…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 race 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.
Speaking 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.