It continues to amaze me how large organizations like IMS continue to be reticent to working with online journalists. In the Internet Age you only have one chance to get it right when a situation like this arises. Those entities that work with online journalists tend to reap the rewards of increased exposure to a younger more tech savvy audience attractive to advertisers. In an industry so sponsor sensitive as motorsports, you would think the folks at IMS would be averse to picking a fight with a blogger over such a minor request. I didn't ask for much, just simple courtesy normally extended to other journalists - some of them even locals!
As someone who has been attending the Indianapolis 500 for about three decades, I'm not in the least bit surprised by the IMS' attitude towards blogs. The IRL has demonstrated time and time again that it is inferior in every aspect to NASCAR. You wouldn't have thought it would have been possible 15 years ago to take the "greatest spectacle" in sports and turn into just another ho-hum sporting event, but the IMS and IRL, both under the control of the Hulman-George family, have managed to do just this. No longer can it claim to have the greatest drivers in racing. They've long since headed to NASCAR or Formula racing. Most of the drivers in the 500 have virtually no name recognition and a nearly invisible fan base. The sentiment of one blogger sums up the state of the IRL:
The 2007 season looks to be a complete model of last season. The same four drivers are going for the victories and making a run at the championship while the rest of field watches and wonders from behind as a cloud of smoke blows by them.
You can't say the same about NASCAR. With more than double the number of drivers in the field, even the least known NASCAR drivers have a bigger following than most of the IRL drivers. NASCAR's online following is particularly strong. There's no shortage of blogs following NASCAR. Blogs like NASCAR Ranting and Raving Blog keep NASCAR fans up-to-date on the comings-and-goings.
The Indianapolis 500 has an annual tradition. The IMS hands out free tickets to every state legislator and dozens of other state and local officials to attend the race. Someone might want to consider whether that strategy is helping in any way draw new fans to the event, let alone the thousands of fans who've been abandoning the event in recent years. When you can walk up to the ticket window on the day of the race and purchase a ticket, it really hits you how bad a turn the 500 has taken. Once upon a time the race was automatically sold out the next year by virtue of ticket renewals turned in by the previous years' attendees. The IMS would be wise to study NASCAR and learn why the racing fans of the future belong to NASCAR--before it's too late, if it's not already too late.