So, Hulman & Co. paid a consulting group to evaluate the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and now die-hard fans are screaming that they could have done a better job for free.
Granted, there are ideas bandied about Internet message boards that are better than some proposed by the Boston Consulting Group in the 115-page report obtained by The Associated Press, which reported on a handful of the concepts last week.
However, Hulman CEO Mark Miles said the consulting group prepared many documents and that what was obtained by AP was an early version of “suggested elements” for the long-term strategic growth of the company.
Some of the suggestions were no-brainers:
• Improve TV ratings by “avoiding TV competition with other sports, particularly NASCAR and the NFL.”
• To avoid competition for viewers, “check for local event conflicts before setting dates.”
• Increase the value of sponsor partnerships by targeting “companies with large sports ad budgets and companies predisposed to motorsports (i.e. NASCAR levels).”
Where the consulting firm might have erred is in declaring IndyCar “the best pure racing motorsports league in the U.S.,” then offering a handful of ideas that essentially gimmick up the series.
Among the most polarizing suggestions are a 15-race U.S. schedule held over 19 weeks, a three-race playoff at the end of the season and a finale on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
According to the report obtained by AP, the top 15 drivers in points would automatically qualify for the 18-driver playoff field. The other three spots would be filled the day before the Texas event via a “sprint wildcard” race open to any driver who participated in at least one event during the season. The top three finishers would round out the field.
Points would be reset to zero for the playoffs and would be awarded as usual for the first two races, Texas and Long Beach. The finale on the road course at Indy would receive double points, likely making it a winner-take-all race.
Yeah, purists should love that.
The hypothetical 15-race schedule, by the way, includes seven cities not currently on the IndyCar schedule. It dumps Barber, the Alabama road course that’s been good to IndyCar; stalwart Milwaukee, which Michael Andretti rescued last year; and Iowa, where passionate fans fill the stands every year.
Then there’s BCG’s marketing ploy of paying a “big personality” to join the series. It’s probably the most flawed idea in the entire report. The only way a paid A-list driver would have any long-term effect on the series is by being competitive, and there’s a pretty shallow pool of talent willing and capable of jumping into an Indy car and running up front.
In the end, the report is just a road map Miles could choose to follow for two aspects of the Hulman & Co. businesses.
He doesn’t have to do anything BCG suggested. He can tear the report up, use it to line the bottom of a bird cage, or, the more likely scenario, sit down with IndyCar’s key stakeholders and use portions of the report to kick-start discussions on what direction the series and the speedway should go.
That’s what he indicated he’ll do in his Friday night statement, saying: “The work BCG has done provides conversation points around several important areas of our business as we shape our thinking about the future, but our strategy has not yet been finalized.”
Hired in November to run the Hulman & Co. businesses, Miles’ most difficult task will be righting IndyCar. It’s going to be a monumental task that he won’t be able to do alone, he won’t be able to do this year and he won’t be able to do with a report.