Saturday, August 8, 2009
Being the slowest qualifier for an IndyCar race is not always an indignity per se. But doing so with a qualifying speed that is a statistical outlier, as Milka Duno did Saturday at Mid-Ohio, borders on the ridiculous. What to do, now that Milka has entered Marty Roth territory?
The answer is to be found in the cost of IndyCar equipment. It simply must be cheaper. Lowering the cost of equipment that is necessary for entry would allow for more teams, cars and drivers. If a full field at road courses were, say, 26 cars, then the IRL would need another six entries in order for Milka to be bumped.
Less expensive chassis and engines - no matter whether the latter is leased, bought, or, gasp, built by the teams - would also reduce the barrier to entry for prospective sponsors. The current roster of team sponsors is dominated by firms that might or might not have any real interest in IndyCar racing. Target and 7-Eleven use their team sponsorships to extract concessions from vendors. McDonald's seems to go out of its way to not activate its IndyCar sponsorship, perhaps because its participation hinges on its having Newman's Own products in its stores. Phillip Morris USA is, of course, prevented by the Master Settlement Agreement from advertising almost anywhere else.
And that brings us back to Milka. She participates in IndyCar racing not to win or even to compete, really. She is here to put a smile on the face of Hugo Chavez, a daunting task and one that she does rather well. Citgo, the Venezuelan state-owned retailer that works in concert with Venezuelan state-owned drilling giant PDVSA, sponsor of HVM Racing's E.J. Viso, is a financial and political tool of the Chavez regime. Milka Duno, a smart and tough cookie when she is not sitting in a race car, wears the Citgo colors with a friendly smile and without any apparent sense of embarrassment.
Unfortunately, she seems to be similarly unaffected by her on-track results.
Perhaps, some years from now, the cost of entry for prospective team owners will have been reduced. Only then might the IRL rid itself of faux racers. Only then might a critical mass of teams convince corporations to sponsor IndyCar racing for its own sake.
Friday, August 7, 2009
The IndyCar Series and the American Le Mans Series are paired this weekend for a road racing extravaganza at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The announcement Friday that 2003 Indianapolis 500 Champion Gil de Ferran will move his team from ALMS to IndyCar in 2010 demonstrates the zero-sum game that racing has become.
Honda's Acura division is rumored to have plans to leave ALMS following the 2009 campaign. The de Ferran announcement is the latest evidence that the LMP era at Don Panoz's outfit is likely coming to an end. De Ferran Motorsports is the unquestioned Acura "works" team, sporting primary sponsorship from Sirius XM, the satellite radio conglomerate that is owned, in part, by Honda. Although Highcroft Racing and Fernandez Racing also run Acuras in ALMS, they have independent primary sponsorship from Tequila Patron and Lowe's, respectively.
The good news is that de Ferran, quintessential gentleman racer, is bringing what will likely be a high quality, two-car team to the Indy Racing League. The bad news, at least from the perspective of high-tech road racing fans in the United States, is that yet another permutation of the sport is on the brink of financial failure. The core problem with the highest levels of ALMS-type racing is that they rely almost completely on investment by auto manufacturers. Unfortunately, the auto industry is highly cyclical, and when the cycle turns downward, as it has for the past 20 months, manufacturers are forced to cut non-essential expenses such as sports car racing.
The writing first appeared on the wall of the ALMS's Georgia headquarters when Audi dropped out of the sport prior to this season. Honda is willing to race alone in the IRL because IndyCar racing is a spectator-supported sport. Although sports car racing does indeed have some very passionate spectators, they are too few in number. In addition, the high-tech aspect of the sport tends to translate into high cost, a fact the IRL must keep in mind as it works toward new technical specifications for the IndyCar Series.
The Republic encourages fans to attend the Mid-Ohio twin bill this weekend. Roggespierre has enjoyed IndyCar races at Michelle Trueman's fine road course in the past and hopes to do so again soon. Next year, Gil de Ferran will return with the Indy cars. Whether or not they are accompanied by the ALMS - and if so, then what kind of ALMS - is another question entirely.
Normally, we are not big fans of mission statements here in the Republic. Revolution is, after all, about taking action.
That said, we here have learned the hard way that overturning the old order is not sufficient to bring about peace and prosperity. Without direction - a mission, if you will - citizens tend to lose their heads.
It is with this in mind that we present the beginnings of a mission statement for the Indy Racing League. It probably already has one. But the IRL would do well to remember that firms tend to be myopic, believing that their respective industries are unique and that, therefore, so, too, are the challenges they must overcome. This is seldom the case. If it were, then McKinsey, Bain, and the other high-priced consulting firms would be out of business.
Fortunately for the IRL, The Indy Idea has no delusions about its market value. The advice here is free.
So, what is the mission? What would a really successful IndyCar Series look like?
- Ridiculous profits to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
- Undeniably awesome Month of May in Indianapolis
- Corporations competing to sponsor IndyCar teams
- Promoters competing for race dates
- Drivers aspiring to get to IndyCar and stay there
- Versus becomes a household name
- The IRL at least breaks even
Achieving these long-term goals is possible with focused strategy and meticulous execution. NASCAR (sans-culottes!) followed this route to mass market nirvana until, alas, it lost its sense of discipline. For the first time in its history, the House of France faces contraction. It is very vulnerable.
IndyCar is not positioned to take advantage. That does not mean it can't happen, but rather that it can happen only if the IRL is disciplined, determined and courageous enough to do the jobs that must be done to achieve its mission.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
The promised analysis is here. It shall be brief. (article linked in title above)
IRL Commercial Division President Terry Angstadt was quoted in USA Today this week. We in the Republic were glad to see that USA Today still covers IndyCar racing. However, we found Angstadt's comments somewhat depressing. Tony Kanaan, who we like very much, also contributed some nonsensical assertions.
For now we focus on Angstadt, who seemed to confirm that additional road races and international events are part and parcel of the Indy Racing League's competitive strategy. This, of course, must be false because the IRL has no competitive strategy. It takes whatever it is given by its racing team suppliers and derives from this material a corresponding schedule of plausible talking points.
Angstadt said: "We want to serve the markets where we feel our racing product will be well-received."
We're supposed to think: fans in these markets really like IndyCar racing.
What is true: the sanctioning fee is decent, the check is likely to clear, and the teams don't complain about coming here
Angstadt said: "Where can our product be successful and where can we find strong, motivated promoters?"
We're supposed to think: the IndyCar product is inherently appealing to fans in certain locations; promoters that advertise our product will naturally enjoy robust ticket sales
What is true: the teams are motivated by many factors, and providing the IRL a marketable product is not particularly high on the list; we therefore will race wherever we can get paid and continue to find venues where sparse attendance is more easily masked on TV
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
This afternoon Roggespierre received a note from Saint Just, who argued that our earlier post, Extreme Makeover: IndyCar TEAM Edition, contains a fundamental flaw.
You might recall we suggested that because some drivers are worth more than others to those who buy tickets and watch on TV, IndyCar TEAM appearance money should be reallocated to account for driver popularity.
Saint-Just counters that IndyCar team owners don't want compensation based on driver value, performance value, or any other criteria other than that of showing up and putting a car on the track. The owners, Saint-Just argues, see TEAM payments as their money, and they're not interested in sharing it. Team owners apparently fear that, if driver value were used to calculate TEAM compensation, then drivers could argue that they should get a cut.
Fans do not think about such things. Rest assured, participants certainly do.
All due respect to Saint-Just, Roggespierre rejects the notion that this concern exposes a flaw in his proposed Extreme TEAM Makeover. The problem, it would appear, is that the Indy Racing League is afraid of its team owners. Fear might even be justifiable, but the scenario is hardly unusual. For example, suppliers of lithium ion batteries currently wield tremendous bargaining power over their customers. But can we say the same about IndyCar teams?
WARNING: The following is a partial analysis of the IRL's strategic position. It is likely to be dry, and to many, boring. Citizens seeking entertaining IndyCar content this evening should consult other sources. Roggespierre recommends Pressdog.com and MyNameIsIRL.com. Both are excellent. The Indy Idea will return to Revolutionary frivolity tomorrow.
With that, we commence with our analysis.
In his 1979 classic essay, Competitive Strategy, Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter identified what he called Five Forces that determine a firm's profitability. One of those forces is the bargaining power of suppliers. IndyCar team owners collectively supply the entries that compete in IRL races. They are therefore suppliers to the IndyCar Series.
Porter wrote that suppliers can exercise power over a firm. If Saint-Just is correct - and we have every reason to think that he is - then we can assume that IRL managers believe that the team owners hold a measure of power over the series. If true, then Porter would suggest that the teams might quit the series or charge higher prices - appearance fees and bonuses - in exchange for the services they furnish.
Previously, we asked whether or not IndyCar teams do in fact have this presumed power. Adopting the Porter model, they do if:
- the teams' cost of switching to another series is relatively low
- the inputs (to the IRL product) of each individual team are highly differentiated
- the threat of substitute inputs (new teams) into the IRL ranks is low
- the ratio of racing series to teams is high
- the threat of forward integration by the teams is high
- the threat of backward integration by the IRL and its customers is low
- the cost of inputs furnished by teams to the IRL is high relative to the selling price the IRL gets from its customers
Nevertheless, we press on.
"Yes" indicates sources of bargaining power for the teams.
"No" indicates sources of bargaining power for the IRL.
- Q: Are teams' cost of switching to another series relatively low? A: No. Some teams are already in other series, primarily NASCAR Cup, where the cost of additional entries is prohibitive. Any team that switches to a different series will incur a capital outlay for new equipment. Unless a sponsor or an auto manufacturer covers that cost - an unlikely scenario now that firms of all types are reducing costs in series ranging from F1, to Cup, to ALMS - switching is not a plausible option for most IRL teams.
- Q: Are the inputs that each individual team contributes to the IRL product highly differentiated? A: No. The teams furnish commodities - race entries - that are differentiated only to the extent that some drivers are more appealing than others to those who buy tickets and watch on TV. Scuderia Ferrari is the exception, but that is Formula 1's problem.
- Q: Is the threat of substitute inputs (new teams) relatively low? A: Yes. IndyCar equipment is cost prohibitive for prospective team owners unless they have sponsors lined up to underwrite the project.
- Q: Is the ratio of comparable series to teams relatively high? A: No. There are four comparable spectator-supported series - Formula 1, Cup, Grand National, and IndyCar. F1 does not race in the United States and is extremely cost prohibitive. Cup teams have been consolidating for years, primarily to reduce costs via scale economies. That leaves Grand National and IndyCar. The former is dominated by Cup teams and their satellites, making the cost of entry greater than it might otherwise be.
- Q: Is the threat of forward integration by the teams high? A: No. This was already tried. It was called CART. The teams forward integrated, forming their own series, but they didn't go all the way. Rather, they continued to leverage the value of participating in the Indianapolis 500, their largest event and one they did not control. When Tony George created the IRL, the teams' experiment in forward integration reached a crossroads: they could either abandon the strategy altogether or continue on without Indianapolis. Although they chose the latter, the teams transferred much of the financial risk to shareholders via an initial public offering of stock, by definition an exit strategy. The present economic climate, the financial condition of most teams, and the existence of the IRL under IMS control render a new adventure into forward integration a non-starter.
- Q: Is the threat of backward integration by the IRL and its customers low? A: No. In fact, it's already happening. Vision Racing, co-owned by an IMS board member, is an example of backward integration. If another IMS board member were to start her own team, then the existing IRL teams would lose additional bargaining power. The same would be true if, say, Texas Motor Speedway started its own IRL team.
- Q: Is the cost of inputs that teams contribute to the IRL high relative to the selling price the IRL gets from its customers? A: Yes. Herein lies the primary source of bargaining power for the present IRL teams. The supply and demand curves intersect at the point of transaction, the one at which all prospective team owners who possess both the resources and the inclination to present an entry for IRL competition are already doing so. There are only two ways to shift this point of intersection: 1) reduce the cost of entry, or 2) increase the willingness of the able and/or increase the resources of the willing. This is why the next IndyCar spec is so important. It must be inexpensive enough to attract additional team owners that do not have substantial corporate backing. This would not only increase bumping at Indianapolis and car counts at all IRL races, but also reduce the bargaining power of the individual team owners.
In conclusion, the present circumstances provide a rare opportunity for the IRL to impose long-term, strategic policies that will ultimately benefit all of its stakeholders. The teams might resist some imperatives, but they lack alternatives that would empower them to demand the short-term outcomes they desire.
The opportunity to arrange the playing field for the next generation of IndyCar racing is, therefore, at hand. Sadly, it seems that there is no one at the IRL who is in position to take appropriate action.
- Sell IRL events to race promoters
- Sell league and series sponsorships to corporations
And that pretty much does it.
The business culture at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has space available for only two activities: sales and operations. Strategy is incorrectly believed to be the mere combination of the two. Marketing is confused with public relations and promotion. A big Rolodex is the assumed driver of successful sales. Facilities and events management - operations, both - are institutional strengths.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Roger Penske sells lots of cars. He purchases popular models from the factory, marks them up, and sells them to his customers. We assume that Mr. Penske does not pay much, if anything at all, for models his customers don't want.
Regrettably, the Indy Racing League does.
If you show up and race an IRL event with an IRL car, then the league will award you tens of thousands of dollars. Got a tomato can driving your Dallara? That's not a problem. You get paid the same appearance fee as everyone else.
Unveiled in October 2007 (transcript linked in title above), the Team Enhancement Allocation Matrix (TEAM) was conceived to ensure that enough teams show up for each IndyCar race. Admirably egalitarian, IndyCar TEAM promised an appearance reward of approximately $60,000 per race for full season entries.
Roggespierre, champion of equality for all citizens, was impressed. Danton, however, argued that much of TEAM is a colossal waste of much needed cash. After careful consideration, Roggespierre agrees that TEAM is a good candidate for an Extreme Makeover.
Danton's argument is simple: teams that show up with Danica Patrick, Paul Tracy and Helio Castroneves at the wheel are worth far more to the league than those that "hire" aristocrats who have no popular appeal. Why should the IRL compensate teams of both types equally? Teams are suppliers to the league, Danton argues, and they should be compensated according to the relative market value of the goods and services they supply. This seems reasonable.
We are talking about a "nudge" of the type that behavioral economists favor. The IRL should distribute a far, far greater percentage of appearance money to teams that employ drivers that fans want to see. Increased payments to marketable driver might also begin to address the confounding problem of homegrown IndyCar stars leaving for the riches of NASCAR (sans-culottes!)
Subjective evaluation of drivers' relative popularity would invite charges of corruption, nepotism, xenophobia, and worse. Therefore, the IRL must establish an objective mathematical TEAM compensation equation and publish it for all stakeholders. It might look something like the following.
(Kindly allow Roggespierre to really MBA this one:)
- Each Factor is indexed 1 to 10 according to proportionate value
- TEAM appearance money is accrued on a per race basis
- Does not include bonuses for 1st through 5th place finishers at each race
for each Team (X) per event employing Driver (Y)
- Q = Driver (Y) Q-score per 3rd party market research firm = weight 35%
- E = Driver (Y) % of Most Popular Driver Votes - at races only = weight 25%
- W = Driver (Y) % of Most Popular Driver Votes - online (IndyCar, Versus) = weight 10%*
- P = Championship Points earned by Team (X) with Driver (Y) = weight 30%
*ballot stuffing is easier onlineThe calculation
for each race that Team (X) employs Driver (Y)
.35Q+.25E+.1W+.3R = TEAM Points
The sum for each race would then be added together to arrive at the total TEAM Points for a given IndyCar team. Appearance fees would be distributed proportionately.
Drivers might have to adjust their community outreach activities in order to convince people to attend the races. Reading The Lorax to Mrs. Goulet's kindergarten class is a commendable and benevolent activity. However, those little derrieres are unlikely to be in the stands on race day, and even if they are, their parents will have been the ones who made the purchase decision.
Some argue that the top finishers should get more prize money, that it's unfair to reward popularity. For them, we have a saying here in the Republic: Tough Tuberculosis.
This is serious business - sex and violence and rock-n-roll and (legal) price discrimination.
The IRL needs revenue, for which it needs fans, for which it needs a product that people watch on TV when they're not watching it in person. The IRL must think of itself as a retailer, much like Target Stores or Penske Auto. Those firms require that their vendors' prices correlate with customer demand. Why should the IRL be any different?
Educated citizens are aware that not every former Formula 1 driver is cut out for Indy cars. To say that the jury is still out on Robert Doornbos is to be kind.
Doornbos confirmed today (link to Curt Cavin's article is in title above) that his association with Newman Haas Lanigan Racing has ended following 12 mediocre performances. Commonly believed to receive funding from his father, Doornbos plans to resume his racing career elsewhere, perhaps with HVM Racing.
The man known as Bobby D gave his most impressive performance at the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade, where he thrilled the locals with a riotous Ivan Drago impersonation. While the other 32 starters, many accompanied by family and friends, waved to an appreciative crowd, Doornbos offered nary a wink, sitting fully erect in his stoic pomposity.
Lighten up, Bobby D, or risk being branded a counterrevolutionary.
The presence of an F1 veteran is not cause for delirium in Indianapolis, for we have seen your kind before. They include World Driving Champions and Grand Prix winners. Some (Jim Clark) adapted seamlessly. Others (Jochen Rindt) did not. The Committee on Public Safety suggests that you not only learn to drive ovals without crashing, but also that you do so with humility. It seemed to work for Emerson Fittipaldi.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Click the story title above for the link to Bruce Martin's full report on Versus.com.
Among the interesting tidbits, Tony George tells Martin that John Menard has "expressed recent interest" in becoming an IndyCar engine provider in the future.
This is very good news.
Honda is an enigma. It might be an enigma that is a net positive for IndyCar Racing, but that is difficult to determine. Roggespierre invites citizens to consider Honda's various positions in the IndyCar Racing supply chain.
- It is a supplier to all of the IndyCar teams. We do not have sufficient data to say that Honda profits from its supplier role, but a $1.2 million (Ilmor gets some) engine budget per car per season is enough to turn the cerebral wheels.
- It is a supplier to the IRL Operations Division. Honda supplies pace cars for all races but Indy. It is doubtful that the IRL actually pays for these cars. The question is whether the deal consists of 100% in-kind compensation or does it include a cash payment from Honda to the IRL?
- It is a customer (type 1) of the IndyCar Series. It pays the series an undisclosed sum in its role as a series sponsor.
- It is a customer (type 2) of the IndyCar Series. Honda is promoter of the Motegi race. Does it pay a sanction fee? Does it receive "consideration" due to guarantees that it will supply engines for 33 starters at Indy and all cars that can afford to pay the lease?
- It is a customer of Andretti Green Promotions. Honda is title sponsor of the AGP races in St. Petersburg and Toronto. The issue of whether this is "new money" or merely a transfer of Honda's previously committed sponsorship dollars from the IRL to AGP is not publicly known.
- It is a customer of Andretti Green Racing. Honda sponsors Hideki Mutoh's "Formula Dream" entry.
- It is a customer of IRL broadcast partners ESPN and Versus. Honda buys advertising on the IRL telecasts.
Roggespierre's Question of the Day: is Honda's Total IndyCar Project cash-flow positive or cash-flow negative? Danton will not guess for fear of losing his head.
This is wise.
Here's the itemized calculus:
- $1.2 million * 22 full-time season starters = $26.4 million revenue (one-offs not included)
- plus value of "Honda" on every engine cover of every car in every race
- less portion of rebuilds completed by Ilmor
- less Direct Sponsorship payments to IRL
- less St. Pete & Toronto sponsorship payments to AGP
- less Formula Dream sponsorship payments to AGR
- less Sanction Fee & costs incurred due to Motegi
- less broadcast advertising buy
- we'll assume that the official cars are in-kind compensation
Roggespierre assumes there must be a reason that HPD honcho Erik Berkman has warmed to the idea of remaining sole engine supplier to the series.
Danton notes that Honda's expenditures on Formula Dream and Motegi add exactly zilch to the Total Package Value for the IndyCar Series. Remember, too, that the IRL , via its TEAMS program, redistributes $1.2 million per season to each full-time entry.
Consider all this - a confounding task, we admit - and one questions whether the league would do better with cheaper engines for the teams, a reduced redistribution of cash to the teams through the TEAMS program, and fewer "revenues" from the engine supplier.
An enigma, indeed. Keep talking, Mr. Menard.
Historic Mile, LLC is the proposed new promoter of the Milwaukee Mile.
The principals are Tony Machi, Steve Jones and the expatriate Jim Beaudoin. The group has signed a letter of intent. It now has 55 days to demonstrate that it has the financial wherewithal to promote the historic oval.
Correspondence with Saint-Just has given Roggespierre pause to reconsider his opinion of Dallara.
Saint-Just points out that no one, least of all IndyCar teams, has been "lining the pockets" of Mr. Dallara. As evidence, he points to the fact that the current chassis is now in its seventh year. Dallara had expected to sell new cars in both 2006 and 2009, but was unable to do so.
The 2008 transition teams were helpful to Dallara, but Saint-Just credibly argues that there is a reason Dallara is now building Grand Am cars.
Given the source, Roggespierre is inclined to concede the point.
Saint-Just did go on to say that Dallara does a solid parts sales business. On that point, conspiracy theories being all the rage here in the Republic, Roggespierre now suspects that Mario Moraes is in fact an agent of Dallara, as he is obviously engaged in a clandestine mission to increase the flow of capital from IndyCar teams to the Dallara parts truck.
Like E.J. Viso, we look forward to seeing the Votorantimian's flowing locks brought before the Committee on Public Safety, where Revolutionary justice shall surely have its way.
The Girondists pity Terry Angstadt.
"He put together the best schedule he could," they say.
"The knitters will have his head if he doesn't deliver profits to the IMS next year," they chirp. "He had to chase the quick money."
"It isn't Angstadt's fault that the cars and engines cost too much to run," they plead (with some validity).
The Jacobins are less sympathetic.
"He would have them race in parking lots," they wail.
"He conspires with Cotman and the teams to rid the series of ovals," they claim.
"Tear off the wings!" they clamor.
Between these harried factions stands Roggespierre, the Incorruptible, providing sage clarity and enlightened reason for all citizens of the Republic. Here, now, his analysis of the evenevements de consternation.
Barber Motorsports Park - should have required track improvements. In the Republic you get one chance to make a good impression. Planning to fix the track in Year 2 is not good enough if the stench from Year 1 turns off the paying customers. A permanent facility using a 3rd party promoter (named ZOOM Motorsports, no less) is cause for hesitation.
Brazil - adding this race to the schedule despite not having a venue locked up looks like an act of desperation, which it is. The APEX Brasil cash infusion addresses an immediate need, but the event has no long-term strategic value. Ask yourself this: if the sponsor were to "fulfill its marketing objectives" and leave, could the promoter sell enough tickets to break even? If the answer is no - as it clearly is here - then don't do it.
Richmond - there was no decision to be made. ISC can't fill the stands for its two NASCAR (sans-culottes) Cup events at RIR, and those will always be priorities 1A and 1B. Marat informs us that the IRL had to furnish a new title sponsor in order to return. Terry Angstadt, welcome to the lives of Paul Tracy and Buddy Rice!
Milwaukee - Roggespierre has confirmed that the head is dead but the body is twitching. In that event, we've found that it's best to withhold judgment.
New Hampshire - Jerry Gappens, you, sir, are a credit to the Revolution! IndyCar needs more citizens like you! That said, Roggespierre was in the NHIS stands, virtually alone, for the IRL race in 1998. Could IndyCar half-fill the place in 2010? It's doubtful, and that's not a slam on Jerry's sales & promotions team. With real growth - meaning fans, not corporate underwriters - NHIS could become a viable option in the future.
Foxboro (Gillette Stadium) - this secretes the foul odor of a potential sponsor's bright idea. A densely populated location is one of very few good reasons to run a temporary circuit, and Foxboro isn't as dense as you think. Forget the Boston Red Sox. Indy cars on a good day couldn't outdraw the Pawtucket Red Sox. Has the IRL brass seen the ratings they get in the Boston TV market? They're darn near hashmarks. And what happens when the thing tanks and the sponsor's marketing guy gets the ox cart trip to Revolutionary justice? Poof!
Baltimore - the locals have a hairbrained scheme to get the IRL to race the Inner Harbor in 2011. The loss of Richmond makes this option seem golden, but it's pyrite, my friends. Baltimore isn't desperate enough to be a good candidate for a street race (more on that another time). Odds of the IRL getting more paying customers than the all-city lacrosse tournament? Not good.
Las Vegas (Motor Speedway) - track management is apparently interested only if there is a threat of a street race nearby. Roggespierre understands. Like NHIS, this track is too big for the IRL in its present state.
Detroit - not at Belle Isle. Here's what IndyCar should do if it wants to race in Detroit: convert a dilapidated manufacturing facility into a small oval track and drag strip. That gets the IRL in the city one weekend each year and keeps some kids from going "The Fast & the Furious" on city streets for the other 51. Make it a community project - politicians, Boy Scouts, Shriners, that sort of thing. Apply for some stimulus money; Danton says there's a lot of it. Replace the old Kentucky date with a race at the new Detroit track - that's also the weekend of the old Buick Open PGA event that likely saw its final round this past Sunday. Roggespierre likes this idea because it would provide some genuine services to people who could really use them right about now. Turn the track over to Detroit Parks & Rec except for the IndyCar race weekend, which can be promoted by Penske, AGP, Lanigan, whomever. In Year One, the marketing tagline should be, "IndyCar & Detroit -Motoring Back Together - and by the way, where's NASCAR? (sans-culottes!)"