American Open Wheel…

a breakfast rant.

So, as you many of you may know, I’m a managing editor/writer at a racing website. We started as a Champ Car centric site, covering the Champs and the feeder series (Atlantics).
When unifimergamalgimamorphacation happened we decided we would “transition” along with our teams and drivers. We also decided since we were now the more generic “OpenWheelWorld.net” that we would jump at the opportunity to cover some of the other major junior formulas in N.Amercia. Give those up and comers a little extra coverage and get to know the kids coming up the ladder. So we now cover IndyCar, Indy Lights, Atlantics, Star Mazda & Formula BMW. (and will add the odd article about other open wheel series if the situation warrants)

We do this as a labour of love. We rock on our own dime. We do it because the mainstream media doesn’t or won’t. I do it because over the years I got to know many of the players, especially the young drivers trying to make their mark in the world, and I figured if there was any way I could help them on their journey, I would, as I too reaped so much pleasure out of watching them pursue their dream.

So, fast forward to yesterday. All hands on deck. IndyCar was qualifying their final starting grid positions, Atlantics were qualifying for round 2 of their season. Star Mazda was contesting round 2 of their season, and Formula BMW was kicking off their season. Great! Busy day ahead for Meesh but I was looking forward to all the action!

but see, here is where the wheels fell off…

Were I not in possession of a computer, some savvy and some connections, I wouldn’t have had a fucking clue what was happening or when or where.

IndyCar gets an A, as they manage to provide some sort of coverage for anything that happens on track. Sometimes without any formal commentary, but nevertheless, there is live visual coverage. Apparently there was some TV coverage as well, but being that I live in Canada, ESPN2 is not an option. (nor should IndyCar be relegated to that channel… but that’s a separate rant) I had everything I needed to write my reports in a timely fashion, with very little effort or frustration on my part.

Atlantics get a C. Their trainwreck of a website (lots of now obsolete fluff, very little substance) is so out of date it’s infuriating. No schedule uploads. (had to go to the Laguna Seca website so I knew what the session times were) No Session reports. (they uploaded Friday’s practice times about 3 hrs after yesterdays 2nd qualifying session. Helpful huh?) The timing and scoring was working. The commentary however was from the Long Beach race. Again, not very helpful. And no working video coverage. Today I will hopefully be able to watch the race via their website. (since there is no tv coverage in Canada) We’ll see how that works out. I managed to get my articles up, but with very little flavour as I had no first hand accounts of anything that happened.

Star Mazda gets a C-. While their website was more up-to-date and cleaner, and they posted the session results in a more timely fashion, their timing and scoring was majorly fucked up. Surprising since they are hooked up to the IMSA site for that. It looked like it was working just fine, but see here is where the savvy and connections come into play. I happen to know John Edwards PR rep. I also happened to know that he had kicked ass and had smoked the field in practice. So I knew to give him a call when the timing and scoring showed him doing an installation lap then never returning to the track for qualification. Turns out he was on pole. Fast forward a couple of hours to the race. Again, no video coverage. IMSA radio was rebroadcasting some race from last weekend, and IMSA timing and scoring was again about as useless as a tit on a bull. This time John Edwards, who was on the pole remember, wasn’t even listed in the field. I watched, perplexed as the entire race unfolded, with no commentary, just times, and no JE. Again, a call to his PR rep (who btw is in Laguna with some of his other clients, not in Utah) to ask WTF?? was going on. He, being at the mercy of the T&S like I was, was equally perplexed. Turns out John had not only participated in the race, but had won by a substantial margin. A few hrs later I managed to get all the details in the SM press release. What I didn’t get however were any photo’s for editorial use. Nor did I get a response from the series PR rep when I wrote to request some for our coverage. Article up, hours after the fact, with an old Atlantic’s pic of John to coincide with it.

Formula BMW: They get a D. No schedule breakdown. No T&S. No video coverage. A press release that arrived at 11:30pm EDT and no photo’s to accompany the story available anywhere. It’s little wonder there are 4 teams and 10 drivers contesting this season. (two teams of 4 drivers btw…)

So, here’s the thing. We live in a N.America. A society filled with the most advanced information technology. Why then is it so fucking hard to provide timely and accurate accounts of the on track action in open wheel? Even something as simple as an email providing a timely session report with 2 or 3 photos for editorial use sent to a distribution list an hour after the event would do the trick.
Over in Nascarland, you not only know whats happening on and around the track, 24/7, but you know when every driver wipes his ass & what brand of toilet paper he uses. Then you get live coverage from 10 different angles on two or three networks, with a panel show to analyze it afterwards.

And what is it with these junior formula PR folks? Their series and their drivers are flying so fucking low under the radar that they don’t even register, yet someone contacts them for information to promote them and they ignore it. (I can’t tell you how many emails go unanswered) Ironically Champ Car was rarely any better as far as responses go. If you got a response, it was curt and mostly a one line answer, with no niceties. No big surprise that we were writing eulogies a month ago.

By sharp contrast, the “evil IRL” has been nothing but courteous, immensely helpful, & very welcoming. The media sites (for the series and the brickyard) are a plethora of information and access. Every email has been answered, with salutations, and if the person contacted didn’t have the answer, they not only replied but forwarded my email to the right person on the team. Just yesterday I received a reply from the brickyard folks. First she apologized for the tardy response. (it had been over a month, but I just assumed the answer was no as I was used to being ignored) Then she went about giving a detailed explanation. I replied right away thanking her for even replying at what surely had to be a crazy busy time for her, while adding a few other things. She replied again, right away! Such a simple thing but it makes all the difference in the world. Immediately my labour of love, and a lot of times inconvenient, attempts to cover the series is worth it. I know my efforts are appreciated by them. (Jeff Olson be damned!)

Someone else who gets it all right is A1GP. I had more access to their races, media, information and pictures, and they don’t even race in N.America! Their online coverage was amazing. Full live streaming video race coverage. Full live video podium. Full live video post race interviews. All free online. Cross platform. Simple.

So why do some get it so right and yet others get it all wrong?

Atlantic, Star Mazda and Formula BMW have no excuse!! Tell me those title sponsoring car companies don’t have the money and resources to at the very least have state of the art websites and I’ll tell you bullshit.

People sit and complain about the state of Open Wheel in this country. How we get no coverage, how sponsors ignore us. Well, when the sanctioning bodies of these series stop shooting themselves in the foot and start getting their acts together, only then will it change.

I feel bad for the drivers who are out there raising their own funding and busting their asses so they can pursue their dream. Hell, most drivers have more advanced websites than the series they are whoring themselves out to. What does that tell you?

So what is the answer? Well first of all, get your shit together people! Make some simple changes and build from there. Find an example of who gets it right, then emulate them, adapt, and make it work for you and if you don’t know how, ask! Cause I’m telling you, a few more days like yesterday, and I will be hard pressed to continue to put the effort in at my end.

7 responses to “American Open Wheel…

  1. Meesh, I think that the champ car site is pretty useful. For example, did you know that construction has begun on the famed Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Racing Circuit? 8 )

    It is sad.

    The other thing to mention about Nascarland is that, beyond their toilet paper choice, you can listen in on their scanners at home. So, you can watch the race while listening to (uncensored) scanners. How cool is that? Why can’t we do that everywhere? And, no, I don’t want to pay $21.95 per race to do it, thank you (my ISP offers this as part of their package – it’s free!).

    This gets me back to the broadcasting issue, too. I’d love to have the option to listen to Robin Miller and Tom Sneva online while watching the TV show. Or, hopefully, I could have my pick of 7 different combinations of reporters (maybe I’d choose the Meesh channel!). There is a bunch of unexploited potential in the web to make life better for the fans. We just have to wait for the organizations to get it.

    Not having someone to email people like you results is unforgivable: I am pretty sure our local quarter midget track could achieve that.

  2. LOL! touche!
    Seriously though, the CCWS site just pisses me off at this point. I understand that they fired the the person who took care of it, but really… it’s pathetic that there isn’t at least a statement or press release or something explaining what has happened. It’s like if they don’t acknowledge that the series doesn’t exist anymore, then maybe it didn’t happen… It’s a sad mirroring of the ineptitude that lead to the demise of the series in the first place.

    Yup, lots of unexplored options and opportunities to be tapped into. The Meesh channel! LOL! I had a friend try to convince me to do podcasts. Maybe next year…

    I did eventually get the results. Hrs after the events took place. Never did get a response from the PR guy though. Not even a thank you for your interest in our series generic response. Sad.

  3. I hear what your saying on the web side of things. Before the mergification, one thing that bugged me was the lack of Indycar.com web features. The CCWS site had the best online TMS and video streaming. Even now , IRL is still trying to catch up.

    I can’t speak for the PR side of things. But I can speak for the web side. I have been a web programmer for many years now, and have worked for several different companies. I have always been amazed at how little attention web functionality gets. Especially in the sports arena. I can’t think of a more cost effective way to keep fans interested, and gain new fans at the same time.

  4. Admittedly, I have no reference pre-merge as to what the state of IndyCar.com was. I do like what it is presently. And the media sites (separate to the main site) are brilliant! Transcripts, news/notes, event photos, PR photos. All in one place. All self serve. There is no excuse NOT to be able to cover the series. On top of that, they have humans that actually answer your inquiries and help you out.
    Save for one to two people at CCWS, I always felt unwelcomed and like I was constantly having to prove I “deserved” to cover Champ Car.

    Thank you for your web insight. I’m basically talking out of my frustrated ass when it comes to that side of things, but at this point in web development, it still amazes me how all websites aren’t completely user friendly (cross platform!!!) and interactive! I don’t know about anyone else, but the first thing I do when looking for information on someone or something is google them then go to the website. If the website is shitty, or severely out of date, that is a really bad first impression. I lose interest and move on.

    Truthfully I HATED the CCWS site. I went to it as little as possible. What a cluttered eyesore!

  5. If we’re talking media sites, NASCAR has that category pwned. By a lot.

    IndyCar’s media site has historically been pretty good but if you get a login for NASCAR’s media site you will be drowned in an avalanche of logos, photos, stories, data, statistics, and information you never knew you’d even think you’d consider needing to know.

    Say what you want about the quality of racing, but when it comes to dancing with the press NASCAR has everyone else totally blown away.

  6. Looks like the Atlantic series will be ladder series for the IRL. That is the word coming out of Laguna Seca. Atlantic’s may even run some ovals next year.

  7. What is ironic, is that i ran into a crew member from one of the Atlantics and he mentioned that there credentials are already linked with the Indy Car Series. When i was shown the badge-it clearly had the Indy logo on it-not a Champ Car logo to be found. mmmmm

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