No. 968
October 17, 2018

About The UjianNasional

Author, commentator, influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. 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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By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Anyone who has read this column over the years knows that I am a True Believer in the Indianapolis 500.
In terms of historical context, the Grand Prix of Monaco, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 are the three major races that make up the pinnacle of motorsport. And of those the "500" is still, despite the countless naysayers suggesting otherwise, the greatest single motor race in the world, the one that drivers and team owners from around the world dream of winning. We were all reminded of that fact by some of the comments by two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso when asked about his quest. Yes, as a racer he wants to do it, he wants to challenge himself in a completely different style of racing, but most of all, he wants to win "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" because it's the one race in the world that every driver wants to win.

The Indianapolis 500 transcends geographical boundaries and genres of racing to sit at the very top of the motorsports world. It's still the singular motorsports event that every racing enthusiast should see in person at least once, the one race that gets seared in memories forever. And added to the allure of the race itself is the opportunity to bask in the glow of
the majestic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which remains a monument to speed unlike any other. And therein lies the problem: the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are so dominant in the Indy car racing world that the rest of the schedule pales by comparison. This was made painfully clear - again - by the IndyCar race at Phoenix a couple of weekends ago. To say that it was a debacle in terms of attendance (there were maybe 10,000 people there - maybe) is an understatement. It was simply embarrassing, excruciating even. And the race itself was a processional exercise that did little to fan the flames of passion from racing enthusiasts, the kind of passion that the IndyCar series is so desperate to cultivate.

I have commented many, many times over the last ten years that the entire concept of the IndyCar series is on life support. Indy car racing has been the Indianapolis 500 - and then everything else - for the last 40 years. Yes, there are a few exceptions - the addition of Road America to the IndyCar schedule was essential and heartily welcomed by True Believer racing enthusiasts - but that doesn't mask the fact that IndyCar is the quintessential example of "racing in a vacuum," a term I have coined to describe the quandary Indy car racing finds itself in.

What does "racing in a vacuum" mean, exactly? It means that between the IndyCar team owners, the engine manufacturers and the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a calculated decision has been made that as long as the Indy 500 remains the single greatest motor race in the world, and as long as they can keep their programs funded, well, whatever else happens outside their collective "bubble" is inconsequential.

In other words, annual racing team budgets are calculated on the appeal of the Indianapolis 500, and as long these team owners can continue to talk companies into buying into that angle and sponsoring their efforts for an entire season because of that, they clearly don't care about the rest of it. This is simply unsustainable. As I've said repeatedly, the IndyCar owners despise when I write things like this, because they come from a perspective that suggests that, "until you try to run a racing team and have the responsibility for many livelihoods, you don't have a frickin' clue as to what you're talking about." Or something like that.

Point well taken, but that doesn't excuse what happened at Phoenix, or what will happen at too many of the other racing venues on IndyCar's schedule this year. Just because the TV package is in place for a particular race and the sponsorship deals are a "go" for the season it doesn't mean that it's acceptable or that the IndyCar community can ignore what happened in Phoenix, because what happened there is simply inexcusable.

Yet, the excuses remain. "Sparse" crowds? "We'll do better next time," or "it was the weather," or "we need a different spot on the calendar for this venue." Almost nonexistent TV ratings? "We need to do better." Or, "We were up against (insert other sporting event here) and it was tough." You get the picture.

This is what "racing in a vacuum" means: As long as the team owners have their programs funded based around one race - the Indianapolis 500 - the bigger picture of the sport is a nonissue and of little interest. And this is flat-out wrong.

I'm embarrassed for the powers that be in IndyCar, the teams, the manufacturers, the drivers and the series itself. A total rethink for Indy car racing is in order, but I can guarantee you that as long as everyone has their "deal" in place for the season, no one really cares enough to do anything about it. Which is truly unfortunate. And pathetic.

Yes, the Indianapolis 500 is still magic, thankfully. But if IndyCar and the sport of Indy car racing wants to survive, let alone thrive, that's not going to be nearly enough.

And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week.



Editor's Note: Many of you have seen Peter's references over the years to the Hydrogen Electric Racing Federation (HERF), which he launched in 2007. For those of you who weren't following AE at the time, you can read two of HERF's press releases and . And for even more details (including a link to Peter's announcement speech), check out the HERF entry on Wikipedia . -WG


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

(Courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
Indianapolis, Indiana, 1965. Jim Clark sits in his No. 82 Team Lotus-Ford with Colin Chapman standing next to him, during practice for that year's Indianapolis 500.

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