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Archive for the month “June, 2012”

The survival of ovals in IndyCar

As a fan of IndyCar racing, I like all the venues to some degree or another, but I love the ovals.  I grew up on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Saturday and Sunday night stock car races at my local paved ovals of Sun Valley Speedway (now Anderson Speedway) in Anderson, Indiana and Mt. Lawn Speedway near New Castle, Indiana.  Just like you become a fan of a baseball or football team due to its proximity to you, I became a fan of oval racing because it’s what I saw on a regular basis.  If the midgets or sprints were there for a show, it was true exotica.  The Indy 500 was the pinnacle of the auto racing world.  I make no apologies for holding open wheel oval racing in such high regard.  Friends have tried to explain the nuances of road and street racing to me in the hope I will love it like they do, but I keep coming back to the speed, intensity, and danger of the oval track.  As I watch the slow withering of my favorite form of auto racing, I am buoyed by the success of Iowa Speedway.  They have figured out how to make oval racing successful.

Iowa Speedway has become a favorite oval of mine.  The cars are fast and the track is tricky.  The new aero package has them lifting in the corners.  The tires go away making the teams choose to be fast early in the run or save the tires to be fast later in the run.  Setting up a pass may take two or three laps, but passes can be made.  The cars actually need to be driven.  A team needs a strategy to be successful.  And Iowa had on-track action throughout the weekend.  No longer can IndyCar just run one race.  At Iowa we had three IndyCar heat races, a midget race, a Silver Crown race, a Star Mazda race, an Indy Lights race, and the IndyCar feature.  By my count that’s eight races.  Plus, the Indycar practice sessions set the fields for the heat races.  Take note, promoters: put action on the track.  That’s called VALUE.

But a successful race needs more than good racing.  It needs a promoter that knows how to sell and fans that come to the race.  With all of our eyes glued to the success of the series and the TV ratings, we forget that the promoter must make money – money that comes from either the paying customer through ticket, concession, and merchandise sales or from the promoters ability to sell sponsorships and partnerships with businesses.  Oval track promoters should take note of how Iowa Speedway does business.

Andretti Sports Marketing did a masterful job of creating interest and value for the Milwaukee race.  They created value by adding racing events, a midway, and lowering ticket prices.  People in the seats create a profit.  What they don’t have is a title sponsor paying them money.  And that is where Iowa Speedway excels.  Iowa Speedway succeeds because it attracts sponsorship and sells tickets.  Period.  How does this small track with about 30,000 seats manage to survive?  The simple answer is they find local sponsors who want to connect to local customers.

Take a look at the sponsors for the IndyCar, Nationwide, and Camping World truck weekends:

  •  Casey’s General Store USAC Challenge Presented by Messerschmidt Ice and Kix 101 (USAC Midgets and Silver Crown)
  •  Sukup 100 (Firestone Indy Lights)
  •  Iowa Corn 250 (IndyCar)
  •  American Ethanol 200 (TWICE!  Once in July and once in August for the trucks)
  •  Prairie Meadows 200 (ARCA)
  •  U.S. Cellular 250 Presented By the Enlist Weed Control System (Nationwide)
  •  Pizza Ranch Winner’s Circle

Notice anything in the list?  Other than the U.S. Cellular 250 Presented By the Enlist Weed Control System, every other race is sponsored by an Iowa business (U.S. Cellular is Illinois based and Enlist is weed control for corn marketed by Indianapolis based Dow AgroSciences.)   And guess with whom Iowa businesses want to connect?  Yep, those convenience store shopping, grain bin storing, corn growing, cell phone using, weed killing, ethanol producing, pizza eating Iowa farmers.  And connect they do.  The track was packed and the hospitality tents were full.  These local sponsors reaching out to local consumers were activated at Iowa Speedway.  Are the sponsors happy?  I asked Mindy Williamson, the communications and PR director for the Iowa Corn Growers Association, a few questions about their sponsorship of the Iowa Corn 250:

NTR: What is the value of this sponsorship to your organization?

Williamson: We have an excellent return on investment. We have the opportunity to talk with those outside of agriculture about things like ethanol, but also what corn means to our state and the many products we produce. We also have an opportunity to thank our members and give farmers a chance to enjoy themselves as VIP’s in our hospitality tent. We have each year about 1500-2500 farmers and their families that join us for the fun!

NTR: How do you activate at the track?

Williamson: We activate on many levels from advertising, to working with drivers, to promoting ticket sales, to on track involvement. We use traditional media, social media, member communications and more to reach people with our messages. I hope you saw and heard messages from Iowa Corn while you were here!

NTR: What response do you receive from your members?

Williamson: They love racing. In fact, racing is the number one sport among farmers. Some of them are new to IndyCar racing, but they are interested in the mechanics, the technology, and the innovation – many of the same things they invest in on their farms.

Clearly, the Iowa Corn Growers, the sponsor of the Iowa Corn 250, see value in this event.  I would expect the sponsors of the other events at Iowa Speedway see similar value to their sponsorships.  What lesson can be learned from Iowa Speedway?  It’s simple.  Ovals can thrive when the promoters seek out sponsorship that connects to the people who will be sitting in the stands. In Iowa, that demographic had a connection to agriculture.   Milwaukee, Phoenix, and Pocono, for example, would be attracting a different demographic.  But Iowa has a secret weapon.  It is not owned by ISC or SMI.  It is not a pawn in the battle between all the competing motorsport series.  Iowa Speedway is like the small oval tracks of my youth.  Its success or failure is its own.

The sad part of this story is that the locally owned and operated oval that works hard to make each event a success has been replaced by the corporate gamesmanship of both ISC (International Speedway Corporation) and SMI (Speedway Motorsports, Inc.), the owners of most major speedways in America who use their tracks like pawns in a large chess game to deny access to IndyCar or to devalue the series for the betterment of the NASCAR series events they prefer.  The Iowa Speedway model works for ovals.  The problem is there are so few independent ovals to use the model.  So unless IndyCar decides to get in the track-owning business by buying the ovals in Nashville and St. Louis, they had better take real good care of the people who are taking good care of them, or the oval racing that is IndyCar’s past will be relegated to the history books.  And any promoter that wants a model for oval success should give Iowa a call.  They get it.

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Indy Tenderloin Tour – Iowa Speedway Edition

I’m a breaded tenderloin snob.  I know its history (the schnitzel German immigrants brought to America), and I know the good from the bad.  The bad generally means a frozen fritter, one dripping in grease, or just bad meat.  I consider myself an aficionado of the sliced, beaten, breaded, and fried pork sandwich.  This pork hubris led me to start my “Indy Tenderloin Tour” during the month of May to introduce out-of-state Indy 500 fans to this local delicacy, the likes of which can only be found in Indiana.  And then I went to Iowa Speedway.

I was minding my own business.  Oh, I noticed the pork chops and stopped to talk to the fine folks from the Tama County Pork Producers.  These were just the type of grilled pork offerings you would expect from Iowa residents.  They were quite tasty.  But of course, they weren’t breaded tenderloins.  And then I walked past The Machine Shed, a local restaurant that operated one of the concession stands.  It was very hard not to notice The Machine Shed, since this was cooking directly in front of it.

Yep.  That’s a whole hog roasting its way to succulent perfection.  Again, wonderful pork presentation, but not a breaded tenderloin.  But as I scanned the menu, it jumped out at me.  There it was: Pork Tenderloin Sandwich.  But so far in Iowa, most pork products were naked.  The pork loins, pork chops, and pork burgers might be seasoned, but they were not breaded.  After a brief moment of discussion, I found that the tenderloins here were indeed breaded, so I ordered up one of the breaded babies.  Here is what arrived:

I believe I insulted the workers in The Machine Shed when I asked if the tenderloin was a frozen fritter.  These tenderloins are sliced from the loin by The Machine Shed in their cutting room, pounded by real human beings, and breaded/battered in their own recipe.  I was also pleased to learn that the pork is locally sourced.  Iowans care about their food.

All that’s nice, but what about the taste?  Well, I included this sandwich in my “Indy Tenderloin Tour” didn’t I?  Doesn’t that tell you something?  My first bite told me that these Hawkeyes knew what they were doing.  The meat was thick and cooked to perfection.  Tenderloin fans know that you hide bad meat by pounding it thin and breading it heavily.  This was a thick piece of meat with nary a bit of gristle.  The coating was more of a batter than a breading and was crispy, bordering on crunchy.  My personal preference is for breading instead of batter, but that does not change the fact that this was a great tenderloin.  If you are in Iowa and are lusting after a breaded tenderloin, The Machine Shed is ready for you.

I have to give The Machine Shed a checkered flag.  My hat is off to my first out-of-Indy stop on the “Indy Tenderloin Tour.”

Ratings:
Checkered Flag: It’s a winner.  Picture should be on the Pork-Warner Trophy.
Green Flag: It’s a go.  Solid competitor with a chance to be a winner.
Yellow Flag:  Warning.  Something is not copacetic.
Black Flag:  Get this pig off the track.

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. [1]  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?

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1.  Everyone do the Time Warp.  Still one my favorite dances.  Ah, Magenta and Columbia.  Here’s the scene from the movie.  http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6827163268088648679

Ten Worthless Opinions – Milwaukee IndyFest Weekend Edition

The run of good racing continued at Milwaukee for the IZOD IndyCar Series (with their lack of activation and interest, I don’t think it really matters if I put the word “IZOD” in the series title).  Leaders changed, drivers bitched, and a world-class screw-up cost a driver hugely.  In other words, it was business as usual.  In this edition of my WO’s (worthless opinions), expect to read about what’s really important in Milwaukee: beer.

1.  Tip back a Tsingtao beer.  The IndyCar race in China has been canceled, purportedly to not interfere with the Qingdao beer festival scheduled at the same time.  If that is the real reason, you have to admire a city and a mayor who have their priorities straight.  I am sure this would be appreciated by the residents of Milwaukee.  Sister cities, anyone?

2.  Pop a Pabst Blue Ribbon, Milwaukee Mile.  The Mile likes to brag that it is older than Indy.  Well, Pabst is 168 years old, youngster.  From one Milwaukee old-timer to another, then.  It was sad to think that this venerable track might have been done with IndyCar, but the news that Andretti Sports Marketing will promote the IndyFest in 2013 was announced during the race.  Looks like we don’t have to pour out a 40 for the mile.  Word.

3.  Throw back a Blatz, ABC.  Add another Milwaukee beer to the list.  ABC, as we have all come to expect, does just enough to get through the broadcast.  But what happens when it rains?  Send the pit reporters on a mission to find interviews.  Jaime Little, Vince Welch, and Rick DeBruhl did a great job entertaining us.  Not unexpectedly, they started with Ganassi and Penske drivers, but they worked their way through the paddock.  As always, Tony Kanaan was in the background of Rubens Barrichello’s interview mugging for the camera.  Do you ever see that in NASCAR?  How about Katherine Legge being interviewed as a driver, not as a female?  Take notes, NASCAR.  By the way, the ABC IZOD IndyCar Series pit reporters are the best in the business.  How about working on the broadcast booth to match it up?  We’d appreciate it.  Just one example of booth information: After Simona de Silvestro spun, we were told that she has talent because she spun at Milwaukee and didn’t hit anything.  Uh, guys?  She spun.  Isn’t talent more in evidence by not spinning.

4.  Have a sip of warm Old Milwaukee, ABC/ESPN.  It was nice of you to pimp Go Daddy like you did.  I’m sure they appreciated it.  How about doing the same for all of the sponsors?  Maybe you only promote the ones who advertise with you, huh?  Promote them all!  Build the series and you build the brand.  Make IndyCar a hot property.  Then you can pimp everything about it.  You know, like you do for NASCAR.

5.  Go have a flat Schlitz, ABC.  What is that flapping flag background on the split screen?  I know, you must have the interns do something.  Make it go away, please.  The background movement while I’m trying to focus on the small split screen boxes gave me motion sickness.  Does anyone at ABC even care about sports programming anymore?

6.  Sorry, Beaux.  It looks like a case of warm Wisconsin Club for you.  The worst beer of my youth goes well with the worst call of the year for IndyCar race control.  While I appreciate you manning up and offering your mea culpa for the call, IndyCar took one in the chops here.  As the series tries to regain a legitimacy with the public, we once again have a glaring example of why our fans are so long-suffering.  And to add insult to injury, ABC was flailing about, trying to explain what happened to the viewing audience.  Basically, the booth couldn’t make heads or tails of the call.  The lack of communication with your broadcast partner made the series look amateurish.  Again.  *deep sigh*

7.  Open a bottle of Miller High Life – The Champagne of Bottled Beer so the viewers can celebrate.  I was so excited when ABC did not switch to the NASCAR Nationwide race when the time rolled around.  Yeah, suck it, NASCAR!  I enjoyed the thirty minutes of feeling superior to the number two series of NASCAR.  And then ABC switched to the Nationwide race.  Yeah, we preempted the pre-race show.  So suck it, NASCAR!  Our series is better than your number two series’ pre-race show.

8.  How about some Ale Asylum Ambergeddon (6.8% ABV) for Andretti Sports Marketing?  The Andretti group prevented the Milwaukee Mile from extinction.  Commend them with a toast!  Here’s to you, iconic race track saving marketing team!  You made something out of nothing.  You added activities that gave fans something to do at a price they could afford on a day they could attend.  It’s still a simple proposition.  If IndyCar wants promoters to pay a hefty sanctioning fee (as I assume Andretti Sports Marketing will next year), the promoters must create a festival atmosphere with entertainment options.  In other words, if people don’t come to the event, the promoter loses money.  No money, no event.  Oval tracks, take notice.  Hire Andretti Sports Marketing to promote your next event.

9.  Quaff a Steven’s Point Brewery Nude Beach Summer Wheat while you read a few race notes:

  • Dario in the wall!  “Sorry guys, not my fault.  I drive for Chip Ganassi, where blame lies elsewhere.  Ryan Briscoe caused it all on the last lap” (not a real quote).
  • Sometimes it’s simple.  John Erickson, Helio’s strategist, on Milwaukee plan: “We just want to get him to the front.”  ‘Nuff said.
  • James Jakes was upset with Takuma Sato’s “banzai moves.”  What’s next, a Pearl Harbor reference?
  • Chip Ganassi was less than supercilious when he could not find someone to blame for lost positions under yellow.  Is he changing?
  • Chip does not change!  The sun still rises in the east.  Now has Ryan Briscoe to blame for Dario’s wreck.
  • Why is someone not sponsoring SFHRacing and Josef Newgarden?  WHY?  Who really wants a personable, funny, and fast racer with a feel good story team.  What can a marketing department do with that, anyway?
  • Tires went away and cars were passed.  The racing was pretty good, but on a short track it was so hard for TV to keep up with the action.  And that’s not a knock.  There’s was too much going on.  It seemed TV just missed every exciting thing.  Sometimes you are just not looking in the right direction.
  • Poetic justice for Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport to win the race.  RHR was due, and AA deserves to elbow the Big Two aside every now and then.

10.  Treat yourself to a Lakefront Brewing Fixed Gear American Red Ale, a Horny Goat Hopped Up ‘N Horny IPA, or a New Glarus Fat Squirrel.  You are an open-wheel racing fan and deserve the best.  To cap off the weekend, I attended the final night of the USAC Indiana Midget Week at Kokomo Speedway.  You have to love a dirt track that has pictures of Jim Hurtibise, Bobby Grimm, Bob Tattersal, Rich Vogler, and Mel Kenyon hanging on its grandstand.  You owe it to yourself to find your local dirt track and support the grass-roots racing that gives us our future stars.  The future stars on display at Kokomo were Kyle Larson and Bryan Clauson, who finished 1-2 in both the sprint and midget races.  USAC might be a villain to IndyCar fans, but they sure know how to run the sprints and midgets.  As I tweeted, the 30 lap midget feature was like a mullet: all business in the front and crazy in the back.

That’s it for this week’s WO’s (worthless opinions).  Time to line up a few Leinenkugel Summer Shandys and enjoy the rest of the day.

Ten Worthless Opinions – Firestone 550 Texas Music Edition

Texas is called “The Lone Star State” for a reason.  Fiercely independent in almost every way, Texas citizens have a unique attitude towards, well, just about everything.  In honor of that perspective, New Track Record offers its WO’s (worthless opinions) with a connection to songs that relate to Texas in some way, either by artist, songwriter, title, or lyrics.  Feel free to sing along.  All songs mentioned here are available on Spotify under a playlist titled “New Track Record’s Texas Motor Speedway Songs.”

1.  “Rave On” by Buddy Holly – It was nice to see NBC Sports back in the booth.  Just like Lubbock native Buddy sang in this hit, “The little things you say and do / Make me want to be with you.”  The announcers and reporters seemed excited to be there.  Townsend Bell offered actual insights from the pits, and Kevin Lee kept the ball rolling in the pre-race.  Some observers have been critical of Jon Beekhuis and the addition Tommy Kendall in the booth because they don’t have the proper IndyCar driver resume.  Really?  Jon Beekhuis is absolutely aces in explaining the technical aspects of the new car.  His comments on the aero changes to the car for this race were succinct and informative.  It’s one thing to tell the audience; it’s another to show us.  He does both very well.  Tommy Kendall added value to the broadcast.  Just because he doesn’t have IndyCar bona fides, doesn’t mean he doesn’t know the sport.  He is a racer.  That’s good enough for me.  He has opinions and insights.  And finally, Robin Miller actually found people to interview during his grid run.  Here’s my recommendation: add Townsend Bell to the grid run.  While Miller is interviewing one driver, Bell can be setting up the next interview.  They can play a game of interview leap-frog, so to speak.  This would alleviate the possibility of watching Miller croak on us as he huffs and puffs his way to the next driver.  Unless that is NBC Sports’ plan.  In that case, carry on.

2.  “Amarillo by Morning” by Chris Ledoux [1] –  Before all the Texas singer/songwriter fans out there hit me with “It was a George Strait hit” message about this song, let me explain.  Strait is on the list for another song, and anybody that complains about using a Chris LeDoux version of a rodeo song can go straight (pun intended) to hell.  If that sentiment doesn’t make me an honorary Texan, nothing will.  The song is about an itinerant cowboy who is getting his ass kicked on the circuit.  He’s lost a wife, a girlfriend, and his saddle to his love of the sport.  He just wants to ride.  Simona De Silvestro, this song’s for you.  You soldier on, knowing that nothing you can do will change the fact that your motor is stamped “Lotus.”  At Texas, you didn’t even get your car started.  But just like the cowboy in the song, we’ll see you at the next rodeo.  Just call it “Milwaukee by Morning.”

3.  “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” by Waylon Jennings [2] – This song deals with the problems of success.  Waylon sings about success causing people to feud “like the Hatfields and McCoys.”  Sounds like the IndyCar paddock and management after Indy and Detroit, doesn’t it?  Another line says “maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love.”  Change the word “love” to “racing” and we have the Firestone 550.  After much discussion and gnashing of teeth by all parties, the drivers suggested taking away downforce and making the cars harder to drive.  In other words, it was time to go old school and get back to the basics of racing.  IndyCar, in an unpredictable moment of clear thinking, agreed.  Changes were made.  The drivers had to pedal the car in the corners, the tires went away, cars came to the front and fell off, and there was NO PACK RACING.  This is what we’ve been clamoring for, yes?  Unless you’re Ed Carpenter, that is.  He wanted it the way it was since it gave him a better chance to win.  Start the new clamoring right now: KEEP TEXAS ON THE SCHEDULE!

4.  “I Fought The Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four [3] – Texas native Bobby Fuller had this hit in 1964, sounding very much like his idol, Buddy Holly.  The title says it all.  Sorry, Will Power.  It seems the new sheriff in town, Beaux Barfield, would not be swayed from calling a 215 MPH chop block on Tony Kanaan just because you were driving for Roger Penske.  The sheriff laid down the law.  The post race interview while you were watching a replay of the move didn’t give you much wiggle room, either.  At least you admitted you ruined the day for both of you.  A tip of the ten gallon hat to Sheriff Barfield.  The law won.

5.  “El Paso” by Marty Robbins – In the song “El Paso” our narrator falls in love with the fickle Felina and kills a rival suitor in a fit of jealousy.  After this, he returns to face the music, so to speak.  In a roundabout way, this was Tony Kanaan at Texas.  After the race, Tony had a decidedly one way conversation with Will Power about aggressive driving.  When interviewed, Tony said that kind of driving is unacceptable, particularly for someone like Power who preaches safety.  Like the guy in the song, sometimes you have to confront the situation.  Way to cowboy up, Tony.

6.  “Little Bit Is Better Than Nada by Texas Tornados – Once again, the meaning is in the title.  IndyCar is not going to get well overnight.  The fans of this sport wail about ratings, NASCAR, sponsorship, and racetracks.  It’s going to be a long haul, folks.  Was the racing better at Texas?  Did we have pack racing?  Are the cars competitive?  Baby steps, people.  We have had mostly good racing so far, and Indy and Texas were great.  Keep doing what works, and stop doing what doesn’t.  And in case you are reading IndyCar, Texas Motor Speedway WORKS.

7.  “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” by George Strait – In this song, George says “While you’re busy burning bridges…”  I sure hope Randy Bernard and IndyCar aren’t burning bridges in Fort Worth in such a manner that the IZOD IndyCar Series can no longer run at Texas Motor Speedway.  Maybe his ego is Texas-sized, but Eddie Gossage has been a valuable partner for IndyCar.  Of course, when negotiations involve money, things get said.  But since negotiations involve money, they also get done after chests are beaten and pissing contests are completed.  George also sings, “Good memories don’t fade so easy.”  Don’t let this great race and memory fade.  Quit pissing and start talking, guys.

8.  “You Can’t Get the Hell Out of Texas” by Gary P. Nunn – This song was a hit for George Jones, but I’m listing the Gary P. Nunn version because he is a true Texas singer/songwriter.  It’s a funny song that says “You can’t get the hell out of Texas, / ’cause it’s the hell raising center of the Earth.”  IndyCar fans should join their Texan brothers and sisters and raise all kinds of hell if this race falls off the schedule.  IndyCar, you cannot “get the hell out of Texas.”  You have a promoter that wants you, fans that attend the race, and, if our eyes can be believed, a great product with the new cars and the changed aero rules.  Don’t mess this one up.

9. “Texas in my Rearview Mirror” by Mac Davis– Davis, from Lubbock, wrote hits for others and for himself.  This song is about a young man who can’t wait to leave Lubbock because the world offers so much more.  As he grows older, he realizes that his hometown offers so much more than he previously thought.  That’s my worry for IndyCar.  The lure of Shell in Houston and the big stage of Circuit of the Americas in Austin may entice Randy Bernard and the bean counters to take the short-sighted view of pocketing the money in front of them instead of taking the long view of what’s best for the future of the series.  Don’t drive away from this race.

10.  “What I Like about Texas” by Gary P. Nunn – This song lists the people, places, and events that help to define Texas.  Here’s my list of what I liked about the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway.

  • Racing under the lights rocks, but competing with the NBA and the Stanley Cup is difficult.
  • The aero changes to the cars created outstanding competition.  The racers said they wanted the drivers to be in control.  They were.
  • Justin Wilson is a deserving champion.  I like the way he commented on the changes.  While some drivers continued to complain after the changes they requested were made, Justin complimented IndyCar and said holding firm to the changes was the right thing to do.  He said IndyCar was doing its job of protecting the drivers from themselves.
  • It was refreshing to hear Graham Rahal accept blame for his accident.  After developing somewhat of a reputation as a whiner, he stood up and took it like a man.  Very Texas, Graham.
  • The same goes for Scott Dixon.  It would have been easy to blame the lack of downforce, and therefore IndyCar, for his wreck, but he didn’t.  He said it was tough to drive, but that’s what the drivers said they wanted.  I tend to pull for the underdog, but find that I like Dixon more and more.
  • Townsend Bell and Kevin Lee asked almost every driver what they thought about the racing with the aero changes.  Good questions.  The drivers’ responses were positive.  Well, except for Takuma Sato, who had no idea what he was being asked.
  • I loved seeing the emotion from Tony Kanaan when he was getting after Will Power. I still think we need more anger, emotion, and personality from the drivers.  It’s not choir practice.  Swearing is allowed.
  • I like that we have some mechanical issues now.  With the old Honda, there was no worry.  Now we have worry.
  • One of the pre-race shots was of Hinch, Powers, Dario, Servia, and TK talking and gesturing.  Let’s see, a Canadian, an Australian, a Scott, a Spaniard, and a Brazilian.  Which one do you xenophobes want to get rid of to make the series more appealing?  Yeah, thought so.
  • We had passes!  They were shown on TV!  We had split screen viewing!

I had two more songs by The Mavericks I wanted to add.  The name and the sound are so Tex-Mex that I just assumed they were from Texas.  Wrong.  They formed in Miami and recorded in Nashville.  Damn.  But since I am from Indiana and chose to talk about Texas music, I decided to do an addendum with a non-Texas group that sounds like they are from Texas.  One song is “From Hell To Paradise.”  After last week’s Detroit debacle, I thought the title was appropriate.  The other is “What A Crying Shame.”  And that’s what it’s going to be if we don’t keep Texas on the schedule.  Adios until next time.  I’ve got Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys cued up, and it’s time for a little Texas two-step.

_________________________

1.  Follow these links to both Chris LeDoux’s website or the Wikipedia page about him.  If you don’t know his story, you should.  You can make the connections to grass-roots racing and loving what you do.  RIP, Chris.  http://www.chrisledoux.com/fr_home.cfm   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_LeDoux

2.  Waylon had a tragic connection to Buddy Holly.  The story’s here.  http://www.buddyhollyandthecrickets.com/related/jennings.html

3.  This is one of rock and roll’s forgotten stories.  Success and tragedy cross paths again.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Fuller

Ten Worthless Opinions – Detroit Grand Prix Edition

Holy hell, how do you even start the list from Belle Isle.  I normally follow a semi-chronological order, but for this…uh…CF, I will make an exception.

1.  The track falls apart.  Let me rephrase that – Roger Penske’s track falls apart.  I acknowledge that Belle Isle is not really RP’s possession.  With Detroit’s property market today, it’s obviously better to lease than own, and you expect RP to always make the best financial choice.  But this is HIS race.  Kudos, though, to the powers-that-be for getting the surface fixed for the sprint to the finish.  I just did not expect Roger Penske to follow up a great 500 by giving IndyCar this black eye, particularly after his comments regarding Randy Bernard this week.  Did you read between the lines?  The Captain said it was business as usual with INDYCAR CEO’s, and he did not support a change in the middle of the season.  The italics are mine.  How does it feel to be human like the rest of us, sir?  The hoi polloi salute you in Will Power fashion, Captain.

2.  Beaux Barfield owned this race.  He did not make a knee-jerk decision after the track came apart.  He let the workers finish the job and sent Tony Kanaan and Will Power out to look at it.  He did not wilt under the pressure of the TV camera.  He spoke to the media and explained exactly what he planned to do, even if that was to just wait.  He did not allow the teams to switch tire compounds from the ones they were using when the race was red flagged, a very fair decision.  And he stopped teams from doing so, much to their chagrin.  It makes me wonder if people got away with stuff like that in the past.  It rewarded the teams that made the tire decision earlier.  He decided to race until lap 60, creating a 15 lap sprint.  Take a bow, Beaux.

3.  I cannot believe that Randy Bernard’s Twitter comment moved down to #3 on my WO’s (worthless opinions).  In the pre-race, Marty Reid made an interesting comment (Yes, THAT Marty Reid).  He said Randy’s tweet was either a stroke of genius or a big mistake.  I go with stroke of genius.  It was a throw down of epic proportions.  Whoever the owner was, he cannot come forward because it proves Randy right.  He just has to shut up.  Randy wins.  If the owner does come forward, he shows himself to be a sneaky shit who is working to the detriment of the series.  And Randy wins.  Regardless of the final reckoning, Randy Bernard has taken the series forward with aggressive marketing and a relentless work ethic.  He has made mistakes, but “getting after it” is not one of them.  At Detroit, he faced the media and said he was just getting the facts out.  He also said he does not work for the owners; he works for the IMS board of directors.  Here’s the translation: “Kiss my ass.  I don’t work for you.”  Stay tuned.  This story is just starting.

4.  Normally, only a driver or two get “Visoed.”  At Detroit, almost the whole field got it.  What’s the problem with racing at Belle Isle?  Simply put, the problem is EJ Viso.  He can hold up the entire field because there is no place for an IndyCar to pass at Belle Isle.  We follow up a GREAT Indy 500 with this pig.  Put all the lipstick you want on it, Belle Isle is still a porker.  Either create some passing zones or follow Indy with an oval.

5.  Here are some plugs.  The Verizon IndyCar App really worked for me this weekend.  I listened to the radio broadcast on it (it worked, as opposed to IndyCar.com), followed timing and scoring, and listened to some team/driver communication.  I was not displeased.  Also, if you do not subscribe to TrackSide Online, stop reading this right now and subscribe.  For $22, you get TSO’s coverage of the race on site, and TSO sends out every press release from the teams and the series.  Invaluable.

6.  Once again, I will provide my consulting totally free to IndyCar.  Add on-board starters RIGHT NOW.  Do you realize how many full course yellows could be avoided?  No, I don’t know, but it’s a bunch.  High tech series, my ass.  I’m going to start charging for this stuff sooner or later.

7.  Don’t worry, ABC.  I didn’t forget you.  To be honest, I liked the short pre-race.  It was just a few interviews and a recap of Indy with a little Randy Bernard gossip.  Nothing  bores me more than the interminable NASCAR “Oh my god, this racing series is so spectacular we just can’t stop talking about it” pre-race blather that all the networks foist upon us.  Let’s get the race started.  Luckily, ABC was able to save some of that stuff for the red flag time.  Of course, ABC’s thinking was probably “Let’s not waste any time, effort, or money on this series.”  I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they really just wanted to go racing.

8.  During the stoppage, ABC aired a segment about speed and danger.  I thought it was well done and accurate.  It is absolutely part of racing, and the drivers interviewed acknowledged it.  Twitterland responded that it was in “bad taste” or “too soon.”  Sorry, folks.  Danger is inherent in this profession and cannot be ignored.  Pull your ostrich heads out of the sand and accept the truth: speed is dangerous, and it attracts interest.  We watch because the cars and drivers are on the edge.  I will suggest that is the same reason the drivers race.  That’s who they are.  And for better or worse, that’s who we are.

9.  During the race, I turned down the ABC coverage and listened to the radio broadcast.  What a difference.  The radio broadcasters made the race seem exciting.  They told the listeners who was trying to pass and where.  Passes did take place in the pack.  It’s just that TV only reports on what it sees with its cameras, and they NEVER see passes.  Radio reports what the broadcasters see with their eyes.  And that’s a huge difference.  Radio has people reporting from around the track.  ABC has Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear tethered to a monitor, reporting only what they see at any given moment.  There has to be a better way.

10.  All in all, it was an interesting week and race.  Randy Bernard fights back.  An online petition to keep Randy pops ups (sign it here).  Robin Miller names names (read it here).  And check out Tony Johns’ “The IndyCar Fan White Paper” at Pop Off Valve (read it here).  The owners back down publicly, but you can assume the smear campaign will continue.  Randy intimated that the China race is not 100% and that he has a back-up plan.  Detroit’s infrastructure continues to fall apart, as does the momentum of the IZOD IndyCar Series.  IndyCar is like the 1971 Mafia comedy The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.  You had better work on your aim, guys.

There you go, another semi-lucid set of opinions called “Ten Worthless Opinions.”  I’m not sure they even make sense to me.

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