Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

February 25, 2014

Suggested Title Sponsor for IndyCar: AARP

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:39 pm

AUTO - GRAND PRIX OF AUSTRALIA 2013This morning we were breathlessly assaulted with news from left field that 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve is returning to the big race this May with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. As a pure racing fan there is a lot about which to be excited. He is another 500 winner joining the fray, a former Formula 1 world champion, and someone with a large fan base. He helps the participant count and potentially sponsorship, and sparks interest among a fringe group who claim not to have paid attention since 1995.

As an optimist this must be seen as at least an interesting move. As a forward thinker the move remains open to question. Villeneuve is potentially the least favorite Indy 500 winner of the modern era. After his win (which many feel went to the wrong Canadian despite Villeneuve actually driving 505 miles to the checkered flag) he departed for Formula 1 where he peaked in 1997. He never won another Formula 1 event after his title in the years that followed. His off-and-on career in various NASCAR divisions, where he treated the roofed contraptions and competitors like carnival bumper cars, also did not make him a large number of friends. What a number of IndyCar fans who have remained IndyCar fans for decades (no hissy fits, boycotts or walking away, etc.) find troubling are a number of negative comments about the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar racing in general over the years. His public persona has been one of little to no appreciation for IMS and the 500. He has publicly personified the sheer arrogance that led directly to the events of the following few years. That makes his return at this late point in his dwindling racing career seem hypocritical. On the other hand that has been rather normal since the mid-2000s.

Sam Schmidt has been great at finding relatively obscure young racers, most with an ability to assist with funding, and finding golden nuggets along the way. Recycling of way-past-their-prime champions seems out of character but definitely interesting. Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi seem to feel it will work. My thoughts lament the sheer number of talented on-the-cusp young racers just standing there with their helmets and no discernable possibility for a ride. On the other hand inclusion of past champions from ‘glory days’ fifteen or twenty years past Dont run over itretains a certain appeal. What might really move the interest needle is even a possibility they could be bumped. That hardly seems likely given micromanagement of the field by IMS and the manufacturers.

As long as we are going down this road why not put Buddy Lazier in a competitive ride for once? A field that contains Montoya, Lazier, Villeneuve and Kurt Busch would attract a large and diverse cross section of racing fans.

Despite a strong urge to hold my nose, shrug and perhaps yawn about the Villeneuve news my big picture concern lies only with IMS and Indianapolis 500. A propensity to drop anchor in a previous century that impedes forward movement notwithstanding, on balance and as racing fans we should cheer optimistically for tangible things that attract more eyeballs. For better or worse this is a textbook case. Welcome back, Jacques. Please go talk to Mr. Foyt or members of the Unser family about what Indy means before you strap back in. It will be most interesting to see how the grand dame treats you.



  1. Buddy Lazier is already entered with his family operation, but as far as past winners are concerned, I’d definitely rather see Buddy Rice and/or Sam Hornish (neither of whom have much going on) than Villeneuve at this point.

    Comment by arenasnow — February 25, 2014 @ 6:47 pm | Reply

  2. Dear Defender:

    I was a fan of Villeneuve then and I am an fan now and I am encouraged by his return to the 500, even if I doubt that he still possesses the skill set and reflexes necessary to take the checkered flag….if we are now headed down memory lane with former winners who departed American Open Wheel (either series) for greener pastures, perhaps there is still a place for Little Al, Paul Tracy and hell, even Vassar and Michael Andretti to strap themselves back in and bump up the car count…sure, we have plenty of young, hungry racers from sprint cars, etc. who would help fill the growing void between the last decades champions and who will replace them, but the series is broke, as we are told again and again, and there are no sponsors for young and talented American drivers who are desperately needed to help this series survive and potentially grow…Ropin’ Randy knew this all too well but he was shown the door and now we have an invisible bean counter running this series right into the ground…at least the groundhog came out of the earth this month, where the hell is Mark Miles and some good news about this series?

    Comment by Neil Rubin — February 25, 2014 @ 7:13 pm | Reply

  3. I agree with both Neil and arenasnow, and D. too; I’d rather see someone like Vitor Meira, Tomas Scheckter, or Paul Tracy, along with Hornish or Rice come back, but even if Jacques still has the skills, which is not likely considering his age and time out of the cockpit, he probably couldn’t win anyway with a less-funded team like Schmidt Motorsports. I think JV did us all a great disservice when he jumped ship in 1996; we needed his like and he maybe would have had a much longer career with the Indy cars. I hate to think how Jerry Forsythe felt after all the money he invested in Jacques.

    Comment by DOUG — February 26, 2014 @ 1:11 am | Reply

  4. More gimmicks and recycling. Surely this will make TV numbers skyrocket!
    Editor’s Note: Realistically there are few things that would make TV numbers ‘skyrocket’ and Jacques Villeneuve is not one of them. If the race stays on par with last year and it doesn’t rain the world will continue spinning on its axis, the sun will still rise, and we will enjoy many seasons of racing to come. If they want ‘skyrocketing’ numbers they will have to go to a reality format that features, say, topless Lebanese skiers. Either that or a actual fist fighting between competitors. Here on planet earth Most of us would settle for coherent and steady promotion by both IMS/IndyCar and ESPN on ABC. Of course I would like to bump uglies with Scarlett Johansson, so we’ll see.

    Comment by youowemeabeerasshole — February 26, 2014 @ 4:30 pm | Reply

    • (Off topic content mercifully relocated to thread of 12/19/14)

      Comment by youowemeabeerasshole — February 27, 2014 @ 3:13 am | Reply

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