21 July 2009

Is Something Rotten in IMS?

I'm trying to be optimistic about Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Joie Chitwood resigning from IMS, effective Aug. 6.

The optimist in me wants to believe that Chitwood truly wanted to relocate his family to his native Florida and taking a job with the International Speedway Corp. as vice president of business operations is the easiest way to do that. And maybe from within ISC, he could push them to bring more IndyCar events to their facilities.

The pessimist in me says that moving from the world's most famous racetrack to a racetrack ownership group is a lateral move at best, and possibly a step back.

The optimist in me wants to believe that Chitwood really did begin to consider his options for leaving IMS after bringing Moto GP to IMS in 2008.

The pessimist in me says that if I were the president of IMS, I'd be looking forward to the next 2-8 years at the track, completing the Centennial Era celebrations in 2011 and gearing up for the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016.

The optimist in me hopes that the removal of Tony George from his role as president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation had nothing to do with Chitwood leaving.

The pessimist in me looks at the loss of Chitwood (and his salary) as another cost-cutting measure at IMS. If the IMS board was worried about losing money with George in charge, wouldn't cutting Chitwood's salary be an easy way to save six figures (I have no idea what Chitwood makes, but I'm comfortable guessing it's low-six figures)?

And since indications are that IMS won't look to immediately fill the position, doesn't it stand to reason that the board may have looked at the books and said "If we have a president of the IMS Corp., why do we need a president of IMS? Can't the board president run IMS on a day-to-day basis?"

Truly, I think Joie Chitwood may have seen the writing on the wall when the IMS board started taking a hard look at the bottom line and moved laterally (at best) to ISC.

I've heard some say that Chitwood didn't do anything during his time at IMS to distinguish himself. I would disagree - he is largely credited for pushing Moto GP to come to 16th and Georgetown, bringing revenue to the track after Formula 1 wanted to wring every last cent (schilling?) from IMS. With Moto GP on board, IMS was able to send F1 packing and bring a fresh event to Indianapolis - and a highly profitable event.

Off the track, Chitwood was one of the proponents for Speedway redevelopment project. Now, his departure won't affect the project, but having the president of the world's most famous racing facility didn't hurt. Though with more than 2,000 jobs slated to come to Speedway, if things don't work out in Daytona Beach, Chitwood could probably find something in Speedway.

Whenever Chitwood spoke about IMS, I always came away impressed; it seemed to me like he had a passion for the Brickyard (the track, not the race) and wanted to restore the Indianapolis 500 to its former glory. And with the Centennial Era and momentum from IndyCar's reunification, I think Chitwood had the track headed in the right direction.

Now, hopefully things continue to progress (and competitive racing would solve a lot of this), but I feel bad that Chitwood won't be at IMS to see his work all the way through.

No comments:

Post a Comment