Money (That’s What I Want) *
Thomas Edward Brown wrote that “Money is honey my little sonny,/ And a rich man’s joke is always funny.” But laughter is hard to find in IndyCar right now. Just like money. A common strategy in police work is to “follow the money” when trying to put together a case. IndyCar’s problem right now is having some money to follow. In terms of finances, IndyCar and its racing teams are like most of us: just trying to make ends meet.
It’s a fact that “money talks and bullshit walks.” There is no better example of this axiom than IndyCar’s current plight. At this time they have a 15 race schedule instead of the contractually required 16 to satisfy their agreement with title sponsor IZOD. Maybe IZOD is an understanding corporate entity that does not expect its business partner to honor its contract. Sure it is. IndyCar is bought and paid for. They owe a huge debt to IZOD for stepping up when no one else would. IndyCar owes IZOD 16 races. The question is whether IZOD will hold IndyCar accountable or give them a pass if they fail to deliver. THIS is scary. An unhappy IZOD walking away from a series that cannot honor its obligations would be a disaster. And after Las Vegas, it’s easy to see why a corporation would not want to be associated with an entity that could be perceived as bad for business. The name is the “IZOD IndyCar Series” after all. They pay for positive PR. The press after Las Vegas was decidedly not positive. If IndyCar cannot produce the events in the contract, IZOD could walk away.
And the problem with the number of races can be linked directly to oval tracks. Ovals are dying like moths in a tiki torch at a 4th of July cookout. And this is happening for one simple reason: they don’t make money. Loudon and Milwaukee have great racing but no fans. The promoters can’t profit, so the races can’t prosper. The attendance at these races did not make money for the promoter. If a promoter can’t eat, they won’t promote an event. It’s truly a conundrum. Oval racing is IndyCar’s heritage and identity. Fans and bloggers are apoplectic about the dearth of oval tracks on the schedule. IndyCar absolutely wants ovals on its schedule. The problem is twofold. One, many of the ovals do not attract paying customers, and two, the oval tracks are in the driver’s seat in negotiations for races. They want a good deal from IndyCar regarding sanctioning fees because they know IndyCar is desperate to add races to get to the contracted number as well as add ovals to satisfy their fan base. Texas Eddie Gossage can play hardball because IndyCar is negotiating from a position of weakness. That’s called business, folks, and those tracks and promoters should not be vilified for negotiating the best deal they can. Phoenix may be back on the radar after this year, but the same business policy is in place: IndyCar needs Phoenix more than Phoenix needs IndyCar. Hopefully, more ovals will come. If not, then three or four may be all we have. That is better than none.
The street courses make money. They drive tourism in downtown areas like Long Beach, St. Petersburg, and Baltimore. They have value. They connect to the community and businesses. Fans complain about the racing, but that is not the point. Wake up! The racing is secondary to the profit. The series needs races; the kind of race really doesn’t matter right now. Economics is behind the wheel, hopefully on the accelerator and not the brake. Fans need to celebrate every race because it keeps the series in business and the drivers, mechanics, engineers, and support people employed. Expect more street circuits, not fewer. And be happy about it.
We should celebrate Sara Fisher and Wink Hartman. Money just spoke again with SFH Racing’s announcement of construction of a new headquarters in Speedway. Do you think Honda noticed? Do you think a potential sponsor noticed? You tell me, does an infusion of Hartman’s money make it more or less likely for SFH Racing to land a new sponsor? Money speaks its own language and other money understands. But sugar daddies like Wink Hartman are the exception, not the rule. Most struggling teams don’t get this lucky. You only have to look as far as Newman/Haas Racing to see what happens when a perennially successful team can’t find solid sponsorship. Every driver and every team is pounding the pavement and working the phones to secure more money. These sponsors demand a solid product for their advertising dollar. The question right now is whether IndyCar offers that product. Would you be signing up right now after the tragedy at Las Vegas, the laughable officiating last year, and the possibility that IndyCar might not be able to present a contracted schedule to its title sponsor? Tough question, huh?
It’s expected that IndyCar will offer a full schedule. We might see a street race in Vegas. We will go to Texas for one or two races, and Eddie Gossage will leverage a great deal because he can. Worst case would be a road course race at Indy to satisfy the IZOD contract. It would be short lived, but it may be necessary. IndyCar cannot afford to lose IZOD. The officiating question has been addressed. We don’t know if it will improve, but there will be a new voice and a new face in race control. And IndyCar completed its investigation of the crash at Las Vegas. The response has been positive from people who truly understand the dynamics of this crash on this particular track. They say IndyCar did its job and did it well. A number of factors came together to cause the accident, and a flying car hit a fence at exactly the wrong place and at exactly the wrong angle. IndyCar will survive…barely.
The cost of racing is high. It takes money and, at times, it takes a life. We, as fans, need to accept the realities, both financial and emotional. IndyCar needs to race at the places that are willing to pay the sanctioning fees. It needs to cater to the needs of its sponsors, both as a league and as teams. It needs to protect its racers. If that means fewer oval races, or that we don’t race on certain tracks, or that changes have to be made to the cars, then so be it. Josh Billings, an American philosopher, said it well: “Life consists not in holding good cards, but in playing those you hold well.” It’s your deal, IndyCar.
* OK, since Tony at Pop Off Valve noticed I did not have a link to a song, I have added the links to three, count ’em, THREE songs. I even changed the name of the post to “Money (That’s What I Want). Of course, all three links are the same song by different artists: “Money (That’s What I Want). These three are posted in chronological order. The artists are Barrett Strong (the original), the Beatles (the most popular), and the Flying Lizards (the oddest). Enjoy.
Barrett Strong: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uqCocIh3_o
The Beatles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k5ooaufrLM
The Flying Lizards:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ooF27ABwmg&feature=related