Several things today:
1. Inflated race attendance figures.
2. Driver salaries.
3. Strange sponsorship decisions.
1. The chickens are coming home to roost, as they say.
Back at the time of the Honda Indy Toronto (about a month ago now), when some newspaper editors got excited because race officials refused to issue attendance figures, I wrote a column (you can read it here) suggesting they’d better fess up because otherwise they could get burned.
In that column, I reminded everyone about the time a
Organizers said 100,000 people had taken to the streets and that number was dutifully reported by most media outlets in T.O. However, the newspaper in question had photographed the march from a plane overhead and blew up all the pictures and counted heads. The “100,000” turned out to be a little more than 14,000.
I don’t know if anybody read that column and took note, but lo and behold a
NASCAR and the speedway announced that an
estimated 100,000 had taken in the race. The newspaper, the Pocono Record, took
photos of the crowd from the air and did what that
Fewer than 50,000 were at the speedway, less than half of what NASCAR and the race track would have people believe.
It’s an interesting piece – here’s the link – and a fair warning to any cultural or sporting event that accepts public money:
You’d better say how many people attend your event because, if you don’t, or else lie about the true number, some newspaper or TV or radio station’s gonna get ya.
It also makes you wonder what really is happening to attendance at NASCAR races and why the crowds are off by as much as they are. It can’t all be the economy.
2. My friend David White sent me a link earlier today to an article written by another old friend and colleague, Gordon Kirby, concerning the problems being encountered by the Indy Racing League (or IZOD IndyCar Series, take your pick). You can read it here.
It’s mostly an interview with the fellow who runs the Newman-Haas team these days and he has some interesting things to say about the rejection of the Delta Wing concept car, among other subjects.
But one sentence caught my eye, and I repeat it here:
“Most of the drivers are getting paid very little, if anything, and drivers who can bring cash to a team, particularly the smaller teams, get the drive.”
Most of the drivers are getting paid very little, if anything . . . ?
Are we talking “relative to,” as in, “relative to a NASCAR or F1 driver?
Which, when translated, would mean the Indy car drivers who are being paid would be getting $500,000 as compared, say, to Kyle Busch’s $2 million.
Or, is he saying that most Indy car drivers are racing just for expenses and a cut of the purse?
Because, if true, that is a blockbuster of a statement.
We know, for instance, that guys like Mario Moraes and E.J. Viso and Mario Romancini are paying for their drives.
But what’s being said here (or what I'm interpreting being said) is that – with the probable exceptions of Dario Franchitti, Danica Patrick and, maybe, Helio Castroneves – drivers like Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon aren’t being paid all that much and that, to me, is more noteworthy than just about anything else being said about the IRL these days.
Another friend (he doesn’t like me using his
name) sent me a link to a very confusing story about Max Papis and his sponsor,
I think Max is talking up a storm in an effort to control the message but when you read between the lines it seems clear that Geico doesn’t want to keep sponsoring a guy who has a hard time qualifying for NASCAR Sprint Cup races.
I’ve always been curious about the relationship between Papis and Geico anyway. Max is a nice guy with a terrific (and forceful) personality but I’ve never been able to figure out how a European, formula-car, road racer was able to land a multi-million-dollar sponsorship package to go racing in an American oval-track stock car series.
I mean, it makes no sense.
I know how he got that sponsorship – he worked his butt off, as compared to other, equally talented drivers, whose sense of entitlement has them sitting on their sofas at home, waiting for the phone to ring.
Having said that, there are all sorts of talented and experienced stock car drivers who would do a better job for Geico than Papis or his heir apparent, Casey Mears.
Maybe there’s more to sponsorship decisions than I’m aware of (forgetting family ties to either corporations or the vice-president who makes sponsorship decisions), but I would think if you’re going to shell out millions of dollars for somebody to go racing that the aim of the game would be to, a) win – or at least be in contention, and/or, b) attract positive media attention, which European road racers driving stock cars poorly don’t.
Oh – speaking about guys waiting for the phone to ring, Paul Tracy has tweeted his followers (read his tweets here) that he’s working on a deal to run the last four IndyCar Series races. “Getting closer,” he says.
I can’t understand why Paul Tracy is unemployed and Max Papis and Casey Mears aren’t.
As I said above, it makes no sense.