being a mistake. It seems to me that CART’s tactics were a mistake, not the objective, which ultimately, was achieved with Penske’s purchase of the Speedway.
We all acknowledge that The Split did irreparable damage to open-wheel racing from which it may never recover. Looking back, it looks like CART really didn’t have the stomach to do what was necessary to achieve their goals. As a result, everyone lost.
Bill Carsey, North Olmsted, OH
RM: Tony George thought CART’s sponsors would force their hand and come run Indianapolis in 1996. It didn’t happen. CART figured the IRL would die on the vine because of the lack of big-time teams and money. They were both wrong, and NASCAR ended up being the winner.
Q: I was listening to the King Hiro podcast the other day and they were comparing 1998 CART to present day. The gist was that the 1990s represented one of the greatest decades of IndyCar racing. They mentioned you were more fond of different eras (i.e. ’60s and ’70s). Do you think the ’90s were comparable in terms of excitement, crowds, and general interest to earlier decades?
Bruce in Iowa
RM: CART in the 1990s had the largest crowds, best sponsors and more international notoriety than at any other time since the British Invasion in the 1960s. The racing and depths of teams were also better than in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and right now it’s more competitive than ever. Old guys like me miss the innovation and 50 cars going for 33 spots, but in terms of exciting finishes at Indy, you cannot improve of the past few Mays.
Q: Why is it OK for Simon Pagenaud to weave back and forth like he did on the last lap of last year’s Indianapolis 500 and last week’s race? It seems to me like blocking. Your feeling?
RM: Naw, that’s just the new groove at Indy, and there is ample room to pass at the end of the straightaways, as we saw.
Q: What happened to the last IndyCar iRace being a “non-IndyCar Dream Track”? It’s now a virtual race at IMS? Sorry, but the original idea was so much better. The chance to see Indy cars at a place like Talladega, Bristol, Darlington, Mount Panorama, Spa, etc., was the only iRace I was actually looking forward to. I appreciate the effort put into these races, but seeing a virtual Indy 500 is just a depressing reminder we won’t be there for real Memorial Day weekend.
Dennis C, Lake in the Hills, IL
RM: I’m told the fans voted online, so I have no idea why they wouldn’t want to see something different instead of IMS.
Q: I’m sure from what I see online you will get this a lot, but IndyCar has screwed us fans on the dream track they promised us. A vote to go anywhere in the world, and they pick Indy? I’m done with this series now, because as fans we were lied to.
RM: Not sure you can blame IndyCar for the selection – it was made by the majority of fans who went online to vote.
Q: I’m a new convert to iRacing. I, like you, am a ‘Get Off My Lawn’ guy.” But I tuned in a few weeks ago and now I’m hooked. Why? Racing is cool (let’s face it I’m home and bored) all across the board. But my biggest takeaway? All the different drivers (NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA, etc) trying their hands at all different types of races. Gold! But my fave is the interactions and good-natured joking with other racers and commentators… it’s fantastic! Terrific for younger iRacing fans to get exposure for IndyCar. My two young boys look forward to iRacing every week. I believe that this will help give our series some great exposure, and I’m all in!
RM: Like I’ve been saying, I’m not a fan, but if iRacing creates new, younger fans then it’s working, and it seems to have been well-received.
Q: Hope you’re doing OK in this madness. Just wanted to say I follow Pippa Mann on Instagram, and she had a post the other answering fan questions about sim time. She said that she has trouble with some of the more primitive systems because she gets headaches from the graphics. She also said she can’t afford a full-motion setup, so that’s why she hasn’t done any races. I don’t know much about the sim world, but it seems plausible to me. Take care!
Jon Jones, Oologah, OK
RM: Thanks for that update, Jon. Just figured she’s pretty social media savvy and that would have seemed to be right down her alley, so this explains it.