Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

September 30, 2008

Responsible Urban Renewal

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:22 pm

Meanderings for a slow Tuesday:

 

Several are going to be attempting testing at IMS today. If you are in the area you cannot beat the price (free). Watching Indy Cars at IMS in October is pretty nice. If it rains, the museum is always the best value in motor sports. The tenderloins are probably better right now because they make them to order when there are not hundreds of thousands of others milling about.

 

There is word that Bruton Smith, the cantankerous octogenarian who buys tracks then makes high banked cookie cuts out of them, is going to bulldoze much of the Kentucky Speedway to make it more to his liking. I like Bruton but I hope he doesn’t screw that track up too. The sport needs much of what Bruton brings, but over time race tracks MUST be unique. Each much have its own character, and Kentucky was developing its own. Kentucky is a great little track as it is. I hope he never owns IMS. God only knows what would happen to it.

 

Continuous refinement of facilities has always been a hallmark at IMS, and the next few years will be interesting. Much of the area that grew up around the track is now a decrepit barrio. Eagledale was once a charming blue collar area with well kept factory built homes. It is in desperate need of gentrification at the moment. 16th Street and environs back toward Indy is not safe during many hours of the day and use of the word ‘ghetto’ to describe that area might be a compliment. There is also a general Speedway downtown redevelopment in progress that will hopefully spur urban renewal in a wider circle around the greatest race course in the world. Right now driving folks in who have never been there before is kind of embarrassing.

 

I am really looking forward to the Centennial Era.

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September 28, 2008

The Passing of a Legend

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:56 pm

On August 28 in this space, I paid tribute to a great man, Paul Newman, while he was still alive. His struggle with cancer has now ended his life, and in his 83 years he did it nearly as perfectly as any human can.

In Hollywood terms he became one of the greatest actors ever. In charity, he gave more away than most people will ever make in several lifetimes. In racing, he became a champion after the second half of his life began. The spark began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1968 and the flame lasted the rest of his life.

The one thing perhaps most admirable is his commitment to family. That is rarely seen in family these days. Staying married to the same person for over fifty years seems like a dated concept these days.

When Paul Newman joined the cart boycott of Indy Racing in 1996, I and many other racing fans who believed the sanctity of that place transcended such actions were saddened. We missed him more than most for all of those years and were thrilled to see him there again this past May. As a racing owner, Newman was always right at the very top until the very end. He got to see another of his drivers take his car to the podium again this season and that is said to have made him smile.

We can only aspire to the level of greatness he achieved in life on multiple levels. Godspeed Paul Newman. You will be missed. Condolences to his great family and countless friends.

September 26, 2008

Vitor Takes Over #14

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:16 pm

 

Vitor Miera found a new home. A.J. Foyt Racing is the destination. What this ensures is a full season ride for Vitor, who is adept at both oval and road racing. We are still awaiting victory one for Vitor, and if it happens with Foyt it would be that much sweeter. That team has made strides, and Darren Manning almost got them back to the ranks of the winners in 2008.

 

 

Congratulations, then, to both Vitor and A.J., Larry and the rest of the Foyt Racing group for the best possible hire. We’ll see the group in action in Australia.

 

The musical chairs being played in Indy Car makes for interesting fodder. Perhaps it will be eventful after all in the off season.

 

September 25, 2008

Off The Beaten Path

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:01 pm

Where do many really good racers come from? One of the more amusing debates among racing fans in cyberspace is the origination of great drivers. There is usually a faction convinced that short track/dirt track sprint/midget/various forms of jalopies, etc., is the way to go. This is usually accompanied by taunts toward Indy Racing because the grassroots bunch works toward driving front engined ‘stock’ cars in NASCAR.

 

Major open wheel owners for years have turned toward foreign road racers as the answer. American drivers at the upper levels of Indy Car are few and far between.

 

Where would you look if you were an owner? I have begun to think owners should give a closer look to the desert for off road racers. When you look at even a short list of those who came up that way you begin to wonder. Rick Mears. Jimmie Johnson. Robby Gordon (who knows what may have happened had he not run his mouth so much?). The entire list is impressive.

 

I wish there was a way to get Indy Car or NASCAR pilots into venue-appropriate equipment so they could go dirt or off road a few times a year. I remember watching various Unsers bringing their Indy Car peers to Pikes Peak for the Hill Climb every year. That event is one of the least known, underrated motorsports events of the year. Everyone should take it in before the folks commonly referred to as tree huggers screw that up for everyone else.

 

On a related note, a film I cannot ever stop watching when it comes on one of the cable movie channels (and I also own it) is ‘Dust To Glory.’ Awesome. Put that on your list this month.

 

September 24, 2008

Television: Yes, The Concept IS Evolving Rapidly

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:10 pm

Tom Shales of the Washington Post wrote last Sunday that ‘…television is not the medium it was even a mere year ago, and we are not the audience we were, either. We are all evolving, television and us together.’ His story premise is the new ‘fall season’ of network television, which he says is a dated concept.

 

Shales is squarely on target:  ‘…we don’t watch television; instead, we access program material through content providers. Viewers accustomed to the cell phone and iPod and DVR and On Demand don’t watch TV the way earlier generations did. We don’t even receive it the way our foreviewers did, via the old cathode-ray tube-in-a-box. TV now seeps into our lives through hand-held gadgets and laptops, on “webisodes” and YouTube snippets and fragmented downloads.’

 

 

These observations of current reality in the television business will no doubt continue sliding right over the noggins of the idiots who continuously cite 12+ Nielsen overnights as some sort of valid barometer where Indy Racing is concerned. Most stupid enough to trot that nonsense out week after week generally have an axe to grind with the proprietor but watch every millisecond anyway and have not even a whiff of a clue about the ADD-like trends occurring in society.

 

Even Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, acknowledges (in the September 29, 2008 edition of Fortune) the NFL and the Olympics are two of the few sports that continue to be successful on broadcast television. He also stresses the importance of broadening the audience using new platforms including the Internet.

 

Which leads us back to Indy Racing’s new deal with Versus and the renewed bend-over mercy hump for ESPN on ABC. The Versus folks are quite tuned in to multi-platform exposure of their partners. They are working diligently to not only increase brand awareness but promote and cover it relentlessly. How could that possibly be worse that being a bastard stepchild on ESPN?

 

We will already have to suffer through a few more seasons of Abysmal Broadcast Coverage for a handful of races. We can only hope someone slaps some sense into the Disney bunch and orients them toward the historical significance of the next few years. I am not as worried about Versus doing a great job as I am about ABC screwing it all up.

 

Let us hope for the best

September 23, 2008

Recommended Fun in Your Off Time

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:16 pm

Television watching highlights: On Friday morning the CBS Early Show features a recorded segment from Monday at IMS in which Dan Wheldon (newly clad in the Panther National Guard colors) chauffeured reporter Russ Mitchell around the track in the two-seater (with the cameras rolling). That’s a great way to keep the brand top of mind in the almost off-season.

 

 

Also…a shameless plug or two completely unsolicited or compensated: If you have a few hundred extra bucks laying around or you know someone in a high place, you should always jump at the opportunity to take a ride in the two-seater. The 1.5 mile tracks and Indy are great, although I need to try Richmond and a road course before I kick. Although you don’t get to drive, you do get driven by a real race driver at around 75% of full speed. It’s well beyond cool.

 

I have also driven the old Sinden Racing G-Force Indy cars, although they do not let you go fast enough, especially at Indy. A better driving experience exists with the Mario Andretti Driving School (formerly Driving 101) on smaller tracks. More speed and bang for the buck. I understand the danger aspect, but the releases they make you sign pretty much allow them to kill you if they feel like it with complete immunity.

 

Lawyers.

 

Is anyone besides me yawning as the NASCAR season lumbers to its conclusion

September 22, 2008

Embracing Innovation for the Next Century

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:49 pm

During the IMS summit last week with multiple engine manufacturers to discuss future specifications for 2011, Brian Barnhart intimated Dallara would remain the sole chassis provider for the new car.

 

Really?

 

Dallara makes a fine chassis. Their Indy Car efforts have been stellar for almost every year of the IRL.

 

 

There is nothing wrong with them. There is simply not enough variety in Indy Car. Throughout its illustrious history Indy Car racing has been characterized by innovation every step of the way. I might suggest Barnhart take a spin around the museum on the grounds of the place (including the basement where most people do not have access) and take a good hard look at evolutionary phases. They are prominently on display. I am not suggesting, like some of the flat earth whackos in cyberspace, that Indy Car revert to roadsters. I advocate soaking in the spirit of innovation that pervades the museum and let that spirit play into the future

 

This is an issue that has easily understood sides. How can multiple chassis manufacturers make any money if there is fragmentation among manufacturers for less than 30 cars? How do safety standards get maintained? Oddly, neither seems to be a problem in other series such as F-1 or NASCAR.

 

I strongly urge Indy Racing to take as long a look at chassis makers as engine makers. It is just as important going forward. If a new car is planned to coincide with the 2011 season (the heart of the ‘Centennial Era’) should it not represent the spirit of change and evolution that has always been present since 1911?

 

Limiting the choice to one chassis does not do much to advance the sport.

September 19, 2008

Bad Cliche: Thinking Outside the Box

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:14 pm

This week without much fanfare a few engine manufacturers had another in a series of meetings with IMS/Indy Car brass to discuss future specs and evolution with regard to power plants. Probably turbocharged ones.

 

That is all well and good, and it would be nice to see multiple manufacturers again. Even Honda wants that.

 

Why stop at internal combustion engines? Why not get really creative with both power and fuel? The Indy Car Series broke brave new ground with its switch from methanol to ethanol, but ethanol has proven not to be a panacea. As a matter of fact, the entire ethanol debate has turned very political.

 

If private industry can create the Tesla, an electric sports car, why can’t someone give us a 220 mph electric Indy Car?

 

 

If we’re stuck with internal combustion until we all get old and gray, why not power it with more efficiently produced fuel? I can think of few more efficiently produced biofuels than those derived of hemp. Would it not be better to smell burning hemp at race tracks instead of the burnt popcorn smell the ethanol delivers?

 

 

The USA, in its infinite wisdom, will not allow the farming of hemp. Not the kind of hemp that contains THC and gets you high. Agricultural hemp. A wonder crop. Even Purdue University understands the value of hemp.

 

Can you imagine the publicity if hemp was used as fuel? The Ethanol campaign would pale by comparison. Hell, have competing fuels. What could be better?

 

It is definitely food for thought as the sport evolves. Even GM is trying with their Volt. Although I would be surprised to ever see that car go into actual production, at least the PR is there.

 

Advice for Indy Car:  Do not limit your thinking to just internal combustion and ethanol. There are too many emerging, cutting edge possibilities.

September 18, 2008

School Is In Session

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:00 pm

 

Today’s lesson involves effective communication with powers that be of various organizations that will make a difference. Before we cover that material we should review some of the items that are ineffective:

 

-Raising holy hell on the Internet. Most people who run professional organizations tend to view Internet lunatics as just that. Lunatics. No different than whacko street preachers who show up uninvited at sporting events urging repentance and generally impede the progress of entry, consumption of alcohol, leering at scantily clad women and other temporarily aberrant behavior. You want to be taken seriously? Back up the free expression of thought on the Internet with action.

 

-If the actions you take involve the use of profane language, incorrect spelling, grammar that would make the average nun cringe or any comparison of business operations to bodily excretory functions, chances are such missives will find their way to the trash can unconsidered except as potentially an object of ridicule.

 

What sorts of items fall under the ‘contact-the-powers-that-be’ category?

 

-The Indy Car Series needs more ovals.

 

-The Indy Car Series need more Americans.

 

-Take the wings off. Reduce the down force. Put the driver back into control. Make the tires narrower. That kind of stuff.

 

-Let anyone build a chassis/engine/components, etc.

 

-ABC and ESPN suck. It is hard to believe you guys bent over for them again.

 

-Versus!?

 

-Why isn’t Michigan or Pikes Peak or Nashville, etc., still on the schedule.

 

You get the idea. People generally have great ideas. One of the best ways to get your point across is to take the time to write an actual letter and mail it to people. These days a letter has more impact than e-mail, which floods in boxes every day. Go old school. Most of the people running the show actually respond provided you do it correctly. Even if they do not agree with you they will tell you why. Usually it will include things you may not have considered.

 

Give it a try and let me know what happens. It works for me.

September 17, 2008

The Defender Daily Reminder

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:16 pm

Off season checklist reminders: 

 

-Contact your local television service provider to ensure Versus is not just provided, but in the same tier/dial proximity as ESPN. Do this often. My goal is to help Versus reach 90 million households by the time the Indy Racing season starts next year.

 

-Establish dialog with team owners in the Indy Car Series. Tell them how they should mold the future of the sport, including the type of drivers they should hire.

 

-Now is a fantastic time to let your views be known on how the series should evolve. When you write folks like Tony George and Terry Angstadt they usually write back. Generally, though, you have to make points without being a jerk.

 

-Go back once a week and watch the best Indy Car races of the year again. Every other week mix in a classic Indy Racing or Indy 500 for variety. It helps tide you over. I just watched some vintage Texas races. Simply great.

 

-Write to folks you would like to see more involved again in some capacity; e.g., Eddie Cheever. Some people may think of the guy as an a-hole, but the sport is better with him in it than out of it.

 

-Start making plans to be a part of the Centennial Era at IMS. That type of history only happens once a century, and for most of us this is the only chance to celebrate something of that significance.  By the time I saw my first Indianapolis 500, they had already been running it for about 50 years.

 

-If you are in the Indianapolis area, find out when Donald Davidson’s Indy history classes are offered and enroll. That is among the best ways in history to spend money.

 

-Keep providing continuing education to the handful of half-witted youthful, disenfranchised, bitter champcar children who are still unable to grasp the failure of their preferred series. It takes patience. Be diligent. Sooner or later maturity may catch up to them, but it’s up to us in the meantime to show them the path to racing salvation. 😉

 

-Post this list on refrigerator door and practice these steps every day.

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