Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

February 24, 2012

Fighting For What is Right in IndyCar

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:06 pm

The latest needless battleground in IndyCar is Texas Motor Speedway. On one side are panic stricken road racing enthusiasts who decry pack racing as ‘not racing.’ While I may personally agree with them to a certain extent, occasional packs of speeding cars throughout a 26-car field add a fairly significant amount of excitement. Over the past few years much of the raciness has been dumbed out of the cars. Here is the perfect example. For the first few years Indy Cars ran at Richmond the racing occurred all the way through the field, mostly in small clusters. Positions were changed and no one raised a stink about cars side by side for laps at a time. Then, mandated changes to the way the cars are set up caused a succession of relatively boring parades that drove fans away from an otherwise successful venue.

Add to that Richmond’s attempted poaching of IndyCar event sponsors for NASCAR events and we ended up with a needlessly vacant slot on the racing calendar.

Texas has been a race of edge-of-your-seat beauty since its inception. Only recently has a cacophony of condemnation occurred. Many of the same instigators were around in 2001 when cart strolled in there and promptly stepped on their genitals, again screwing racing fans as the result of their egos and poor planning. If not for Eddie Gossage, IndyCar would not have a second home. I cannot imagine losing a venue that routinely draws 80,000 for Indy Cars, particularly to appease the whining of a small group of what are essentially, to be blunt, pussies.

Drivers and road racing enthusiasts are clamoring for changes to the cars that will turn actual racing into single file parading with the occasional pass. Some are even calling for a parking lot temporary course at Texas. These people desperately need to find some other amusement and stop meddling in a branch of the sport in which they have absolutely no business. Many actual racing fans are sick and tired of the imposition of the philosophies of road racers onto oval racing. Enough is enough.

Chicagoland, Kentucky and Kansas (to name a few) have been eliminated and oval fans are angry. Randy Bernard may hide behind research as an excuse, but in reality when a venue is as inconsistently scheduled over time as Kentucky was with little to no meaningful promotion, what does he expect?

The most sickening aspect of the anti-Texas movement is their gratuitous use of the Dan Wheldon freak death at Las Vegas. They have convinced themselves that the same accident is waiting to happen at Texas. No, it’s not. If the cars are set up properly and the drivers drive them like the professionals they are supposed to be, nothing bad will happen.

I love small ovals as much as the next guy, but Indy Car MUST maintain a presence on ovals of ALL sizes, from short tracks to 1.5 milers to places like Fontana and up to Indy. My group of long term fans is ready to go to war over Texas if necessary.

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February 22, 2012

Why Does IndyCar Rarely Learn Anything From Mistakes Of The Past?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:48 pm

As the 2012 IndyCar season draws near, a lot of things are looking up. Randy Bernard and crew did a fine job outlining all that is good during the state of the series address a week or so ago. Under the surface, however, the same sort of counterproductive class warfare that divided the sport most recently in 1996 is again rearing its ugly head at levels unseen since the early 1990s.

Given the Sarah Fisher engine saga and the lack of any sort of discernible series action to rectify what is an egregious situation it is not difficult to wonder openly whether Randy Bernard really works for the George family. Recent events suggest he serves at the whim of a small group of legacy owners just like Chris Pook, Joe Heitzler and a litany of failed puppets who came and went from 1996 to their bailout. We cannot say he has not been repeatedly warned. Even Robin Miller, who derived income from said owners for years, has referred to them as ‘a bag of snakes.’

Virtually everyone previously associated with any part of the IRL has been dispatched, replaced usually by people with strong cart/champcar ties. Even popular Internet fan forums such as Trackforum have been overrun by disenfranchised apologists of that twice-failed discipline.

Now, even the most legendary non-Indy venue nurtured under former IRL auspices remains under attack. A drivers’ ‘committee’ represented by Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Justin Wilson is rattling sabers about what they perceive as dangerous fencing around Texas Motor Speedway and threatening vague ‘action’ if not repaired. I believe Eddie Gossage indicated shortly after the Vegas accident the poles at Texas are on the grandstand side of the mesh and has, in a nice way, indicated the drivers can shove their suggestions up their asses. I agree with Eddie.

Here are some suggestions for the concerned drivers and their knee-jerk sycophant ‘fans’:

-Occasional ‘pack racing’ is not a bad thing. How supposedly professional drivers behave in them can be.

-I am sick and tired of having ‘pack racing’ decried as ‘too dangerous,’ particularly when the allegations are made by road racers.

-Racing at Texas in close quarters was never a problem before ‘unification.’ It was lauded as the most exciting racing anywhere. The only thing that has really changed is the addition of champcar drivers and their often erratic driving tendencies.

-If this group of older drivers believe it is ‘too dangerous’ perhaps they should retire, or drive sports cars on twisty circuits. There are plenty of willing replacements ready to actually race professionally.

The kind of shenanigans being pulled in IndyCar today are exactly what led to the creation of the IRL by Tony George, and if we are not careful the same sort of trouble will follow. It is beyond my ability to comprehend how after all that the sport has been through supposedly smart people can seem so willing to make the same mistakes over and over.

Want to be popular? The prescription is simple.

-The Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the center of the entire sport.

-Diversity is good. A series top heavy with non-ovals is not.

-Allow access to any team willing to fund a realistic effort. The politics behind Sarah Fisher sitting there with everything but an engine is not acceptable, and IndyCar allowing the situation to fester is unconscionable.

In the sport of IndyCar, abject stupidity by many actually in charge has never known boundaries.

February 20, 2012

Anger and Frustration in the Indy Car Off Season

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:48 pm

The single most disappointing aspect of the Indy Car off season for fans is beginning to move from frustration to outright anger. The racing team of Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman has almost everything they need to thrive:

-Chassis

-Funding

-Sponsorship

-A talented young American driver who has won on all types of tracks

-Construction permits for a new headquarters right next door to Dallara in Speedway

-Commitment to run the entire season

….everything EXCEPT engines. And it seems unlikely Josef Newgarden can pedal fast enough. Chevy and Honda seem all set with drivers and teams, and Lotus still seems shaky. Almost everyone who is serious about running can. But not Fisher. Why?

Why would that team lose the most important round of musical chairs in the series? What sort of whacko, goofy politics are involved in this abomination?

Enough is enough. If the supposedly intelligent leadership of the series cannot facilitate some sort of solution (and starting at Indy is NOT a viable solution) what can be done? It would be nice to think some sort of grassroots effort could make a difference as it did when Donald Trump was replaced as the pace car driver for the 100th anniversary 500. The main problem is the way the game is played.

Still, why exclude Fisher’s team? They actually won their first race last season, albeit at a venue series leadership has decided is not important enough to continue, itself an egregious insult to many fans. If this team remains unable to secure a deal, it is time to change the rules. Having this team (or any other qualified team) unable to sign an agreement is not acceptable.

Randy Bernard needs to do more than just merely suggest or cajole. He needs to stomp on some heads. And he needs to start today.

February 16, 2012

Turning IndyCar Into Something It Is Not: Stop It.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:29 pm

As a lifelong IndyCar fan since the 1950s, it amuses me to read some of the commentary these days about IndyCar from fans of other disciplines. Now that we have successfully navigated through the scorched earth wrought by self-interested mutineers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, IndyCar appears poised once again to grow in meaningful ways on its own. The one aspect of the sport that is supposed to set it apart from the other major disciplines; e.g., Formula One, NASCAR and the conglomeration of racing known as short track, not to mention other disciplines such as drag racing and off-road, is diversity of styles, which is supposed to mean successful teams and drivers in IndyCar are more talented than their counterparts in other disciplines.

In theory that notion is commendable and is, to a certain extent, a marketing push for the series. A primary problem today is the same problem that has plagued the series since the 1970s. Too many outsiders want to claim IndyCar as their own. Arrogance and egos get in the way. Those unfamiliar with the use of mirrors are quick to blame all real and perceived problems on Tony George, even today. They fail to realize that without his family money and lineage there would be no Indy Car branch of the sport today.

Worse, this group of people has never and probably never will understand the importance of the Indianapolis 500 as the centerpiece of the sport. It is not that such racing enthusiasts should be excluded from following the sport. As a matter of fact many of these people are utterly obsessed with IndyCar, even if the obsession is dark and counterproductive.

One of the manifestations of this involves the possibility that 19-year Formula One veteran and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello may drive a full Indy Car season with KV Racing…not necessarily because he has chosen to do so, but because he is unable to secure a ride in F-1 and because he is friendly with Tony Kanaan. There is also a rumor that Adrian Sutil, another F-1 refugee who effectively burned bridges there by slamming F-1 pretty boy Lewis Hamilton not to mention slitting the throat of an owner with a broken champagne glass (oddly appropriate, however), may also be pursuing a ride in Indy Car. Many of the 1995-centric ownership of the series seem willing to consider these guys before a slew of younger, hungrier and deserving drivers with much more long-term upside potential. Many of the Formula One washouts do not even want to include ovals in their plans. That is just insulting.

That said, having Rubens Barrichello or even Adrian Sutil in the series may not be a bad thing from a marketing standpoint. The addition of a few NASCAR stars would make it even more interesting. The danger of a regression to what many believe they had in 1995, however, is much more sinister.  Some of the Barrichello and Sutil proponents even have the audacity to proclaim they would bring an excitement not seen in years to the 500. My reaction? These people do not have the first clue about the 500 in the first place and do not understand much about it. There were not enough of them to justify keeping the USGP outside the first decade of this century. Of course much of that problem was caused by their arrogance, including the ‘tyre’ fiasco, eight years of juvenile bitching about the place and contrived ‘racing’ a lot of the time.

So what would these fans bring to the 500? Hopefully not air horns and oversized flags that block my view. The last time that crap happened in my stand some fellow actual fans attempted to straighten the colon of some obnoxious, drunk, xenophobic foreigner with the business end of the stupid flagpole with which he was annoying others. I appreciate their enthusiasm and such behavio(u)r may be appropriate at some F-1 event, but respect for others who may be paying close attention to strategy, storylines and action, not to mention being able to see, hear and smell the damned race, is absolutely necessary.

The Disciple advice of the day:

-Learn about the Indianapolis 500 and respect what it is, not what you believe it could be if a couple of Formula One retirees were given rides.

-Stop trying to turn the clock back to some perceived utopia you believe existed in a previous evolutionary state. It is always better to shoot for what we could be in five years, not what you think we were twenty years ago.

-Support cultivation of new stars, not the recycling and retirement tours of racing senior citizens.

Don’t get me started on the way certain flat-earthers are actively gutting Indy Car as they regress. Rumo(u)rs of the inclusion of standing starts, no double wide restarts, etc., are sickening. On the other hand, addition of other unique elements; e.g., heat races at Iowa, give hope. Randy Bernard remains bullish on making Indy Car successful and that is commendable. He still needs to be very careful about sources of advice.

When does the season begin again?

February 14, 2012

State of IndyCar for 2012: Thumbs Up

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:16 am

The State of IndyCar address by Randy Bernard and crew at the Hilbert Theater in downtown Indianapolis came off without a hitch. It contained lots of glitz, highlighted the talent in the series, and reiterated a litany of really great things going on in the series, including:

-New cars in 2012, and everyone is on board.

-Three engine suppliers instead of one.

-New teams with a minimum of 26 cars on the grid.

-Firestone remains through 2014.

-NBC Sports Network will have additional programming, including a reality-type show called IndyCar 36.

-Six races on ABC.

-Milwaukee is back only with competent promotion.

-All the Lights races will be on TV.

-New merchandising initiatives are ahead.

-New IndyCar branded credit card from Discover.

It is a great time for IndyCar fans to be optimistic. Optimism, of course, could be tempered. My camp is mostly happy, but realistic:

-Lindy Thackston is out as pit reporter. That’s a real shame because she outworked almost everyone, was easy on the eyes and knew what she was doing (unlike unnamed shabbily dressed often fired print guys).

-All the glorious IndyCar news has evidently eluded the broadcast partners in the deal. There is no mention of the state of the series on either the NBC Sports Network or ESPN front pages, much less wherever they have buried the IndyCar stuff.

-The schedule is still out of balance with far too many festivals o’ speed.

-The state of the series did not address presentation at oval (or any other) events.

That said, the needle is moving forward. That is progress and that is positive. Spring is just around the corner and travel plans are underway for what looks to be another season of growth.

February 7, 2012

Post Super Bowl Thoughts and Indy Car in the Future

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:51 pm

It is not difficult to wonder whether the brass at Indy Car and IMS came away with any good ideas after the NFL transformed a few blocks in downtown Indianapolis into a venue that attracted over one hundred thousand people a day for a week before the Super Bowl game. Doug Boles, for example, feels that a zip line at Indy in May would be a swell idea.

Why couldn’t Indy Car package a lot of the same or similar activities then apply them at ALL of their races, especially oval venues? Look at the things that made Super Bowl Village popular:

-Zip line

-Nearly continuous entertainment on multiple stages

-The nearby ‘NFL Experience’ and the presence of the NFL, which in turn drew a lot of famous people who are popular today, as opposed to just relevant in the 1960s.

-A lot of the fun was subsidized by committed sponsors. The InBev/Budweiser folks, for example, had their products available all over the venue. They even renamed a hotel. Everywhere anyone turned had some sponsor-driven diversion to keep them occupied.

Folks who did not get to ride the zip line or otherwise participate in other diversion still got to attend and be a part of the party. The NFL Experience brought the sport close to large numbers of people.

The NFL, of course, is already immensely popular. The game itself was the most watched program in United States television history. Indy Car is not going to gain NFL-level popularity or prosperity any time soon, but if Indy Car could absorb some of the, for lack of a better word, mojo that event brought, it would be much better off in the long run.

The NFL put on a celebration that was attractive across multiple demographic groups. There was something for everyone. Indy Car noticed. Let’s see what happens down the road.

February 2, 2012

Will Indy Car Be Inspired To Action By The Local Super Bowl?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:03 am

By most accounts the presentation of the Super Bowl by Indianapolis is exceeding the expectations of most everyone, and the game has not even been played yet. The Super Bowl Village and NFL Experience are receiving rave reviews. The national media has swarmed into town and is taking notice.

Indy Car has been doing their part to wow the visitors as well, from providing relevant backdrops; e.g., 33 cars painted up like NFL teams with one for the big game to hosting thousands of media members at a Brickyard bash.

There has been a week-long party that precedes the game. The party is inclusive of all demographics as well. There is something for everyone.

It is my sincere hope that Indy Car is paying attention to this. Hopefully they will be inspired by the presentation of the locals to incorporate some of that mojo into Indy Car. Given the precipitous drop of the style of racing that actually built the series and the rationalized substitution of a style preferred by a minority that has failed on their own with it twice, Indy Car could certainly use the vibe.

The first few years the Super Bowl was held (remember that it has far less than half the history of Indy Car’s big event) they had to give tickets AND television rights away. It has come a very long way.

The presentation of Super Bowl Village and the NFL Experience is exactly the kind of thing Indy Car needs to take on the road, albeit on a less grand scale. Indy Car, after all, has to do it for every race. The concept is the same. Compelling things to do, always funded by some sort of cooperative sponsorship, that makes race weekends an event people will want to attend for THREE days instead of just one. Indy Car already sort of tries to do with festivals o’ speed on street circuits.

They need to also make equally concerted effort for ovals, including 1.5 milers. The weak reasons parroted for dropping ovals remain just obfuscation for what is essentially neglectful management of a style that has served as the foundation of the sport for decades. One need look no further than the current balance of venues in Indy Car along with the trend line since 2005 to prove the point.

Use the magnificent Indianapolis Super Bowl presentation as a guide to how event presentation should occur. Indy Car is worth it.

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