No. 997
May 22, 2019

About The UjianNasional

Author, commentator, influencer. "The Consigliere." Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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December 17, 2008

The UjianNasional Year in Motorsports - 2008.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit. As exciting and sensational as some of the at-speed moments were during this past racing season, there was no getting around the fact that like the global economy, motorsports was heading for some turbulent waters. By the end of the season it was confirmed that Honda was pulling out of Formula 1, Audi and Porsche were pulling out of the American Le Mans Series, Subaru and Suzuki were pulling out of the World Rally Championship, and even NASCAR – heretofore impenetrable in terms of bad tidings – was headed for a doom-and-gloom cycle all its own. And a sense of foreboding was beginning to settle in over motorsport around the world, and racing - as we’ve come to know it - was about to change.

As I’ve said repeatedly throughout this year – as well as the years leading up to this year - the domestic manufacturers’ horrendous challenges in particular would start to manifest themselves in slashed racing budgets, curtailed sponsorships, or elimination of sponsorship deals altogether and wholesale departures from racing programs would not be far behind.

Without further ado then, let’s take a look back on the 2008 racing season...

“But Audi's move with its diesel racing program and a possible diesel supercar for production is bolder still, considering the frothing-at-the-mouth frenzy going on right now with Green technologies, the environment and the auto industry, with the automobile manufacturers becoming the poster children/whipping boys for all of the world's environmental problems.I consider Audi's move to be The Big Leap, one that firmly establishes it as the front runner in the "direct transference of racing technology to production applications" business.

Memo to the rest of the world's manufacturers: The Game has changed. If you're not operating a racing program that is proving Green technologies for production applications, then you're going to be left behind down the road when it really matters.” (“Audi's Big Leap demonstrates what ‘direct transference of racing technology to production applications’ really means.” (

"We're going to minimize change the best we can," France said. "We're getting back to the basics." Minimize change? Getting back to basics? Beyond the obvious Big Change - the Sprint Cup - isn't this the guy who presided over wholesale changes to a schedule that marginalized traditional events like the Southern 500 for instance, in favor of large market events that now struggle to fill the grandstands? Yup, same guy. And isn't he the same guy who has driven the sport toward sanitized homogenization with cookie-cutter cars that have made the manufacturer presence in NASCAR almost irrelevant, and robo-drivers who are admonished every time they indicate that they have a pulse? That's him. And isn't he the same guy who has turned the whole NASCAR circus into a giant marketing/advertising exercise of co-branding opportunities and synergistic business-to-business partnerships, reducing the importance of the actual racing to the point that it has become mere ‘racer-tainment’ and that has ultimately left its hard-core fans out in the cold? Him too.” (A New Racing Year, but same as it ever was for Brian France and NASCAR.” (1/20)

To me, "relevant" racing can be defined this way: It's racing with a focused purpose that begins with the premise that the sport must return to leading the development of advanced technologies that will ultimately end up benefiting the cars we drive on the street. Racing used to play that role in the old days - before technology swallowed the sport whole - and now it's time for racing to take its rightful place again as the leader in advancing technological development for automobiles.” (The Heat Gets Turned Up on ‘Relevant’ Racing.”) (1/27)

When done the right way, major league open wheel Indy car racing can be one of the most exciting forms of motorsport in the world. Tony George and the Indy Racing League literally have a blank canvas with which to work from in order to resurrect this once-proud form of motorsport. He and his organization need to put their heads down, stay focused and slowly but surely inch their way forward with this thing. And something that we should all remember: Progress in this endeavor will be measured only in minute increments. But after 12 years of spiraling downward, it still will count as progress nonetheless.” (What the IRL must do to gain back momentum.”) (2/27)

If F1 is ever going to get back on track (and the IRL, too, for that matter), then advanced propulsion systems and the associated technologies involved must be embraced and incorporated into the rules package so that they're allowed to be competitive. We would then see a return of racing machines that actually look different from each other according to the philosophies of the various manufacturers, which would be a revelation in and of itself.” (“Saving F1? Talk is cheap.”) (3/5)

“You don't have to be a fan of NASCAR to grasp the talent this kid puts on display every week, because it just jumps out at you when you see him at work. You can tell by the way he flings his car around the banked speedways - with the tail hanging out at lurid angles - that Busch is operating in a different dimension from everyone else, one more in common with some of the biggest driving names in history than with his fellow NASCAR drivers. The kid has remarkable car control, the likes of which hasn't been seen since maybe Ronnie Petersen or the great Gilles Villeneuve (insert your own favorite legendary driver here), and you can tell by the awed comments of Darrell Waltrip, the former NASCAR Champion and Fox Sports commentator, that Busch is truly something special.” (Toyota's historic win overshadowed by the emerging brilliance of Kyle Busch.”) (3/12)

The Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series finally makes its debut this weekend at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, FL, as a unified, major league, open-wheel racing entity. After years of frustration (and enough rampant stupidity to last us all a lifetime), U.S. open-wheel racing fans finally have one racing series to focus on for the first time in a decade. Though expectations are being downplayed, it's good to see that the powers that be in the IRL are keeping their heads down and keeping their focus. They understand that this unification thing is not going to click overnight and that they have a long, long way to go before the series is on an even keel, let alone begin growing again.” (“After years of frustration, major league American open-wheel racing is back.”) (3/26)

Today, as manufacturers grapple with developing overall vehicle operating efficiency, advanced powertrain technologies and aerodynamic advancements for their future product programs in an economic environment that's fraught with peril, the concept of racing in a vacuum - which describes NASCAR's "yester-tech" brand of racing to a "T" - couldn't be more irrelevant and out of touch. Which is why in the next 18-24 months, you're going to see two of the three Detroit manufacturers start to officially (and unofficially) "redistribute" their racing budgets away from NASCAR and into racing programs that have a direct connection to the R&D they're conducting right now. And yes, one of those two manufacturers could very well decide that pulling out of NASCAR altogether is a viable option.” (By racing in a vacuum, NASCAR's sphere of influence begins to wane.”) (4/16)

It's hard to overestimate the impact of Danica's first IndyCar win, but we were reminded of the power of the Danica brand when news of her triumph splashed across every news source imaginable late Saturday night and into Sunday morning. The morning news shows, normally oblivious to racing unless there's a major wreck to show and talk about, placed the news of Danica's win front and center on their broadcasts. Let's face it, other than the Indy 500, open-wheel racing in this country garners minimal national coverage. But in three short weeks - with the youngest winner (Graham Rahal) and the first female winner in IndyCar history becoming top news stories - open-wheel racing has been operating in the rarefied air of racing coverage usually only reserved for NASCAR's marketing machine.” (Danica's first win couldn't come at a more perfect time for the IRL.”) (4/23)

Today, Road America stands as a shining beacon to road racing in its purest form. Visiting Road America is akin to visiting one of this country's pristine national parks, which is why we have officially and affectionately named it America's National Park of Speed. And having this nation's finest amateur road racers competing for national championships on this country's finest, fastest and most challenging road racing circuit is only fitting. We applaud the powers that be at the SCCA for having the vision and the cojones to do the Right Thing. This decision was not about the logistics or the usual mind-numbing politics that have permeated the SCCA since its inception. No, it was about the actual racing, which is why it's so refreshing.” (“The SCCA sees the light.”) (5/14)

Suffice to say that the marketing mavens in Daytona Beach will be in for a shock when these Detroit car companies begin to pull back on their NASCAR spending, because they will be ill-prepared for the depth and breadth of the reductions that are coming. The days of Detroit's "automatic" involvement in NASCAR are coming swiftly to a close. And NASCAR is about to feel Detroit's chill.” (“NASCAR is about to feel Detroit’s chill.”) (6/26)

“It was ugly. It was absurd. It was inexcusable. And it was flat-out embarrassing. Other than that, the 2008 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard was a swell event. I will dispense with the particulars about who won (Jimmie Johnson), driving what (Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Car of Today), etc., because it doesn't matter at this point. What matters is that NASCAR and Goodyear conspired - by way of their incompetence and a stunning lack of preparation - to turn the second most prestigious event on the racing organization's schedule into a total and utter fiasco.” (No amount of "spin" can salvage NASCAR's Indy debacle.”) (7/30)

Leading up to the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago - and in intense discussions ever since - the Detroit manufacturers have been dissecting their involvement in NASCAR with a fervor not seen since, well, ever. NASCAR officials got an in-person earful at The Speedway from various Detroit auto company executives in attendance. The message? The financial numbers aren't good, cutbacks are a certainty - and that means our NASCAR programs too - and we will be discussing what shape our future involvement with NASCAR will take in the coming weeks. Whether or not Brian France and Mike Helton & Co. were surprised or not is immaterial (they shouldn't have been), because NASCAR management left Indy with the realization that for the first time in memory Detroit's involvement wasn't going to be "automatic" for the foreseeable future. And it was sobering for NASCAR and its teams.” (The Detroit Three get down to the business of NASCAR.”) (8/6)

(Thanks to AE reader Christian Thomas for this photo of one of our billboards at Road America.)

“But what Toyota didn't count on, amazingly enough, was that NASCAR wouldn't allow them to continue unabated without some sort of pulling back on the Asian manufacturer's reins. In most other racing series, whoever works the hardest (and of course spends the most money) usually wins the majority of the races. Effort = Results as Roger Penske is fond of saying. But Toyota is finding out the hard way that relentless effort and the resulting success doesn't necessarily bring unending accolades in NASCAR, but it will bring unending scrutiny and meddling if it affects The Show.” (Toyota plays NASCAR's game by NASCAR's Rules - and still loses.”) (9/10)

Max Mosely seems to be hell-bent on destroying Formula 1 - because what other explanation can be attached to his ludicrous notion of turning the once glorious, but long since faded endeavor into yet another "spec" racing series - with all the appeal of, dare I say it, NASCAR? Max's latest "brainstorm" would have F1 going the full-zoot Daytona Beach route with spec engines, ICUs, tires, suspensions and gearboxes. Think about that for a moment. The racing series that once prided itself as being the "pinnacle" of motorsport reduced to an irrelevant footnote by one horrifically bad idea, to hell with tradition, history and any other now painfully quaint notion of romance as portrayed in the classic movie Grand Prix.” (“The End of Formula 1.”) (9/24)

“Motor racing - especially F1 - needs vision right now, not regressive, Neanderthal thinking that would send the sport back to the Stone Age. F1 needs a complete fresh start, one that will take the sport into this still new century leading automotive innovation for the future, not by reproving existing technologies that have already filtered down to our passenger vehicles.
F1 has the perfect opportunity at this very moment in time to lead the development of alternative propulsion systems of the future, and it's a crime to think that they may just blow it to smithereens instead.” (“Formula Done.”) (10/29)

“With Bernie and Max spouting platitudes and generalities about "cutting costs" while extracting wildly exorbitant sums from countries that think they need to host an F1 race to be considered vital, it's not that hard to imagine that Formula 1 will become a regional - Asia and the Middle East - racing series by 2012. Will Bernie and Max care? Of course not. They'll just say that the world has changed and that the roots and origins of the series don't really matter anymore. Right up until the point where F1 disappears for good.” (A breakthrough champion, buta series headed for oblivion nonetheless.”) (11/5)

France has a handle on things, he insists. “These aren't our first tough economic times, we've been in business 60 years,” he told the media last Sunday. “We've seen the energy crisis of 1972, and 9/11 wasn't that long ago. So we’re not going to change our business model because we’re in tough economic times, but it doesn't mean we won't be more aggressive and taking out costs for team owners.” Let's see, TV ratings are fading, fans are staying home in droves, race teams are going under, manufacturers are facing bankruptcy, and your best idea is to stick to business as usual, Brian? Perfect.” (“Still clueless in Daytona Beach.”) (11/12)

“The fact that Jimmie Johnson has won his third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, tieing the only other driver to achieve it - the great Cale Yarborough - who set the mark in 1976-1977-1978, is remarkable enough. But the fact that he did it in this era of NASCAR's obsessive hand-wringing about "balanced" competition is simply incredible. Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus - the man who eats, sleeps and breathes winning in the No 48 Hendrick Motorsports machine - have simply been on a different planet than the rest of the field over the last three seasons.” (A championship season, times three.”) (11/19)

Racing has lost its mojo, period. The classic, time-honored quest of developing advanced technologies by pushing the envelope has been overwhelmed by a kaleidoscope of limitations that seem to get more oppressive at every juncture. Racing has actually devolved because of its addiction to limitations and regulations, with this relentless obsession to "level the playing field" resulting in motorized boredom, frankly, and it's absolutely killing the sport.” (Nine-and-one-half years later, racing still needs a new idea.”) (12/3)

As we bring another year to a close, racing does indeed need a new idea. Let’s hope that the powers that be in the various sanctioning bodies and race series will double their efforts to get racing back on the road to innovation, exploration, creativity and “blue sky” thinking.

I couldn’t think of a more perfect time – when the economic conditions are the darkest and the prospects for racing’s immediate future look bleak – to launch racing on a new path toward a brighter future.

Thanks to all of the people who make racing happen: The teams, the drivers, the technical people, and the promotional and support staffs.

And thanks to all of the promoters and support people at tracks around the country who give it their best to make their events as good as they can possibly be.

Thanks to all of the photographers of the IRL for their excellent work throughout the year, and a special thanks, as always, to the corner workers and race track support crews across the country, because with out your tremendous efforts, none of us could enjoy the sport we love.

Peace to everyone, and I’ll see you back here on January 7th.



Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Ford Racing Archives)
Riverside, California, 1963. Dan Gurney crests the hill at the famed Turn 7 at Riverside International Raceway in his factory Shelby-American Cobra during a three-hour endurance race.