Monday, October 11, 2004

IRL at Fontana, .1 Rating, No One At Track!!!

Here is the big news, EARL race at Fontucky gets hardly 15,000 people at the track. Guess what? Championship can be decided then and there. Yet not only do they get 15,000 at the track, they get a .1 rating on ESPN!! So here's some thread I started at the Speed Boards OW section. How on earth does the EARL get a .1 rating for a race in Fontana??? Wow. Its easy, they don't have any fans left.

What .1 And 15,000 At The Track Mean..

Its over for a lot of fans.

You know, at some point the IRL had some actual fans, who were into the whole 'vision' thing. at least for a while. They actually bought into the idea that the cheap, hideous formula cars, with the underpowered and foul-sounding engines, were the beginning of something new and cool for the Indianapolis 500 and oval racing in general.

There was some real hero's to look up to finally!!!! Man, if you heard the IRL fans at the time, you'd think that Buddy Lazier, Greg Ray, Scott Sharp, were what the U.S. public had been clamoring for since Tex, Gordo, and Lone Star JR retired. Of course many of us on the other side of the fence, had the good sense to know that these guys couldn't hold a candle to the likes of Alex Zanardi, Michael Andretti, and Greg Moore. There was one true superstar in the IRL, who could keep up with just about anyone in the country, but he was destined to leave.

But hey, whose to worry, there were still lots of new hero's at Indy!! How about the unoficial 'dean' of IRL drivers, the one and only, Eddie Cheever, "Bubble-Boy", Billy Boat, Robbie Buhl, Jeff Ward,Davey Hamilton, Mark Dismore, Robbie McGehee. How about another Lazier, and then to top it all off, the female phenom hersel!! And even the 'furiners' seemed pretty American, specially when you are under the influence of the Kool Aid. Heck, Kenny, Goodyear, and Arie look pretty American to me Isn't Roberto just another way of saying 'Bob' ? Hey, 'Salad Bar' lives in Miami right? And the 'Shigster' has to be from Hawaii.

But no matter where these hero's were from, they all took their Formula 3 knockoffs, racin' Indy-Style at all sorts of places. And the faithfull, watched on television as their hero's went wheel to wheel at tracks across the nation. And this was all a big prelude to the magical Indy 500, where even more of the All American boys would put on their show in front of 200,000 plus spectators.

Hey, all was well in EARL land, the fans had their drivers, and the kind of racing they lilked. And those big bad CART days were over. This was American hero's who lived to race on ovals and to win the big prize, the Indy 500. When you have that, who cares just how good those CART guys are!!! Seriously, Long Beach doesn't seem like Indy? Plus who wants to follow a series, whose champion is named "Alessandro" and who cares about some foreigner like Gil, Adrian, or Juan Pablo ? Heck, they had Buddy, Scott, Greg, Eddie, Billy and Sarah!!! And guess what, each fan had favorite drivers!! You could tell from nicknames at message boards that there were Cheever fans, Lazier fans, Sarah Fans. And they actually debated the merits of their favorite drivers, wore T-Shirts with their names, and sent them get well cards to the hospital when they were doing their inevitable sheet time.

We all know how the rest of the story ends. Lets just say that starting in 2000 and 2001, teams and drivers from CART start filtering back to the Speedway. Of course they trounced the IRL regulars at the 500, but that could be explained away somehow or another. But more worrying was Penske coming back. And before you knew it, Ganassi, Andretti-Green, Fernandez and Rahal - the cornerstones of the hated CART- were part of the IRL. And they came in with the backing of Honda and Toyota. And these manufacturs wanted these teams to bring their drivers from CART with them, since they had proven themselves in the other series.

Suddenly, we find out that those small teams that gave many of these 'hero's a break, became uncompetetive when the big boys showed up. Front-runners became backmarkers almost overnight. If you are a fan of a Buddy Lazier it must not have been good to see him being lapped. Other drivers simply couldn't get the sponsorship and were dropped .

All the while the flashy kids from CART with the big teams and powerful engines, imposed a new order in the series. Last year it was the Toyota and Honda year. This year, it has been a Honda year.

So who is watching??? Nobody. Did CART Fans follow these teams over to the IRL or the drivers? Absolutely not. Did many of the old school IRL types suddenly develop a new appreciation for Tony Kanaan? Not quite, some guy who was a Buddy Lazier fan since 1996 wants to see Buddy out here, and could care less about Kanaan. Same goes for the Fisher fans.

The larger point is that four years ago, a core-IRL fan was motivated to follow the Championship because his favorite driver was there in his favorite series. Now, his favorite driver is no longer in the series, due to cost increases brought about by teams that came over from a series he dislikes. And when these teams bring over their drivers, he has less of an incentive to root for any of them. To make matters worse for him, the championships have simply become battles between these same multi-driver teams and their drivers. Had they given a race seat to HIS driver he would've followed them. Since they brought their foreign driver from CART over, he resents. that. This guy might not even watch the race, and maybe he is no longer even an IRL fan.

That is one big reason why the championship deciding race at Fontana got 15,000 people in the stands, and a .1 rating. The IRL fans have left the ship already. Go take a look at Trackforum, there were more fans discussing Sarah Fisher's performance in an obscure Busch race, than there were discussing the championship battle. They have no one left to root for, and many of them simply don't care anymore. This is what happens when the Kool Aid wears off.


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