• INDY: USAC MIDGET RACING AT THE BRICKYARD?

    INDY: USAC MIDGET RACING AT THE BRICKYARD?

    Stephen Cox blogs about a new event designed to draw short-track fans back to the mecca of motorsports.

    INDY: USAC MIDGET RACING AT THE BRICKYARD?INDY: USAC MIDGET RACING AT THE BRICKYARD?The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has announced a new event that will be held in the first week of September and hopefully pump up sagging attendance at the Brickyard 400 stock car race. A quarter-mile dirt track will be constructed inside Turn 3 for a USAC midget race,

    Speedway president J. Douglas Boles told the Indianapolis Star, “The short track community in a lot of ways is the heart and soul of racing, so… we thought, ‘Is there a way we could connect with that short-track guy or gal who spends their weekend at the local track on Saturday?’ And we thought this was a good way to experiment with connecting with that fan base.”

    I have an idea that might help. It’s not original, but it’s effective. Let’s start with the track’s biggest event – the Indianapolis 500 – and see if the results don’t trickle down to the Brickyard 400 and every other event held at the Speedway.

    If the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wants short track fans to return to the grandstands, why not allow short track drivers to participate in their premier event, the Indy 500? That concept worked quite well for over half a century. But in recent years the Speedway has promoted a new “ladder” concept and a top tier spec racing formula that has all but barred short-track drivers from participating in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

    In late-2016 I asked Boles if he wanted short-track drivers returning to the Speedway. He responded, “First and foremost in my mind is just really safety… I’d love to see 50 or 60 or 70 cars entering and guys just being able to decide that they have a driver who’s running at Putnamville and we’re going to give him a shot to run at the Speedway. I just don’t think it’s practical anymore.”

    The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is now paying the price for that attitude. Yes, the short-track community is the heart and soul of racing, and no, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has not the slightest connection to that fan base. At least they openly admit it now.

    INDY: USAC MIDGET RACING AT THE BRICKYARD?The cure is simple. Open up the Indy 500 formula and end the spec car era. Encourage short-track drivers to make the Indy 500 their career aspiration. Then you won’t have to beg short track fans to return to the grandstands in May or September. You won’t have to construct special dirt tracks and hold special midget races to con short-track fans into buying weekend tickets to major events that otherwise hold little interest for them. If short-track drivers race at Indianapolis, their fans will follow. No gimmicks required.

    Is there anyone in the halls of power at IMS with the will to make that happen? I’m not holding my breath, but there’s always hope. For the first time, the Speedway’s president is openly admitting that they’ve managed to utterly destroy their once inseparable bond with the short-track community. At least they see the disaster that’s resulted from 25 years of bad decisions that have alienated short track drivers and, inevitably, their fans.

    That’s worth something. Perhaps it will eventually spawn the best news we’ve heard from Indianapolis in a long time.

    Stephen Cox: FIA EPCS sportscar championship & Super Cup Stock Car Series sponsored by http://www.mcgunegillengines.com/and http://www.boschett-timepieces.com/index.php Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions, Co-host, Mecum Auctions on NBCSN

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  • GRID GIRLS: AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?

    GRID GIRLS: AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?

    Stephen Cox blogs about auto racing’s long-standing tradition of grid girls being the next casualty in the war for political correctness.

    GRID GIRLS: AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?GRID GIRLS: AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?It was early 2015 when the World Endurance Championships (WEC) got rid of them, and Formula 1 may be next. Director Ross Brawn of Liberty Media, the new controlling group of Formula 1, recently said that the tradition of grid girls is being reconsidered. For the uninitiated, “grid girls” are the pretty women who stand beside the racecars prior to many events to hold grid markers and sponsor signs, and, well… look pretty.

    Traditionally, grid girls have dressed to look attractive and feminine. That’s all well and good. Recent years have seen (some of) them dressing more and more scantily. In my opinion that’s not so good. But if I don’t like it, I’m still free to stay home. And that’s good.

    This is precisely why I don’t attend boxing matches and MMA fights, by the way. The ring girls aren’t just dressed attractively. Some of them are downright indecent. So I stay home, shut up and mind my own business. The girls can keep their jobs, the fight promoters can put on the show they like and everyone is happy.

    What, precisely, is being accomplished if Formula 1 decides to defend women around the world by firing hundreds of women around the world? The girls that needed these jobs will no longer have them. The girls who aspire to be models, spokeswomen, media personalities or actresses will have one less avenue available to enter their chosen field. The grid girls are not being well served by getting fired. The only people satisfied by their unemployment are people who demand that their agenda be dismissed no matter what the cost may be to anyone else.

    GRID GIRLS: AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?Have you see auto-racing enthusiasts protesting and rioting against grid girls at the last race you attended? Me neither. Motorsports series are not firing grid girls in response to an overwhelming mandate from fans.

    They’re doing this to please people who have little or no interest in motor racing, who may never attend an auto race, and who, in some cases, oppose the very existence of the sport. By definition, these are not people who are willing to live and let live. If they were, they would refuse to have grid girls at their book burnings and witch hunts, but leave you free to have them at your auto races.

    Racing officials need to understand one point very clearly – these people will not become fans once you fire the grid girls. Auto racing is a loud, dangerous, fatality causing, fossil fuel burning; cut throat competition that does not award trophies for participation. These people hate you. They are not suddenly going to embrace you as a forward thinking intellectual simply because you caved in to their demands and kicked a few recently unemployed women to the curb.

    If this artificially manufactured non-issue needs to be revisited at all, it should be revisited solely on the basis of what the teams, their fans and the grid girls want rather than on political pressure to conform to the demands of outside groups who don’t care one whit about the sport. Make your own decision and listen to your own fans and we’ll be happy no matter what the outcome may be.

    If I don’t like it, I’m free to stay home.

    Stephen Cox is Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions Driver, Super Cup Stock Car Series & EGT Championship, and Co-Host, Mecum Auctions on NBCSN. Sponsored by http://www.mcgunegillengines.com/

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