Dear INDYCAR and the IMS Board of Directors,
I know you haven’t heard from me in about a week. After Randy Bernard was rather unceremoniously dumped as INDYCAR CEO, I needed some time off, before I said something I would regret.
Look, I love INDYCAR. I named my website IndyCar Advocate, for crying out loud—that’s not the action of a fair-weather fan. I run a fantasy racing league, and draw drivers out of a hat every race weekend as part of getting my kids and family involved. My son’s hero is Scott Dixon. My girls love Pippa Mann. I attend multiple races each year, and generally have found myself treated extremely well. For that, I thank you.
On the other hand, I continue to feel like you’re talking at IndyCar fans, but not with us. All too often, fans seem an afterthought when big decisions are made. In no uncertain terms, that’s a problem.
It’s great that you are proceeding with plans for 2013. IndyCar has a lot of awesome stuff to look forward to. But again, why do I end up with the feeling we’re getting proclamations in lieu of actual conversation?
I understand that Randy Bernard’s removal as CEO wasn’t a black-and-white issue. But the fans, who clearly overwhelmingly trusted and supported him, were left to twist in the wind, while this sad situation played out in rumors, drips, and drabs over an embarrassingly long period. Communication was sparse and misleading. In the end, the wound was deeper, because we watched it play out in a sort of macabre slow-motion. It was embarrassing, unprofessional, and painful to see unfold.
IndyCar has amazing drivers, great competition, and there’s no sport I’d rather watch. Yet time and time again, we find ourselves left out in the cold, dragged about as whatever the crisis of the day brews. And when we’re worrying about this, or feeling like you’re going to do what you’re going to do with any respect for our opinion or premium put on informing us, that hurts the fan experience. Say what you will about Randy Bernard, but when I sent the man an email, I got a straight response from him, and promptly so at that.
In the play 1776, Benjamin Franklin argues in favor of independence by asserting, “Never was such a valuable possession so stupidly and recklessly managed, than this entire continent by the British crown”. The conflict is two centuries later and smaller in scope, but the base sentiment may be applied directly to IndyCar. You have the best racing going, the world’s best multi-discipline drivers, great on-track battles, and incredible events like the Indy 500, Long Beach, Texas, Iowa, and Baltimore….yet you continue to take your eyes off what’s important. Every public argument between the Series and owners, every time we find out about the latest round of behind-the-scenes skullduggery, every time the fans have to do public relations or fact-finding because no one else will, takes away a bit of that.
In short, you have been gifted by God, the giants of racing’s past, and the legends we still love today an amazing, wonderful, unparalleled gift. And yet you squander so much.
I barely make enough every year to cover my bills, and support a wonderful wife and three children. When I do get some extra money, I throw a good chunk of it towards your product. I’m not a millionaire; I don’t bring a sponsorship check. But I live, eat, sleep, breathe, and dream IndyCar. If I’m not at the track, I’m watching on TV. I bring friends along. My investment in it—and by extension, the investment of every dedicated fan—is what you have left to support you. We have bought Firestone tires in years past, because we know what their support has meant. SunDrop is served when we entertain, because they’re an Andretti team sponsor. Fuzzy’s Vodka, Verizon, Sunoco--the team and series sponsor list goes on, because we want to show our support and loyalty to IndyCar.
We fight for you. We spend our money to bring new fans to the track. We buy hats and t-shirts for our kids. We call out Jim Utter online for the feeble NASCAR homer he is every time he tries to trash you to cover his own insecurities. We believed when we were kids, watching Parnelli, or Mario, or Rick Mears, or Buddy Lazier, or Alex Zanardi. We believed in 2008. We believed when Dan won, and still believed unceasingly when we lost him. We believed when no one else did in this DW12 machine, and we believed when this last year’s amazing season drew to a close. We live for the Month of May, and get up ridiculously early on Saturday to have coffee and swap lies about silly season, the ladder, and Indy 500s from years gone by. We believe in the ideas and an ideal of IndyCar, and we live that belief, year in and year out.
Now, you need to show loyalty to us. Something needs to give, and it isn’t the fans. Improve your public relations. Interact more with the fans—you’ve got folks doing a great job, but it needs to go all the way up the chain. Listen to us, and give us the courtesy of the same trust we show in you. I know the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a fan council—isn’t it time to expand that to IndyCar? Because right now, there an awful lot of voices out here in the wilderness, and it doesn’t seem like anyone is listening.
As I said, you haven’t heard from me in a week. But if you keep up what you’re doing, you may not be hearing from many of the fans for much longer than that. I don’t want that. INDYCAR is the best, most exciting racing out there right now. It needs to act like a major sport. Involve the fans. Respect them enough to give them the truth. Consider them true stakeholders, because in truth none of the Georges and Ganassis and Penskes in the world matter one bit without them.
Respect us, be straight with us, and think enough of us to not have bad news broken by a series of news outlets in excruciating fashion, and we will be loyal through whatever challenges might lie ahead. Ignore us at your peril.
I remain an INDYCAR fan, loyal, dedicated, and true. Reward my trust. Be better. Do better. Act better. Please. And if you want to have a conversation, you know where to reach me.