Monday, December 6, 2010

Is there a "best interests of racing" clause?

Those of us who happen to remember Bowie Kuhn as the commissioner of baseball back in the day might remember his blocking of certain deals and contracts as not being in the "best interests of baseball".

Does IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard have that power as well? Because if he did he might want to use it.

Penske Racing had made two prior sponsor announcements in the last few days (Shell Oil and Meijer) and today threw down an absolute dagger today when series sponsor Izod followed Meijer in the switch from Andretti Autosport to Penske.

You can read it here:

Quite the shocker because 1) Izod kept spending money on Ryan Hunter-Reay with each strong result he posted and 2) Hunter-Reay has shown he is one of the better American drivers out there, and his partnership with Izod looked like a natural fit.

So is having some of the most lucrative sponsors in the series tied to just two teams -- Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing -- a good thing? It's good business from the companies' standpoint, I get that. In the end that might be the only thing that matters.

But from a team/racing standpoint, I think it cancels out some of the good things that have happened lately. Graham Rahal getting full sponsorship for 2011 (he's still shopping for a team) and Ed Carpenter stepping in for a retiring Sarah Fisher for nine races, if not more next year if he is successful, were certainly a step in the right direction.

But now Andretti Autosport seems to be hemmoraghing sponsors, with 7-11 leaving a couple of months ago, and now Meijer and Izod defecting as well. Danica Patrick is the only driver left in the stable whose sponsorship is set for 2011, and that is probably only because would follow her back to midgets if that's what she wanted to do.

A huge problem with the series is that competitive balance is totally skewed, and this makes it worse. To the victors go the spoils, and unless you are the NFL it always remains that way.

Fifteen wins and 15 poles going to just two teams (Ganassi and Penske) doesn't do a lot when it comes to generating excitement in the series. It's like the difference between big market and small market teams in baseball. When the small market doesn't have a chance most weekends, why pay attention?

Getting some semblance of that balance back into the series is crucial to its success. The big question is how can it be done?

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