A Welcome Sight – 2019 Indycars

Greetings everybody!

I hope everyone has fared well in our open-wheel, semi-hibernative state since our last INDYCAR race back in September of 2018 (some 25 weeks ago).

Where I live in Northern Indiana, the winter has been egregiously long and cold. Starting in earnest in mid-November, the wintry weather tends to make one draggy to the point of forgetting what day/week/month it is until that first glorious spring day appears, or INDYCAR starts in earnest on the Albert Whitted Airport circuit, whichever comes first. This year, it’s INDYCAR that has awakened me from the winter rather abruptly.

It’s not lost on me how ridiculous it seems that something nearly 6 months in the making can ‘sneak up’ on someone, but alas, here we are. I intend to hit the ground running however and this inaugural post of 2019 will review one important visual aspect of the sport before the green flies in St. Pete – the liveries.

Something like this cannot typically be done until the week before the first race anyway, as deals and sponsors get tied-up, and the reveals often happen just before the season starts, so I forgive myself for not posting on this sooner.

A nice pictorial summary of some of the 2019 liveries can be found at this link to the openwheel33 blog who got some great shots from the pre-season testing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. I’ll give my 1 (lowest) to 4 (highest) star rating on my opinion of the newest liveries for St. Pete from the spotter’s guide, seen below. Please feel free to disagree with me here 😀.

Car number – Driver Abbreviation – Primary Sponsor: Rating, comments.

2 – NEW – Hitachi – ✪✪✪✩: 3.5 for a very solid, classic Penske-type livery that rarely inspires but is always easily recognized and on-brand. 

4 – LEI – ABC Supply,
14 – KAN – ABC Supply – ✪✪✪: 3.0 for another very recognizable, stable, albeit dated design that actually has looked better on the new chassis than on the previous one. It still smacks of a swoopy-early-2000s design and I think it could be updated and improved with only a few tweaks.  I still struggle with who’s who between LEI and KAN at speed even with the color flipped. Maybe that’s more a sign of a feeble brain than design.

5 – HIN – Arrow,
7 – ERI – Arrow – ✪✪✪✪: 4 for a design that is not only easily-recognized, but also has the benefit of looking extra sleek (fast) by day or night, thanks to the colors as well as the drivers. To be seen whether I struggle recognizing which car is which with the subtle color variation. Both look great however and neither looks the lesser of the other.

9 – DIX – PNC Bank – ✪✪✪✩ 3.5 for a design that initially didn’t impress me (how could it following one of the greatest liveries of all-time – Target), but is growing on me.  I like the colors and again this is unlike any other livery out there which makes it easily identifiable in-person or on TV.  I get the slick color gradients employ the logo graphic, but it seems to wash out the natural appeal of the chassis silhouette.

10 – ROS – NTT Data – ✪✪✪ 3.0 for to the League Title sponsor’s livery. Regretfully, as this design forsakes flashy design for simple, recognizable appeal, it just leaves me wanting a bit more. I can’t help but wonder if incorporating the Swedish flag of pilot Rosenqvist somehow with the similar NTT Data blue wouldn’t add some welcome zip and appeal to a certain foreign TV demographic.

12 – POW – Verizon – ✪✪✪ 3.0 for yet another solid Penske team livery that at one time was more easily distinguished from the field, now suffers from sameness that could be improved with a different color styling. Tough to just change the reigning Indy 500 champion winner’s livery but with the right touches, it could also be improved.

15 – RAH – United Rentals – ✪✪✪ 3.0. This RLL car is fairly recognizable and doesn’t necessarily offend but there just seems to be a lot going on in terms of colors and designs with sponsors. As has been noted in years past, the blue and white schemes seem dated and overused. Can’t say that about how the 2019 field is appearing, but this scheme also seems to lack an overall team cohesion with it’s sister car.
30 – SAT – Seeman-Holtz – ✪✪✪✫ 3.5 for the sister to the 15. Again a lot going on visually from the sides, but I can’t not give this an extra half star rating for that nose design which makes me recall the gorgeous Player’s liveries of the late 90s.

18 – BOU – SealMaster – ✪✪✪ 3.0 for a car that is easily recognizable. I can’t decide if this looks more like some sort of high-speed emergency vehicle or and indicator that Wiz Khalifa is a new Indycar team owner. I appreciate the stones it took to be as aggressive with the color and striping as they did which is why they get a 3.0 and not a 2.5. Red lettering on black backgrounds always causes visual issues. The lettering needs a more pronounced white outline as a contrast to the black.

19 – FER – David Yurman – ✪✪✫ 2.5 for a flashy black-on-chrome design, albeit with little interest beyond that. The T-1000 Terminator would be proud. the dorsal fin contrast in black with the Honda lettering is a welcome bit of accent similar to other designs, yet more noticeable on this livery.

20 – JON – Autogeek,
21 – PGO – Autogeek – ✪✪ 2.0. Again with the dreaded red on black lettering combined with an overall scheme that appears as a refugee from the early IRL days. Sorry ECR, this ain’t cuttin’ it. After years of solid and easily recognizable liveries with Fuzzy’s, I can’t tell if the new sponsor is Autogeek or Autogreek or Autoweek. Unremarkable from most any angle, I hope they have something better in the works by the time Indy rolls around.

22 – PAG – Menards – ✪✪✪✫ 3.5 for that great 80s-90s nostalgic neon yellow look combined with the simplicity of the Penske team liveries. You’ll never not be able to remember this car and sponsor because it’s seared into your retinae. Looks like it’s moving even when standing still. 

23 – KIM – Tresiba – ✪✪✫ 2.5. To be honest, I’ve never liked the color scheme of this livery, but it does the job for standing apart and being memorable for the sponsor. Easily seen when on TV and in-person.

26 – VEA – Gainbridge – ✪✪✪✫ 3.5. I didn’t like or dislike it when I first saw it, but the more I see it, the more I like it. Easily visible are the sponsor’s name and graphical chevron branding. The blue accents work well and make this a more recognizable livery than it might be otherwise.
27 – ROS – NAPA – ✪✪✪✪ Four-Point-Oh for what I feel is the best livery in the paddock. Visually as near perfect as a livery can be on TV or in-person. Stands out and looks great at every angle. Maybe the car-parts-related sponsor is what tips this to the highest rating. The Andretti stable has a very good thing going with their team cohesion and design elements (just fore of the cockpit).
28 – RHR – DHL – ✪✪✪✫ 3.5 for a livery that looks great and instantly recognizable. Just a light bit of pizzaz away from being a 4. Maybe a third color wing accent like the Gainbridge car.
98 – AND – US Concrete – ✪✪✪✫ another 3.5 for a very good design. Sometimes a bit difficult to see on TV, it looks good in-person and the logo really pops. I may be just a bit weary of carbon-greys, other wise this could push for a higher rating.

59 – CHI – Gallagher – ✪✪✪ 3.0. More of the swoopy bits which usually make me cringe, but they’re done better on this car. Maybe it’s because the monochromatic blue scheme is attractive to my eyes and the swoops add interest where few other sponsors names/logos reside.

60 – HRV – Sirius XM – ✪✪✪✫ 3.5. As a sister car to the SPM Arrow cars, I like this livery very much and the hot purple metallic over black is a sweet look that is memorable and eye-catching. Great for sponsor exposure, however, the Sirius XM sponsor doesn’t utilize purple in their logo in anyway, so there’s a slight bit of dissonance with their use of blue. The white numbering on the purple is easier to see than on the hot pink of 2017. Nice design and great use of colors with energy and excitement.

81 – HAN – ? – No Rating. Apparently carrying over the livery from their sportscars to their Indycar, newbies DragonSpeed Racing may be using a scheme that some might associate with glory days of ABC’s Wide World of Sports when Evel Knievel used to jump rows of passenger buses wearing motorcycle leathers with a similar design. Fun! Until I see an actual picture of this livery in person or high-quality photo, I won’t rate it. There’s definitely some potential here though.

88 – HER – ? – ✪✪✫ So far not much to be seen on the livery front except that it’s apparently a change from last year. Again, a wait and see on this one. The spotter guide doesn’t offer much on their latest design so that’s what I’m looking at currently.

32 – ? – ? No rating yet for Juncos until they enter a car for a race. Apparently they’ll not be at St. Pete although judging by their previous liveries, I’ll probably like very much what the come up with.

In all, I’d have to give the overall grade for the entire field a ✪✪✪ for the variety and general good work done in designing liveries for the 2019 season of Indycar.

Feel free to add your thoughts below and thanks for reading!

Adjectively Speaking

During ABC’s TV Broadcast of the Indycar race at St. Pete yesterday, Eddie Cheever made his beloved and dramatic ‘one-word’ prognostication for the day’s event – “chaos”. In hindsight, one cannot really argue much with that as the definition accounts for some of the action on track yesterday. 

I had several adjectives that described how I was feeling leading up to, during, and after the very racy 2018 Indycar season opener; hopeful, eager, surprised, anxious, giddy, amazed, empathetic, and hopeful.

Hopefulness sprang out of the months (and, in truth, years) of waiting for a new and exciting Indycar to hit the track. One that justly rewards driver skill and management and also manages to entice a viewer with classically attractive aesthetics.

Eagerness began in earnest with news of testing in January and February. Positive and even glowing reports on the new chassis “raciness” and the good initial function of the potential safety/windscreen flushed my racing cheeks with positivity heading into the new season.  Dare I dream to believe that Indycar once again could be the amazingly entertaining (and even sexy) racing product so many fans knew it could? Could spring signal a rebirth of positivity, excitement, and optimism for one of my favorite sports?

With the twist of fate brought about by moisture on the track during qualifying for the first race of the new season, nothing but surprise could describe most fans’ reactions to the qualifying results. The final six in the Firestone Fast Six shootout contained three rookies, three veterans, and for the first time that I could recall in many years, six different teams in the top six spots.  One of those rookies – Jordan King, driving for Ed Carpenter Racing – even set a new track record in the first round of qualifying.

Surprise gave way to the anxious feelings when the green flag is about to fall at St. Pete and especially when there are three rookies up front leading this burgeoning pack of hungry Indycar racers, all eager for those first true racing laps of the new season. Safe to say that I always fear turn one at St. Pete because the symbolism of the long-runway-straight reminds me of the stark off-season, long and slow to build in momentum until the green reminds us we’re full-throttle into a hard and opportunistic right-hand 90 degree turn, begging for the most aggressive of lines, before the tires are even warmed.  What happens in that first turn of the first race of the new season often signals what to expect. Especially after the abysmally long wait, to finally have an Indycar that this fan could proudly hold up as the exemplary essence of this type of racing, I still remained anxious for the possible carnage of turn one at the Alfred Whitted Airport race circuit.

With some tenuous and unsurprisingly eventful laps in the book, the race never failed to hold my attention.  I was able to eagerly concentrate on as much racing as the TV coverage would show, despite the expected drone of uninspired and anemic commentary. I would add the caveat that Allen Bestwick gets a pass from me for his work because his job as ringleader of the clownlike coverage is subject to so many things beyond his control, including the bland color commentary. Expecting as much, I tried to focus all of my attention on the visual information we were given and I was liking what I was seeing, especially with the new and revised camera views which added a great deal of excitement to the broadcast. This feeling that had come over me, I hadn’t felt in far too long a time. I was giddy with excitement that the racing had given us.


(nose-camera image via Indycar YouTube screen capture)

With the movements of drivers up and down the scoring due to mostly all racing-related variables, I was amazed at the skill of the driving and the passing we were seeing.  All except at the front, where rookie Robert Wickens had shown us why he was so highly rated by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.  He was building a lead over several veteran drivers. How could you not like the fortitude on display?  I was genuinely amazed at how this race was playing out and especially for this driver, so new to Indycars, scarcely putting a wheel wrong all day, deservedly leading in a manner that only exemplified his considerable skill and his team’s preparation. This guy, and this team deserved to win.

As we watched the late-race dramas unfold, a race fan of any seasoning would’ve known we were in for a seriously tense finish. It did not fail in that regard and unfortunately Mr. Wickens was the recipient of a ‘racing incident’ that in my view could’ve been avoided and not sent him spinning into the wall after completing, what was to that point, as near-perfect a race as one could have. I would consider myself a fan of Alexander Rossi, but I certainly empathized more with Wickens. He deserved to be on the top step of the podium without question but, as we know so well, racing doesn’t always reward the best on that day. So too could I empathize with Sebastien Bourdais’s victory as it emotionally and fully closed a circle of high and low events he experienced in the previous 365 days. From his race win here a year ago, to the horrific crash at Indy qualifying, to the rehabilitation of his mind and body, and now a return to victory circle at his adoptive hometown and site of his previous Indycar win, it was a result worthy of celebration. 

(c) 2018, Luis Santana, Tampa Bay Times

In all, yesterday’s race was one of the best races I can recall at St. Pete and I am beyond impatient to see the next race. I think that’s a sign of the hopefulness I am feeling about each practice session, each qualifying day, and each race this season.  







There, Now Don’t You Feel Better?

I don’t know about you, but I always feel better after the first Indycar race of the season. 


The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has really grown on me as the season opener. The first Indycar race is always an indicator (especially here in Northern Indiana) of the impending warmer days and excitement to come.

Even just seeing the race logo is a warming and welcome sight after surviving another ‘character-building’ season of a Great Lakes winter.  

Several years ago, written in my now-defunct personal all-purpose blog, I noted how much I enjoy this time of year, not only for the budding and greening of my environment, but also with a great run following the sports that I enjoy most – Indycar season opener, the NCAA basketball tourney, more Indycar, The Masters, The Kentucky Derby, and the Month of May all together is really a great way to emerge from the hibernation I’ve been in most of the winter months (especially when I’m also quite busy with my kids who are competitive swimmers and their season runs from September through March).

At any rate, I found this latest version of Indycars racing at St. Pete was quite satisfying.

Like a sort of homecoming – seeking comfort in experiencing a range of emotions from seeing all of the things that you’ve come to rely upon every year:
– ABC performing up to their typical levels (with Bestwick well-exceeding that standard despite being under the weather).
– A-bumpity-tip-tap we go through turns 1, 2, and 3 of lap one.
– Somebody suffers a cut tire on lap one.
– A solemn nod to Dan Wheldon.
– Somebody makes Turn 4 into a confetti-shower of carbon fiber.
– Marco unsuccessfully divebombs someone into turn one and ruins his own day.
– Penske dominates the first race weekend.
– Fans watching on TV are reminded how many damned ads they’ll be seeing even in side-by-side mode.
– Some drivers take umbrage with other drivers because of something on track.
– Ultimately drivers and fans all getting their race-legs under them for the season.


In a typical year, I’d have made predictions for the season by now. This year, I don’t feel the need to prognosticate. I’m just going to sit back and see how it all unfolds. Last year gave us a great deal of (mostly) on-track drama. Too much on the injurious side however, so here’s to hoping for a much safer 2016 season that gives us the racing action and drama that we all crave.

Oh alright, fine. I’ll make one prediction with a big qualifying statement – Indycar, provided that management stays unobtrusive for all of the right reasons, will enjoy another year of solid growth and the racing gods will see to it that the 100th Indy 500 will give us something rather spectacular and remind us again why we endure the hardships of this sport.

(c) 2016 Indycar


OK Phoenix, you’re next. I couldn’t be happier about you hosting Indycars again.

Let’s see what you’ve got…

St. Pete Expectations (a self-mantra)

Beaux Barfield has outlined his competition expectations to the teams and drivers.

Even a nobody/megalomaniac like me has been bold enough to suggest a lap one, turn one melee will cause people (who only have just turned their eyes back since October) to have many reasons to question the validity of the sport’s claim of having the ‘best, fastest, and most versatile drivers’ and lose interest quickly. 

I think it’s not out-of-line to suggest that Indycar can ill afford a bad first ‘re-impression’ since Las Vegas BUT, verily I say unto thee… 

…it is going to be what it is going to be. 

The die-hard fans of this sport will be legs, arms, and fingers-crossed in hopes we get though those first few laps until Marty Reid and ABC take a moment to step away to the side-by-side for the first time in 2012. 

I, too, will be one of those pretzel-people (and it’s gonna make holding my Fuzzy’s Push-to-Pass beverage in my Pressdog ™ official Drink ye Bastards glass fairly difficult), BUT the simple fact remains that no matter how much I want a magnificent first race of the season and how important that momentum (DyB) can be for the upcoming races, and how much it would mean to a sport rising from the dead, things are gonna happen and no matter of wailing and gnashing of teeth will help. Certainly don’t ruin your beautiful flat screen TV by throwing something at it.

So, dear fans, you can do your level best to support this sport and ‘activate’ the sponsors and go to races and buy the gear and even go out of your way to introduce others to this sport that we hold so dearly, yet the events that unfold on Sunday (to re-use an oft-dropped phrase by Dr. Phil) “…AIN’T ABOUT YOU”!

The action will be whatever it will be and we’re going to watch it unfold just like everybody else. It may be a classic race. It may be a stinker of a snoozefest. It may be unlike anything we hoped or feared it may be.

It is going to be what it is going to be, so sit comfortably, breathe deeply, relax, have a tasty beverage, and just let it be.

That will have to do.

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.”