Ten Worthless Opinons – Iowa Corn 250 Edition
Corn was in evidence at Iowa this past weekend. Coming through the tunnel into the infield at Iowa Speedway for the Iowa Corn 250, you are greeted by a healthy stand of Pioneer corn. Yep, Iowa Speedway uses corn as landscaping. Now that’s what you call sponsor activation. This week’s theme for my WO’s (worthless opinions) is that staple of both human and cattle diets, zea mays. How American is corn? It is the American grain, domesticated right here in this hemisphere. Feel proud, Americans. This corn’s for you.
1. Let’s give a little high fructose corn syrup to the people at Iowa Speedway and the people of Iowa. Not that they need it, though. Iowans are just nice. It’s a Midwest thing. At the race this weekend, people wanted to know where I lived, how I was doing, what I thought about Iowa, and if I was having a good time. As a fellow Midwesterner, I answered all the questions and asked the same ones back. A gentleman even apologized to me when I was told my credentials did not allow pit access on Saturday. I think Iowans could tell me to go to hell and make me look forward to the trip. There’s just something homey about Iowa Speedway. It’s probably the green corn vistas everywhere you look.
2. Is corn oil a lubricant? If so, I think the padre who gave the invocation used a little with the Big Guy to smooth the evening weather. He thanked God for the rain to help the corn, and thanked him again for keeping it away for the IndyCar race. Don’t underestimate these Iowa corn farmers. They know people.
3. After watching this race in person and watching it later on TV, I can only say live is WAY better. Make the drive to Iowa to watch this race. You can see the whole track. It’s a cornucopia of visual delight. Watching Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud work through traffic all evening was racing at its finest. TV can focus on one thing. Being at this race, you can focus on all the battles. Ed Carpenter battled back from a lap down to get into the top ten. The Andretti Autosport drivers were wicked fast all night and aggressive as hell. Watching a pass being set up for two or three laps adds real drama to the racing. Ryan Hunter-Reay’s pass for the win had me twitching in my seat. You get the sense of it on TV; you see it and feel it at the track. Attend your local race. It’s good for the series and good for your soul.
4. Open up a jar of corn liquor for the pit reporters on NBS Sports. Townsend Bell brings it. He knows the drivers, the cars, and racing. His questions on race set-ups and balance with Dario added insight. And Dario’s answers were informative. The thin line being treaded here is whether the Q and A is sometimes a little too esoteric. In other words, does the technical jargon go over the head of someone not versed in the minutia of mechanics? Even of it does, I would have to say it is balanced out by the SFHRacing home movies of Josef Newgarden sleeping on the couch and riding a Jet Ski. IndyCar offers a little insight for everyone, I guess.
5. Robin Miller is the corn pone king. His jokes are lame, and he lacks the presence and delivery of a good TV guy, but I love him. He knows everyone in the paddock and the drivers respond to the fact that he is knowledgeable and interested in their opinions. Plus, he is trying to get the foreign drivers to hop in sprint cars. Now that is something I would pay to see. Walking through the garage area at Iowa, you see just how hard RM and the other TV guys work.
6. Do you think Dario has a future in TV? His presence in the booth was entertaining. And entertainment is the bottom line in TV. To use a pro wrestling term, Dario has become a heel (See my post Can you smell what IndyCar is cookin’ for my take on IndyCar as professional wrestling). Some fans actually boo him now, and some cheers went up with the smoke rolling off the back of his car. IndyCar is not NASCAR. People are not ready to fight you because you root for, or against, a specific driver, but we need both heroes and villains in the series. For whatever reason, Dario has become a villain. In the booth Saturday, he commented on E.J. Viso’s pointing to his head after Will Power came down on him by saying, “Little rich coming from E.J. He’s hit everything but the pace car.” Nice. Way to take a corn knife to him, Dario. He calls them like he sees them, which we like. What we don’t like is the way he sees them. The boy has a future in television. He’s not vanilla.
7. I thought race control was going to have some cream corn on its hands Saturday night. What the viewers at home did not see was a safety truck on the front straight as the pace car turned off its lights and pulled off the track on a restart. The cars accelerated past it as they formed up for the restart. Fans in our section were standing and pointing. The truck was just backing into its spot on pit exit as the cars entered turn one. That was WAY too close. I would expect somebody to notice it. As of this writing, nothing has been mentioned in print and nothing was said on TV. Scary. How about it Race Control?
8. How did TV not play up the E.J. Viso – Will Power gestures is beyond me. They showed it and then chose not to comment on E.J. and Will exchanging sign language pleasantries. Watch this clip with some popcorn. Now do the new dance I am calling the Viso. It’s kind of like the Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  It’s a point to the head with both hands. Then do a stylish flipping of the double birds. Follow that up with a single or double crotch grab with a pelvic thrust. It works best with a Samba beat. Top that, NASCAR.
9. The booth on the NBC Sports broadcast held its own. Kevin Lee started during pre-race and moved to the pits after the arrival of Bob Jenkins. Tommy Kendall added insight, but Jon Beekhuis is still the man with pithy observations. Kendall needs to smooth it out in there and stop the long-winded observations when a pass is taking place on track. Don’t forget you are there to provide narration to the event. Most fans want to know what’s happening on the track, not what’s happening in your head. Fill in when the action is slow. Narrate when it’s happening. Basically, you need a little less butter on the cornbread.
10. Just to show you it’s not all racing, I managed to sample some great Iowa pork products this past weekend. I had sausage gravy, bacon, pork chops, a pork burger, and a great breaded tenderloin that is getting its own review in my Tenderloin Tour coming up later this week. My pal Steve Wittich (@stevewittich) tried the non-pork offering of fried meatloaf on-a-stick from The Machine Shed at the speedway. Rave reviews all around for everything. But there was one thing missing. There was no corn on the cob drenched in butter. Guess it’s not in season yet, and the good people of Iowa refuse to import any corn products from out-of-state. That’s brand loyalty, folks.
The citizens of the Hawkeye State love their racing, their corn, and their pork. They’re my kind of people. Now where’s that can of hominy for dinner?