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DMG/AMA Pro Racing equals a goat rodeo

August 24th, 2008 · No Comments · Racing

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The miserable impasse between AMA Pro Road Racing and the professional road racing community is steadily worsening. This is very unsettling. Not because it is affecting any of the other racing disciplines, but because it belies a deep-rooted management flaw at AMA Pro Racing.

The behavior of AMA Pro Racing toward the road race community looks a lot like the sort of corporate raider mentality personified by people like “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap.

I don’t know what’s wrong. I have previously said that DMG will eventually get it right. I base this on four basic principles:

  • Professional racing is a business. As such it should be run by a business, in a for-profit manner. Business provides the only structure, and profit the only objective measuring stick, that can effectively measure success. This is, of course, the worst possible system except for all the others.
  • Professional racing is a sporting event. As such it must be run in an open and fair environment that is free from inherent conflicts of interest. The sport of professional racing cannot be run by any of the primary participants — including drivers/riders, manufacturers/factories, fans, or various special interests.
  • Professional motorsports in general, and professional motorcycle racing in particular, is a niche. Success in a niche requires a dedicated, specialist business model that can identify, assess, and serve all the narrow, critical interests that are part of the niche.
  • Business has a very clear failure model. If you have no customers, constituents, or participants in your niche you have no profits. And no business.

It is this last point that is perhaps most relevant, and is why I said that DMG will, ultimately, get it right. Their very survival depends on it. This could not be said of the old AMA model, or of LiveNation. The principals at DMG have all the credentials and track record to indicate they know these things. So why have they gotten this whole road racing thing so terribly wrong?

I don’t know. Maybe it is little more than hubris bred from years of running the world’s most successful motorsports franchise in NASCAR. Maybe they have forgotten they can fail. Maybe they have forgotten that they do not, in fact, have all the answers.

Maybe Roger Edmondson is confused. NASCAR is a decidedly blue-collar, beer-drinking sport. It’s rough and tumble, and there is a distinct connection between NASCAR fans and pro wrestling. This is not the profile of the typical road racing aficionado. But you would think Edmondson’s GrandAm Sports Car Series would be a good reference point…

I only know what I read in the papers and see on TV, but it appears that AMA Pro Racing have made a series of inexcusable, rookie-like errors — at least with the road racing program. They seem to have alienated every one of their constituents in one way or another. They have taken the least tarnished star in the old AMA stable and dipped it in a corrosive bath. This is bad. Very, very bad.

I cannot imagine Roger Edmondson is getting kudos from his bosses in the France organization. I cannot imagine he is getting kudos anywhere. I have to hope that he can put his ego aside, admit he’s gotten it terribly wrong, and start over. He’s only a few months into this. It’s not too late to get it right.

But remember what I said in point four, it’s very clear when a business fails. At this rate it won’t take long for AMA Pro racing to start hemorrhaging money. This will quickly change their approach. Or they will simply get out and sell the remaining carcass to someone else. (Just like what Daimler did with Chrysler.) The downside is we could be left with that rotting carcass.

It’s also possible we could see Edmondson removed. Often the only thing bigger than a big-time corporate CEO’s salary is his ego. Because of this they tend to fail spectacularly. When they get something wrong, they get it really wrong. And when they don’t back down the shareholders and the board get really antsy. Big-time CEO’s get ousted all the time. And their leash is getting shorter. Given how quickly this road race mess has escalated it’s likely that Edmondson is already feeling pressure. We won’t know that, of course. Not until the day he announces he is stepping down to “spend more time with family.” At that point AMA Pro Racing either gets their own act together or does what they’ve done with motocross – hand it off to a better suited management group and continue to operate the overall business of motorcycle racing.

Either way, I suspect we won’t have long to wait…

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