Friday, November 27, 2009

Tony George to buy the IRL?

Recent published articles have mentioned Tony George’s plans to buy the Indy Racing League. Rumors have been sparse and little is known of George’s intentions since his June departure as CEO of IMS and the IRL. One thing appears to be clear, George is still on the prowl and seems to have his next plan in the works.

George has been the focal point of open wheel racing since he took control of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1990. The forever remembered split between CART and the newly formed Indy Racing League in 1996 has been a subject of interest among almost all open wheel fans, former and current. George appeared to have won that battle when unification with Champ Car in 2008 bridged the 12 year gap in open wheel racing series.

George’s new war appears to be more internal, as his sisters Nancy, Josie and Kathi appeared to be concerned with his spending and showed their displeasure by ousting him and therefore leaving him with nothing but his Vision Racing Team. Vision Racing was established in 2003, in part to help car counts and also proved helpful last year for Ryan Hunter Rheay, which paid off with his IZOD sponsorship.

For lack of a true timetable, lets put our own estimate on it and say 12 – 24 months from January of 2010.

George, with his love of open wheel racing, makes partner with Bruton Smith of Speedway Motorsports and buys the Indy Racing League from his sisters. George would be majority owner and could take over complete control of the IRL, making the IRL and IMS separate, in theory. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway would no longer have to finically support the IRL, because they would no longer be under the same umbrella of the Hulman George family. From a NASCAR perspective, think the France family and ISC, while separate corporations they still support each other and look out for each others best interest.

Now for the fun part – let’s talk about why this would work and could take the Indy Racing League to a level it has never achieved before.

When George takes command, he would have the power to return to oval based racing that the IRL was founded on. The IRL business model is still focused on a evenly split oval/road courses schedule. The IRL could focus its operations on finding solid street/road courses while not having to worry about racing at ovals at which they are no longer welcome (example ISC tracks). This would also take financial pressure off of the IRL as Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Inc. yearly revenue of $570 million would give the newly acquired George IRL time to steady and turn a profit with its new business model and partners in place. No longer would the IRL have to worry about the sisters making cuts and trimming the bottom line to fatten their pockets. George could also complete this transaction as the new cars in 2012 are starting to roll out. In theory if this happens in 12 months, he would oversee the last year of the current model of Dallara and all Honda engines. If George’s plan takes 18-24 months, then his newly acquired IRL rolls out new cars, multiple engine manufactures and a whole new platform for the IRL to produce their product, which is hopefully the best racing in the world.

This would give Speedway Motorsports Inc. a chance to expand its’ company, which already employees nearly 800 people and is possibly the most diverse racing company in the world. It would have part ownership in the IRL and allow Bruton Smith a chance to showcase his tracks with racing that only a fraction of Americans know about.

If you turn back the clock about 10-12 years, the infant IRL was a regular on SMI tracks. Charlotte, Atlanta, New Hampshire, Las Vegas, Kentucky, Infineon, and Texas have all featured IndyCar races before, the latter three still regulars on the schedule. The first Charlotte race featured over 80,000 fans, the second race similar numbers, until the third race featured a tire flying into stands and killed three fans.

Even if this plan never comes to reality, at least it was something good to think about!

Just think about the possibilities of tracks that now exist when Speedway Motorsports Inc becomes partner with the new Tony George IRL.

Race Tracks:

Atlanta Motor Speedway Hampton, GA
1.54 miles (2.48 km) quad-oval
Bristol Motor Speedway Bristol, TN
0.533 miles (0.858 km) oval
Infineon Raceway Sonoma, CA
1.99 miles (3.20 km) road course
Kentucky Speedway Sparta, KY
1.5 miles (2.4 km) tri-oval
Las Vegas Motor Speedway Las Vegas, NV
1.5 miles (2.4 km) D shaped-oval
Lowe's Motor Speedway Concord, NC
1.5 miles (2.4 km) quad-oval
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Loudon, NH
1.058 miles (1.703 km) oval
North Wilkesboro Speedway North Wilkesboro, NC
0.625 miles (1.006 km) oval
Texas Motor Speedway Fort Worth, TX
1.5 miles (2.4 km) quad-oval

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