Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

April 29, 2011

Randy Bernard Needs To Adjust Certain Aspects of the Indy Car/NBC Sports Partnership Today

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:03 pm

Randy Bernard has been enormously successful in the year and a half he has been with Indy Car, but his failures remain fairly glaring as well.

The fact there is no meaningful streaming of online content (unlike every other significant sports entity) is egregious. It does not matter whose fault it is or whose hands are tied. Potential fans, particularly those without a chance in hell of being able to watch Versus, are simply screwed.

When fans go online for something as simple as timing and scoring they get regularly assaulted by badly coded, often error prone, always frustrating messes of screens.

Everyone seems to believe Versus has been great, but since the Comcast ‘takeover’ of NBC results are underwhelming. I cannot imagine the turf wars going on in New York and elsewhere, but NBC appears to be winning the battle of managing the merged entity.

Indy Car’s biggest problem over the years, even with Randy Bernard at the helm, is the inexplicable way in which people who work for him consistently seem to fail to pay attention to all the details of any one issue. As a result important things fall through cracks.

The latest example of this occurred this morning when I typed Versus.com into my browser and was redirected to the nbcsports.msnbc.com site. On that front page is an assault of stick n’ ball that would make ESPN proud. There is NOTHING on the front page about their Indy Car partner. NOTHING.

Worse, when you click on the ‘Motor’ link on the front page, you get assaulted with NASCAR. Still NOTHING about Indy Car. Never mind the race coming up this weekend. NOTHING.

The ONLY link to anything even remotely resembling Indy Car is labeled ‘IRL.’ I fully understand that the editorial content of such web sites is controlled by mostly motorsports ignorant, stick n’ ball-centric northeasterners and I can understand that cultural myopia. They can’t really help it, unlike ESPN which is occasionally willfully hostile in their editorial treatment of Indy Car. But the actual dropping of balls is the direct result of people NOT paying attention in the 16th Street Indy Car offices.

Someone needs to answer the following questions today:

  1. Why isn’t Indy Car FEATURED on the front page EVERY TIME someone goes to the page?
  2. Where is there not ANY mention of the race this weekend?
  3. Why on earth is an entity that is supposedly a partner using the acronym IRL? Did they fail to receive the press release?

This blatant lack of attention to detail is inexcusable and MUST be corrected TODAY.

April 27, 2011

Month Of May In Indiana: Keeping the Indianapolis 500 A Part of the Vibe is Getting Tougher

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:06 pm

Ignorance of the meaning of the month of May in Indianapolis seems epidemic these days. It began a long time ago, but was exacerbated when risk-averse bean counters now in charge of IMS decided to make the month of May the Half-a-month-of-May. Certain external factors are involved; e.g., crated Honda-badged Ilmor engines that cannot be tested unless you pay several grand for an engine guy to be on site (mandatory) and a hundred bucks a lap (also mandatory), but the sprouting of checkered flag-themed displays on homes and business like spring flowers sadly seems a thing of the past. No amount of car shows or off-track activity at 16th & Georgetown can make up for race cars on the track, however.

The latest entity to dismiss the meaning of the month of May from a traditional sense are the folks at Emmis, who operate the 1070 frequency (WIBC before it moved to FM) and call it ‘The Fan.’ You might think a local media company might understand what May is (or used to be) about, but Jeff Smulyan does not program the station. I do not know who the program director is, but my guess is that it is some young hotshot who is in Indianapolis (but not from Indianapolis) more as a career stop than a destination. Because most program directors everywhere no longer possess any discernable ability to think on their own or be creative in even basic ways, a safe approach heavily dependent on research is the crutch used to remain largely unoriginal. That is not a knock on any one person; the entire business operates that way.

As a result, this May fans of the great race at its 100th Anniversary will NOT get to hear Donald Davidson in his customary 6pm time slot doing Talk of Gasoline Alley.  The JMV show is the highest rated show in its time slot in Indianapolis and his time slot, which runs until 7pm, will not change. Good for JMV. He grew up in the same part of southern Indiana as yours truly, and he has made good. But it is May for Chrissakes.

As a result of safe, conservative, non-creative programming, JMV will run until 7 discussing mostly stick n’ ball and hot chicks and other such insipidity. From 7 to 8 my understanding is that Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee will do an hour of Trackside, then at 8 it will be Donald Davidson with ‘Talk of Gasoline Alley’ only no longer from garages or even the track.  That is simply irresponsible and completely disregards what Indianapolis in May is supposed to be about. It also shows no regard for the history of on-air coverage through the month. Particularly galling is that it is the 100th Anniversary. I wish the Program Director would accompany Donald downtown to the library one day to research the history of the race, particularly how it was treated by the media before everyone collectively lost their attention spans. I have been  told there is a ‘Free Donald Davidson’ Facebook page, but have not seen it.

If I were the Program Director I would keep JMV on until 7, but the last hour of his show would be co-hosted by Donald Davidson AT THE TRACK with a ‘Talk of Gasoline Alley’ theme. JMV could handle it; he is a Hoosier after all. I would keep Donald on from 7 to 8 solo, then finish up from 8 to 9 with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee. No offense to Curt or Kevin, but Curt’s on-air persona is just about as bland as the newsprint on which his columns are printed in the Star. Kevin gets a little too lecture-y for my taste from time to time, and if they don’t have guests they are at times unlistenable.

None of this angst will probably make any difference, but if you are a fan of Donald Davidson on the radio and the traditions of the month of May, drop Emmis a note.

April 26, 2011

A New Car for 2012: How’s It Coming Along?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 7:50 pm

A common question/obsession among the Indy Car faithful pretty regularly deals with the status of the new Indy Car for 2012. You know, the Dallara base with the bolt on aero kits. Many are worried because the new Dallara plant in Speedway is still just a pile of rubble of the building it will replace. To add suspense, everybody’s favorite  ‘who needs milk’ guy, Jimmy Vasser, intimated the other day that maybe the series ought to wait until 2013 for a new car.

Tony Cotman is the guy in charge of the new car project, and he gave a sort of ‘state of the car’ over the weekend. One highlight is his indication that two show cars will be delivered and on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during practice and qualifications for the race this year. He also indicated development of engines from Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus are on time.

Cotman indicates two versions of the new car sans motors will be located near the Pagoda, probably in the vicinity where the Delta Wing was last year. He expects on track testing to commence August 1. Rumor is that Dan Wheldon will be the primary test driver.

The rollout of the new Indy Car should add compelling storylines through the next off season and into 2012 as forward momentum continues!

April 25, 2011

Indy Cars Headed For South America and Turkish Fans Are Headed to the Scrap Heap

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 9:27 pm

Does this sound familiar? Turkey is about to lose their Formula One race because Bernie wants to double the size of the vig from $13 million to $26 million. The reaction of officials in Turkey is essentially that Bernie is out of his frickin’ mind. But we already knew that. It’s a damned shame Formula One does not put its fans first. Even more pathetic is the way in which the most diehard fans of that branch of the sport simply swallow whatever gets launched toward their throats. How could we expect any other type of behavior from Bernie and crew? It will interesting to see how ‘sweet’ the Austin deal stays.

The Indy Cars will be headed for Brazil before long, and the fourth race of the season should be still another home run in terms of attendance, as each of the previous three events of the season already have. There are some who just cannot stand to see such success. Watching them suffer is not fun and it is my wish they ultimately grow up. Five more days until May!

April 21, 2011

The Most Important Celebrity Ever Created by the Indianapolis 500

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 9:19 pm

Well it’s about time. My first 500 was 1961, and I remember Ray Harroun, then in his 80s, drive the Marmon Wasp around the track. I was awestruck. In recent years IMS has recruited celebrities to drive the pace car. The biggest celebrity ever at Indy is A.J. Foyt, and many traditionalists were disappointed when IMS whored out the seat to the most cheeseball celebrity of our time, Donald Trump. Not to worry. IMS is dedicating an entire day to A.J. the day before the race. It will officially be called ‘A.J. Foyt Day.

This year is 50th anniversary of Foyt’s first 500 win. The one thing that is truly remarkable is his unprecedented 54 consecutive year streak as a driver or owner, including 35 straight as a driver before he retired. Foyt will participate in a Q and A session then sign autographs. Those in attendance will also see highlights of his career all day long.

This traditionalist is mighty glad this gesture is being extended to the #1 legend of the Brickyard. The day before the race just became a whole lot better.

April 20, 2011

Indy Racing Is Here To Stay. Is It Not Time For Its Obsessed Critics To Become Actual Racing Fans?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 6:18 pm

Over the past few days (years, for that matter) I have noticed with amusement the brusque defensiveness of racing fans (if you can call them that) whose preference lies toward the twisty-turny side of the sport. This small group of people usually begin howling whenever two things happen:

-The Indy Car Series is the primary topic.

-Whenever anything critical (whether real or merely perceived) is ever said about cart or Formula One.

Why do such people even bother? Are they that insecure about their own preferences? What is wrong with simply enjoying what it is you like? Formula One is a wonderful branch of the sport. Although it is not my favorite it remains ONE of my favorites and I never miss an event on television or in person if I can make it. It is a refreshingly different alternative and worthy of watching. It is my belief many fans whose primary preference is Indy Car feel the same way as I do. Live and let live. I very rarely hear or read from Indy Car fans the type of goofy, obsessive, malicious lunacy toward Formula One that gets hurled at Indy Car by many Formula One or cart fans.

In the past I have pointed out that same variety of extreme mentally challenged behavior by a small cadre of mostly illiterate NASCAR-centric residents of southern regions who are equally insecure and tend to screech even more incoherently for no apparent reason whenever any real or perceived NASCAR sleight is encountered.

Usually any such argument ends up going circular to the same meritless destination every single time. This phenomenon was articulated by our good blog friend Neil (a lawyer), who offered the following recently: “…however, we will never find common ground on the Tony George issue and his actions and conduct following his decision to create the IRL…I will always blame TG and his failed vision for splitting the American Open Wheel community and allowing NASCAR to become the most popular and lucrative form of motorsport in the US”

See what I mean? I believe that once a few more years go by and some of the more vociferous cart enthusiasts obtain some more maturity, Tony George will be respected for his accomplishments. The quaint but decidedly tasteless and ignorant stereotype his critics concocted then deluded themselves into swallowing will become irrelevant primarily because such critics may eventually figure out how to operate their brains.  When Tony George created the IRL he did not split the sport. cart’s arrogant ‘leadership’ huffed away like the spoiled rich kids they were and subsequently proceeded to scorch the landscape of the sport for the next decade or so, foolishly blaming Tony George every step of the way, until shamelessly slithering back after they had wiped themselves out of existence. Twice.  THAT is what split the sport.

“…you can continue to support his efforts and applaud his formation of the league which contained very valid arguments in favor of more ovals, more participation by American drivers, teams and manufacturers and a sharper focus on the Indy 500 as the crown jewel of the series…in counterpoint, I will continue to denounce his foolish decisions to sell out IMS to the Brickyard 400, his nonsense in bringing a hammer to work everyday, his complaining about IMS breathing money (doesn’t every business?) and his vindictive and pointless shut out of cart teams to the ‘500’ during the early years of the IRL”

Whacko stereotyping is but one of their consistent and non-endearing characteristics. I fail to understand how renting IMS to NASCAR (for a lot of money) for their consistently most attended race is bad. It gives actual racing fans more chances to enjoy the grandeur that is IMS. I never fail to get a huge laugh from the knee-jerk hypersensitivity about Tony George’s ‘hammer’ comment. Are you people genuinely that insecure about a sound bite? IMS is not breathing so much money these days. The current leadership is composed of risk-averse bean counters.  This becomes apparent when trying to enter the Flag Room, walking through tall grass on the grounds, trying to flush many toilets, or searching for meaningful self promotion. Finally, cart was not shut out of the 500. cart CHOSE to boycott, then stupidly referred to it as a ‘lockout.’ Talk about vindictive. That was their collective ego at work, and those are the facts. The handful of militant cart-centric holdouts can nail themselves to crosses all day long over this issue but it won’t ever change facts. You might as well join the rest of the planet in 2011.

“ …one thing that you can’t deny is the fact that but for Penske’s and Ganassi’s deep pocket sponsors pushing both teams to return to the 500 early in the last decade, cart’s top tier teams never would have migrated to the IRL along with Honda and Toyota…we continue to focus on the glory years of the 1990’s because we will never again see a reigning F1 champ come over to race in American Open Wheel, we will never again see the national media pay attention to Indy Car events, and we will never again match the general interest of NASCAR.”

It is all cyclical. I also enjoyed cart in the mid-1990s, but the way in which the world communicates with and entertains itself has completely changed in fundamental ways. The world is COMPLETELY different now than it was then. Over the course of my following Indy Car since 1959, I have seen periods I thought were BETTER that the ‘utopian’ years to which cart enthusiasts pine. Can you imagine 500s that included short trackers, current NASCAR stars and current Formula One stars? That all happened a few decades ago and was wonderful. The sport of auto racing has become one of specialized disciplines with little crossover. The IRL or Tony George did not cause that. Neither did cart’s arrogance. Natural evolution did. Longing for 1995 as if it is a possibility is well beyond stupid. It is just never going to happen. We are in a whole new century. Allow personal evolution to occur. Thank Tony George for saving the sport from itself.

While evolving, take an objective look at actual reality:

-Formula One continues to be exorbitantly expensive for no apparent reason. They keep changing rules, and the vacuous, white headed midget who runs that show may sell the whole kit and caboodle to Rupert Murdoch. Formula One is as much a nutjob circus as it ever was. As a fan I would definitely like to see them return to IMS (a venue they spent eight years being completely disrespectful about) even if the Austin facility actually gets built in time. I enjoyed all of their visits to IMS before the price tag got ridiculous.

-NASCAR can no longer come close to selling out any of their venues and ratings are flat. It is not the 800 pound gorilla it used to be. Again, these things tend to be cyclical.

-Indy Car is poised to continue an impressive resurgence that began a couple of years ago. Dynamic leadership has made bold moves, and all key metrics are on the rise, including attendance, ratings and sponsorship spend. The Versus deal was well ahead of its time and as they evolve into the NBC Sports brand and pick up as many or more households as ESPN, Indy Car will be exposed and promoted to an audience unclouded by the hysterical teeth grinding of the past.

“That said, I really wish you would stop bashing us who supported cart/champ car and instead focus on the positive aspects of the series moving forward and concentrating on ways to improve the racing and the health of the series…do you not agree?”

Wholeheartedly. ‘Bashing’ is largely an imaginary phenomenon made possible by the vivid imaginations of those whose twisted obsession has convinced them their series did no wrong and was victimized by a man otherwise positioned to be some sort of cocaine-ingesting idiot. In other words, that type of squawking is hollow. I already enjoy all forms of motorsport and only waste time on such pointless, counterproductive posturing when one of you trots out your dated insecure obsessions. 2011 is a wonderful place to be, and Indy Car is stronger than it is has been in years. Let’s all enjoy it together.

April 19, 2011

Long Beach Was Great for Indy Car. Why Can’t The Usual Suspects Just Accept That?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:49 pm

Writers who STILL pine for a period that ended twenty to twenty-five years ago are doing a horrible disservice to the sport. Their continuing unprofessional, hostile, repetitive chirping is an anvil attached to the neck of the sport. No amount of cajoling from actual professionals such as Randy Bernard is likely to change such vulgar behavior.

Saturn Was Big in 1990 Too, But It Aint Coming Back Either

Robin Miller and Gordon Kirby come to mind. Both wrote otherwise fascinating columns about activities in and around the Long Beach event. Kirby wrote a very good one about the early days of Roger Penske. Miller was critical of Brian Barnhart and related how owners were bitching about the cost of a new car.

But back to the main question. When will idiots who refuse to budge from 1990 begin to understand that the entire world has changed in fundamental ways? Long Beach had the largest crowd it has had in years, but that does not seem to matter to flat earth children that refuse to budge from twenty years ago. Are these people really as stupid as they appear when nailing themselves to crosses publicly?

Look objectively at the facts, folks. Attendance at all three Indy Car events thus far is substantially higher than last year. Ratings are steady or up. This is occurring despite the fact that other motor sports properties are not achieving the same numbers. NASCAR’s ratings are steady, but their attendance has plummeted.

How difficult would it be for jerks with access to column space to discover even a miniscule amount of professional behavior? Speaking of malcontents, owners that have been bitching about the need for a new car for years are getting one next year. So what are they doing now? Bitching about the cost. If you have ever had any doubts about why owners consistently fail as a group when they attempt to self govern, those doubts ought to be eliminated now.

April 18, 2011

Long Beach Has Been On The Indy Car Calendar for a Long Time

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:46 pm

What a pleasant surprise racing fans received at Long beach over the weekend. Someone who drives for a team other than Ganassi or Penske won the Indy Car race! To make it even sweeter the winner was a first timer. Even greater is the fact he almost died about a year ago in the 500.

Mike Conway has been accused of everything from being a daddy’s boy ride buyer to a talentless wanker, usually by idiots who believe Paul Tracy is still relevant. But today he is a WINNER. Even Michael Andretti was a little taken aback. Ryan Hunter-Reay was the team member who was strong all day, but a mechanical gremlin opened the door for Conway, who overcame a bad pit stop and worked his way to the front in rather convincing style.

The Long Beach street circuit has a lot going for it, including 37 years of history, glitz, etc., but it remains a street circuit with narrow lanes and only two good places to pass. Just like the temporary circuit in Brazil that is the race before the Indianapolis 500. The good news in Long Beach is that passing actually did occur, both professionally (Conway) and stupidly (Helio).

Drivers and owners seem to hate the double file starts/restarts, and it appears they were allowed to be sloppy at Long Beach. It is personally entertaining to hear these supposed best drivers in the world complaining like little girls about accidents cause essentially by their own impatience.

Versus did its usual outstanding job. Why Robin Miller is on the team remains a bit of a mystery. He is an outlier where professionalism is concerned, can’t string together many coherent sentences, cusses a lot, and tries to stir up controversy. His intentions are noble but abrasive. NBC realizes they need to dumb down their delivery of the sport to get more average Americans to watch. They have even begun promoting Versus telecasts on NBC programming, which is more than ABC has done in ten years aside from the 500.

This time next month we will have Indy Cars on the track at the Speedway!

April 13, 2011

Thank Goodness for Forward Thinking Promotion Partners for the Indianapolis 500

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 3:21 pm

Two out-of-the-ordinary things have been announced for the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500. We already know Donald Trump is driving the pace car. Now we know that Mattel and IZOD have teamed up for a Hot Wheels stunt of epic proportion. They will roll a specially constructed vehicle to the top of a ten-story ramp in turn four, and as a prop will have a giant, 100-foot door as kids would have in their own home. The vehicle and its driver will be released and a jump at the end of the ramp will take place in the infield. My big hope is that the weather cooperates.

Many folks who do not mind Trump behind the wheel of the pace car seem to have a large problem with the Hot Wheels stunt. I do not get that. Gimmicky promotion has been a part of the track since day one. Ask Donald Davidson sometime about the type of hype-filled promoter Carl Fisher was. One year he attached a car to a balloon, which ascended from the track and landed somewhere south of town, from where Fisher supposedly was going to drive the car back to the track to demonstrate how well it was constructed. There are definitely a few ‘hey, wait a minutes’ in there; e.g., the motorless car attached to the balloon was not the car he drove back, but the point is he was engaged in shameless promotion.

Personally, it appears to be a great idea from two decidedly active partners who actually know what they are doing. ‘Fearless at the 500’ is the title of the stunt. Testing has been done in California and the equipment is on the grounds at IMS and ready for construction. Bring it on.

The Trump in the pace car reality is a done deal, and for the long time traditionalists the sour taste continues to linger. The slap in the face to tradition is astounding. We are not even certain they asked A.J. Foyt, who would have done it. It is what it is, however, and we have to accept the most stupid ideas along with the pretty good ones. Thank goodness for promotion partners with brains like Mattel and IZOD.

 

April 12, 2011

The Disciple Barber Indy Car Summary (Sunburn and All)

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 6:52 pm

It would be absolutely great if every venue on the Indy Car schedule was as accommodating and as glad to see the series as Barber Motorsports Park. I have been lucky enough to attend not only the first two races Indy Car has held at Barber but also their pre-season testing in 2009. Each time the red carpet was rolled out not just for the series but also for fans far and wide. They announced with pride fans in attendance were represented from 42 states and 16 other countries. The entire region promotes the event heavily, and Honda is also strongly involved because their Odyssey line is produced nearby. Both the Mayor of Birmingham and the Governor of Alabama were on hand again during pre-race festivities. At any given time at the world class museum George Barber himself might actually open the door for you.

Weather is out of the control of the track, but both Indy Car races and the ’09 test were Chamber of Commerce types of days. Each time out the infrastructure gets improved and this year it appears many more fans visited and were treated well.

As many have stated, the track is gorgeous and is often referred to as the ‘Augusta of motorsports.’ Many who visit have very little disagreement with that. The complex is manicured meticulously and creatively planted vegetation and flowers abound. Combine that with many of Randy’s new initiatives involving fan friendliness (such as big monitors and scoring pylons at various locations) and the attendance experience is vastly improved.

The track itself has a reputation for being narrow and built for two wheeled racers, but this year the Indy Cars treated the event with just about the right amount of behind-the-wheel aggression. Although Will Power dominated, actual racing behind him was the norm for most of the day. A repeat of first turn carnage in turn one was feared by some, particularly considering the downhill/uphill/downhill while turning nature of the narrow ‘Alabama roller coaster.’ There was definitely crowding and off track excursions, but turn one was relatively clean (unlike turn 5) all day. Some are considering doing away with double wides at Long Beach but I say no. Stick to the plan and do it for the fans.

Favorite radio moments included Simona de Silvestro singing ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ during a yellow and Rafeal Matos complaining about the car the whole race then finally hearing the team tell him they ‘are aware he is driving a piece of s*#!’ but that he is the driver and must figure out a way to make the best of it while they figure it out.

Barber is a track that needs very few grandstands. Our party rotated from roughly the turn 11 area (which featured a much larger fan experience area this year) and high above the Alabama roller coaster. We hope to visit for many years to come, and the feeling appears to be mutual. Great job again for the Barber folks, and it was outstanding to see such a wide swath of racing fans in the same location.

 

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