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Thinking outside the box: What if the NASCAR Frances were to buy Indianapolis Motor Speedway.....

  NASCAR, in its 15 years at the Speedway, has contributed a lot to Indy lore...like Dale Earnhardt outfoxing Rusty Wallace to win this one (Photo: IMS)

   By Mike Mulhern

   FONTANA, Calif.
   Scrap that NASCAR-GrandAm double-header at the Brickyard next summer.
   NASCAR's GrandAm series finally released its 2010 tour schedule, and on the Sprint Cup's Brickyard 400 weekend – July 25th  is race day – the sports car series will be idle.
   NASCAR president Mike Helton had indicated three weeks ago, just after a GrandAm test around Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Formula One course, that a Cup-GrandAm double-header at Indy was possible.
   In fact the prospect of more Cup-GrandAm double-headers – such as at Daytona in July – appeared possible. The GrandAm series already runs with the NASCAR Nationwide tour at Montreal in late summer and with the Cup cars at Watkins Glen in early August.
   Indianapolis spent millions of dollars on that F1 course, but since the F1 contract ran out, that course has only been used for a motorcycle event. So when NASCAR sent a number of GrandAm cars up to Indianapolis for an early September test, obviously the question was about a possible GrandAm race there.
   Why it didn't come off isn't clear. But then the management shakeup at Indianapolis – with veteran Tony George booted out of the top spot by his own sisters and mother – has left much of that part of the motorsports world in question. And there has been considerable speculation since June, just after that shakeup, that the France family itself might make a bid to buy the Speedway, which is privately owned by the Hulman George family.

  So explain to me once again just why NASCAR was testing its GrandAm cars at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September....(Photo: IMS)


Just how much it might cost to buy Indy, if it were even for sale? Some peg it at $620 million. That, though, is a very steep price, particularly with the Indy-car touring series itself not particularly strong.
   For some comparison: It cost $250 million to build Texas Motor Speedway. Bruton Smith just bought New Hampshire Motor Speedway and its two Cup tour dates for $340 million.
   Just what the Hulman George family might be thinking is not clear.
   However the Speedway has been subsidizing the Indy Racing League, and those subsidies have been abruptly cut off, leaving the IRL's fate up in the air (particularly in light of the relatively weak TV package). The Indy 500 itself is no longer the premier event it once was. The 2005 F1 race at Indy was a farce. And the 2008 Brickyard 400 at the Speedway was embarrassing.
   On top of all that, NASCAR's ticket sales this season aren't all that hot, and the prospects for 2010 ticket sales are uncertain. Plus NASCAR's TV numbers are still dropping, and sponsors are leaving the sport.
   So what does all that mean for Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
   First off, is the Speedway going to hire a top promoter to market the place? Humpy Wheeler has made several trips there, but it's unclear how interested he might be in running that track (though going head-to-head against his former boss Bruton Smith on Memorial Day weekend might make for a very interesting challenge).
   Should the Speedway simply keep on doing the same old stuff and wait for better economic conditions before making any moves?

  Joie Chitwood, Indy president and chief operating officer for more than a decade....until leaving this past August to join the France family's International Speedway Corp. (Photo: IMS)

   Plus, Joie Chitwood, who ran the Speedway for Tony George and the family for 14 years before leaving two months ago to join the France family's International Speedway Corp., is no longer in Indianapolis, but down in Daytona.
   So the two key players at the Speedway for so many years are no longer there.
   Certainly there are probably good financial people running things.
   But running a speedway, especially The Speedway, is not like running just any other business.
   The France family was partner with the Speedway in the Chicagoland Speedway venture a few years ago before the Frances' ISC bought out for sole ownership. And Chitwood was key in getting that speedway up and running.
   Maybe the France family – Lesa and Jim – should make a pitch to buy IMS….Maybe the family is...
   After all, running big speedways is what the France family is known for. The Frances bought out Roger Penske's speedways a few years back.
   But until the car business picks back up, rival promoter Bruton Smith might not be able to jump into the fray, much as he might like.
   Indianapolis Motor Speedway…for so many, many years the icon of motorsports in the U.S., and around the world.
   But now surrounded by questions.
   What next?


  The legendary Indianapolis 500 (Photo: IMS)


Before you ummm... post a pic

Before you ummm... post a pic of the legendary IMS, you proooobably should make sure that the walls don't say "Iowa Speedway" on them... YEAH.............

actually this was just a test

actually this was just a test to see how far into the story the readers go. you pass. (i fail). Fixed.
fortunately that's the only mistake i made all week...except for flying into LAX and taking the I-10 Talladega Freeway to the track.....

Yes that was a smooth move.

Yes that was a smooth move. Ontario has a commercial airport you could have flown in there and then it would have been a short drive to Fontana.

Ontario was the home of the track that was identical to Indy.It is now a shopping mall and a housing project.

Is the Brickyard next? Or Fontana.

Why the photo of Indy Cars at

Why the photo of Indy Cars at Iowa? Is Rusty Wallace going to buy the IMS?

that's a good question. hey,

that's a good question. hey, i think i'll see if rusty is interested (LOL)

Uh...Mike..... Love your


Love your writing, love your website, love all that you do.


You posted a pic of a handful of Indy (or IRL, or whatever they are called these days) going 'round a turn....with the caption "The legendary Indianapolis 500".

In the pic, clearly painted on the wall at the start/finish line are the words "Iowa Speedway".

That's all....

Oh, the Frances buying IMS...colossal fail. There are so many other important issues facing the Daytona clan that acquiring perhaps the greatest speedway in the world should be far, far down the list of things to do...'cause all that would do is give the Frances another printing press for money....then again, maybe that is all they really care about...

what a bonehead move.

what a bonehead move. (pounding my head against the keyboard)
fixed now. thanks for the heads up.

Submitted by Winchester

Submitted by Winchester Willey on Sunday 10/1109 @4:32EST Dig it up and let Smoke and His Dirt Outlaw crew run it Put in Showers For the fans You know its gonna get dusty, get those Dirt Champ cars out of hiding and maybe have Sprint show too.I would put my money on Jason Meyers in A.J.Watsons Black Deuce,a real race car driver in areal race car.Thirty laps and thirty grand for first.I'd pay $100.00 for a ticket.

or how about building a dirt

or how about building a dirt track down in third and fourth turns -- they've got plenty of room.....let tony promote that....

What about Brian France

What about Brian France buying 40% of the Indy program itself until the Hulmans pass into the night? I think this is more the goal now to extend the NASCAR brand into North American racing.

Brian France is developing a global empire across all racing leagues. Buying Indy would be a step in that direction and whether it's true that France Jr. pursued Tony George into splitting the Indy league in the 1990s to push this well it's a moot point now.

yes, billy jr gave tony G

yes, billy jr gave tony G advice about how to manage the series, how to set it up....but without great stars, and big sponsors, and a good tv package, the irl has struggled. maybe the frances will do a deal with the hulman george family to manage the track and manage the IRL....or maybe bruton smith will make a bid to manage indy....
all i know is the Indy-family is mad at Tony, mad at everyone, because they've apparently lost a lot of money over the past 10 years or so with the irl....
where it goes next?

If the France family(or their

If the France family(or their company that owns the tracks) won't flip the cash to reconfigure California Speedway, then why would they spring for Indy........I mean you spent the money on Homestead, makes no sense why you don't fix California, it's boring to watch from the stands, and even worse on television. Nascar can not survive on television by just attracting Nascar fans; you need the casual person to watch, and that person ain't watching no race at California........Anyhow, there is no way the Hulman family is going to sell Indy; they could take partners, and still have controlling interests and raise all the cash they needed if that's what they wanted..........Bigger question is, what happens to the IRL. If the IRL goes under, and you have another patch-work racing series(like what became of CART) then what happens to the lure of Indy.......

Anonymous, you're assuming

Anonymous, you're assuming ISC won't at some point Talladeg-ize Fontana - an assumption one should not make given the need felt by ISC to make that track something worth watching. As for the IRL, I certainly don't know what will happen but I still feel it will survive given that its races at Chicagoland, Kentucky, Texas, and Kansas, as well as the 500, remain must-see races.

ISC could revamp the asphalt

ISC could revamp the asphalt at Fontana for about $25 million....a bargain....after all they've rebuild Homestead twice since it opened....why ISC doesn't get it is baffling to me....
The IRL -- I don't know about that...where is that 2010 season opener again? and how many artificial street courses? Bruton Smith and the Frances own the only real tracks , except for Indy....And if Smith and the Frances want to keep a good income stream, they need a healthy Indy-car series....check out the sponsors on those IRL cars....

well, i dont know much about

well, i dont know much about indy and thue hulman family, i'll admit. i do know tony george, and i do know roger penske....but my question here would be if the Hulman family was so interested in the racing part of the game, why did it sit around for so many years watching tony spend money here, there and yon, and only this year step and start making waves.
I definitely foresee at least a management deal of some sort between the France family and the hulman family. first, it only makes sense -- the hulman's indy track is really hurting without the ISC and Speedway Motorsports tracks for the IRL...and the NASCAR side could squeeze Indy itself by squeezing the IRL...
there are too many strange business sides to the irl thing -- first, opening somewhere TBD in Brazil? running a race in Edmonton canada but not some of the ISC/Speedway motorsports tracks in the U.S.? All those street courses? and what's happened to the TV deal? and Japan? Give me a break. What happens to Honda when its engine contract runs out? Too many loose ends here. sounds like an opportunity....for someone.

As much as I would hate to

As much as I would hate to see it, in our capitalistic democratic country of ours, there are more BILLIONS OF DOLLARS in Formula One investments than there will there ever be in NASCAR/IRL combined. That being said, could a foreign entity step in and buyout Indy/IRL? Or maybe that's what Bruton is up to, the BIGGER PICTURE. ISC is losing money hand over fist, with it's shares down to less than $10 a share? Imagine if Bruton were to amass a hostile takeover bid of ISC (ISC is public, not a private org. like NASCAR) with his billions as well other investors, foreign and domestic. He would have ALL THE TRACKS with the exception of Dover, Pocono and maybe a couple of others, but he'll gain, Daytona, Talladega, Darlington, Watkins Glen, etc. That would basically break NASCAR to conform to what HE wants in racing not what the France family dictates. I mean, where is NASCAR gonna run all their races? At all those testing places the CUP cars are allow to go? Keep in mind, a few years ago, Bruton and Humpy came up with this idea of the TRAC series, remember that? It pretty much got shot outta the sky, by NASCAR, the public, the media. But look at NASCAR today. With the multi-team concept, similar to what the TRAC series had to offer with it's multi-city-team racing, wouldn't it be something if Bruton pulled off this coup and NASCAR ran things HIS way after conforming to THEIR way for so long? And when you really think about it, maybe that's why Humpy has been traveling back and forth to Indy. To set up shop.

Yep, i missed the third

Yep, i missed the third quarter call on isca: it closed at $26.85 Tuesday (52 week low of 15.96, high of 32.15).
for the third quarter -- july, august, september -- the daytona company reported net income of $4.4 million, compared to the 2008 third quarter of $38.8 million. And revenue fell 19 percent to $172.9 million.
on top of that, the souvenir business fell through the floor: Motorsports Authentics -- which is jointly owned by ISC and Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports -- concedes it may have to "pursue bankruptcy." and it says it's gotten "default notices," and is trying to renegotiate some of its deals.
What Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and those big tee-shirt sellers might think about that is unclear....
but i am intrigued about your formula one economics lesson -- maybe that's why everyone is waiting to see how this George Gillett deal works out with the Saudis.

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