Friday, December 17, 2010

2012 IndyCar Season Will Impact NASCAR

With the announcements of changes coming to both bodies and power plants for the 2012 IndyCar season, the momentum is on the upswing for IndyCar while NA$CAR continues on it’s downhill slide. Swift, Lotus, and others are fielding all new bodies that go along with the new aero packages that IndyCar plans to use for the 2012 season. Along with this, there’s also the new power plants that will be run.

 Honda appears to still be interested as being a power plant provider but they’ll have to contend with GM, Lotus, Fiat/Chrysler, Ford and possibly some others. The power plant manufacturers plan to field engines which incorporate current state of the art turbo-charged V-6 engines, some based on their street counterparts, which is what the auto manufacturers are looking for. Meanwhile, NA$CAR continues to drag its heels on going to an antiquated form of fuel injection, purpose-built engines, and barely returning some form of bodylines, outside of some new decals and a couple of new plastic noses, to the much maligned and heavily fan despised Car of Travesty. NA$CAR won’t be introducing a really major change until 2013, which gives IndyCar a full season to build up even more momentum in picking up new fans (possibly some disgruntled former NA$CAR fans among them), maybe fans that were lost due to the IRL-ChampCar split, and more than likely new sponsors because of the embracing of new technology by IndyCar.

 And while some of the lamestream media types (who are biased towards Focks and BSPN‘s “wonderful" commercial-filled coverage) have blasted the network coverage that IndyCar has had in the past on Versus , things will improve for Versus since NBC has bought about 51% of Versus. Their coverage should improve and expand into the open airwaves on NBC, which is something that is missing from about half of the Cup Series season because it's on cable thus excluding some segments of the TV viewing market. Plus IndyCar isn’t locked into any long term contracts that are set in cement like NA$CAR so there is some flexibility with their coverage. No changes have been announced about dumping the split-screen coverage which every NA$CAR fan at home has been screaming for since the return of BSPN but was nixed by His Royal Highness saying that NA$CAR’s sponsors, not the team sponsors, wanted their particular type of "branding" to be done so we get stuck watching the cursed plethora of commercials weekend after weekend during racing season. By keeping the split-screen coverage, IndyCar increases their odds of viewership and expanding their fan base. By staying with the status quo that is driving fans away, NA$CAR’s ratings will continue to suffer and go downhill.

 So just how far has NA$CAR sunk? Based on some market research, on the last survey that was conducted by a shopping survey company, folks were asked what sports do you enjoy watching? And the results were Football 59%, Baseball 35%, Basketball 33%, NA$CAR 23%, and Golf 19%. So this is very telling about these results. Two years ago, according to this same company's surveys, NA$CAR was the most watched sport on TV. Now they are barely ahead of golf. I’d like to use the late George Carlin’s analogy about golf but I’m trying to keep this at least PG rated. To put it politely, George Carlin found golf to be about as exciting as flies engaged in the act of reproduction.

 By dumping the I$C tracks, IndyCar is also improving the odds of pulling in more fans from the ranks of F1 and sports car racing. More road courses and tracks which aren’t cookie-cutters tend to keep fan interest up. Plus they put money into the coffers of I$C rival Bruton Smith, which you know has got to hurt at least on an ego-damaging level. NA$CAR on the other hand continues to have a schedule heavily dominated by the cookie-cutter 1.5 miles tracks which have turned fans off instead of going to some other venues like Road Atlanta, VIR, or maybe even returning to places like Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, or giving a second date back to Darlington. Tracks that have some flare, uniqueness, and history to them. And while only the Busch Series looks to be racing outside the US borders in Canada for one race, the IndyCar folks are looking at going at going to various parts around the globe like Canada, Brazil, and Japan thus increasing their fan base and market. And by cutting out the I$C tracks, IndyCar finds themselves saving some money and being properly promoted by Bruton and the other track owners in their racing efforts instead of being a poor cousin to the Truck Series which hardly gets any promotion by I$C despite it being the best racing NA$CAR currently has. It seems that IndyCar was lucky to be promoted at all by the I$C tracks they raced at, especially on weekends when any of NA$CAR's 3 major series were racing at the same track.

 So while NA$CAR basically sits stagnant with the exception of some new nose pieces, new decals that are supposed to give some brand identity, and the introduction of an obsolete fuel injection system around the middle of next Cup season, the Indy Car folks are busy putting together they’re launching of the new cars, aero packages, and engines packages to really send them back into orbit in 2012 in hopes of recapturing their former glory. And it’s really amazing that while all of this is happening, NA$CAR seems to think they can rest on their collective backsides because they believe their own propaganda. Even with the possibilities of a lockout next season in the NFL, NA$CAR shows no interest in trying to improve themselves or their “product”.


We’ll see how that works out next season after the e-mails I got from a large number of fans within 30 minutes of the finish of the race at Homestead who are heading for greener pastures on Saturday nights and Sundays between February and November 2011.

 To answer some folks questions, I will continue to write for Laidback Racing. With Race Mama's work schedule and trying to keep the site updated so you folks who camp out and tailgate at the track can get the most up-to-date information, she suggested I do some blogging to give her the extra time she needs on keeping the Laidback Racing site current. So don't worry. I'll be writing as usual for Laidback racing and also blogging next season.

8 comments:

  1. Good article, Mike. It is so frustrating as a fan to see how dumb NASCAR and it's TV "partners" can continue to be.

    When the CEO is oblivious to the fact that the fans hate the chase and the ugly car and a lot of the tracks, well, what do they think is going to happen? NASCAR fans have never been "sheep" and with all the real-time things these days, they can't "hide" it from people any more, no matter how much they'd like to pretend all is well.

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  2. Interesting; I've been doing a statistical analysis of NASCAR TV ratings over the last 10 years with a focus on the last 4: it's a grim picture.
    Am curious as to the "shopping survey company" and are the results available online? I'd like to see their numbers.
    Thanks,
    Jeff Thompson (email: pi_carz@yahoo.com)

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  3. Thanks Gina. It's pretty obvious that the ruling regime in Daytona is pretty oblivious to most things related to the sport as are the networks. I think The Daly Planet and the comments there week after week show the fans' frustration level and we continue to see the networks may read the comments there but they ignore them. Like David Hill's comments about the fans not like the animated gopher, "Tough". I think the e-mails, snail mails, and lower ratings finally got his attention in reducing the number of times the animated gopher was used. Now if they would just improve their commentary and coverage. That might, and I do mean might, get some fans back in front of the TV on race weekends.

    Unfortunately Jeffrey, I'd love to point you to where to view the stats but that would also give away the "source" who does business within the racing community. I'll see if my source can provide more numbers in a way as to not reveal their identity.

    Just from the ratings info that Jayski has posted it is pretty bleak. Any normal network show that had ratings like those that NASCAR has pulled in the last few years would've been cancelled and replaced with something else. Losing 25% of your audience should be setting off some alarm bells in Daytona and the network offices.

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  4. Thats crap!! fuel injection wont help nascar. unless its the old hilborn stuff. any thing computer contrled will be to ease to say nascar said who won

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  5. You're right Ken. It's going to take more than fuel injection to help out. A return to the 2003 rules, elimination of the play-off system, stock-looking cars, decent race coverage, and real leadership that knows what they're doing is what's needed.

    The advantages to using modern fuel injection with the computer system would reflect what is currently being used on the streets thus bringing in one aspect of "stock" which is something missing from the current IROC-like vehicle. Another advantage would be the elimination of the restrictor plate by using a chip which would perform the same function of reducing the air flow. And the last advantage would be for the teams in that they could finally have something that would allow them to set pit road speeds as is done in other racing series so that they don't get penalized and increase safety on pit road. It would also eliminate one area in which the current sanctioning body wouldn't be able to manipulate a race's outcome. Imagine the outcome at Indy had JPM not been penalized for speeding because of a simple flip of a switch.

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  6. Hey Mikie,

    I agree that IndyCar is on the up swing and Nascar will continue to go down the drain. From what I've been reading, Detroit has about had it with the Daytona mafia and they're really interested in getting their engines into Indy.

    But maybe all is not lost. It looks like the beach boy bubbas have a plan to keep fans interested in the chase. They're moving the start times back a hour for the late season races so they won't start at the same time as the NFL games kick off. Instead they'll drop the green when everyone is really into watching the games - about the middle of the 2nd quarter.

    That'll save NA$CAR.

    Yeah right.

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  7. The current panic in switching to fuel injection is simply a knee jerk reaction to VW saying no thanks after seeing carburetors while sniffing around the garage with interest a couple of years ago. I agree the purpose built engines have hurt the sport by closing down individual engine departments which were once common place and business as usual for most teams in favor of expensive highly engineered lease packages available only from the large factory backed powerhouse teams. Taking RPM out of the engines would put individual small engine operations back in business again by making the high cost lease engines unnecessary. I gotta say Mad Mikie, it is apparent to me you have got some very good connections... the Curmudgeon at Large writes stuff none of the other "lamestream media" guys seem to have access to. Keep up the good work!

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  8. Oops!! I forgot to add... another big problem NASCAR is currently trying to overcome is the negative stereotype the logo seems to have garnered for itself in recent years. There was a story a while back they were having trouble renting space in the newly constructed NASCAR tower office building in uptown Charlotte as prospective tennents seemingly visualized a spitoon at the entrance after walking under the NASCAR logo over the front door. Apparently climbing the local hometown watertower with a can of spraypaint to defend your sister's honor is not the demographic many prospective tennents want to have their brand associated with.

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