Welcome to my little diatribe about the grand world of racing. My desire is to provide my fellow racing fanatics and patrons of the speed sports, some of my personal fun and entertaining insights, and views into this crazy and sometimes confounding sport. I hope that you have fun with these short stories. Whether you completely agree with me, which I am sure you will (Nice Dream), or you wish to challenge me on these beliefs, I look forward to your feedback, comments and challenges.
The Tale of Directional Confusion
So how many of you remember the original IMSA-Camel GT, as founded by John Bishop, the original CART with Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi and other real racing teams, Formula 1 events that were competitive among multiple teams, the great TransAm series, and even the forlorn and oft forgotten CanAm series? Remember these good old days of racing when speed and winning were all about spending huge sums of money and having loads and loads of fun. The crowds at the events were unbelievable, and as general sport racing was taking off like a rocket. Then some key, very vocal team owners started to scream about run-away cost, mind you this was a very small group, but very loud. Of course right at this time CART was trying to become a public company, TransAm began losing some of their younger stars, IMSA ownership changed and the folks at NASCAR finally woke up to the fact that they had a tremendous entertainment vehicle. Then the ultimate level of confusion occurred with the foundation of the IRL to compete against CART, the creation of the American LeMans Series and GrandAm to compete against the what was the foundation of IMSA, TransAm & CanAm, NHRA and the IHRA competed weekend after weekend against one another to only see the IHRA become a secondary player and NHRA loose a huge market and sponsor share to NASCAR, and Formula 1 couldn’t figure out where they wanted to race, Las Vegas, Dallas, Detroit, finally landing at Indianapolis. Frankly, racing as an sports and entertainment event became so confusing that both fans and sponsors ran to other sports and NASCAR as nesting place of salvation and stability.
Holy *@%?, what was going on? It all comes down to a struggle for power, equality and money. Sounds like an old episode of Dallas and the Ewing family, but where was JR. The reality is that the team owners were demanding more of the pie and control over CART – thank you to the public offering - OOPS, TransAm/IMSA were being taken over by the manufacturers which left the independent teams hung out to dry and uncompetitive, CanAm couldn’t figure out how to attract sponsorship or fans, and with the introduction of new racing organizations and sanctioning bodies, the fans and frankly sponsor had no idea where to turn. Harvard would have had a field-day writing a case study about this odd business call motorsports.
You’d think with all these really smart owners and managers in the sport, one or two of them would have stood up and said wait a minute something is just not quite right with the state of affairs in “Denmark”, sorry for the odd reference, but couldn’t one of these really “intelligent” individuals figure out that this finite market can only handle so many direct competitors. Ultimately, the racing business has suffered, except for NASCAR which separated itself from the pack and became a true household name. CART and the IRL competed for the better part of a decade, losing fans, sponsors and market share to other sports all together and finally bankrupting a tremendous name in CART. ALMS and GrandAm have competed for the same market forever and continue to confuse and anger fans because the cars and drivers can’t compete in the major endurance events against one another. TransAm & CanAm are gone. Formula 1 hasn’t raced in the United States in years (crossing my fingers for both Austin & New Jersey). NHRA appears to have won out over IHRA, but they still compete for the same drivers and sponsors, so that neither one truly financially wins. Finally the Great American Race – The Indianapolis 500 has been surpassed by it’s little brother The Brickyard 500. Don’t get me wrong I am a huge fan of NASCAR, as well, I just don’t understand how you can allow the biggest single day money making racing/sports event to become so diluted and weak, that a race that is only a quarter of its age beats it in viewership and sponsorship ratings by a 3 to 1 margin.
We need to find our path back to the great days of the 1980’s and 1990’s of racing, when events were full and fans were growing by 30 – 40% per year. In my next discussion, I will, feebly, begin to offer my opinion on what I believe the racing organizations need to introduce to bring back fans, sponsors and the fun of racing. Look around the world, you will still see that racing is either the number 1 or 2 sports draw per event per country regardless of the time of year or competing sport. It’s time we make a concerted effort to raise the game of motorsports back to the level the sport enjoyed in the past. We need to bring the fun and enjoyment back to motorsports and get the fans re-engaged with the teams, sponsors and the sport itself.
I would like to hear everyone’s thoughts on the changes that should be made to various organizations and governing bodies, so that we can see our favorite sport rise from the proverbial ashes. I also promise that these opinions will be significantly shorter and more to the point.