The Missed Shift – SCORE Scores! IndyCar Snores?

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I came across an article that SCORE inked a contract to run the San Felipe 250 for the next three years. I think desert racing is insanely fun, for spectators and competitors alike.  I’m sure part of the appeal for me comes from growing up in the desert, and running dunes or rock-crawling were commonplace. I knew who Ivan Stewart was long before his name was on a video game. So this was pretty cool news to me.

For those that don’t follow off-road racing, SCORE is the sanctioning body for endurance desert racing events, the most notable being the Baja 1000, a point-to-point race across some of the most challenging terrain northern Mexico has to offer. Yes, this is the same Baja 1000 that has fans constructing booby traps to potentially interfere with the competitors. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend Dust to Glory, a documentary about the 2003 event.  Sal Fish only recently retired as the SCORE president, so under new leadership, it’s good to see that SCORE is expanding.
SCORE has published their 6-race schedule, starting in 2014:

  • Feb. 27-Mar. 2  28th Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250
    San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico  (one loop, Approx. 250 miles)
  • April 25-27  2nd SCORE Imperial Valley 250
    Plaster City, California   (three laps, Approx. 249 total miles)
  • June 5-8  46th Tecate SCORE Baja 500
    Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico   (one loop, Approx. 500 miles)
  • July 24-27  3rd SCORE Reno 500
    Tahoe Reno Motorplex-Reno, Nevada   (multi-lap, Approx. 419 total miles)
  • Sept. 25-28  Inaugural SCORE Desert Challenge
    Location in Southern California TBA   (two-day short-course race, Approx. 125 total miles)
  • Nov. 12-16  47th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000
    Ensenada, Baja California to La Paz, Baja California Sur  (point-to-point, Approx. 1,130 miles)

It’s a cool schedule, and not really different from the 2013 schedule, save for the addition of San Felipe in late February. The race locations are all races that have been run for decades, on and off. The one thing that caught my eye is that the SCORE season is longer than the IndyCar season, which has three times as many races.  Can anyone identify the problem here?
Anyone?
Bueller?
Bueller?

Let’s be honest, here. As a sanctioning body, SCORE pushes the envelope of legitimacy. It’s really a couple of guys who hang out in Mexico and drink beer a lot that would like to see trucks and motorcycles go by really fast once in a while.  It’s about as free-wheeling as you can get in motorsports, and a source of much of the appeal.  It strikes me as odd that a couple of guys in flip flops on the Mexican coast can put together a better, more satisfying race calendar than the building full of marketing heads and whomever at IndyCar HQ.

As fans, we’re being told that this is another transitional year, and Derrick Walker is talking to drivers and that good things are coming. IndyCar fans have been force-fed this drivel since the reunification! While I understand how IndyCar painted themselves into this box and I’m getting sick of the revolving door at the HQ.  There needs to one person or group in charge, and that person or group needs to make IndyCar a better and healthier series. It would be nice if that one person weren’t Tony George, mmm-kay.

There are venues here fans are clamoring for an IndyCar race, like Richmond, Phoenix, Road America, Michigan, Portland, to name a few. Locally (and probably selfishly), a race at Circuit of the Americas would be well-received, but there may be pushback from Formula 1 that stems back to when IndyCar was relevant and respected. There are opportunities to expand IndyCar into markets that want IndyCar present, yet no deals can be put together.  There are still a number of venues that not only provide quality racing that could easily accommodate an IndyCar date.

The problem, as I see it, is that IndyCar believes itself to be a property worth a seven-figure sanctioning fee. With the excellent racing it has produced over the past couple races, it certainly has the potential to become worth that much, but maybe right now it is not.  In this race fan’s opinion, IndyCar is missing an opportunity to grow. Cut the venues a deal on the sanctioning fee.  Or maybe work out a package deal with SMI and/or ISC on a few races.

I am the first to admit that I don’t know the ins and outs of how all this works. I’m not an expert on the business of racing, but it seems to me that it would be a no-brainer for any race series that wants to get notice from spectators, fans and media should get more races on the calendar. Let IndyCar race at different venues and let the word spread that IndyCar has great drivers and great racing.
Maybe IndyCar is scared of sharing the same time slots as NASCAR’s three touring series and Formula 1 and TUSCC and every other motorsports “property” on TV.
Perhaps it would be problematic to get a support series for some events.
I can think of potential issues for some of these venues, especially Phoenix.  I’m not oblivious to that.  I can’t help but think that IndyCar is in a “transitional” or “growing” mode.  As such, they should be able to flex their schedule enough to work dates for quality races into the calendar.

Surely, I can’t be the one who sees the answer to many of IndyCar’s problems is pretty obvious, and right in front of their faces?
And yes, I called you Shirley.  Deal with it.

 

 

3 comments

  • Thesmartestguyintheroom

    Where do I begin with this? There are several flaws in this piece.

    There are venues here fans are clamoring for an IndyCar race, like Richmond, Phoenix, Road America, Michigan, Portland, to name a few.

    I am aware of this as I read several message boards. Here is the problem with this: There is NO proof that even if IndyCar did race again at these venues, that people would actually ATTEND the races. Unless you know for a fact that the people who are constantly whining and complaining about certain tracks not being on the schedule live in/near/are actually willing to go to the races, this argument is specious at best. People say a lot of things online. Whether they actually do them is another matter.

    Cut the venues a deal on the sanctioning fee.

    This opens up a major can of worms. If you cut one locale a deal, what is to stop EVERY circuit from wanting similar concessions? I realize this is a shock, so be sitting down when I point this out-IndyCar is a BUSINESS, a for-profit business,and like all for profit businesses, the goal is to make money for their stockholders. Businesses do not run on “well, if we do this, this might happen, or this could happen.” Business is not run on emotion.

    Surely, I can’t be the one who sees the answer to many of IndyCar’s problems is pretty obvious, and right in front of their faces? That statement is, to me, shortsighted. It basically says “I’m smarter that the Hulman family is” If you’re smarter than the Hulman family, why aren’t you running IndyCar, or any other major racing series?. Surely, if you’re that intelligent, the serfs who are running IndyCar-you know, the people who actually are involved on a day-to-day basis-would surely appreciate having someone of your wisdom and intelligence to show them the error of their ways and to help them see the light that only you can provide?!

    This piece is essentially a piece of propaganda known as card-stacking; that is, presenting a case which only provides one side of a story and-perhaps deliberately-not presenting more than one side which would make your arguments look bad. I apologize for the harsh tone of my reply, but I see many pieces like this and all of them basically say the same thing. I have yet to see one of these “fan” or “journalist” written pieces that is based on logic and sound business practice as opposed to emotion and “I want this, so you better do what I say or else you’re dumb.”.

    Let me finish by saying that I am a long-time IndyCar fan, and I want the series to succeed very badly. However, I also understand that what I want is not relevant or important, but what can actually be done is. Sadly, judging by this piece, not everyone is as sanguine or realistic as I am.

    • I don’t claim to be a journalist. I’m a race fan.
      As a race fan, my ideas and my rantings are unabashedly or more and better racing.

      I think realism can be tainted or skewed by opinion.
      I share your frustrations, but not your pessimistic view.

  • I can’t help but basically agree with “smart guy” up there, who I don’t see as being “pessimistic” so much as just being “pragmatic”. This post sounds an awful lot to me like seeing what you want to see. So, you saw an announcement of a 6-race calendar held over a 9-month period and instantly thought, “man, that’s so much better and more satisfying than IndyCar’s schedule”? I don’t see how the two things are related.

    “smart guy” is right, and you can’t just ignore the realities while pining for more and/or different races (although, I suppose you can do whatever you want): if you reduce sanction fees for a new race or two, you’re going to have to be prepared to reduce sanction fees for ALL the existing races, because that is now your new price point. On the other hand, you can attempt to do what IndyCar sounds like they want to do: go to some international locales where you can get the track/local authorities to give you enough money to ship all the teams, equipment and personnel over, and then still clear high 6-figures or low 7-figures in net profit. Then, with that net profit in your pocket, you can maybe start to think about doing some of the other things you’d like to do, be it cut the teams bigger Leaders’ Circle checks so that they’re not so beholden to drivers who bring cash, lower your sanctioning fee on domestic races so that Road America, Michigan, Chicagoland, (insert a half dozen other tracks who have talked to IndyCar recently here) can now make an IndyCar date make financial sense, throw money at promoting the Series as a whole in more avenues, etc. It’s a big picture game.