Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

March 31, 2014

The 2014 IndyCar Season Is Underway!

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:23 pm

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg…and it is about time. After weeks of waiting a few aspects about racing became apparent. The biggest item involves confirmation of the level of relative insanity the most vociferous IndyCar critics possess. In Formula 1 these days crowds are down, many liveries are just colors, many cars are flat ugly and the new sound of F-1 is widely panned often in even less complimentary fashion than ‘farting pigs.’ Legacy NASCAR venues are far from full, ratings are trending downward and entire empty grandstands have been covered over by billboards (which is probably a good idea; revenue generation from empty seats is always good).

The point? IndyCar did not have to do much to be welcomed back with open arms. True to form, not much was done. Do not misunderstand. Unlike the other venues of the day the weather in St. Pete was utterly perfect for Allenrace day and a nice sized crowd turned out. Allen Bestwick in the television booth is a definite step up, and he even seems to elevated the games of Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear. Paul Page on the radio is nostalgic and there is something comforting about having an old friend around. Personally I would have moved someone like a Kevin Lee into that position as a forward-looking strategy, but why not enjoy Paul while we can?

What about aesthetics? In their continuing Walker-led attempts to cherry pick the best parts of Formula One (never successful long term in the United States) to incorporate into IndyCar the grid girls (or whatever they call them) are always easy on the eyes. But necessary? One guy I like a lot personally is Michael Young. IndyCar takes him along for PA duties. But enough with the ‘….are you ready’ screeching before the start of every race. It is Michael Young not Michael Buffer. Memo to the Sinden folks: You had the longest off season in decades to make sure the two-seater would fire up. A better plan B is warranted. 22 cars on the grid constitutes another step in the wrong direction.

IndyCar continues an annoying tendency not to exploit good fortune that gets dropped into their laps. Verizon title sponsorship is outstanding. When Verizon-centric IndyCar on air promos during the race attempt to sell tickets for a race that is already halfway completed, what is the point? Would it not be better to try and sell tickets to Long Beach or Indy? Allen Bestwick elevated the broadcast but it appeared IMS Productions used the ‘Vaseline lens cam’ for the opening sequence. Sato on the pole? Great story. But why recycle a piece from Indy last year to tell that story? It is not as if Sato is Foyt’s ‘new’ driver any more.

Will is Gayly CelebratingSpeaking of Walker and crew, it appears his modus operandi will simply be to kowtow to whatever whims the biggest drivers have. Like no double wide restarts. I can almost see it for street circuits with a narrowed and slow turn one, but not for ovals and especially not for Indy. Fans appreciate the potential variables. Drivers need to act like the professionals they are supposed to be. It was also easy to surmise yesterday that IndyCar officials will be rules sticklers for smaller teams but give excessive leeway to the big guns.

All in all it was a successful 2014 season kickoff. The IndyCars put on a nice show and the ladder rung series also presented professionally. For a street circuit St. Pete has earned its niche although it was easy to envision the slippery slope they eventually slid down when the then-IRL made it their first non-oval. Fast forward less than ten years and ovals have been relegated to a mere handful of events. That said, the season is underway, it has a great title sponsor and Indy is less than two months away.

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March 21, 2014

Obvious Impatience Waiting For The Start of the Verizon IndyCar Series Season

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:30 pm

Presenting a few this n’ that meanderings as we attempt to wait patiently for St. Pete:

OutdatedWonder when IndyCar is going to update their merchandise site with Verizon branding? It has only been a week since the formal announcement. Perhaps we should cut them some slack. LOL.

On December 17 of last year I offered a blog entitled ‘IndyCar Ratings and The Latest Attempt To Make 12+ Seem Important’ in which I gave kudos to the efforts of a guy named Andrew Maness who ran a site then called ‘Nascarnomics.’ Andrew basically gathers a passel of Nielsen 12+ overnight audience estimates then combines those numbers with whatever else was happening that day; e.g., weather, competing events, etc., along with other semi-related metrics. From these values he creates analysis using the statistics to draw conclusions about various aspects of the sport. Last December he focused on IndyCar and offered andyobservations. The difference in the way he does it versus the way an average squatting troll does it is not the base data; 12+ overnight audience estimates remain merely a tool for the waving of genitals and have never sold a national spot in and of themselves. The difference is the elegant frame in which the same numbers are presented. That and Andrew is literate and can write intelligently.

The point of bringing this back up is that suddenly his website suddenly transformed from ‘Nascarnomics’ to ‘Racingnomics’ and all NASCAR-related content vanished. Evidently the good ol’ boys and their lawyers got wind of it and promptly, in a legal sense, castrated the young man. Legally there is probably no quarrel but it seems almost ridiculously petty, akin to killing a fly with a bazooka. GREAT entertainment.

High BeamsMark Miles continues allowing foxes to rule the hen house in IndyCar, and the foxes have evidently returned to the notion that if they attempt to recreate Formula 1 they will be more successful. That includes more road courses, a new light system for standing starts, fluid rules that can be changed whimsically, and now grid girls. We can lament the lack of original thought all day, but if they Bare Assedare going to continue down the copycat road and forsake originality for good at least grid girls are a great form of flattery. At the risk of being accused of misogyny my hope is that the ‘Indy Girls’ do not resemble livestock and possess a full mouth of straight teeth with no discernable under- or overbite. I recommend ample breasts preferably proportioned to a slightly higher degree than the remainder of their frames. Although they are being positioned as walking mannequins for the fashion efforts of local clothing designers it is my hope and that of hordes of most men that whatever they wear will be barely enough to conceal their privates. Before anyone takes umbrage remember that sex sells. Men have been leering over women since Eve first tongued the apple. It is natural for heterosexual men. If IndyCar wants to attract more of them, which is an obvious need, why not give them eye candy for ALL their senses? In the realm of copied ideas to help pretend you are something you are actually not, this one is perhaps the best.

March 20, 2014

Epitome of the Worst Kind of IndyCar Fan

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:00 am

KrisBranch1Another one slithered forth from the woodwork.  Some hypocrite named Kris Branch out of Ocala used Robin Miller’s mailbag as a pulpit to whine incessantly with the same kind of nonsense tripe reserved for the most virulent of obsessed haters. Sooner or later the few remaining vulgar, loudmouthed malcontents should begin to die off. If they actually meant what they type they would have been gone or silent a long time ago or might have at least cultivated enough maturity to act like an actual racing fan. Clearly, Kris is as distant from that as former planet Pluto is from the sun. And then some.

Nuggets this yelping grandstander typed are, frankly, stupid to a degree that is difficult to comprehend. My first hand Indy 500 experiences date back to the first one I ever attended in 1961. Perhaps it is this broad view that allows me and other actual racing fans to appreciate each evolutionary phase of IndyCar. Anyone who states ‘our Indy 500 is dead’ or ‘the 1995 Indy 500 was OUR last Indy 500’ or ‘R.I.P. to OUR Indy 500: 1911-1995’ is utterly absent from understanding, reality and being an actual fan to a brutally retarded level.

KrisBranchFor the record none of these words should demonize normal racing fans still enamored of the memory of cart; the vast majority of them are actually genuine racing fans like most everyone else.  They follow IndyCar today without any of the melodramatic, out of touch lunacy that characterizes the bleating fringe. Just once it would be nice if cretins like Kris engaged their brains. It is not ‘YOUR’ Indy 500. The 500 does not belong to anyone. It belongs to EVERYONE in roughly equal amounts. And if ‘his’ Indy 500 died in 1995 why is he going in 2014 ‘because it is still the Indy 500?’ That makes no sense to anyone other than blatant hypocrites.

We are very nearly 20 years removed from 1995 and the entire world has changed in fundamental ways. Despite ‘Indy is dead’ shrieking for nearly 20 years it arrives like clockwork every May, when hundreds of thousands of paying fans stop by along with millions more on television. This May will mark my 50th 500 in person. I went before, during and after cart and usually enjoy each year as much as or more than the previous one. I cannot remember a bad one (although 1964 and 1973 were rough).

My advice for Kris and his handful of flat-earthed malcontents: Climb down off your crosses. You look rabidly foolish to adults with brains and sportsmanship. It is well beyond time those who fancy themselves as racing fans began acting like it. Criticism is fine as long as it is constructive and has some type of point. There are hundreds of ways IndyCar could improve. Lamenting what some myopically believed they had in 1995 will not result in any improvement at all and becomes exponentially more stupid as each year passes.

March 17, 2014

Thumb Twiddling Until IndyCar Begins

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 11:42 am
Formula 1 Season Opener

Formula 1 Season Opener

The racing events of this past weekend left many of us with mixed emotions. It would be nice if IndyCar was not the last series out of the gate.

The 12 Hours of Sebring was OK in a slightly less than boring way. At least it was racing. It would have been more entertaining in person. NASCAR tried to play Bristol in front of a sparse crowd, but mother nature applied the brakes before the real rubbin’ and racin’ began. It is my continuing belief Fox should subtitle all broadcasts that feature DW and Larry Mac. That way we could get English interpretations of phrases such as ‘Jimmee sled up the heel’ or ‘torlet paper.’

Thank goodness for DVRs. As one who appreciates the value of sleep on a long weekend I was more than happy to record the overnight programming devoted to Formula 1 then watch it while nursing breakfast. I know the usual suspects like to chime in about how ugly they believe IndyCars are but most of the F-1 grid contains designs only a mother or an anteater could love. Under the body work the guts have evolved into a Rube Goldberg-like series of interconnected acronym-laden ‘units’ that break down a lot. The cars also sound different. For those who appreciate variety the podium ended up with fresh faces and favorites fell by the wayside early. During my thumb clicks of the fast forward button when commercials were playing I did not happen to notice any promotion of the upcoming IndyCar season by the Nice Ringpeacock partner.

Perhaps that will change now that Verizon is officially on board with the series. $12 million or so every year in cash, marketing and technology should make a meaningful dent in the vacuum that has passed for IndyCar marketing in recent years.

Gary BThe flip side of emotions race fans feel when cars take the track is abrupt sadness when we lose a family member. At some point during the Sunday racing activity 72-year-old Gary Bettenhausen suddenly dropped dead. Gary B was a throwback to IndyCar days when drivers raced whatever they could get their hands on whenever they could in whatever series happened to be racing. He was a short track hero and champion when that was normal for IndyCar drivers. He won a lot and came close to chugging milk at Indy more than once. He raced IndyCars before, during and after cart. He did things on his terms, never gave up and competed with all he had every single time. Despite his family’s lack of 500 wins they are as much a part of the fabric of the place as even the Unser family, and arguably as colorful. The history books remain enriched with Bettenhausens included. Gary was a soldier and a hero. RIP.

March 13, 2014

The Dark Chapters of IndyCar History

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:42 am

Dumb ShitsTwenty years ago this week National Speed Sport News reported a plan for IMS and USAC to start a new Indy Car series because Tony George did not like being snubbed and marginalized by cart repeatedly in the early 1990s and was unhappy with the direction cart was steering the sport. History was altered forever. When the IRL eventually came to fruition it was positioned as a complementary series to cart, running ovals and offering opportunities to Americans who would not have otherwise gotten opportunities.

In theory it was a great idea. In practice it got very messy. Those of us who were adults and fans at that time have a viewpoint reflective of actual experience and a low tolerance for aberrant behavior. cart in the early and middle 1990s had lost a lot fans over their direction. Much of the schedule was yawn-worthy and despite the presence of some world class names in the sport the overall direction forced many fans to become essentially Indy-only fans. This trend combined with the ascendancy of NASCAR helped make a strong case for a series like the IRL. Usually the loudest yelpers about the ‘evil’ that is Indy and IMS were either not yet born at that time or were still prepubescent. Emotionally many still are.

I am often chided as a ‘gomer,’ a ‘bootlicker,’ a ‘place fan’ and all sorts of colorful epithets by a small handful of virulent formula racing enthusiasts with a predisposition for hatred of all things Hulman tinged with consistent refusal to acknowledge the overall importance to the sport of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Honestly, however, I did not pay much attention to the first IRL race ever at Walt Disney World, did not watch live and had to rely on my VHS taped copy later. Spoiler alerts also did not matter, and my reaction upon hearing the winner was ‘Buzz WHO?’

My epiphany was not that the IRL was great but that cart stupidly perceived it as a threat, let their arrogance guide their business practices and ultimately sent the entire sport into a malaise that exists today. It is exacerbated in 2014 by a headlong rush into attempting to recreate what they believed they had. By the time the 1996 Indianapolis 500 arrived I, like many others, enjoyed my conflicted allegiance. No one I knew stopped being fans of cart or its events, but most of us felt we could live with the politics and enjoy two distinct series with differing philosophies. If it were only that simple.

IdiotsMany felt pressured to choose a side and take a stand. It has always been difficult to understand why, but when ego overcomes rational thought stupid things can happen. That is about the time the epithets began being hurled. It was still very easy to enjoy both series but after cart intentionally backed IndyCar into the 25/8 corner and scheduled the ill-fated US 500 on the same day as the 500 most were forced to a side. What might have happened had cart participated in and dominated the first three IRL events? More than likely the IRL would have had a three race history. Instead the most confrontational possible acts were executed whenever possible. Forced to choose a side, many of us chose the institution that always made the sport possible.

WinnerIt was fitting on that race weekend in late May of 1996 that the ‘stars and cars’ could not even make the green flag without having half their field crash. As I sat in the stands at Indy watching a compelling race with hungry competitors and a popular winner the realization that karma is real made me smile. History has proven over and over that without Indy in May it is not possible for those who actively work to marginalize it to succeed. One by one they returned on terms they did not dictate. Some who did not continue attempting to subvert the sport, most recently actively working to have IndyCar replaced at Long Beach by Formula One. Sooner or later that herd will be thinned by time or death. A last gasp is taking shape at Indy this year with folks like Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Montoya strapping back in years later.

These fellow racing enthusiasts are not without valid points. Would it not be great had IMS and IndyCar employed competent management in the modern era? Still, Indy makes the stars and not the other way around. I look at this strange anniversary more with sadness than anything else. None of the more tawdry things that happened (and continue to happen) really needed to. It appears based on schedule, direction and decision making that current leadership is still willing to convince themselves that making the same mistakes repeatedly will lead to different outcomes. Those who expect this approach to lead to a dramatic uptick are probably going to have to wait a couple of more decades.

March 4, 2014

Framing the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:25 pm

BuschThe 2014 Indianapolis 500 has piqued the interest of a wider variety of potential fans, and since that is what they are after that is a good thing. On track the micromanaged assembly of 33 chosen starters is coming into sharper focus. It was officially announced today that NASCAR journeyman Kurt Busch will drive the fifth Andretti Autosport machine and attempt ‘the double’ for Charlotte as well. My biggest hope for race day: No rain. Given the ferocity of what is hopefully a dwindling winter rain is a concern not only for race day but the remainder of the highly compressed half-month of May.

Multiple factions are represented this year by notable one-offs, and Busch joins long-absent Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Montoya in the field. Interesting for sure, and hopefully all have what it takes to compete.

SpinnerThe effort by IMS to further monetize almost every aspect of the activities during the month is also taking shape. My tenure as a fan dates back to the late 1950s. As someone who has crossed a couple of generation gaps I have no idea who ‘Hardwell’ is and before he was announced I always associated the term with ingestion of Cialis. Evidently he is a hotshot DJ who mixes techno-pop ‘music.’ I do not understand that either, and frankly it makes my ears hurt in a nails-on-chalkboard way. The important thing is not that I like or dislike that particular entertainment option. I won’t be anywhere near it. A generation to which IMS is trying to connect is enamored of the performer and the sound, and thousands of them are expected to pay a sizeable chunk of change to gather in the recently commercialized snake pit. That is a GOOD thing.

The half-month should be great for fans of all ages. Tradition remains important, and one big hope of many of us is that IMS will not lean too much toward Barnum & Bailey for qualifying. We shall see. Whatever they come up with will not work if it rains, and that needs optimism as well.

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