Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

March 29, 2012

IndyCar at Birmingham This Weekend…and Houston Next Year.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:47 pm

If you have no plans this weekend my suggestion is to head for Birmingham to watch Indy Cars take on the most beautiful natural terrain road course possibly anywhere. George Barber’s magnificent facility outside Leeds has become an annual stop for the Disciple crew. The track that has been crafted from the remains of a former strip mine is truly a thing of beauty. Any visit to the track is also not complete without a visit to the museum there. If you are a fan of racing on two wheels you will be in heaven. There is enough of everything there, however, to keep real racing fans occupied for hours.

Every year they try to make the experience a little better. It’s a relatively cheap weekend too with lots of dining and lodging options. On the narrow track you are not supposed to be able to pass easily, but the Indy Cars have traditionally made it a better show than people anticipate. If you are headed south we will see you there.

In other news, the uncomfortable reality that IndyCar leadership says one thing but continuously does another continued. News yesterday included the addition of yet another idiotic temporary street course race in Houston, an event that has already failed multiple times. It’s a five year deal with Shell sponsorship, Penske support and Randy Bernard load swallowing. The only way to make lemonade of this pile of lemons might be to craft a ‘Texas Three Step’ event in which Indy Cars would race on the streets of Houston, the Circuit of the Americas outside Austin, and at Texas Motor Speedway with a million dollar (or higher) bonus if you win all three. If brains were used and egos were set aside I would get Eddie Gossage on board to co-promote and make the Texas Motor Speedway event the highlight.

What will probably happen is Eddie will get completely alienated and we fans will lose the second best attended and most exciting race on the schedule over the politics. If that happens IndyCar will have completely failed to meet their responsibility to fans, and it will be time again for change at the top. Now is probably a good time to remind the puppet leadership about balance. It is not what Roger Penske believes it should be; i.e., 1/3 oval, 1/3 street and 1/3 road course. That is a 70/30 imbalance. Balance equals 50% oval and 50% non-oval. Period.  Anything less is unacceptable. Get that through your thick heads.

March 26, 2012

The Disciple Recap of IndyCar’s Opening Weekend

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:08 pm

The IndyCar season began the 2012 season on a beautiful day in Florida before a really nice crowd of enthusiastic event fans. Many of the purists lament the fact that it was a street event, but some compelling stories unfolded. Virtually all of them, however, eluded the grasp of ESPN on ABC. Other than a moving piece about the death of Dan Wheldon in the introductory portion viewers were put to sleep by the same old uninspired televised tranquilization on the air. Absolutely nothing new or different was added. Promotion for the event on ABC was also non-existent. The NASCAR Nationwide Series on ESPN, however, has been regularly promoted all season. ESPN did run a few promos before the season opener.

When I went to the ESPN website this morning the only thing I could find was a lower left reference to a John Oreovicz article. Otherwise it was all about the Fontana rainout won by Tony Stewart. Same story. Different year.

Indy Car St. Pete Viewing Party

What a shame. The fact that IndyCar has new cars, several compelling driver stories, new personnel and approaches should be reason enough for better coverage, but unfortunately presentation has not improved for at least ten years. During one stretch in the heart of the broadcast, they averaged a two minute break every four minutes. Between an on-air booth that puts viewers to sleep and a spot load that ruins any continuity in coverage, how do they expect viewers to remain tuned in?

Among the most important items they missed were several inspired drives, including Josef Newgarden, Mike Conway, Sebastien Bourdais and others. Also missed were important passes and coherent explanations of strategies that unfolded.

The broadcast ‘partner’ and IndyCar have had an entire long off season to prepare, but what unfolded seemed disorganized and bush league at best. One thing touted in the off season was ESPN3 in car cameras. That is a lie. No such capability was possible. Timing and scoring and radio audio from the new web site was abominable. No streaming video from any source continues to be inexcusable.

Best line from an obsessed idiot who watched every second anyway: ‘I’ve seen better looking race cars at the Malibu Grand Prix.’ As opposed to what…current year F-1 cars or the bricks on wheels NASCAR runs?

Having said all of that the fact the Indy Car season is underway is great. The drivers actually drove that race like professionals with no carnage in the first turn and mutual respect throughout the race. Some of the pit crews still have some work to do. In the end, despite all the new equipment, personnel and changes, the top teams remained at the top and the others are still trying. Hopefully the really great stories that will emerge this season will get told.

March 23, 2012

IndyCar 2012: Time To Go Racing

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:15 pm

The 2012 IndyCar season is finally ready to begin, and it’s about time. The compelling stories are numerous in St. Petersburg this weekend. IndyCar festivities, regardless of how great they turn out, are certain to be bittersweet as Dan Wheldon is remembered in his adopted hometown. His sister will throw the green flag and racing will resume. Somehow that seems appropriate.

On the track the new Dallara that was shaken down for months by Dan Wheldon races for the first time. The single chassis will be powered by three different turbocharged engines. The competition that will introduce has been sorely lacking for a while. Many folks feel the Chevy brand is the one to beat, but Honda is right up there. Lotus still seems out to lunch, and many teams forced to settle for those particular leftovers may have to cool their heels for part of the season.

The usual off season game of musical chairs forces the need for an up to date scorecard. Some familiar faces are gone, and new ones will test their mettle. The rookie garnering the most attention is Rubens Barrichello, who was put out to pasture after 19 seasons in Formula One. Meddling road racing enthusiasts unable to make it on their own, twice, that have spent the past sixteen years attempting to reconstitute in IndyCar what they thought they had in the early 1990s are already well beyond moist in the loins over the ‘excitement’ they feel ‘Rubhino’ will bring. While it is always nice to welcome former F-1 drivers who have worn theirs out across the pond, a more interesting person to watch may well be Josef Newgarden, a talented multi-dimensional driver just beginning his Indy Car career. The field is filled with many really nice stories.

Speaking of road racing enthusiasts, another one of them was installed to replace the oft-criticized (not to mention insulted) Brian Barnhart (also known as ‘Brainfart’ or ‘TGBB’ by classless, juvenile idiots). Beaux Barfield will attempt IndyCar cat herding duties this season. Perhaps the two most interesting things to watch will be how quickly the rank and file turn on him after fawning over him for the past couple of years and how quickly he decides to implement standing starts on non-ovals.

The best potential thing to watch is the unpredictably brought by all the new elements. Regardless of the politics, the place to be this weekend is St. Pete…either in person or on the tube.

March 14, 2012

Is It Time To Drop The Indy Car Green Flag Yet?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:38 pm

The excitement is building as we get closer to finally opening the 2012 Indy Car season complete with new cars, drivers, paint jobs and events. The real fun for racing fans arrives once they drop the flag. Most of us are beyond ready.

Despite the optimism a new season brings, it is still possible to stumble across aspects of the sport that brings amusement, many times in snide ways. On balance, Randy Bernard has done one helluva great job in elevating the stature of the sport. Turns out he struck a deal with Dreamworks, and an animated movie centered around the 500 called ‘Turbo’ is being made. It has some heavy hitters involved, and will help with the pop culture aspect of Indy Car.

The Indy Car website is also being revamped (it’s about time) and the first phase hits the Internet tomorrow. Merchandise offerings have been enhanced through a new partnership with Lids. My only hope is that I can actually buy thing I want easily without having to jump through a myriad of hoops. It would be nice, for example, to buy a DVD copy of the Centennial 500. I have been told it is for sale, but finding it and subsequently purchasing it is a different story.

It would also be nice to lay my mitts on a copy of a ‘unified’ record book alluded to in tweets by Randy Bernard. It appears, however, that only 1,000 of them are available and you must jump through hoops. That is probably for the best anyway. Randy’s determination to sweep all things ‘split’ under the rug for good would probably just irk me anyway, as has the continuing regressive cartization of Indy Car. Hell, there is even talk Surfer’s Paradise may return. It is easy to understand the value of harmony in the sport, but no one who took part in that boycott has ever been held accountable for any of their behavior that nearly destroyed the sport. That is galling. That said, we should all be for moving forward.

With the weather around most of the country in late May mode, the only wish for most of us is that cars get onto the track. Now, more than ever, drop the flag.

March 9, 2012

An Open Letter To IndyCar’s Randy Bernard and TMS’ Eddie Gossage:

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:56 am

Dear Randy And Eddie,

It is not difficult to see that conflict between the two entities you represent is not being resolved amicably, and has begun to mutually fester with pompous animosity. That is a genuine shame and is completely unacceptable. I am speaking purely as a fan, and probably represent other fans as well. As an American racing fan that enjoys Indy Cars on ovals far more than Indy Cars on non-ovals, I do not EVER want to see the Texas Motor Speedway annual event ever go away for any reason.

Randy, Eddie built that event from scratch. For fifteen years it has been second only to Indy in the number of people who attend. Eddie has done more for Indy Car than any other track operator outside Indy. Do not be stupid. Letting that event wither and die, especially over a personality conflict and lack of respect (not to mention a seemingly noble direction that preaches balance but in reality practices imbalance), would be the most incredibly foolish thing an Indy Car CEO has ever done. The list of incredibly foolish things Indy-style racing CEOs have done is already extraordinarily long but that feat would take over the top slot. Fans always bear the brunt of such ill-advised foolishness and most of us have had enough of either sheer ignorance or insolence (or both) putting absolutely great venues at risk.

Eddie, I offer the same sort of advice. I understand Indy Car has never afforded you the kind of respect you deserve. Join the club. They have alienated peers, partners and many fans for decades. Dealing with Indy Car for long periods of time requires really thick skin and a penchant for masochism on many levels. Further, I do not really care about how deals get put together, just that they are. If you are able to make some money with the Indy Car event every year, that makes everyone happy. If Indy Car prevents you from making money by jacking up the price every year, why not gripe about that publicly and work it out privately? That is relevant. I do not care that you and Randy butt heads for whatever reason. I do not care that you seem to hold a grudge about something that happened over ten years ago. Just stop it. You risk further punishing fans that regularly support the events, buy the tickets and the merchandise, and watch on television.

Randy and Eddie, just work it out. Be adults. Divorce is not the answer. Losing the great Texas oval is definitely not an answer regardless of how whacko the general Indy Car direction gets. Remember the fans FIRST, and stop both bickering and posturing. It is cheesy and counterproductive.

Also, a note to Indy Car drivers: Shut up and race. We want to see you run the cars. Not your mouths. The new car has not even turned a wheel in competition on any oval, much less that one. Further, it is designed to minimize the kind of airborne mishap that puts drivers at risk of one-in-a-million accident. I have also been told the fencing at Texas is on the outside of the posts. Why is any of this still an issue?

You can also stop whining about Eddie’s reaction to April of 2001 as well. My party was the third car in line at one of the gates as they closed them and turned everyone away. This after driving a few hundred miles to get there. It does not really matter how good the reason was for calling it off, fans got screwed that day too. By the thousands. I am over it, but fully understand Eddie’s wariness given the cast of characters then, many of whom dominate Indy Car today.

Finally, it is difficult enough to be an Indy Car fan over time anyway given the economy, rampant inconsistency in race scheduling, increasing inaccessibility, willy-nilly dropping of events that have been around for years, a procession of mostly no-name foreign formula drivers with money who come and go…not to mention an increasing predisposition away from what made Indy Car great in the first place. When you add in this kind of catty backbiting the fans are left in the crosshairs and that is not good.

Straighten this out once and for all, and please keep the Texas event on the schedule after 2012 no matter what.

Sincerely,

Disciple.

 

March 6, 2012

IndyCar’s Next Anticipated Fan Screwing

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:18 pm

The biggest outside supporter of Indy Car in the United States since 1997, Eddie Gossage of ‘…the second home of Indy Cars—Texas Motor Speedway,’ has not had cordial things to say lately about even rumors of a driver boycott the track due to pack racing and safety concerns about the fencing.

Gossage told racintoday.com that he believes driver pontification constitutes damage to the sport, especially when it contains talk of potential boycotting. He feels drivers running their yaps in such a manner is irresponsible and lacking in common sense.

This racing fan agrees. It is no coincidence the drivers who competed at Texas from the inception of the first IRL race until about 2005 not only did not complain but provided some of the best, closest actual racing ever seen in any discipline race after race. It is not hard to understand Eddie’s viewpoint, particularly after the arrogant, irresponsible stunt many of the exact same pedigree of drivers pontificating today pulled at his track in April, 2001. They waltzed in there waving their genitals around like they were the best thing since sex, then proceeded to screw themselves, Eddie and the locked out racing fans all because they failed to perform adequate due diligence beforehand and keep their egos in check.

The oval-skilled drivers who fully understood how to race close and with respect on ovals have been replaced in Indy Car by foreign formula racers whose philosophies and instincts are different. Formula trained racers are usually aggressive on the track and self-enforce a code of conduct that allows passing only in a prescribed manner at set points. It is far more contrived than oval racing. When the aggression they have is applied to an oval like Texas, the results are predictable.

That is why the formula racers want to eliminate anything even remotely resembling racing in a pack. Their aggression will get them in trouble, as it did in Vegas. There is a right way and a wrong way to express concern about fence posts at race tracks. The drivers, of course, chose the most ill-advised way they possibly could. Oddly, there is virtually no concern about fences at any other track. Then again, the banking is not as steep.

The worst part about the current IndyCar regression to the early 1990s is the screwing race fans will no doubt take when either Eddie does not invite them back for 2013 or the de facto leadership of the series talks Randy Bernard into not renewing the contract, even though the event draws between 80K and 100K every time. Hey, with new formula racers like Luca Filippi being brought into the fold how could Texans ever turn away? LOL.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. And mark my words, fans will end up screwed in the end over Texas. The egos are at it again, and the ones on the Indy Car side are willing to let it go. What a horrible waste.

March 2, 2012

The Best Owner in IndyCar

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:07 pm

Michael Andretti, take a bow. Since this guy started his Indy Car team his group has worked harder than most to make the entire venture a success. Over the years he has always fielded more cars than anyone else, he has hired mostly American talent with promise, further propagated the Danica brand, has produced an Indy Car winner and series champions. And that’s just ON the track.

Off the track, his group has become an effective promoting entity. His latest feat is the rescue of the Milwaukee Indy Car event from certain death. He is planning to do it the right way, with affordable ticket prices and a full weekend of entertainment. In other words a festival o’ speed atmosphere at an oval track.

He is also mugging it up on reality TV as a Celebrity Apprentice on NBC.

Say what you want about Michael, e.g., dull as dishwater, reckless golf cart driver, no personality, etc., or even about his team; e.g., dissension, etc., but the guy has been great for the series and is a model owner.

IndyCar is fortunate to have him.

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