Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Two IRL Advisory Board Reps Revealed

This might be old news to some, but at least half of it is good news in my opinion.

The Republic has learned that the IRL Chassis Advisory Board - we shall avoid calling it the Looney Board - has at least two members signed, sealed and delivered.

The first is Eddie Gossage, President of Bruton Smith's Texas Motor Speedway. This makes perfect sense, not just because I suggested that either Smith or his emissary should be offered the race promoter's seat on the board, but also because TMS pays by far the steepest sanction fee of any race track or temporary circuit in the IndyCar Series.

That Gossage accepted IRL President Randy Bernard's offer is seen as nothing but good news in these quarters. Gossage sells tickets and corporate sponsorships more ably than any race promoter in North America. The IRL event at Texas continues to draw more race fans than any other IndyCar event, including those that enjoy millions in public subsidies.

You can like his tactics or not, but you must admit that Gossage is good at his job. Let's hope that those who want to turn IndyCar into the kind of series that has failed repeatedly in the U.S. marketplace will be willing to listen to someone who forgets more about marketing every day than they'll ever know.

The second appointment is more curious. I am a fan of Gentleman Gil de Ferran. He was an outstanding technical racing driver and a magnanimous Indianapolis 500 Champion.

The oddity is not that de Ferran was selected for a leadership role. He is a business-minded, intelligent man whose cool temperament will be appreciated by other members of the Advisory Board.

No, the strange thing is that de Ferran, the newly named president and managing partner of Luczo Dragon Racing, was chosen to represent the car owners. Because he is a "partner" in his racing team, we can assume that de Ferran is in fact a car owner. But we're left to wonder why his contemporaries selected one of the IRL's least experienced owners to represent them.

To that end, I have a theory, as you might have imagined.

Several IRL car owners are aligned with the various would-be chassis suppliers. Gil likely has no such conflict of interest. Perhaps even more important, he was not perceived to have had a conflict. In cases such as these, appearances are often at least as important as facts.

As a fan, I appreciate that de Ferran does not carry the baggage that some of his more seasoned IndyCar team owners must carry around. Is that sufficient to make up for inexperience?

My guess is that, given de Ferran's understated, cosmopolitan demeanor, yes, it probably is.

Best of luck to both men. The future of a once-great sport depends on them.