For this racing fan and immediate party the month of May in Indianapolis has been very enjoyable. How can it not be when Indy cars take to the track? The tendency for those outside looking in (especially along the raw sewage line that is the internet) is to deride folks like as ‘place fans’ as if that is some sort of bad thing. I suspect jealousy is involved. I am an unabashed ‘place fan’ and enjoy many other events in person as well. Indy, however, remains the pinnacle.
Here are a few observations from the month so far. The Grand Prix of Indianapolis makes me yawn. It is enjoyable for certain but contrary to my expectations. It seems like a waste of Indy Cars. Why not find another formula to run it instead, like Formula E? The squatting formula oneabees occupying IndyCar seem enamored of that series, and given the current collective proclivity of society to don frilly lace panties en masse then tightly knot them whenever anything deemed politically incorrect arises (such as burning fossil or plant based fuels) it seems natural to consider that option. The race attendance and ratings do not make a strong case for continuing to foist it as the money grab it smells like. They could easily generate positive life force energy from the tree hugging community.
The one guy who seems to be working harder and smarter than anyone else month after month is Doug Boles. Projects that are ongoing and planned are transforming the old Brickyard into a renewed showplace for the next hundred years. The pylon and new video monitors are spectacular. Most concession areas have new faces and the product offerings are better. Way too pricey, but better. One advantage of lodging two blocks from the track means we can leave during down time and eat/drink for a lot less money outside the track. $14 for a sandwich and a soft drink may be normal from a venue pricing standpoint but is one reason people decide not to partake. I only slipped up once with a $9.00 tenderloin but mostly acted on things like a $7.00 meal that included a large roast beef, curly fries and a half gallon of Diet Pepsi at Arby’s down the street.
Boles is not responsible for the scarred-over wound the inside of turn one became for F-1 and MotoGP. I still really miss the character of the turn with the creek and trees. It remains far too sterile for my taste. The monstrous, rusting old rotating scoring structure inside the south chute is gone and right now is not missed. The other one on the north end is still there for now.
One smart current business philosophy for IndyCar is cultivation of sponsorship for anything and everything. My belief going in was that the Sunoco signs at either end of the pits would be offensive. Not so. They are tastefully placed and unobtrusive. What really took me by surprise is the Sunoco logo on the south end of the upper deck of E-stand. THAT is tacky and directly affects the character of the stand. It may, however, be a moot point. Plans have been revealed that involve the reconstruction of A, B and E, primarily to remove vertical view-obstructing columns and add more of the high dollar seats as part of a grand new entrance to the track.
Hopefully the tunnel-like characteristics of the stands into turn one remain. Unclear is what happens to the seats below the upper decks. My continuing thoughts are that seats need to be wider with deeper pitch. People are larger these days and seating should accommodate much larger behinds as well as their coolers. So far the ongoing evolution of the physical plant gets an A and Boles is the man.
Georgetown Road no longer connects to 16th Street, and there is no way to force exit down there unless you are on a motorcycle, and even then it’s dicey. This point is lost on hundreds of people who either cannot read or feel all the ‘No Thru Traffic’ or ‘Dead End’ signs posted from 25th Street and a few blocks before and after do not apply to them. It is almost comical watching people storming down a much less busy Georgetown Road, then a few minutes later watching them storm back.
Qualifying weekend was plagued by a series of crashes involving Chevy-powered Dallaras that smacked walls while facing the opposite direction cars were originally headed then becoming glorified box kites usually ending upside down. When Ed Carpenter’s accident occurred IndyCar brass decided it was time to do something. Behind closed doors they went. The social media sphere erupted with panic, illiteracy, hyperbole and torch carrying. Because the controversy involved IndyCar the second guessing stayed in high gear for most of the day. It was humorous watching the racing press gossip like little old ladies along fence posts.
The most unusual aspect for me was the silence encountered on the track PA. Calabro loves to talk and Jenkins is a comfy sidekick. Thousands of people in the joint tend to rely on the PA for updates. After the practice accident, however, not many words about anything were uttered by anyone for over two hours. That did a tremendous disservice to the attendees, exacerbated by the repeated playback of the most annoying Chevy commercial ever produced.
Once a decision was made and announced a fresh batch of second guessing from the Internet and fan experts began. My preference was to tune out the noise and examine root cause with an eye toward solution. The choice made was to kill the boost and mandate race trim for qualifying with no points, along with an old-school one shot attempt. As a legacy fan I enjoyed that and the pressure it added for teams. The decision did not bother me. What led up to it is worthy of discussion.
As a 50+ year attendee of Indy and many other IndyCar events one constant remains. IndyCar leadership will always appear inept to its fan base regardless of intent, and often contempt is warranted. It has been that way from day one. At least now legitimate business people are working hard to make it needlessly convoluted. What happened this weekend is inevitable when micromanaging a spec series and car. Three card monte tricks such as adjusting boost for artificial bursts of speed and bolting on poorly tested aero kits will always come back to bite concoctors. Pre-selection of the field with a no-hope 34th entry will always bother fans. Long term vision should encourage development the series may not fully control. That takes courage they may not possess.
Common sense also dictates that at least one oval should be scheduled prior to Indy, particularly when testing a brand new package; more particularly when self-funded formula oneabees who have never even attended oval races begin playing music chairs for IndyCar seats. There are so many of that ilk, although keeping track of helmets in Dale Coyne’s concession cars remains stimulating.
So now it is on to the 99th running in less than a week. We can hardly wait!