New Track Record’s Ten Worthless Opinions – St. Pete
Opinions I have. The value of those opinions is up for debate. As this new racing season starts, I have mulled over what recurring race response I should write. I have taken the lazy man’s way out. Or the hack writer’s way out. Either way says something about me. With that said, allow me to introduce my new feature: “New Track Record’s Ten Worthless Opinions.” I will try to live up to the title’s expectations. After each round, I will post 10 opinions. This allows me to not create a cohesive narrative. I won’t need transitions. A theme doesn’t need to exist. In other words, it fits my writing style. How’s that for self-awareness? Here’s this week’s blather.
1. ABC deserves an “A” for their prerace handling of Dan Wheldon’s death and its aftermath. They got it as right as you can get it. They had to show images of the wreck. It’s still news, and it affects the series, the drivers, and the fans. The had to show Dario Franchitti crying in his car. That’s an iconic image that will be shown for years. They had to interview Tony Kanaan. He’s the de facto spokesman for the drivers. They had to show Dan at the yard of bricks and talking about the new car. The Dan Wheldon story is still being told. His death and the human responses to it still move me. Kudos to the nameless producer who put that segment together.
2. ABC deserves a “C” for the music used in its production. Can they find any less edgy or less current tunes? It was sappy and sentimental. Jeez, just pay the royalties for something new. Old people are not turned off by popular music. Young people (you know, the demographic you are looking to engage) do respond to something they recognize. You could even use that stupid Neon Trees song “Everybody Talks” from the Buick Verano commercial. Anything is better than what you have! NBC Sports, take a hint.
3. I’m not done with ABC just yet. They open the broadcast with a lullaby, and follow it with the dulcet Mr. Rogers tones of Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear. Come on guys, at least act like you’re excited. I think Marty is just pissed he’s not at a NASCAR race and has to look at those small numbers and new liveries on the IndyCars. Isn’t there an ex-racer hanging out in the paddock that can use some exposure? NBC Sports, take another hint and make it a party. Go after that new demographic…please. It should be noted that pit reporters Jamie Little, Vince Welch, and Rick DeBruhl are knowledgeable, articulate, and enthusiastic. I wish that would rub off on the guys upstairs.
4. Everyone is so complimentary about how well the drivers took care of their cars. Robin Miller said it was a new-found respect for each other. Others suggested that Beaux Barfield put the fear of Race Control in the drivers during the closed-door drivers’ meeting. These both may be true. How’s this WO (worthless opinion): there are not very many spare parts around for the cars yet. Everyone wants to race next week. Let’s see if this “after you” good manners mentality continues when the parts inventory increases.
5. Speaking of Race Control, my WO is that Beaux Barfield passed his first test. An investigation ensued after contact between Helio Castroneves and Ed Carpenter. It was immediately publicized (transparency!). A ruling was made and announced. It was the right ruling, too. Two cars nose-to-tail and the leading car slows in the racing line. It was unavoidable and was not an aggressive move. Batting a 1.000 for the season, Beaux.
6. Helio Castroneves’ salute to Dan Wheldon was touching. On Wind Tunnel, he told Dave Despain that it was not planned. He stopped to climb the fence in front of the bleachers and turned and saw the sign across the track. We have come to expect emotional and impulsive responses from Helio. This one is a keeper. It moved me.
7. Back to ABC. Hey, guys in the production truck. Yeah, you with the headphones. Just a WO from a viewer. SHOW US SOME PASSES! If you were keeping track on IndyCar.com’s scoring page, you could see passes were taking place. I know ABC, you want to tell stories (everyone wants to create the next Mad Men). Here’s a story line for you: THERE’S A FREAKING RACE GOING ON AND THE FANS ARE TUNING IN TO WATCH IT! Feel free to use that. Once more, in case NBC Sports sees this, tell us the story of the race. Give us the basic situation, show us the rising action, throw in the conflict and complications, introduce the protagonists and antagonists, use exposition so we know what’s going on, lead us to the theme. THAT’S storytelling. The race IS the story. Thank you for listening.
8. In my WO, engines are going to blow. It’s the calm before the storm. I know the engine builders are good, but they are not that good. Don’t put the oil dry away just yet. You just cannot build that many high performance engines that quickly without adequate testing and not have gremlins. Expect it to bite every team at some point. Back to storytelling: this creates suspense. I remember hoping something wouldn’t happen to Lloyd Ruby. It always did, and that got me emotionally involved.
9. Simon Pagenaud, James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden…’nuff said.
10. The cars looked OK. They were sleek and racy. At least they were until you saw them from the back. Woof. What a dog from that view. Tony Johns at PopOffValve.com convinced me in a recent post that the DeltaWing could not have been picked as the car for the series because of safety, testing, and money. I should point out that I was reluctantly convinced. I still don’t think the needle moved very much. As my mother used to say about my high school girlfriends, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
That’s it, folks. You have borne witness to the birth of “New Track Record’s Ten Worthless Opinions” about the IndyCar race at St. Pete. I look forward to delivering some more the next time.*
*New Track Record will be traveling next weekend, so the “Ten Worthless Opinions” may be running a little late. Actually, I’ll be in a cabin in the mountains of West Virginia on Sunday with NO CABLE. I guess we’ll find out how well the Verizon IndyCar app works.
Great work Mark! I can only hope that NBC Sports IS actually listening because I agree 100% with your WO of the TV coverage. Guess that makes mine of nearly equal or slightly lesser value.
Hope atop those WV mountains there are some Verizon towers giving you 3 or 4 Gs worth of data. Safe travels, dude.
Your comment about Lloyd Ruby and his bad luck really struck a chord. I had not thought about him in years. A really nice guy and a very good driver who just could not get rid of the bad juju hanging over his head. I think I remember Grandma Em also making similar comments re “silk purse/sow’s ear.
I think you have hit on a great idea re “10 worthless comments.” All were right on target.
Well said on point #7 especially, Mark. The promise of a great pre-race quickly turned to ash. Their coverage wasn’t an F, thanks to the first part, but they’ve got some serious work to do.
The race was okay. Here’s a simple formula to determine if television viewers will find an IndyCar race “exciting” or not: Road Course + Few Crashes = Boring. That’s really all there is to it. This type of racing does not translate well to television, and a broadcasting crew with no idea how to cover it doesn’t help. At least the Versus/NBC crew can be entertainingly bad – one of my favorites last year was when they were all audibly yawning/goofing off/drunk covering the Japanese race from television monitors in the wee hours of the morning.
The new car isn’t helping. As I told my wife, I can get used to it. I actually like the shape of the front wing, and the sidepods, while tacky, provide a colorful flat surface for advertisers that they didn’t have before. Or a giant empty space, in the case of the Sarah Fisher Hartman car (what gives?). But the back of the cars looks like an 80’s Trans-Am or something, and it’s hardly “open wheel”. I’d love to say that it’s just overreaction to the Wheldon accident, but this design was set into motion long before that crash. The cars also have a noticeably lower engine pitch, which I think makes them feel slower than the old IndyCar and F1 cars. And, well, they are.