The Aftermath: Your Turn

It’s been a week since the Randy Bernard announcement and what a week it’s been. I wrote a blog post on Tuesday with my viewpoints on the current situation at INDYCAR. Consider this a follow-up post, looking for some answers from you.

Note that I wrote this yesterday (Saturday) morning and was undecided on whether or not to post it. Yesterday afternoon, I read another blogger’s post and it was the ‘aha moment’ I needed to go ahead and post, with the hope of gaining clarity and working toward a solution.

From all the comments, tweets and conversations I’ve observed this week, two complaints were most prevalent:

  1. The fans are upset about Randy Bernard being fired because people liked him. He was described in Marshall Pruett’s article as a “rockstar” and many fans felt like they had a direct line of communication to him.
  2. INDYCAR is not being transparent. The fans need more information about what’s going on, in addition to feeling like they’re appreciated.

I had an enlightening conversation the other day with one of the people I respect most in this sport. This man, who has followed INDYCAR since he was five years old, said that he follows the sport for the racing, which is the best its been in years. He remarked that a majority of INDYCAR fans don’t care (or don’t even know) who the CEO is, and that that shouldn’t affect the on-track product.

He ended with, “I love this sport and I certainly don’t need a giant thank you sign for going to the race or watching it on tv.”

It made me step back and think about the other sports that I follow. I’m not involved professionally in any other sport, so I feel that I can look at it objectively. Take football, for instance. I’m a fan and I watch for the game, the players, the rivalries and the fun.

There are two things I don’t expect:

  1. I don’t expect to be told why the NFL makes staffing decisions.
  2. I don’t expect them to thank me for watching the games.

So why is INDYCAR different for the fans?

I think back to my first INDYCAR experience, falling in love with this sport the second I heard those engines fire. My first race was so amazing that I knew right away that I wanted to be more involved. But not once did I ever wonder why the head honchos weren’t thanking me for being there.

I wonder if INDYCAR’s super-access nature makes people feel like they’re so “in the know” that when there’s a staff change, it feels like they’ve lost a family member? Is that a bad thing? (I’m asking, not telling). I wonder where the “show me you love me” mentality comes from? And are the two complaints connected?

Also, I wonder, whether the new CEO is a fan favorite or not, if he should have a full-time “fan liason” that the fans have a direct line to and who responds like Randy did.

The blog I did earlier in the week was met with lots of positive feedback, but there were a few people who misread my point, and assumed I was saying “good riddance” and that it doesn’t matter if we lose more fans. That couldn’t be more opposite than how I feel. If you think I’m not conscious of the fans and how important they are, then you don’t know me, or what I do and you clearly don’t understand my passion for wanting this sport to succeed.

This post is basically a fact-finding session, to help clear the confusion and figure out the bottom line. I understand that the timeline/PR/etiquette of Randy’s dismissal are all under fire but let’s put that aside.

I just want to know: Ultimately, what do YOU want? When you say, “they don’t care about the fans,” what are you looking for? If you were writing a letter to the CEO and you knew he/she was listening, what would you ask for?

NOTE: If you’re going to comment here, please be polite and productive. I’m asking this of you because I’m truly listening and I want work towards a solution. And I’m a nice person.

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37 responses to “The Aftermath: Your Turn

  • Steve Goss

    Every major sports organization makes changes in management. Not all of them are as “hands-on” as IndyCar. And not all of them had the kind of season IndyCar did. If you have to fix what isn’t (entirely) broken, the least that can happen is that BETTER leadership be brought into force. So far, I haven’t seen any evidence of that. Nor will we, I suspect, due to the noted absence of transparency. It’s IndyCar’s opportunity to build the brand and grow the sport. One misstep and IndyCar will have less name recognition than the NHL. Which is saying a lot at the moment.

  • mark pedersen

    Here is my two cents worth on the subject – I think that in this age of social media, its very easy for fans to voice an opinion but collectively we need to be careful. A few opinionated individuals can make enough noise to give the impression that their view is shared by the majority when maybe that is not the case. I travelled ½ way around the world to attend my first Indy 500 this year and there must have been 250,000 people there – the question is how many individuals are commenting on social media about Randy’s departure….or perhaps a better question might be how many people aren’t commenting on social media about it.
    I agree with Tony Tellez in his blog over the weekend that this negativity can be damaging to the sports image and ultimately its ability to fund itself through its commercial partners. Personally I like what Randy has achieved and I think that ultimately he was undone by internal politics. In my opinion, rich old men don’t like being told what to do by (not so rich) young men and its not just happening in Indycar – in my country the exact same situation is happening in our domestic touring car series.
    The fact of the matter is that it has happened – Randy has gone. Just like any sport, once the referee has made their decision, no amount of arguing will make them change their mind. Randy appears to have accepted that decision and so should we.
    The racing has never been better – the talent in this series has never been better. Indycar is only a couple of high yielding flyaway events away from turning a profit. Is the schedule perfect…….NO. Is the schedule improving……heck yes.
    I say to the fans of Indycar – let’s thank Randy for what he has done and wish him well for the future, and then lets get ready to go racing next year. I’m have no plans to cancel my flights to the USA for next May!!

  • Jim

    I think in any sport the CEO gets credit when things are good and more than full blame when it is bad. Some of the problem in this instance is that the product is doing better than anytime since the split. New fans are showing up, and purchasing products, drivers are engaging more than ever (due to social sites), the races are festivals of excitement, there is an air of IndyCar taking off again….and they fire the man perceived to foster this feeling. Were they right, were they wrong? I don’t know but the way it was handled is what seems to have pissed people off the most. For better or worse, fans seem to feel they should have a say and if IndyCar wants to continue the good feelings from last year they better learn to make them not feel slighted.

  • Steve Wittich

    A couple of points:

    For me it wasn’t the fan friendliness of Randy (sure that was cool) but the hope of a brighter day ahead. I went to a lot of races between 1987 & 1995. I still enjoyed going to races between ’96 & ’11 but the epicness of packed grandstands at every race combined with the close and somewhat unpredictable racing we saw this year. Every bar and liquor store had Bobby Rahal standees, Marlboro promoted IndyCar in every convenience store, & almost every other sponsor activated. It was amazing. This was the first year that I could feel some of that excitement coming back. I understand that this is hard to understand for newer fans because going to a race is awesome now. It is but it can be so much more. And that so much more will benefit every team, driver and fan.

    You ask about watching football for the management. No I don’t. But I also don’t see Jim Irsay conspiring to get Roger Goodell fired or the players pitching a fit because they change from Wilson to Rawlings footballs. My suggestion to team owners is not to play politics publicaly if you don’t want fans to pay attention.

  • Joel (@WhateverJoel)

    I just want to know what the long term goals are for the series and the teams in terms of competition and the health of the series. Does IndyCar want to remain a niche sport, or does it want to compete with F1 and NASCAR? How many races do you want in a year? What’s going to be the mix of schedule? Will we ever see open competition again? Will we EVER get streaming? I could go on, but I think these are things fans want to know.

    I just want to know where to set my expectations for the coming years.

  • Turn13

    What would I ask for? I’d ask for E Stand Penthouse to be open for Indianapolis500 practice :) Why not give the fans your best? If more people saw open wheel cars going into T1 @ 220 mph from EPH, more people would be open wheel fans. Seriously!

  • Mark Andrews

    Hi Monica,

    Thanks for doing this. I will do my best to explain my thoughts in a concise manner.

    1982 was the year I fell in love with IndyCar watching Gordon Johncock win the 500. It was much harder to follow then but I did my best through print media and random broadcasts I managed to find. As the years past the coverage increased and I fell deeper and deeper in love. In 1990 the series came to my city, Vancouver. In 1992 I finally made it the the 500. It was now more than love, it was part of my DNA.

    When the IRL was announced I was angry and gutted. How could someone hold my beloved race hostage like a pawn? I wanted no part of it. I can tell you honestly that I never once watched an IRL race until unification. I held-out hoping it would fail. I did tune into the 500 for a few laps here and there in the latter years to see if my CART defectors were doing well. The split is well documented so no need to get into that.

    Those 13 years were very dark and there was always an element of angst present for me when watching CART races. I just wanting everything to be normal again. When unification was announced I felt a great sense of relief. The war didn’t end the way I wanted it to but it was over, there was now hope. I cleared my mind, opened it up to the possibilities that lay ahead. The previous 13 years was a bad nightmare and peace and stability were around the corner. I wasn’t naive enough to think that a switch would be flipped and the prosperity of the early ’90′s would be back, I knew it would be a long road. The damage done was almost immeasurable.

    The first two years of unification were, well, ‘meh’. It was awesome that we were all under one roof again but the on-track product left much to be desired. Manufactured racing on ovals with a car engineered for ovals trying to road race.

    Then RB was installed. Was he going to be a messiah? No, I never thought that for a moment. What he did represent was hope. He was here to turn things around. Now there was a legitimate reason to feel optimistic and excited about the future. Then, he started to deliver. New cars, new manufacturers, new venues and a year of tremendous on-track product. He was engaging and actually listened to the fans, a CEO who actually listened to the people who bought his product! How novel. Things were looking up.

    Was he infallible? No, he made his mistakes, but things apperared to be heading in the right direction…on the surface.

    As the internal fighting started to come to light I started to worry. Was this the tail trying to wag the dog again or are there some bigger problems? I think that part is still a bit unclear, at least for us common folk. The truth will come out in the coming years, I guess.

    When RB was dismissed last Sunday I can’t say I was shocked, there had been plenty of rumblings in recent months. Where there is smoke there is usually fire and the board at IMS did nothing to douse it other than some weak PR pablum. Was I angry? Yes. Truthfully, after a week to digest it, I was scared! There was so much hope personified in RB. Now he was shown the door, was that hope leaving with him? IMS couldn’t tell us, they had NO PLAN, so they said. I’ve been around business all my life, there is always a plan if you want to be successful. I thought ‘here we go again’. After years of adversity, just when things were looking up…BAM. The turmoil appears to be returning again. Nothing more than a two-day-late PR release stating ‘nothing to see here, everything’s fine’.

    I began thinking. Why do I invest so much of my time and emotion in this? I only seem to get let down, time and time again. Why do they make it so hard to be a fan? I have never been this patient with anything in my life. I hate politics and I hate drama, yet, I continue to endure this. I don’t think I can do this anymore, it’s not healthy, like being in a bad marriage.

    I know the answer. When it’s good, it’s great. The ultimate high no organic or manufactured chemical can reproduce. It’s in my blood and it can’t be purged. It’s that simple. I must simply accept that this series comes with a lot of BS and a lot of baggage. The sooner I accept that as ‘normal’ the sooner the anxiety level drops.

    To conclude. One CEO does not a series make. RB represented hope to the fans, that hope was removed without a substitute. That gets us nervous. I don’t feel the need for recognition from the series, I don’t understand those who require it, all I need is a solid product with a few fun things mixed in. I don’t really care who the CEO or board members are so long as they keep things moving forward. I think when the series as a whole struggles the fans pay more attention to it in its entirety.

    The noisiest and most vocal customers are the ones who genuinely care about the product and want it to do well. The ones who are silent, well, they just go away.

    Sorry for babbling on. So much for consice, eh?

    I hope this sheds a bit of light on things for you. Pick my brains if you wish.

    Thank you , Monica. You do great work. The teams are ultimately who we love the most.

    Regards,

    Mark

    (@RM_Andrews)

  • Alan

    On a limited budget due to the economy, I want to be able to drive a couple of hours to see a race, then drive home. As the schedule is now, there’s just one (Indy 500) that I can do that. When I can’t make it to the race, I want to be able to watch it on TV without having to pay to expand my subscription package to an obscure channel I’ll only watch once a week.

    • Ingrid

      This is true for me too. I would love to have more coverage for those of us who cannot get the premium channels. Before with the live streaming, it didn’t always match up with the radio broadcast, but it was nice to see the action. I would even pay a nomial fee to get this.

  • Ross Bynum

    IndyCar is a small bass boat in a big ocean with turbulent waters and has been, not very long ago, bashed against the rocks because the captain wasn’t paying attention to the lighthouse. If your tiny boat loses the one captain that appeared to be following the lighthouse guidance, well of course the people on the tiny boat are going to panic. Who wants to see the proud little boat broken against the rocks? With NASCAR, they have a huge ship that isn’t battered as badly by the waves…the captain holds steady…and frankly there’s enough merriment, adult beverages, bingo, and dancing on the boat that the people on the boat aren’t paying attention really to where it’s going. IndyCar needs dictatorship…it needs long-term goals/plans the fans are made aware of, and it needs more fun (races?) to keep fans occupied with the thing that actually matters…the racing! But when u have 15 races, and a 6 month offseason, fans will hang on to every event like its do or die.

  • Angie King (@angiewarhol)

    As a relatively new and engaged fan (going on my 3rd season), I find that behind-the-scenes talk about the sport enhances, but does not entirely make or break, my experience with Indycar. The firing of Randy Bernard was confusing to me, but I figured I did not know the full story and could not really pass judgement.

    In the end, Randy’s absence is not going to affect my love of Indycar. As long as there continues to be good racing with engaging drivers that make me care about the sport, and relatively good access to follow it on TV or in-person, I will continue to be a fan.

    When stuff gets really negative on Twitter or in the blogosphere, I tune out. It detracts from my experience. I do not need to speculate on, complain incessantly about, or pretend I know how to improve the operations of Indycar to enjoy the sport.

    Sure, sometimes I indulge in a bit of negativity on Twitter. But most of my complaining is about everyone being so gloom and doom all the time. I’m on board with #TeamPositivity. I wish there was some way to jump start that into high gear.

    Maybe that should be your next blog post – how do we change the tone of the conversation into something more positive?

    • the_race_gIRL

      Very well said, and I love the idea of finding a way to “jump start” the #TeamPositivity movement into high gear. I’ll keep that in mind for my next blog post. Thanks!

  • sejarzo

    Yep…what Mark said. Those of us who were big fans pre-split have seen this situation fester for years…the lack of stable, forward-thinking, customer-focused leadership is not helping matters at all. That’s the key to reviving the sport. Fans want to be confident that their favorite sport is growing, not just barely treading water, and it seems obvious that sponsors must be even more concerned about that.

    I think we must stop any NFL or other “ball sport” comparisons, as the model is entirely different. The owners of such teams own the league, and the commissioner serves at their behest. Next, those owners have a huge investment in a facility (or obligation to a lease of same) in which half of their team’s games take place, and that’s where they derive much of their income. They thus are more inherently committed to promotion of their team and sport. They are focused almost entirely on personnel, not technology. Fans typically support a home team, and can buy season tickets to attend half their team’s games without spending tons of cash traveling across the country…and usually can view all of their team’s games easily on TV, the other major source of income for the team. Marginal players also do not buy their way into participation just to help some likewise marginal teams stay afloat.

    Indycar is not at all like that…not in the least, IMHO, so it cannot be managed in the same way. Indycar owners must make a relatively large investment in equipment and technology that is now essentially dictated to them, and (for the most part) do not benefit as directly from successful promotion of events or the series as do ball sports team owners…it’s largely out of their hands, isn’t it? But if the track owner or series title sponsor promotion fails, sooner or later, team owners will suffer loss of sponsors.

    Should owners “control” the sport? No, we’ve seen that doesn’t work so well, but come on…expecting owners who are massively successful in other lines of business because they made good, independent decisions to take an “OK, fine, I’ll put up and shut up” attitude when it comes to Indycar is simply naive. For a good show to result that keeps fans invested, the teams must be satisfied with the direction of the sport, as that is their selling point to sponsors and thus survival.

    I want to see the series led by a group of folks who have a fundamental passion for the sport itself, understand that compromise is key, and are committed to working with all invested entities to forge that compromise when necessary. It’s clear that’s the major challenge, and it was Randy’s ultimate undoing.

  • Tony Johns

    I’ve written loads on the subject already at RP and on Twitter, so I’ll keep it short. I don’t want to be thanked for watching the races – that reeks of desperation. I don’t care whether the CEO will answer my e-mails or talk to me at the track – although it would help considering my “job” – so long as SOMEONE is tasked to do that in a way which isn’t specious or banal, but actually invested in keeping me informed. I don’t care WHO the CEO is, but I DO care about WHERE the series is going.

    I asked Kevin Lee and Curt Cavin what INDYCAR’s philosophical plan was, and they spent about 10 seconds laughing and saying, “Well, DUH, they want more fans and good racing.” I like Kevin and Curt, but that pissed me off. A “philosophical plan” a.k.a. strategy for the future is the most important element to racing business for me. Simplifying it as Kevin and Curt did is dumb, and if that’s how INDYCAR sees it then they’re still in darts-at-wall mode.

    INDYCAR needs to know where it’s going. Under Belskus prior to Randy getting installed, it was going nowhere. No new car. Pack racing. Status quo. Don’t tempt fate by trying to change anything. And the thing that worries me most about Randy being canned is that INDYCAR is skewing HEAVILY towards that same M.O. – “Don’t touch the racing, or you’ll screw it up! No aero kits because it MIGHT be bad! No improved aero kit from Dallara because the kludge we used turned out awesome by accident!” Etc.

    That is why I make a stink in my writing and on Twitter. Not because I’m in Randy Bernard’s cult of personality. Not because I’m #TeamNegativity. Not because I need to know every small detail of the sport’s governance. But because AS AN INVESTOR, I need to know where the company is going in the future before I invest time or money in it. You wouldn’t hit the stock market with blind faith – that’s the best way to go bankrupt really fast. Why should we do so with a racing series?

    Okay, so that wasn’t short, but now you know how I feel.

    • the_race_gIRL

      Well said. I’ve gotten quite a few responses (on here, via email and on twitter) that seem to parallel what you’re saying: RB represented hope. With him, it was a fulfilled hope because there was a shift in momentum this season. Without him, the hope still exists, but fans are waiting to see what the new plan is for fulfilling it. Does that sound accurate?

      • Tony Johns

        In a general sense, yes. What Randy represented was a willingness to take risks and invest in both the sport AND the fans. Belskus et al seem to be risk-averse and invest mostly in protecting the Hulman-George family.

  • Brett M. Waldrpep

    I think that it is quite interesting that the people who identify themselves as CART fans / IRL haters are the most “doom and gloom” over this. The CART fans were the vocal MINORITY during the split. That is why CART died and the IRL lived on. The more and more Randy tried to make those vocal fans happy the more the INDYCAR ratings started to look like the CART ratings. Randy said himself that if the TV ratings didn’t go up he should be fired. They wasn’t and he was. The board is just taking his advice!

    As for “no clear plan” argument. This is a no win situation. If they don’t have someone already in place then it is seen as “no clear plan” if they do already have someone in place it is seen as “stabbing Randy in the back”. People are going to complain one way or another.

  • Suzanne Khan

    Last week, while watching the San Francisco Giants second World Series Championship celebration in three years, I found myself wondering if behaviors and decisions that were being credited for contributing to team-level excellence could translate in any way to workable positions for IRL leadership. Here are some they shared with their fans that strike me as possibilities:

    • We love you. We appreciate that you come out to the park and cheer us on. We can feel it when we are on the field, and make no mistake; we feed off your energy. We go other places, and their fans are nowhere near as passionate as you are. We love that you travel with us. We see you out there, and know this. You make a huge difference to us. We do this together.

    • We love our owners. You may not have ever heard of them, but they support us and let us do our jobs without getting involved in baseball decisions or in the day to day running of the business.

    • We value our legacy. There is a reason we erect statues to remember our greats, and there is a reason we are all driven to deliver the best team. We come from greatness and we intend to keep the tradition alive.

    • We are 25 men with one goal in mind. To win today. To win at whatever we are doing.

    • Nobody comes into the office and complains about what is asked of them. Everyone on the team plays the position that is asked of them, and is happy to contribute to the success of the team in whatever way the skipper thinks is best.

    • We want to put on a great show for our fans

    At this point, its worth pointing out that none of this happened overnight. There were many dark, frigid nights, and less-than-stellar seasons at Candlestick before a new day dawned and today’s leaders came along and saved the team. Before giving us a brilliant new stadium, before ½ the team chatted with us on Twitter, before the visits to the White House, before garlic fries and Halloween-every-night were things, we had good leadership with a vision of instilling their love of the game to fans – old and new.

    And now, at the yard, the crustiest longtime know-it-all fan sits and keeps score next to beer-drinking, fist pumping gamer babes in $225 Posey jerseys. It’s a beautiful thing, and the Giants appreciate it.

  • Meeshbeer

    I’ve laid out my thoughts over in my corner of the sandbox, so I won’t rehash here. I will stand and applaud Mark for his response. (Not to discredit anyone else’s well thought out replies, that one just stood out)

    My only personal add on is this. The choosing of sides or “teams” as a fanbase is just as damaging IMHO.

    I personally find the term #teampositivity cloying.
    I’m not a cheerleader, it’s not part of my make up. It actually elicits the opposite reaction out of me when I see it or am encouraged to “join”. Therefore, by default when i resist, or speak in a different tone, I’m automatically slotted over onto the #teamnegativity roster, and well, that’s just not fair. Just because I don’t fart fairy dust, that doesn’t mean I don’t love IndyCar! I just express myself differently. There are a bunch of us out there who are gruff but loveable :-)
    So…. instead of labelling people positive or negative and inadvertently splitting the fanbase yet again, how about we all wear a more generic all encompassing jersey… Say #teamIndycar #team2013isgonnarock , #teamkumquats&carbonfiber, etc… (You get the idea)
    It’s bad enough that the series and some of its players are telling me how to be a fan, I don’t need fellow fans telling me my way Is the wrong way too. Fans come in all Flavours and should be embraced for it.
    Just my additional 4.5 cents ;-)

    • the_race_gIRL

      While I don’t agree that the #TeamPositivity expression is meant to separate the fans (I see it as more of a “keeping an optimistic outlook” idea), I really like the #TeamIndyCar idea. Well played. :)

      • Meeshbeer

        oh I’m sure that’s not the intention behind it at all, but sometimes it gets twisted by people in order to cast aspersions.

        Basically People just need to realize you can be optimistic & critical at the same time. ;-)

  • DZ (@groundedeffects)

    Jim, Steve, Mark, sejarzo, and Tony all say what I believe as well. What they (and I) all seem to have in common is that we’re “old guard” fans. We seem distinctly different, specifically with regard to our origins of following the sport, than the people who have much different opinions of RB’s departure. Is there room for both groups? Of course, but until Indycar chooses to address the bad as well as the good, it may very well remain ugly.

    To twist a line from Shawshank.. Hope is a dangerous thing, hope can drive a fan insane..

  • Lynn K

    In my opinion, comparing INDYCAR to the NFL or Major League Baseball,etc. is comparing apples and oranges. NFL and MBA fans are fans of their teams and not as much the league whereas INDYCAR fans, while they have their favorite drivers, are essentially fans of the series. When football team owners and management make stupid or dysfunctional decisions, the teams fans let them know and if the behavior by ownership continues it is soon followed by empty stands, so if INDYCAR ownership had been paying attention they shouldn’t have been caught off guard by the reaction. I am among those who couldn’t care less who is running things as long as they don’t make me nervous for the future. As a fan, I endured years of stagnation and was starting to really get excited because it really looked like change was in the wind. I am now concerned because I am seeing way to many indications of the return to stagnation. I think too many of us who have been around awhile, based on past experience, hope for the best but expect the worst. As an aside, I watched my first NASCAR race in probably 20 years this past Sunday. The racing was pretty good and those in charge left one with the impression that they knew what they were doing. Maybe many of us would feel better if we had the impression that INDYCAR ownership knew what they were doing. After years of watching, I often wonder if the series leadership reads anything but their emails to each other.

  • Steve Wittich (@stevewittich)

    One more point. I’m a big fan of the Indy 500 but a bigger fan of the IndyCar SERIES. The last two years were the first time since 1995 that the entire series was promoted on equal footing as the 500. It would be a huge shame to see that stop.

  • Pete Garratt

    Ok, they let the CEO go. I don’t understand why this is such a big deal. If a Board doesn’t like which way a business is heading, the a leadership change may happen. Wendy’s has a newer leader too….

  • Fastwayne (@WaynesRCworld)

    I am a fan of racing, enjoy the road courses more than ova, and was a big fan of CART and loathed IRL. To tell the truth never paid attention to the CEO INDICAR. Looking back at the recent changes in INDICAR, I am not going to lie, I really hate the look of the new delta wing shaped cars. I prefer the Euro F1 look of open wheel race cars. Also the sound to the turbo 6 cylinder cars are nothing to be excited about.

    What bugs me the most is not who is the CEO, rather it is the look and sound of the car. Shallow yes, but a race car should look and sound sexy.

  • DZ (@groundedeffects)

    Ultimately, you asked what I, as a fan wants. Sorry I didn’t stick to the plan,

    First I will list by priority what existing must be maintained:

    1. Racing format that promotes and rewards clean passing. Retain Beaux Barfield and Will Phillips.
    2. Indy 500 as a world-class event.
    3. Fan accessibility to drivers and teams (and some great cases, owners).
    4. Diversity of racing venues of no less than 15 races per season.

    And now, gird yourself, for the list of what I as a fan (not merely wants but) demands to see (aka It’s all about me the F-A-N) if it doesn’t already currently exist, listed by priority:

    1. The philosophy of Indycar’s machines to reflect, in perpetuity, engineering innovation, diversity, and relevance to ‘autos of the future’. I must see a variety of vehicles and propulsion systems. Hybrid systems welcomed. Within a reasonable set of dimensions, a relatively open box for engineers and designers to work in (yes, that includes allowing the Delta Wing). Let the manufacturers become your biggest ally buy giving them freedom to aggressively compete. If I had a significant commitment from Indycar’s leadership that this racing platform via the specs and rules would be in place by the 2015 season, I’m 100% on board w Indycar. Given the history of the Series and many in the Ownership ranks, I will be extremely hard-pressed to believe anything promised will actually be carried out. At the absolute MINIMUM in the short term until 2015, Aerokits and I’d like them yesterday please. Having them for the start of the 2013 season will be just fine. Also, I don’t want to hear about the 27 reasons why this can’t happen (I’ve heard them all at various times and repeatedly since 1998. I’d rather have 12 super-awesome cars on the grid than 30 clones. Likewise, I’d rather have 4 super-awesome and totally invested owners than 15 owners of which 50% or are not supportive. If they don’t like the rules, don’t play the game).
    2. An Owners Cmte. of no more than 3 owners, a Fans Representatives Cmte be formed of 7 individuals, and a Manufacturers Cmte. of no more than 3 representatives for the purpose of open dialogues with the 3 new League VPs (Competition, Marketing/PR, Business/Development, ) and 1 CEO via 3 preset ‘summits’ during the season and 1 in the off-season. The press shall be invited to attend and cover those meetings and the meetings shall be broadcast via internet.
    3. in 2015 or ’16, whenever the TV contracts are up, to bid the entire season as a package, and Indycar retain all internet and online rights. TV package bids shall include a minimum of 50% of the season on network TV with priority to bids that emphasize total household reach and live programming.

    By incorporating the above items by 2016 and outlining the plan to make this plan effective, I believe Indycar will experience a tremendous and healthy growth in fanbase and thereby an influx of interest and money from sponsors, manufacturers, TV and their defacto activation.

    There are numerous other thoughts I have on Indycar but the ideas above represent the most important, immediate, and non-negotiable parts for me as a fan of this sport.

    Thank you for listening.
    -DZ

  • Douglas

    Diversity. I want to see high tech cars (with different engine and chassis manufacturers) driven by a mix of international and American drivers on an equal mix of of ovals, road, and street courses. I want to celebrate the drivers and racing above all. It’s simple, really.

  • D.J. (@djordan3223)

    A newer fan here. I was able to attend 3 races in person this year, Barber, Indy and Mid-Ohio. What I enjoyed the most and I truly hope it continues is the interaction the fans have with the drivers. There were tweetups (which were awesome BTW), driver autograph sessions, driver Q & A’s. I was lucky enough also to have paddock passes and a bronze badge, which allowed me to interact more with the drivers and their teams. These things should not stay the same they should have more of them. Most, but not all of the drivers were very accessible and you never got the feeling they were there because they had to be there. But as a fan I want all the drivers to do it. The on track product was the best racing I have ever seen, and judging by comments of long time fans, the best racing Indycar has seen since the late 90s.

    In being a newer fan, I have started checking out older races on various websites. I cannot believe how many people used to support the series. Where did all these people go? They surely all didn’t die did they? They are out there and they also have kids (who are adults now) that are out there. Why should we as fans wait and depend on Indycar to tell us how they are going to bring more fans to the sport? I think we as fans should take it upon ourselves to bring new fans to Indycar. Maybe I am a little bit to naive, but what would happen if every fan brought someone with them to a race or a practice? Is that so unreasonable to think it could happen. Lets face it, Indycar lost at least one generation (mine) of fans due to the split (I was 16 when it happened) Maybe its too simple but in my mind more fans = better TV ratings = more sponsorships = PAID driver seats = best drivers available = a better series.

    Oh and the other thing I want to see as a fan is better sponsor activation, especially out of some of the more recognizable sponsors (Target in particular). Everyone says NASCAR promotes their drivers. No NASCAR doesn’t promote the drivers, its their sponsors and TV partners who do that work. That’s my 2 cents, hope it makes sense.

    D.J.

  • Russ Johnson

    I typically don’t offer an unsolicited opinion, but since you asked…

    1. Keep engaging the fans. Still have some work to do, but compared to before it’s a huge improvement. I don’t need the board’s home phone numbers, but someone talk to us.
    2. Do more to make the entire season more like an entire season, not like the Indy 500 and the rest of those other races. Lets see a robust lineup of venues that draw the fans and get rid of the ones that don’t work.
    3. If you’re going to disagree about how things are run, keep that negativity internal. You need to project a unified front to the fans from a management prospective. You too, team owners.
    4. Continue to improve on being more transparent. But see #3 for when not to.
    5. The DW12 has been a great success, now lets build on that by allowing some creativity in letting teams some leeway in the specs to be innovative. The new aero kits are a great start, but either Dallara needs to figure out how to cut their manufacturing costs or IndyCar needs to allow for other manufacturers to build parts.
    6. Don’t settle on 2nd best for TV coverage. Keep the contracts short and if a network gives crap coverage, switch to another. They’ll catch on pretty quick, I guarantee.
    7. Sponsors, you need to do more to engage the fans. I can think of more than one sponsor that you would never know was involved in the sport outside of the track. (That might be a mixed blessing. TK has never interrupted my favorite show to sell me a pair of jeans.)

    I’ve yet to put in my 2 cents on the RB thing so indulge me for a moment and I’ll get that out of the way.

    I’ve been in, out and around different kinds of racing for years and seen plenty of the comings and goings of management figures. One thing I can say for certain is that you can’t judge a decision until you’ve seen the end result. We did see positive changes under Randy’s watch, whether those changes warranted his removal, that’s a whole other debate. Nobody likes seeing the good guy get dumped on. As for the future impact it will have on the sport, that’s purely a matter of opinion at this point. I for one am content to see how it plays out. If it doesn’t work, then we’ll have a legitimate reason to complain. Let’s hope for the future of IndyCar we don’t.

  • @Old_Man_Johnson

    Since you asked, here’s what I want as a fan:

    1. An enjoyable TV experience. Racing coverage across the board is 100x worse than it was 20 years ago (I call it the Fox Effect). This is a technology sport; I want to see tire pressures and G-forces and fuel loads constantly on screen. And have every car’s telemetry streaming online. Kids are used to seeing all this info on XBox, right? (Of course every owner and driver will object to their strategery being public)

    I want 75% in-car cameras on road courses to show the viewer the speed and the closeness of the walls and all the work the driver is doing.

    I imagine Indycar has very little control over ABC phoning it in or NBCSN being on channel 2256 instead of next to ESPN but let’s do a 21st Century broadcast.

    2. On-track: lots of different winners, lots of passing (let’s not bring back the 90′s aero wash epidemic), NO FUEL KNOB, more pronounced difference in tire compounds, car configs that test the drivers, car specs that align with what auto companies are doing even if it means things like 4′s or regenerative brakes, consistently applied rules.

    3. Reasonable ticket prices. I think prices are still too high based on the economy if you’re trying to build a fan base. Every ticket gets you into the paddock (except Indy, and can be dialed back once attendance is up)

    4. Better, more, and reasonably priced merch (BTW I just ordered your calendar). I’m going to pull for RLL no matter who’s driving but I can’t get any RLL stuff on their site. No merch I could find at SFHR either. Graham has merch, but $64 for a fancy tee? Hinch’s site points to indycar.com. It’s easier for me to get Pressdog gear.

    5. As a fan I shouldn’t care about sponsor activation and lack of promoting/advertising but it is helping to kill the series. I saw maybe one newspaper article and no TV ads in NE Ohio for the Mid-Ohio race this year and this is where the Firehawks are designed.

    I thought RB had things on the right track mostly and the uproar is over the fear of returning to pre-RB in the areas that matter most, and the response from the board so far has been classic pre-RB so what else are we supposed to think?

  • LTL M CPE

    My thought is that racing fans, and even more so IndyCar fans, are extremely passionate and want the series itself to be successful. We believe in this type of racing and want it to suceed. Fans have seen some of the past mis-steps and don’t want the series to fall again. Especially when a very competitive season was just completed. There is a lot of good momentum going, don’t screw it up. If the owners are concerned about costs it needs to be addressed as that was one of the selling points of the new cars and engines.

  • Chris Sheridan

    There have been so many awesome replies posted already, but here’s my late pitch:

    As a long time fan, regularly attending IndyCar events since before Graham Rahal was born, I have seen some ups and downs in this series. Now we are on an upswing again and let’s keep the momentum going.

    I don’t expect any CEO or the IMS board to listen to me because I am a loyal fan, but what I’m most frustrated with is the patronizing and condescending “We know better than you do, and we are going to give you something that we think you will buy” attitude. Most companies listen to their consumers and give them what they want because they are the ones buying, which is just common sense.

    Here’s what I want:

    1. Better TV Broadcasts: Both ABC and Versus/NBCSN are guilty of producing 2nd rate coverage. While some of the on-air talent is terrific, the overall broadcasts lack the enthusiasm and excitement of the ABC/ESPN races of the late 80′s and early 90′s. Plus, the endless commentary has to go, so just shut up every now and then and let’s watch the on track racing! Save the talking heads for yellows. In contrast, the IMS Radio guys are always exciting to listen to because they seem genuinely excited about IndyCar and the races.

    Also, viewers complain that road and street races are all “follow the leader” and thus boring. But this is only because the TV cameras follow the leader in a tight shot with too many angles and no context. And, while there may not be much passing for the lead, there is plenty of passing and close exciting action happening around the track. Let’s see some of that, please.

    2. Other Media: IndyCar used to have live streaming video of qualifying and the races, allowing the viewer to choose the in-car camera. And now we get Pac-Man dots on a track layout. At least the IMS Radio guys are on air…

    Video Game? Anyone? Bueller? [crickets] Computer sims are great for those who have the time and effort (Simraceway is coming along and iRacing has been around), but to not have a console game for the casual geek is ridiculous. Let’s get with the 21st century here.

    Movies: Ron Howard’s Formula 1 movie “Rush” will do far more for open wheel racing in America than a (no matter how charming) cartoon about a snail. Relevance is key.

    Last, and perhaps most important is this:

    3. Most people (USA) don’t even know what the hell an IndyCar is!

    When Charlie Kimball shot his insulin commercial, he mentioned that the film crew asked what kind of car his DW-12 was. Film people are mostly educated and up on current trends, but this is telling. When I mention my love of IndyCar to my non-racing friends, they go, “Oh, like NASCAR?” You see, most people know about N-car, even if they don’t know anything about it. And, most have at least heard of the Indy 500 but have no idea there’s a whole series of races with the same drivers and cars. How can you grow something when the vast majority of the people don’t even know it exists?

    Ultimately, IndyCar is a process, far more than it is a product. It is a sometimes messy process that takes time, patience and tenacity – for all involved. I think Randy Bernard did a fine job, not because he ‘listened’ to me, but because he did what was needed to advance the series. No good deed goes unpunished, as the adage goes.

    So, dear IndyCar, whoever you see fit to run the show next, choose wisely. The voice you need to hear the most comes from neither the teams, the tracks, nor the fans. It’s that most rare voice in the wilderness – the still small voice of reason and common sense.

    Thank you, Monica, for being a voice of reason and civility, and for opening this dialog!

  • edwardlife

    In short, LOVE this post. Great point as to the NFL comparison, however this sport is also identified (good or bad) as ONE event, our Super Bowl, the I500. As a lifelong Hoosier I have grown to understand that the world and certainly not the world of motorsport, revolve around just Indy.

    Therein lies the problem. As long as IndyCar racing IS identified as its one main event, so goes the power. Nas(s)car has their Daytona 500 but the sum of its racing business is far more reaching than ONE event.

    As long as ICS is identified solely by and with the 500… this is the way American OWS is going to be identified. Randy seemed to give hope and popularity, and the most off putting thing as a fan is the disregard for the RACING PRODUCT here. There’s a reason why USAC/IRL/CART/ChampCar have all failed, and its a very common theme.

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