Indycar Fan Adrift for 40 Days and 40 Nights

With an innate sense of purpose, I’ve refused to post anything regarding the firing of Randy Bernard. Most of you have already heard my initial viewpoint via Twitter anyway (“I’m DONE with constantly being taken for a ride down a dark alley by Indycar”).

Now 40 days on, and hopefully with the shock of the dismissal largely over, I wanted to fully assess what is going on with Indycar before I open my yapper.

Those who have read much I’ve written know I’ve been at different times supportive, critical, realistic, fatalistic, fanatical, and possibly overall even-handed with regard to Indycar, but above all, one stance I’ve maintained consistently over the many years since 1995 – apologist.  ‘Apologist’ is a noun defined by Merriam-Webster as “one who speaks or writes in defense of something.” I’m finding that position unbearable anymore.

Beginning with the dawn of the IRL in 1995, my position as fan has always been under attack either from the opposing side of the open-wheel war, lacking TV coverage, from the burgeoning masses clamoring for the lower common denominator that is NASCAR, to the fractious within IRL itself. 

The history of the ‘whys and wherefores’ is out there to be read and re-read and evaluated for perspective and factual basis, ad nauseum, AND, unlike more recent fans, I can actually recall living it. The fact remains that since the mid-90s, Indycar has put the sport and especially the fan in consistently less tenable positions.

So, Indycar, here’s about where I am at this point: 
(NOT counting the 15 years following the sport prior to 1994) During your current 18-year slide into oblivion, I’ve done the following; 

  • defended the sport, 
  • supported the sport, 
  • cajoled friends to watch on TV, 
  • cajoled friends and family to see a race, 
  • organized groups of 4-13 people to see 34 races, 
  • bought numerous race tickets, 
  • bought numerous camping passes, 
  • bought merchandise, food, books, hats, shirts, videos, games, flags, museum trips, 
  • made thousands of dollars in product sponsor purchases, 
  • taken bus rides, taken indycar rides, 
  • fan group memberships, bought paddock passes, 


and JUST when I begin to feel like maybe things were on the uptick and I can begin to think about not having to be an Apologist for the sport, you:

  • eliminate the most fan-focused CEO of the sport since Tony Hulman, 
  • replace Bernard with a prior, lackluster, and fan-indifferent CEO,
  • proclaim status quo for 2013,
  • promise to ‘reach out to stakeholders’ (i.e. everyone BUT the fans),
  • eliminate the West Coast office which had a conduit to all the media and marketing potential that is L.A.,
  • continued talk of ‘paring down’ budgets,
  • look at extending already bad TV deals beyond 2018,
  • lose IZOD as title sponsor prematurely,

And you’re surprised that I am done taking your crap?!

You’re goddamned right I am. Yes, I apparently am STILL mad as hell (truthfully since 1994), and I am NOT taking it anymore.

It is unfortunate that you, Indycar, are that unbelievably, stunningly, hopelessly out of touch with your most loyal, longest running, and engaged suckers ehr.. fans.

So you see, Indycar, it is not me who is letting you down, it is you. 

Don’t worry about me though, Indycar, I’ll be fine. I still have people I consider friends who understand where I’m coming from. I have old memories of how great it once was. I have tons of enjoyment to be found on old videos and YouTube and other sparkly internet places where we can recall a day when the product was a premium and the fan was well-served.

I won’t be your apologist anymore.



Now THAT’S a season.

As Indycar seasons go, that was one of the absolute best in recent history and as good as any I can remember. The finale was all anyone could ask for (save for maybe Will Power and Penske).

Seriously people, how could one have any beef at all with the ON-track product this year?   


Lists and bullet-points are to my thought process as Salt and Vinegar kettle chips (or perhaps a fine Belgian White Wheat ale) are to my taste buds (can’t not partake in them) so any doubters may want to try to fairly consider the following items of 2012;

  • the aggregate depth of talent for the entire field, 
  • the aggregate competitiveness of teams throughout the field, 
  • the aggregate competitiveness of equipment through the field (Lotus motors being the only real glaring exception),
  • the quality of racing provided by the new equipment, rules, and officiating,
  • the variety of venues to test driver versatility, 

It’s hard to quickly come up with another season that beats the one just finished.  Given the current auto-racing and economic climates, what more can we fans really and truly ask for?  Before a critic can list the requisite (and typically relatively minor) bitch-du-jour, consider these stats:

The 15 Races (5 ovals, 10 road/streets) of the 2012 season yielded:

  • 8 different winners
  • 5 different winning team owners
  • 5 different teams in the Top 10 of points
  • a first-year team owner in winner’s circle
  • a Championship hanging in the balance until the completion of the final lap of the final race
  • a record-setting number of passes for the lead in the Indy 500 
  • an Indy 500 win in the balance among 17 leader-lap drivers going into the final lap



Feel free to do some requisite research by purchasing the combined Indycar records book.  I’ve already looked up three sample seasons from the Golden Era of CART/PPG Champions (1983, 1987, 1991, not including any USAC Championship Points listing). 

Here’s the tale of the tape:


1983 – 13 races (7o, 6 r/s), 7 winners, 7 winning teams, 8 teams in Top 10.
          (can you imagine the uproar if we had just 13 races today?!)
1987 – 15 races (5o, 10 r/s), 7 winners, 6 winning teams, 9 teams in Top 10.
1991 – 17 races (5o, 12r/s), 7 winners, 5 winning teams, 6 teams in Top 10.

When you consider the ratio of different winning teams vs. number of teams scoring championship points for those years, 2012 had the highest (5:15, 1:3) weighed against 1983 (6:24), 1987 (5:23), 1991 (5:19), one could argue that 2012 had more evenly spread competition than during the heyday of the CART years. 

I know, I know… figures lie and liars figure, but I think it’s safe to say there is reasonable evidence to support the feeling I’ve had these last several months that 2012 was as good as any season we’ve seen.

If anyone still has any doubts about the greatness of the 2012 season, I encourage them to spend some time early in this off-season, go back into the records, and get a more clear picture of the schedule and competition in those golden days. They just might find that today isn’t as bad as they think… if they care enough to get an accurate picture that is.

If you haven’t yet bought the combined records book, you may use the terrific and free resources of ChampCarStats.com or even search Wikipedia for solid CART/Indycar info.

This off-season might seem unusually long coming off the great race and season finish we had in Fontana. Increase your INI (Indycar Nerdery Index) and check out some history while we wait for 2013..

..should the Mayan apocalypse theory fail us, anyway. 

Gangnam Style

Indycar peeps need some Gangnam Style


If you don’t know WTF I’m talking about, do not proceed until you open the above link in a new tab in your browser, then watch it… then watch it again… and then one more time to let it all soak in.

South Korean Dance Pop may not be the world’s predominant form of music but, despite SoKo’s relatively recent affluence, it is one that enjoys itself and doesn’t take itself too seriously. How can it? Why should it? I think the above music video (remember those?) is a stellar example of showing how fun taking yourself not soooooo seriously can be.

Indycar is closing it’s 2012 season this weekend and, when you consider the total competitiveness each race, and depth of the fields of all races, multiplied by the breadth of talent required to maintain competitiveness at the variety of venues, I contend that 2012 has been one of the greatest seasons Indycar has ever turned out. 

BUT, that’s just my personal opinion.

Do I feel bad if no one outside of Indycar’s 400,000 loyal followers sees it? I used to, but that feeling week in and week out slowly gnaws away at the enjoyment of it until you hit bone and then there’s really nothing left to enjoy.

I’m not about to go on a rant bemoaning the whys or rail against the wherefores. It’s been done ad nauseum and, at the end of the day, as a fan who chooses to consume the product or not, it doesn’t matter. 

Why we (the greater Indycar fanbase/community) feel the need to be more widely accepted beyond our nice little table near the back of the cafeteria has grown quite tiresome, unhelpful, and more questionable by the day to me. 

If the model that currently exists is sustainable and even allows some room for modest growth, so be it and who the fuck cares beyond that?

400,000 Indycar loyalists worldwide means Indycar is a niche sport – simple as that. Indycar will be whatever it’s going to be. People will love it or not. If you’re enjoying Indycar, enjoy it to the maximum!  

Accept it.

Own it.

Enjoy it for what it is. 

ENJOY THE HELL OUT OF IT!

Or not. 


That’s Gangnam Style.


Alternate End-of-Race Options


Green. White. Checkered.

Three words which, among a vast majority of Indycar fandom, produce stomach convulsions so violent, you’d think RC and SunDrop just issued an ipecac flavor.

The thought of the Indycar higher-ups even considering this type of conjured, made-for-dopes, end to a top level racing series event is horrific enough, but as so often is the case, I wondered what it would be like to reverse my thought process and embrace this newfangled thinking. Maybe I too could come up with some alternate types of Indycar finishes of worth. Surely the racing gods are aware the earthbound, mortal NASCAR fans cannot fathom or appreciate the fates of a race-ending yellow. What effect would an Indianapolis 507.5 International Sweepstakes have on our sometimes-combined/sometimes not/demi-official Indycar records book? 

I came up with no less than three crazy ideas only a Granatelli could love…

Yellow. Red. Green. Checkered. (aka Qindao Fire Drill)

With 2 laps to go of all Indycar races, we throw the yellow as soon as the leader hits the Start/Finish line. Under control of the pace car before the first turn, we bring the field around the course and into their respective pit boxes, where the red flag is displayed. All cars stop, drivers unbuckle, exit the car, run around the car, get back into the car as quickly as possible. As soon as a driver is re-buckled, the crew re-fires the car and out of the pits to a green flag lap for the end of the race. Any incident on the said green lap which may cause a yellow flag to be thrown again, will result in the same process until we get a full green flag final lap. The winner is showered in victory lane with confetti thrown by the famous Rip Taylor. Only with such reverence are lasting traditions born.

Firestone Spin to Win

All races run to fit a scheduled TV window less 20 minutes when all cars return to their pits and the Firestone tire flip stage from Texas 2011 is highlighted on victory lane. Firehawk rapid-fire launches t-shirts into the crowd. IZOD Cameron approaches the stage and randomly selects from a group of wheel guns which are numbered and assigned to a correspondingly numbered wheel. She moves to the Firestone wheel wall and uses the guns on its matching wheel/lug nut. The TV audience, no doubt breath bated, watches as Cameron uses the gun and slowly removes the wheel which reveals a lap number on the wheel hub. The leader of the revealed lap number is your race winner. Made for TV! Wait’ll Marty and Scott hear about this! They’ll positively be slightly elevated above placid with excitement.
Pros – Firestone amortizes the cost of that wacky tire wall and more Cameron!
Cons – I don’t really care to examine this side of the argument because.. CAMERON! 

The Brady Bunch

Leave it to Mike Brady to come up with such an equitable and efficient solution. He was an architect after all. Race is run in typical manner until the penultimate lap when a competition yellow is thrown and all cars not on the lead lap must pit, television coverage ceases immediately. Abridged from the season 5, episode 20 storyline of The Brady Bunch, the remaining cars follow the pace car from pit out. Orange cones with an egg on top for each of the remaining cars are set up across the start/finish line. To complete the final lap, the cars all come to a cone and stop as closely as possible without touching the cone or breaking the egg. Closest  measured nose to their orange cone is the winner. THE Orange Cone of Twitter fame will have exclusive rights to the tweet the finish to the world and Florence Henderson will serenade the victor with Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’.

Ridiculous? Perhaps. I contend they are ALL better than a green-white-checkered.

Leave your mark on the future of Indycar by commenting and vote now for your favorite! Suggest a great idea of your own! I promise to take all of these options directly to Indycar headquarters and deliver them directly to the hand of one Randall Bernard myself, for he is THAT accessible*.

(*While incredibly open and engaging with fans, he is not THAT accessible).


Indycar’s Drama – Untapped Veins of Gold?

As you, my much-appreciated (and very select) readers may have noticed, this blog has taken a mid-summer’s fortnight siesta and actually it appears a little break from the E85 ethanol fueled contrivances was just what the Dr. Jerry Punch ordered. I feel ready to open my eyes and enjoy the Indycar universe again… 


(but his demeanor and unwillingness to look his readers in the eye betrayed his statements of goodwill as a lie…)   DUHN-DUHN-DUUUUHHHHNNNNNNNN…

Hmmmmmm…

Was just reading a post from.. our good friend.. Mister.. Bill.. ZAAAHHHRRENNNN (aka the mighty pressdog), who has ongoing advice for the majority of kerfuffled blog and forum voices that cannot seem to ever find a common-sense middle-ground on matters relating to Indycar (Iowans are perhaps the most effective of midwesterners like that – common-sensical, middle-grounded). Even I, who purport to be ‘Grounded’ (hence the naming of this blog) admittedly get my raceday knickers twisted now and again (not in a good way). I even shake my head at myself when in a heated Indycar moment I can almost see the disappointed stare and hear the paternal words of Uncle pressdog chiding me from the ZOMGoodness reactions that I muster from time to time.

Then it hit me.

Perhaps the desire to reduce the drama associated with Indycar is the exact opposite thing we need. Perhaps to INCREASE the viability of said dramas, a’la Soap Operas, is a way to increase the total populous of eyeballs, thereby increasing numbers across the board (I can hear your shrieks and groans, but hear me out). Danica was a perhaps but an unintended experiment into capturing the fans of drama which, by most accepted accounts, garnered many thousands of new fans. Properly nurtured (aka exploited), these everyday dramas can be used for the expansion of the sport (the owners and drivers must be in on the act as well for this to work). I daresay the almighty NASCAR is already a fer-piece up the road from Indycar on this one, but not out of sight.

Racing as a ‘true sport’ in my view is for the most part, deceased. Much as the ‘race for space’ galvanized country, government, and tax revenue into the ever-escalating and literal heights for supremacy, there comes a point at which the economic Law of Diminishing Returns (I’ve spoke of before) will begin to fight back at the pure progress gained by the input of money (capital). Only by inputting exponentially more and more money will noticeable levels of progress be made while fewer and fewer participants will exist. CART much? 

Professional Wrestling, as another good-blogger-friend, Mark Wilkinson noted in his blog New Track Record, has long lost any semblance of its Olympic sport origins and become the testosterone-fueled, pyrotechnic offspring of gymnastics and the afternoon soap opera. Racing as a form of entertainment, he contends, rather than pure sport is what appears to currently flourish. I find it very hard to argue against his point.


Perhaps I should reframe my stance by borrowing a definition of ‘soap opera’.Take this excerpt recapitulating the form of modern soap opera from the website of The Museum of Broadcast Communications
The “soap” in soap opera alluded to the sponsorship by 
manufacturers of household cleaning products; 
while “opera” suggested an ironic incongruity between the 
domestic narrative concerns of the daytime serial and
the most elevated of dramatic forms.
It isn’t difficult to see the similarities between this description of soap operas and the existing Indycar or NASCAR as a form of soap racing entertainment. Both are some ways removed from the most elevated or purest of racing forms (for good reason I’d argue – cost in both life and resources). The drama? We’ve had quite a bit of it already just in these past 2 seasons haven’t we?

Are we missing a larger audience for Indycar events by trying to extinguish the drama du jour or can Indycar gain previously unwatching eyeballs by showcasing the very interesting things going on over here and, oh by the way, they do this amazing stuff at over 200mph

Is Indycar the place where racing is the backstory is equally if not more important than the on-track outcome? 

I can’t answer those questions, but I will pose them.

NASCAR supporters already shows a willingness to consider trading the science of racing for the art of entertainment when one of its larger event promoters is willing to publicly suggest scripted yellow flag periods. While largely scoffed at, I’m not so sure it isn’t a bad idea for the NASCAR bunch. It’s not much different than timeouts or periods or playclocks or shotclocks in most other popular American diversions when you look at it. It’s all manufactured drama. It also implies that the original elements of the sport are inherently not good enough for the viewing public or they wouldn’t have changed them, but I digress..

Ultimately, this thing, auto-racing, must become either science or art. Both avenues are expensive in their own right, but for Indycar to try this ‘double-major’ in such divergent fields will be impossible and the time to decide is yesterday.

2012 Milwaukee Indyfest and a Joule of an Idea

With the Milwaukee Indycar race being the final leg of our 12-day family summer vacation, you’ll forgive me for not posting since just before the Indy 500 race weekend.So much has already transpired and been written by others since my last post for me to fathom another recap so I’ll simply jump to the here and now.


In short, my first trip to the Milwaukee Mile was great. Not only did it cap a terrific extended family vacation, but I left quite satisfied at the ease we had in doing most everything in and about the track. Luck perhaps, but I feel more than comfortable considering the trip again for 2013. Also, I found the Milwaukee Indyfest plan and execution quite good for the venue and would encourage them to adopt the same ‘event-based’ approach in the future. With kids, we took advantage of the midway and family fun zone which added much value for us in addition to the racing event itself. Full marks for Andretti and his team for producing an enjoyable event around the race.  


I have noted in the past on this blog that outside of the Indy 500, Indycar must create an ‘event’ at each stop to draw more than just adults interested solely in Indycar racing or  relatively uninterested persons there because a corporation doles out the free tickets and swag. Andretti Sports Marketing did a terrific job on an abbreviated timeframe in my opinion.


And now, for what may be the best little gem I found during the Indyfest… The Joule


I am the first to admit that any sort of engineer I am not, but also in previous posts here and here, I contend the series needs to consider developing its platform around propulsion system competition. In light of the recent victory by a ‘hybrid’ engine at the 24 hours of LeMans, efficient propulsion systems will only continue to become a larger factor in passenger car decision-making. If Indycar can become a showcase for a variety of propulsion systems and hybrids of those with an emphasis on efficient power, it can entrench itself in the automotive racing landscape of the future.


With that in mind, I was struck by a non-descript booth in the Fan Village of the Milwaukee Indyfest. Hosted by the Milwaukee School of Engineering, this group displayed an open-wheeled vehicle used in a recent competition utilizing battery electric and internal combustion motors to propel their vehicle on (what I recall in a brief conversation as, but don’t quote me) 20 megajoules of energy equivalent over a 22km street course. First team to cross the finish line with the given amount of energy available, wins. 


Apparently the Joule is the measure for multiple forms of energy (combustibles, electric, etc.) I’ve been longing to discover as a means of having an equivalent measure of energy to apply to multiple forms of racing propulsion. The megajoules used in the above contest was described to me as the equivalent of energy that would be provided (if used entirely as gasoline) by approximately one-eighth gallon of standard 87-octane automobile fuel in an internal combustion system to go 13 miles (roughly 104 mpg) or taken as all-electric power would equate to approximately 5.5 kilowatt hours. The MSOE car utilized both battery electric motors and a small internal combustion motor to propel their vehicle.


I was fascinated by the possibilities this type of racing could present and really believe it is the wave of the future which should be embraced as quickly as possible. Does it need to be the primary racing form for Indycar now? Not initially, but could be addressed as an experimental class that races concurrently at several of Indycar’s variety of venues, with the future possibilities to be explored from there. 


Ultimately, I see the continued challenge to develop the most efficient of multiple forms of propulsion as what will become the prime focus for manufacturers and producers of mobility vehicles. Where brute speed was once king, things eventually changed and the future almost certainly holds the continued refinement of efficient power. The DeltaWing begins to scratch the surface from the physical load side of the equation. The propulsion system is the other.


I would love nothing more than for Indycar to become that major player in developing or becoming the series that allows these companies to showcase the newest in propulsion technology. 


I also hope I (or at least my kids) will be around to see it.

Jay Penske Redux and post-Election Diatribe

What was that?! Oh no… another post with “Redux” in the title.

A recapitulation of a previous post. Another lazy-assed post by a lazy-assed blogger.


Hard to argue, but after reading the details of the Jay Penske civil suit against Lotus by Marshall Pruett, I couldn’t help but have this ‘haven’t we heard this before?’ feeling.  


As my tens of readers will attest, I sometimes deal with emotional situations by making a parody song fit into the world of Indycar.  Pippa Mann was the most recent recipient back in March of this year.

I also had made a song about Jay Penske in April of 2011. When it seems all this guy wants to do is field an Indycar team, circumstances conspire to make it as difficult as possible for him.  In the words of Mister Calhoun Tubbs, “Wrote a song ’bout it. Liketohearit?hereitgo..”


Now that you’ve re-elected me to Indycar blogger of North-central Indiana region, I wish to address some issues related to our fair sport…  
*guzzles double-shot of whiskey… deep breath*…  Okay.

– The Cars: 
NO the cars aren’t the beasts they used to be in the 70s and 80s, and NO they most likely never will be again. Get over it already. There are two good reasons that these days are gone forever… money (the lack thereof) and liability (the abundance of it). 

The question of “How fast do you want to go?” will always be answered with the question, “How much money do you have to spend?” Even the supposed highest heights of worldwide automotive excellence (F1) have to set some restrictions and you now have a modified form of restricted racing. The days of ‘unlimited budgets’ are gone. Unlimited racing doesn’t exist. What’s left is the perceived level of performance relative to the technology of the day. For the record, NASCAR, while quite popular, I still consider a form of racer-tainment, not racing. It’s more about the drama of the various characters and interactions (off- and on-track). Often compared to Professional Wrestling with good reason, Pro Rasslin’ and NASCAR have for many years not been about the technical aspects as much as the character drama presented.

When the sport of open-wheel racing was at it’s peak, people often got killed in racing cars. They still do, albeit much less frequently, and racers have always signed up for a occupation which is dangerous in the extreme, but when fans get injured, maimed, and even killed, that’s when the ‘shit gets real’. To add ever-increasing power and speed and danger to vehicles and place them in relative close proximity to thousands of fans is not asking the question of “if?” but “when?”.  One way of mitigating this is to beg plead and promise the insurance companies and leagues that as venues, they’re doing all they reasonably can to protect the spectators. Making the cars more dangerous and faster is doing the exact opposite and endangering the lives of drivers, crews, and fans alike. Quite honestly, you can print all the warnings and disclaimers on ticket stubs you like, the venue, league, teams, drivers, and hot dog vendors will be named in the litigation. Let’s face it, without venues, we have no racing.

– The Venues:
I’m going to say that last bit again. Without venues, we have no racing. Venues must make money to survive. Racing venues trade danger and speed and perceived competition for your money and the right to see it at their place. They also have massive liability and the job of pleasing thousands of people at each event. I honestly think you must a fair bit nuts to want to own and run any sports venue let alone one made specifically for racing. When people pay money to an event, they want to see something they can’t see anywhere else and can’t on TV. With TV in this age, there is precious little the viewer doesn’t see or isn’t made aware of via graphics and statistics. 

For racing, I believe the ‘Event’ is the event and there must be more than the action on the track, especially when the action is diluted for the perceived safety of all. The Indy 500 is an example of that. It is one tremendous event, and the perception of a world-class event makes it a world-class event.

– The Product:
You may note I’ve used the word ‘perception’ several times. ‘Perception’ is roughly defined as ‘what we believe we engage’. When we believe something is great, we vote with our $$ to support it. Likewise in reverse. Perception of ‘greatness’ and ‘amazing’ and ‘forward’ usually is rewarded by the eager onlookers of the public (and then sponsors eager to gain attention of the onlookers) with showers of money. Indycar as a series has lacked a perception of greatness for somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 years. Perhaps there was really nowhere else for it to go but down from the heights achieved in the 70s and 80s. I contend that it was as much a function of the loss of the greatest names from the greatest era of Indycar, in a span of 24 months as all other factors combined. Yes, the split was a huge factor as well, yet the without this loss of these great names so rapidly, I believe the split doesn’t go down as it did.

I see one way the fans will perceive Indycar racing as great again (not merely ‘good’ or ‘good enough’, but great) and make them pour out money to see it. By giving the people something they cannot see anywhere else AND giving them something they haven’t seen before, Indycar has a great opportunity to leap back into relevance. What that is, is for the Owners of Indycar to discern through major market study and analysis. What I believe the public is ready for is what I like to call.. brace yourselves… Ultimate Efficiency.  

The ‘quest for speed’ days are over. Been there. Been to the edge and back. Think of Indycar much like the Apollo program – there were failures and amazingly great successes in the Apollo program (at immense expense also) and we barely got out of Apollo 13 without suffering an incredible disaster with the whole world watching. Somehow, Indycar has survived the most dangerous, most reckless times relatively unscathed and now it’s time to find a better way. A new threshold that I believe can capture the imagination of the public however is the pursuit of Ultimate Efficiency. So many products in this day and age have gone from power- and size-based values to efficiency-based value. How efficient can our propulsion systems be? What is the most efficient form of propulsion? Who will have the next amazing idea that will spur on automotive technologies?  How far and how fast can we go 500 miles on limited amounts of energy input? 

Those answers, I believe, should be answered in the form of the new INDYCAR series. Yes, folks, the new INDYCAR. The series and sport as we currently see it (much as I like it) is a dead-end, we’re just waiting to hit the wall to be sure at this point. That wall may be 9, 10, or 11, 14, or 19 years away… no matter. If INDYCAR wants to be proactive and create something to supply the demand of an intrigued public (and future fans) for the next 50 years, I see the open world of multiple forms of propulsion and high-efficiency as the basis of what future fans of people will want to see.  I’m talking about combustible fuels of all sorts, electricity, hydrogen, solar, hot air, flux capacitors, whatever.  Establish a relative unit of energy for these various types of energy usage and set a limit for a given distance to be achieved through a vehicle with specified limits on dimension, weight, coeffcient of drag, and including a standard driver safety cell. Whoever can do it within the energy limit and do it the fastest, wins.

I happen to think that when you engage all the right people in the process of creating an inventive and engaging product (the world’s inventing and manufacturing companies of propulsion systems, and to a lesser degree aerodynamics, suspensions, wheels, tires, etc.), I see them pouring money into the sport and creating a product that engages the public immensely.  The demand for personal mobility vehicles will never go away, it just changes over time.  A glimpse of the future is what the public wants to see. When that future-looking public is engaged, the sponsors will be there, the media will be there, and the money will be there.

IS INDYCAR the platform? I would like it to be. I would like INDYCAR to honor the history and tradition of innovation that built the sport. That innovation is what drove the people’s imagination and desire. Innovation is what created the legendary vehicles (both great and not-so-great) and legendary pilots who drove them. 

Involving innovation (primarily through propulsion forms) is the ONLY way I see the sport of auto-racing surviving beyond the next 20 years.

Or do you think I’m waaaaay off-base? I’d love for you to read this diatribe, digest it a bit, and tell me what you honestly think.  I’m a big boy, I can take it.

Equinox

The Equinox is a moment in time when the orbit of the Earth (on its tilted axis) crosses a point in the orbit where it is directly aligned with the plane of the sun.  As the earth rotates on this day, March 20, 2012, the sun will appear directly overhead when viewed from the equator and always on the horizon when viewed from the geographic poles. It is also one of only two days of each year when the sunrise to sunset time is closest to being 12 hours difference.


Symbolically this day signals change: days become longer than nights; and, as the sun marches northward in the sky, a welcome warming begins the spring season in the Northern hemisphere. 


I happen to think it is terrific, even if perhaps unintentional, that the first race of this Indycar season occurs on the weekend following the March equinox. After this long and tumultuous off-season, especially following the October race in Las Vegas, and on the cusp of   seeing the newest generation of Indycars, I am more than ready to step into the light of a new season. 


Despite my eagerness for racing action (and fears of driver impatience), I also wish to take this symbolic moment for one last thoughtful pause before the Indycar wheels again are turned in full contest in this newest of seasons. You’ll pardon me while I borrow from the spirit of the annual prayer prior to the start of the Indy 500…

  • Remember and honor those who’ve gone before us. Pass on to others the goodness they gave.
  • Help us continue to wish for the safety of all involved in this sport of racing – drivers, crews, engineering, track personnel, fans, families, media, and everyone involved.
  • Allow us to find examples of the goodness to be found in witnessing sporting competitions.
  • Bless this sport with continued energy and growth.
  • Give us all moments to cherish and celebrate.
In doing so, may we all, through this sport, find the light within ourselves and others.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s go racing again!

The Most Important Turn of the Season

As this is being written, there are brand-spanking-shiny new DW12s, replete with the latest in sponsored liveries, being throttled with vigor down in Sebring.  Spring training is upon us and the Indycar season (save for a very few and very unfortunate teams and drivers) is now rapidly approaching on the forward horizon. 


There is scant time to prepare for the most important turn of the season, but to emphasize that turn’s monumental importance, it is important to recapitulate why it is so… 


The last race I saw in person prior to this writing was that glorious underdog victory of a finish at Kentucky on October 2nd, 2011. An early morning IndycarNation bus ride from IMS delivered myself, two racing friends, and 60-some other Indycar fans to Kentucky Speedway. As the sun had slowly risen to burn off the frost, we clambered (still somewhat groggy from our previous night’s escapades in downtown Indy) off the bus to a gorgeous bluebird autumn sky in Sparta, KY. Little did we know the drama that was to unfold just hours later. The following video is re-work by @indy44 of a classic VersusTV ad with Kentucky race highlights seems to encapsulate that race, and the end of Indycar on Versus TV as we knew it. Go ahead and play it – it’s quite enjoyable.

Certainly Ed Carpenter’s first victory which put Sarah Fisher Racing in the Winner’s Circle for the first time was one of the highlights of the 2011 Indycar season. 


As clear as the Kentucky sky was that morning and the sweetness of seeing a race to be added to a hundred years of Indycar lore, what lay just beyond in the coming hours and days was the stuff of the worst Indycar nightmares. 


Immediately following one of the most tremendous underdog victories in recent Indycar history, Sarah announced through tears of joy and pain in Victory Lane that her win was bittersweet due to the fact that her primary sponsor would be leaving at the end of the season. The subsequent questions of the sport’s profile and head-shaking resound through the paddock of stalwart fans and media.

Then, the worst of news… 

Reigning Indy 500 Champion Dan Wheldon dies tragically on Sunday, October 16 in a spectacular crash on Lap 11 (which also tallied numerous severe injuries) during the Las Vegas Indycar World Championship season finale. Weeks of grief and analysis and hand-wringing and brazen ‘strafing attacks’ by far-flung, uninformed branches of the media followed. Dark times indeed.


With much care and deliberation (and little outward detail), Indycar begins the process of investigating the crash while concurrent, rapid preparations are made for a timely and proper memorial to Dan and his family. In just two weeks, things had gone from an incredible high to the lowest of low for which we all were ill-prepared.


Somewhat quietly in relation to the Wheldon backlash, Lotus Cars and Lotus Racing became ensnarled in a paternity battle over the convoluted ownership rights of all the pieces of the company and most certainly was the primary cause of delay in the already critical schedule for the Indycar motor development we see today. 


Despite the beginnings of brighter news when the (newly renamed DW12) chassis are delivered, almost giftlike, to teams near the holidays, motor contracts also become scarce. Manufacturers who’ve based budgets and work on a particular number of cars for the 2012 season, are surprised to find more entries than expected. This leads to much confusion and concern when a number of (smaller and fan-favored) teams with full-season funding are left out in the cold of January and February awaiting any news of impending motor leases which hadn’t yet come.


And, as the 60s radio DJ said, “the hits just keep on coming”…
Early testing of the new chassis and engines reveals some significant deficiencies in the high-speed oval trim to the dismay of alarmists who with great voice insist Indycar and Dallara provide a car that shall not be lesser than the previously unloved and 8 year-old Dallara.


Ovals become scarce on the long-awaited and oft-delayed schedule announcement, again with much vocal opposition by those who seem to prefer watching 33 Watson roadsters amble around to 33 ground-effect machines in a variety of venues.

  
Danica, now fully divorced from Indycar, becomes the media darling of the NASCAR world. This, combined with a still-fragmented TV coverage package, leaves some Indycar followers unsure of the future visibility of the sport.


Assorted negative and positive news comes out of the Indycar world at varying times culminating with a State of the Sport presentation which generally reminds us that, despite where Indycar has been in recent years, months, and weeks, there are many positives on the threshold of this newest of Indycar seasons.

So it has finally come to this…

The dawn of a new season. New cars. New Engines. New and old drivers and teams. New venues and old venues reborn. The cusp of a fresh new Indycar world. What will it look like? How will it be received? What can we count on? 


Not much, I think, but I can tell you this – despite all the crap we stalwarts have been through in the recent weeks, months, and years, despite any positives and spin and ballyhoo regarding a new Indycar world, NOTHING will present the world with our all-new, Phoenix-from-the-ashes sport that is Indycar (what I argue is) the SINGLE-MOST important turn all season…     


Turn One at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“There are no second chances”…

The key for Indycar’s 2012 season will be held in the hands of those found in just two distinct locations – the starter’s perch and the driver cockpits at St Pete.  Drivers, if you care about nothing else all year, know that you very well may be judged by many on one thing this year; getting through turn 1 and completing the first lap without wrecking. 

There is an opportunity to catch potential fans who will be tuning-in only since October to see what has become of that curiosity known as Indycar. I emplore you to not succumb to temptation and make a mockery of what potential good there is from “the best, fastest, most versatile drivers in the world” by smashing it up at the end of the runway in St. Pete.


I cannot strongly enough remind the league, teams, and drivers, that the fans are still here, ready and waiting for you. To use the words of that speech from the Versus ad at the top of this post: 


“the only thing, THE ONLY THING we can count on at any given moment is YOU.”
     (said the fans to the league, teams, and drivers)
“It’s you versus them.”
     (the naysayers and doomers of this sport)
“It’s you versus ‘NO’!” 
     (those who wait to expose your failures)
“You versus ‘CAN’T’!” 
     (prove to everyone you’re the best drivers in the world).
“You versus next year, last year, statistics, excuses…” 
     (forget the ghosts of the past, your time is NOW.)
“It’s you versus history”
     (it’s time to make your own)
“It’s you versus the odds”
     (show them how great this sport can be)
“It’s you versus second place”
     (tired of being second-rate to NASCAR? I am!)

“The clock is ticking… let’s see what you’ve got.”

They May Be Dumb, But They Ain’t Stupid.


If you were invited to play a somewhat unfamiliar game, for a large prize, on the invitee’s ‘turf’, viewed by a million people, and at risk of besmirching the company that provides your current lucrative living, one of two things might happen, so what would YOU say?


“Heh, thanks, but no, thanks”.
Something like that maybe. So it goes with the few NASCAR drivers who might be qualified to make Indycar’s World Challenge at the very least interesting. Some have gone so far as to make elaborate and uninformed excuses why ‘it wouldn’t be fair’. That’s simply smart business. Allow the ego to be soothed by that bed of cash you roll around in, realizing that, no matter how badly you want to accept and win that challenge, you don’t need it. Money has become to the NASCAR driver what that sweet high-school girlfriend was to the boyfriend whom with she pleaded to keep from getting into another scrap after the football game. The Id has again calmed and protected the Self from the fire of the Super-ego.

I have no doubt a few of the NASCAR drivers might be capable of fairly competing. Most of the NASCAR crowd, in my view, would be more fish out of water than in the reverse and very well know it, despite their ‘facts’ proving otherwise. Even with top-flight equipment the odds of winning the Challenge are marginal, say 10:1, at best.  Probably more like 20:1 for the few NASCAR jockeys capable. I’d put Stewart at the top of the list with a second-tier of Kahne, Gordon, and the like in that 20:1 bracket. The rest, just fish in a barrel.

“You’re ON! Anytime, anyplace!”
All the sweet smell of… SUCKERRRRR! You’ve just stepped into the trap.. er, arena and now you’re about to get abused only for the gain of others. Just couldn’t keep your mouth shut could you? Now, at best, you could walk away with a $5 million prize, but odds are far more likely you’ll will be a lap down by the first pit stop. Only then will the “I should’ve listened to Mr. France and kept my mouth shut”, thought occur, realizing you now have two racing sanctions who don’t care for you. Anyone remember what happened to Rocky Balboa when Clubber Lang called him out in public? Yep, that’s right, severe ass-whuppin’ from the hungrier challenger. Rocky should’ve listened to Mickey and sailed off into the sunset.

“But I can win this thing! I can be the hero!”, you’ll say. Yes, and an Offenhauser might fly out of your lower digestive tract. Even odds favorite Tony Stewart knows better and he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer so what does that make you? 

Dumb AND Stupid.