• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Monday, July 06, 2009

THE INDY AFTERMATH

Tony George, by not continuing as CEO of the Indy Racing League once the Hulman-George family directors removed him from his leadership positions at Hulman & Co. and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, either:

a) Cast a vote of no confidence in the series he founded;

b) Showed himself as the kind who won't play the game unless he has the ball and is allowed to set all the rules.

Answer? Maybe both.

Despite some truly asinine writing in the aftermath of the Hulman-George family repossessing its checkfrom from Tony the Big Spender -- one George media mouthpiece has already fantasized about his eventual return to power; others allowed industry activists to opine without noting their financial ties to the IRL -- some Bottom Lines are obvious to those who know anything about the Business of Racing.

1. The IRL must become a pay-as-it-goes, self-sustaining enterprise. No more big bailouts from the H-G family accounts down the road.

2. Tony George has gone from one of the most powerful people in sports to the owner of a bad, one-car team as quickly as Helio Castroneves laps IMS.

3. George's decision to create the IRL now is cemented in sports marketing history as a mistake of stupendous proportions. When the IRL and Champ Car unified, I called what had happened over the previous 12 years the "$2 Billion Blunder" in this blog. Upon further information and review, I believe the total cost to be between $2.5-$3 billion.

4. Can anyone honestly point to me even ONE thing that the IRL accomplished, as stated as its founding goals? More American drivers? Oval track series? Cost containment? Preserving the success of the month of May? Increased corporate support and investment? Spectator and media growth? There is NOTHING! (Yes, give Tony his share of the credit for the SAFER barriers, which has benefitted many, but I'm counting that as an IMS accomplishment.)

5. Given the costs to his reputation, his family's finances, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the American sporting institution of the Indianapolis 500, would George finally ADMIT to his error in judgment? Honestly, Tony, was it WORTH IT?

Now what?

Two things, going forward:

* LEADERSHIP. Tony George, for the most part, did not put the right people in the key positions at IMS and the IRL. Whoever turns out to be the CEO past this season must make changes. The fact that someone is from Indiana is not an acceptable qualification. It's long past time for the realization to set in that it's a big business world out there and the narrow, insular mindset that has prevailed in the hiring and staffing process must stop. And, the H-G family must allow the top executives to exercise real leadership. If that means significant staff changes, revising the May schedule to accept new realities, etc., Mari George herself must give the green light.

* ACCOUNTABILITY. In the media. I know these are very difficult economic times for the media companies, but if Journalistic Credibility is to have any true meaning, those who have been Tony George/IRL mouthpieces have to go the way of the Offy. This includes some important local outlets and at at least one major national motorsports publication. Understand this: If Tony's Toadies are allowed to continue on the IRL beat in 2010, those outlets will have ZERO credibility.
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Ron Capps, four-time Funny Car race winner this season in NHRA's Full Throttle series, will be Newsmaker of the Week on my The Race Reporters radio show, Wednesday, 7 p.m. EDT. Hear it at http://powerupchannel.com/ . It will replay several times on the channel, can be heard on demand at the show home page, and can be downloaded into an iPod. See links in right-hand column. Sign up to receive a free "E card" with alerts on upcoming guests.

The media roundtable will include: Jim Pedley, managing editor, RacinToday.com; Jeff Burk, editor, DragRacingOnline.com; and NHRA announcer Alan Reinhart.

[ Ron Capps news nugget Thursday . . . ]