Woody: IRL Forgotten But Not Gone
Have you heard something about the Indy Racing League kicking off its season Sunday?
I thought maybe it had changed its name and entered the FBI’s witness protection program.
I snooped around, did some digging, paid an informant, and discovered that the IRL is scheduled to run the Sao Paulo Indy 300.
You’ve gotta give the IRL credit, it knows how to keep a secret.
About the only time you hear the IRL mentioned these days is in an umpteenth story about Danica Patrick. If/when Danica gives her heart to NASCAR and totally abandons the IRL, the latter will be in big(ger) trouble.
If you think NASCAR has a vanilla champion, you ought to check out his IRL counterpart, Dario Franchitti. Actually Dario’s not vanilla, just vanished.
I live in Dario’s hometown and I never see or hear a word about him. Even when he won the championship last fall Franchitti barely generated a media murmur – a couple of graphs buried back in the sports section and a 10-second blip on a local TV sportscast. If you blinked you missed it.
A local driver captures an international driving title and gets virtually no coverage.
The IRL should dedicate a tomb to the Unknown Racer.
Whoever’s running the IRL is running it into the ground. A decision was made three years ago to abandon such venues as Nashville Superspeedway in favor of locales like Sao Paulo. You can imagine how sponsors are salivating over that kind of exposure.
So instead of getting reams of coverage in such major sports markets as Nashville, the IRL gets zip.
The IRL runs 17 races and only one – May’s Hoosier hootenanny – attracts much non-Danica attention.
It’s too bad, because in recent years the IRL has had competitive, exciting racing. Trouble is, it’s been done in secret. Putting on a great show doesn’t mean anything if nobody’s watching.
Danica revived interest in the IRL when she splashed down a few years ago and her presence will continue to generate coverage wherever she races — at least for a while longer. But there’s a limit to how long the IRL can ride the Danica PR express.
Back when the IRL raced in Nashville it was a pleasure to work with the IRL drivers. They always went out of their way to cooperate with the media, unlike many of today’s NASCAR’s stars. Ditto the IRL’s PR staff – they worked overtime to cater to every media request and help generate coverage for the league.
But somewhere up the chain of command somebody dropped the ball. They made some disastrous decisions about where to hold their races. Just as interest in the IRL was starting to build, they blew it.
I became a fan of the IRL during the league’s years in Nashville. I miss working with such drivers as Dario, Danica and Helio Castroneves. I miss the excitement their races brought to Music City.
It was fun while it lasted. RIP, IRL.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments