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Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Ten Worthless Opinions – Stranger in a Strange Land Redux

Well, I did my tour of duty in the Social Media Garage at the Super Weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Met some great people, had a few laughs, got caught in the rain, and saw “the other side” of racing.  I have attended 44 Indianapolis 500’s; this was my  first Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com.  OK, I copied and pasted the name of the race because GOOD GOD, THAT’S A LONG NAME AND WHO THE HELL IS BIGMACHINERECORDS.COM, ANYWAY.  With that said, I will refer to the race as the Brickyard 400 from now on.  You’re welcome.  Here is the tale of an innocent IndyCar blogger/social media neophyte as he observes and reports on the monolith we call NASCAR.  These are the WO’s (worthless opinions) on his experience.

1.  I thought I had at least a working knowledge of the power of social media.  Untrue.  I am a babe in the woods compared to Jessica Northey, Jenny DeVaughn, the myth that is nascarcasm, and the Idaho weatherman known as Brian Neudorff.  At the Indy 500, my Social Media Garage brothers and I merrily tweeted and blogged our way through the month of May, never once saying the word “impressions.”  It seems that this word is a vital component to judging just how valuable a Twitter account or blog is to someone.  The names listed above have MILLIONS of impressions.  Jessica Northey already has business plans to make these impressions pay.  The two bright things I did this weekend were to shut up when they were explaining the power of social media to me and to ask questions after they stopped talking.  I know nothing, but I’m interested in this stuff.  I suggest all users of Twitter start tracking their metrics.  And by the way, I would LOVE for you all to re-tweet my idiotic comments on Twitter.  It seems that is of value.

2.  People are always ragging on the yellow shirts at IMS.  They yell, blow whistles, and generally brook no argument.  When alcohol induced stupidity by the fans is not involved, I have found the majority of these men and women to be friendly and helpful.  The rest, of course, are petty tyrants and martinets.  Do the workers at IMS really have a sense of humor?  Check out this sign I saw as I entered the track on Sunday.

Love it, right?  Good stuff.

3.  I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore when I walked down the merchandise trailer row.  I counted over 30 trailers hawking hats, shirts, baby apparel, models, scanners, and various and sundry cheaply made and overpriced items that a person does not need.  EVERY name driver has a trailer.  IndyCar cannot compete.  I continued my tour and came to a trailer that had a giant picture of Jeff Gordon wearing camouflage posing with what appears to be a large, dead elk.

This trailer was selling nothing but camouflaged team and driver gear.  I have never seen this merchandise at an IndyCar race.  I think we are appealing to a different demographic.  Of course I now have a Tony Stewart camouflage hat to wear golfing.  Stylish.  When in Rome…

4.  The Continental Tire Series, with its production based cars and “gentlemen drivers,” and the Rolex Series both put on damn good shows on Friday.  They run in the rain!  I consider myself an Indy guy, but I have no problem with Indy hosting other series.  It’s their track and their business.  Make some money so the IndyCar series stays strong.  Keep these races.

5.  The Indy 500 has its share of drinkers, tattoos, mullets, and boorish behavior, but I’m pretty sure the per capita on these belongs to NASCAR.  I’d bet the 500 leads in total arrests, but I’ll have to go the over on NASCAR with concealed weapons.  It’s a different crowd.  A strong need to root against someone seems to exist in stock car racing.  You not only rabidly pull for someone, you just as rabidly pull against an opponent you perceive to have done your driver wrong.  I’m convinced you could get shanked in the lavatory for wearing a Juan Pablo Montoya shirt if he had just wrecked Junior.  Or maybe just for wearing a Juan Pablo Montoya shirt.  And I’m just talking about the women’s lavatory.  It’s a rough crowd, particularly for my refined tastes.

6.  How about that race?  Be honest with me.  You took a nap, didn’t you?  In a race to race comparison, the Indy 500 laps the Brickyard 400.  Indy had lead changes, charges through the pack, and a last lap dive bomb in Turn One that THRILLED the crowd.  I get it that NASCAR has more pit strategy with 2 or 4 tires and all the adjustments you can make during a race.  In my opinion, it’s a product of a relatively low-tech series that is just coming to grips with its “shade tree mechanic” past.  Still figuring that fuel injection out, huh?

7.  Give credit where credit is due, though.  The traveling carnival that is NASCAR dwarfs the IndyCar show.  NASCAR is BIG.  They have a mass of haulers just for the series gear.  The downside to that is NASCAR has a very high overhead as a series in a very bad economy.  IndyCar’s more streamlined product may be in better shape to weather the economic storm.  IndyCar is lean.  NASCAR  has to feed the bulldog EVERY week.

8.  Traffic in the Brickyard 400 Social Media Garage was much stronger than the Indy 500 traffic.  Even though the room was hidden this week, a good number of NASCAR fans came in to check it out.  This second iteration of the SMG was also better suited to move people from entrance to exit.  Also, the Brickyard 400 brings the local Indy 500 fans.  It was good to see so many of my social media friends, especially those that had Fuzzy’s Premium in a chilled flask.  Cheers, friends.  I was hoping people were stopping in to see me, but I have a suspicion the air conditioning was the main attraction.

9.  One of the highlights of the Social Media Garage was when Chevrolet brought Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart in for special wristband interviews.  Doug Boles, VP of Communications conducted a very professional Q and A.  The drivers were relaxed, engaged, and funny.  When I asked Gordon if he ever wanted to get back in the sprints and midgets, he said he gets the itch every time he sees a race, and he plans to attend the Knoxville Nationals this year.  Loved that answer. When Tony Stewart was asked what he does when it rains, he said, “I try to get somewhere out of the rain.”  He said it with a smile.  When I asked him what car or formula had the steepest learning curve, he said the winged sprint cars he’s racing now are the hardest to learn because the left side digs in going through the corner, not the right like the non-wings.  The guy is a flat racer.  Johnson talked about moving from bikes to buggies to stock cars.  Basically, he has been in a stock car since his teens.  It’s all he knows.  All three love Indy, and it shows.

10.  NASCAR drivers are rock stars.  They can’t walk anywhere without a crowd forming.  One thing I like about the 500 is that the fans respect the drivers as they walk from place to place.  If they stop, then of course the fans will ask for autographs, but it’s not a free-for-all with drivers ducking for cover.  I like the more mature reaction of the IndyCar fans.

Let me just give credit where credit is due.  Cassie Conklin is the IMS person in charge of new media.  The social media people who come in (like me) are pains in the neck.  Cassie’s a saint.  Pippa Mann stopped in and was her usual friendly and professional self.  What an ambassador for IndyCar.  Jarrett Peyton, the son of Walter Payton, stopped in with his amazingly positive personality to just hang out and talk.  Ashley Stremme, wife of NASCAR driver David Stremme, stopped by to chat with Jessica Northey and stayed to talk racing.  She grew up in a racing family and drove dirt modifieds.  She had interesting comments on being a one car team struggling to find sponsorship.  I’m now a fan.  Last, but not least, Todd and Cary Bettenhausen, the twin sons of Gary Bettenhausen, were in all three days helping visitors to the SMG experience iRacing.  Every kid that needed it got positive and friendly instruction.  And the boys had some racing stories to tell.  IMS history was right there next to me.  My opinions may be worthless, but the experiences I’ve had this year through IMS, Twitter, and this blog have been far from that.  Sometimes that stranger mentioned in the title finds a home.

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Super Weekend – Did IMS Really Lose Her Virtue: A Mother’s Story

The purists at Indianapolis Motor Speedway shake their gray heads and mutter to themselves whenever the topic of other series racing at the stately matron at 16th and Georgetown comes up.  The purists, like the children of a widow, want their wealthy and popular mother to act her age.  They see the Indianapolis 500 as their father, whose sainted memory should be forever put on a pedestal, so his adoring family – presumably dressed in frock coats, vests, and cravats – can genuflect at his spatted feet.  The future?  Godfrey Daniels, my good man, we here in Indianapolis live firmly in the past.  They believe Mother IMS should stay home and entertain her old friends at afternoon tea.  Well, guess what?  Mother snuck out the back door while they were trying to decide what was best for her.

And luckily for racing fans she did.  The old gal refused to be put out to pasture because others knew what was best for her.  She took off those gray rags and those hideously sensible black shoes and put on leopard print stretch pants, stiletto heels, and the brightest red lipstick she could find.  But you know how people talk.  Mama Indy had some, how do we politely say it, “gentlemen callers.”  The first was that France boy from down south.  He wooed her with promises of more money and prestige, even though he was what we call nouveau riche.  His family didn’t have the right connections, but he was loaded.  And that money would come in handy as a family rift with the Champ Car side of the family was on the horizon.  So Mother Indy hooked up.  And what’s wrong with that?  After him, she took up with that Bernie boy from England, and that caused quite a stir because she had to build him a new place on the family compound.  And then she had the audacity to run around with motorcyclists.  The purist family was aghast.  But she wasn’t done.  She brought in a support series for the man from the South, and she started keeping company with some young college types that call themselves “gentlemen drivers.”  Her purist family could hardly show their faces in public anymore.  How could their mother treat them this way.  Did she have no shame?

The simple answer is that shame, virtue, modesty, and tradition have nothing to do with what the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has done since 1994, when it hosted the first Brickyard 400. It has done what any business is supposed to do for its owners: make money.  And why is that a crime?  The purists say that the tradition of the Indianapolis 500 is paramount; there should be one race only.  Carl Fisher, the architect of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ran a series of events, including ones for motorcycles and balloons, and his first races put the cars in classes, very much like the support series for Formula 1 and the Rolex and Continental Tire Series.

Does the old lady look lonely when only 50 thousand of her friends show up for a party that can seat 250,000?  Absolutely.  Should perception be the deciding issue on hosting these events?  Absolutely not.  The bottom line for hosting an event should be the bottom line.  If it make financial sense to host a race, then host it.  Fenway Park is Fenway Park.  They play baseball, hockey, and host concerts there.  It’s the same for Wrigley Field.  I’m pretty sure the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is not the only time the horses run in Louisville.  The Derby first ran in 1875 and the traditions (including mint juleps and ugly hats) seem to hold up pretty well with other events running on the same track.  Tradition can survive change.  It has to.

So the next time a new suitor comes knocking on Aunt Indy’s door, don’t purse your lips, look over the top of your glasses, and cluck a tsk, tsk.  Give her a big grin and shout “You go, girl!”  Tradition be damned.  Have fun.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Will all due apologies to science fiction writer Robert Heinlein and his seminal book Stranger in a Strange Land [1], that title sums up how I feel about being in the Social Media Garage for the Super Weekend.  First and foremost, I am an open-wheel fan.  Something about IndyCars, sprints, midgets, F1 and other open-wheel formulas just does it for me.  Don’t get me wrong, though.  I am a racing fan.  I enjoy the NASCAR series, even though the recent iterations of the Sprint Cup seem somewhat less than dynamic.  I know, I’m sure if someone took the time to tutor me in the esoterica of Sprint Cup aerodynamics, pit stops, and strategy then I would come to the light, drink the Kool Aid, and don a wardrobe of Tony Stewart shirts and hats.  It just hasn’t happened so far.

That begs the question of what the hell I’m doing in the NASCAR Super Weekend Social Media Garage.  Basically, I am loud, opinionated, and willing to embarrass myself in public.  I am sure IMS mentioned how important that is when they recruited the other social media types for the weekend.  I am still figuring out my persona for the weekend.  The fact is, I’m an Indianapolis Motor Speedway guy.  I know its history, its cultural meaning, and the good places to eat and drink in the area: an IMS idiot savant, so to speak.  I am offering my services to any blogger/social media expert/passerby who wants to talk Indy.  I might even be willing to listen to other opinions about racing.  But don’t count on it.

The reality is that fenders are OK with me.  I spent last Friday and Saturday at Anderson Speedway, a quarter-mile high-banked asphalt track watching three different series of stock cars (JEGS Crate Late Models, McGunegill Engine Performance Late Models, and the ARCA CRA Super Series in the Stoops Freightliner-Quality Trailer Redbud 300) race and, I had a blast.  Support your local grass roots racing by attending the show at your local track.  And the tenderloins were as big as hubcaps.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out.  That’s a full size plate.


That’s the kind of information I bring to the Super Weekend Social Media Garage.  It’s just another service provided to fans here at New Track Record.

The truth is I really like the NASCAR drivers who wheeled midgets and sprints as their paths to the big time.  I’m a fan of Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and all the others who know what it means when they see a t-shirt that says “Slide or Be Slid.”  Even though I’m a stranger who will be attending my first NASCAR race after being in the crowd for 44 Indy 500’s, I don’t really think it will be that strange a land.  It’s still Indy.

See you in the Social Media Garage.  I will try to send out a lie post or two every day.  You can also follow my ramblings on Twitter @NewTrackRecord.

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1.  Want to know more about Robert Heinlein?  This link takes you to the Heinlein Society site.  Don’t worry.  He’s no L. Ron Hubbard, and no pseudoscientific religion has formed around him.  I doubt Tom Cruise or John Travolta have ever read his stuff.  I do love his philosophies, though.  I recommend you read Time Enough for Love.  http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/index.htm

Ten Worthless Opinions – (Sponsor Name Here) Edmonton Indy Edition

After such a great race in Edmonton, Alberta, it was discouraging to hear talk of the race not coming back due to sponsorship difficulties.  The talk seems to center around local engagement and activation.  Nothing a title sponsor can’t solve.  What does it take to get the folks from Medicine Hat, Okotoks, Wetaskiwin, Athabasca, Waskastenau, Atikameg, Ponoka, and Sexsmith to fully engage?  OK, judging by the name, maybe the folks at Sexsmith are busy with other activities.  This was a fantastic race.  C’mon, local Canadian populace, you can’t just fish and drink beer all summer.  With the oil business at the center of Edmonton commerce, you would think local connections would flourish.  That’s why this week’s title is (Sponsor Name Here) Edmonton Indy Edition.  I’m willing to do my small part to help recruit sponsorship.  Here are this week’s WO’s (worthless opinions).

1.  I thought I would familiarize myself with Edmonton by taking out my atlas and HOLY SMOKES, EDMONTON IS IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!  I grew up in a small Indiana town (Shirley) and thought it was the middle of nowhere, but now I know how wrong I was.  I can only assume the winters at this northern latitude are brutal, and the summers are plagued by giant biting flies.  Am I wrong?  I can see why a title sponsor is difficult to find.  Bad economy, wrong location (notice I did not say “bad location”), and low TV ratings may doom this race.  And that’s too bad; the racing was excellent.  Speaking of races, Randy Bernard is still adamant on 19 races while reports suggest that some owners are happy where they are and don’t have the money to expand to 19.  Sometimes I just shake my head at the dysfunction in the IndyCar family.  I think they all need therapy.  As a fan, I know I do.

2.  The teams complained about the long drive.  What’s the payoff for them?  Are they going to excite their sponsors with hospitality in Edmonton?  Sadly, there is no compelling reason for owners, teams, and sponsors to go to Alberta, Canada.  The Calgary Stampede does draw a huge crowd, though.  Hmm.  Maybe Randy Bernard can use his rodeo connections to combine the Stampede and the (Sponsor Name Here) Edmonton Indy race.  I’m an idea guy.  Just one of the many services offered here at New Track Record.

3.  Is it my imagination, or is NBC Sports tweaking the pre-race a little?  The giant gear that serves as Kevin Lee’s pre-race perch was missing.  That was probably a cost containment move, though.  Again, the costs to go to Edmonton are enormous, and does NBC Sports really need that piece of modern art and the wranglers that go with it?  It will be interesting to see if it continues to show up at other races.  NBC Sports cutting an already low-budget presentation is not good news.

4.  Robin Miller has been marginalized as an in-race reporter.  His schtick is the grid run.  He even has his own cartoon graphic now.  He’s NBC Sports version of Fox Sports’ Digger.  Here’s my idea.  Create a college-type mascot of Robin Miller.  He can parade up and down pit row in his suit with the Firehawk.  They can even play little tricks on each other.  With the quality of the questions he’s asking in the grid run now, the mascots vow of silence can only be a benefit to the viewer.

5.  What’s up with Marty Snider?  He went from a pretty good pit reporter to a shit-stirrer.  Pre-race, he tried to get Sebastien Bourdais to comment on Charlie Kimball from last week, even asking if an apology was offered.  Post-race, he tried to get Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power in a dust-up about Power’s alleged chopping of RHR while exiting the pits.  He also tried to get Helio Castoneves to comment on last year’s penalty.  It seemed contrived.  Is some faceless producer trying to spice things up?  Is NBC Sports trying to create some soap opera controversy?  I can’t blame NBC for trying to start things.  Ratings rule.  Let’s see if this continues.

6.  It was nice to hear Simon Pagenaud tell us that his run-in with Josef Newgarden at Toronto was not really blocking.  It was just two moves (his and Newgarden’s) at almost the same time.  I’m reminded of the guy caught in the act asking his wife, “What are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”  I’ll stick with my own eyes, but thanks for asking, Simon.

7.  Push-to-pass, or PTP, seemed to work well.  NBC Sports showed a graphic that let the viewer know when PTP was in use and how many seconds were left.  It had my interest in the last few laps as Takuma Sato tried to overtake Helio Castroneves.  In other words, it engaged me.  Keep it.

8.  I did notice that IZOD used two different commercials, one with golfer Kevin Na and one with their normal set of models splashing fully clothed in the ocean.  Still no commercials using or connecting to IndyCar.  So long, IZOD.  It’s been good to know you.  I’ll miss buying your socks and pocketed T-shirts.  They have become my signatures.  And the Van Heusen commercials with Jerry Rice and Steve Young will also be gone since Van Heusen owns IZOD.  But before you go, can you do one commercial where Robin Miller is the “schlub.”   Please.

9.  I loved all the passing at the (Sponsor Name Here) Edmonton Indy and how NBC Sports continues to show the passes, both live and on replay.  This is how you keep your core fans engaged.  Show them racing.  Let Marty Snider titillate the casual fans with  gossip; show me the action.  And I agree NBC needs both because they need the viewers.  Whatever works.

10.  I love the IndyCar post-race interviews.  The NASCAR drivers are often surly and pissy.  The IndyCar drivers seem approachable and willing to sell the brand, both their own and the series.  Helio Castroneves bubbles over with emotion.  How can you not like him?  Alex Tagliani was gracious in defeat.  Takuma Sato was all smiles.  OK, Ryan Hunter-Reay was a little moody now that he expects to win every race, but I’ll give him a pass this time.

There you go.  I hope you found this week’s WO’s (worthless opinions) satisfying.  Hopefully, IndyCar finds itself back in Edmonton, Alberta next year with a title sponsor and plenty of insect repellent to keep those damn biting flies off.  In honor of our northern friends, I leave you with this famous paean to western Canada.  You’re welcome.

Ten Worthless Opinions – Ennui Edition

*Deep sigh*  No IndyCar race this weekend.  And since I like racing, I tuned in to the TNT coverage of the NASCAR race at New Hampshire.  *Deeper sigh*  The WO’s (worthless opinions) just keep bubbling up, even with NASCAR as the impetus.  I don’t even have a theme for this week’s WO’s unless moodiness counts.  Hence the ennui.  Here are a few debris caution opinions for you.

1.  Just looking ahead, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has displayed an enormous lack of common sense and a disturbing disregard for its reputation by inviting me back to reprise my role as a blogger/mechanic/village idiot in the Super Weekend Social Media Garage.   Again, my reputation as shill-for-hire has resulted in access and credentials in lieu of any monetary considerations.  I’m still trying to get a grip on my persona for the weekend.  Should I have a supercilious smirk because I believe IndyCar is the most entertaining racing series in America?  Should I ask tough questions regarding the relatively boring style of racing and the heavy-handed management of the series?  Should I just drink the Kool-Aid and shut up?  Decisions, decisions.

2.  I am looking forward to meeting my Super Weekend SMGarage compadres at Indy.  Their Twitter followers, and one can only assume their blog hits, absolutely dwarf mine.  As a public service, I will include their Twitter numbers, Twitter links, Twitter profile, and other links.

  • Jenny DeVaughn (@JennyDeVaughn, 11,685)  Pay-It-Forward Social Media Manager at @WasteManagement, Relationship Builder, Digital Marketer, Mobile Geek + a traveling NASCAR Fan. Views are my own.  Atlanta, GA · http://socialprecision.com
  • nascarcasm (@nascarcasm, 19,827)  Motorsports follower with poor sportsmanship. Reliable source of misinformation. SBNation.com contributor. Can’t pronounce his own Twitter handle.  Indianapolis · http://sbn.to/ntPE8Y
  • Brian Neudorff (@NASCAR_WXMAN, 10,804)  Unofficial NASCAR Meteorologist providing accurate weather forecast for Sprint Cup, NNS, & Camping World Trucks each week on Twitter & SBNation.comTwin Falls, ID · http://wx-man.com/NASCAR

3.  I will compliment NASCAR on its partnership with Twitter.  Even though they seem to use it as another pit reporter, the quick access to information from multiple sources almost simultaneously will, if used correctly, make broadcasts better.  IndyCar and IMS should go to school on this partnership.  It will be interesting to see if the Social Media Garage at the Super Weekend will be marginalized in any way because of this partnership.  I wonder if the NASCAR Twitter feed will hook us up.  It would be an entertaining mistake choice.

4.  IndyCar managed to stay in the news with the “resignation” of Marc Koretzky as COO of IndyCar.  This might have been more interesting if we knew who he was, what he did, and what really happened.  Talk about a kiss off.  The rather terse press release basically said…well, it basically said nothing.  It could be translated as “don’t let the door hit you…” or, in a more modern vernacular, “AMF.”  In any case, we can speculate on what happened.  Either someone was not getting the job done, someone was left standing when the tune stopped in the game of musical chairs on the responsibility for the China race, or a purge to consolidate power in the IndyCar/IMS semi-dysfunctional family took place.  Or all of the above.  You can assume that politics in the IndyCar “bag of snakes” is ongoing.  I do hope that a kiss-and-tell book will be written someday.  I would stand in line for a signed copy.

5.  I attended the opening race of Indiana Sprint Week at Gas City I-69 Speedway Friday night.  Great show and a great crowd.  IndyCar needs the passion of these fans.  People from California, Colorado, and other states travel in RV’s to each of the races in the series.  After watching both, I have decided that I really like the wingless sprint cars.  They may not be as fast in and off the corners as their winged brethren, but they are fun to watch.  Go all grass roots this weekend and attend your local show, whatever they race.

6.  Bryan Clauson is the MAN in USAC.  And it’s possible that his being from my hometown of Noblesville, Indiana has nothing to do with this opinion  In the heat race at Gas City, he came from the back to the front, went over the cushion out of turn two, and came back to finish second.  In the feature, he rode the cushion to finally get by Levi Jones for the win.  Exciting stuff.  Would love to see him at Indy again next year.

7.  More short track props.  At Kokomo for Indiana Midget Week, we dined on pork chop sandwiches and $2.00 beer.  At Gas City, the beer was $2.50, but they had breaded tenderloins.  I am not a snob.  Even though these were frozen fritters, they were perfect with pickles, onions, and mustard.  I love it when the locals don’t try to gouge the fans at the big event.  Call it Hoosier Hospitality.

8.  Speaking of tracks, there was an interesting back-and-forth on Twitter this week between Randy Bernard and Brandon Igdalsky, president of Pocono Raceway.  Very flirtatious.  Almost uncomfortably so.  In any case, the series needs ovals, and they need the East Coast.  Let’s face it, IndyCar just needs friends, preferably friends with benefits, particularly if those benefits include an oval on which to race.  What will it take to make this happen?  Most likely IndyCar will be asked to make financial concessions.  Poor IndyCar is over a barrel.  The promoters smell blood (or money) and want a sweetheart deal.  IndyCar just got torched when China walked without leaving a deposit to soothe the burn.  The paddock sharks are circling IndyCar management, smelling the same blood.  IndyCar needs to cement a calendar for 2013 as soon as prudently possible.  I hope 19, as mentioned by Randy Bernard, is the number for next year.  A casual fan will find something else to do if the races are this sporadic.  It’s even tough on the hard-core fans.  I mean, I’m being forced to ignore NASCAR while I type this.

9.  Even though I believe Canada is a great market (anywhere that wants IndyCar is a great market), Toronto, followed by a week off, followed by Edmonton is a ratings and news cycle disaster.  As far as the media is concerned, IndyCar will cease to exist for three weeks.  After Edmonton, IndyCar has another week off, a race at Sonoma, and then THREE weeks off.  IndyCar has three races in seven weeks in the middle of the summer.  Thanks, China.  One more reason to buy American.  IndyCar has to build momentum by building the summer schedule.  And I know I’m preaching to the choir.

10.  Here’s a shout out to the Saturday morning coffee club of Zack Houghton (aka IndyCar Advocate), Eric Hall (aka anotherindycarblog), and Steve Wittich (aka Steve Wittich).  So far this year, some member of this illustrious group has attended Barber, Indy, Detroit, Milwaukee, Iowa, and Toronto.  It makes for some interesting conversation and not a little flat-out lying.  This past Saturday, the group decided that green/white/checkered has no place in IndyCar.  And that’s definitive.  I’m sure our opinion will influence policy.

There you go.  Take IndyCar away from me, and you get this kind of moody, self-serving drivel.  That’s reason enough to have a full summer schedule next year.

Ten Worthless Opinions – Honda Indy Toronto Edition

It’s hard for me to see Canada as a foreign country.  Most of the citizens speak English (except those militant Quebecers and the taxi drivers) and the social, political, and economic issues parallel ours.  The Canadians I have met seem downright nice.  And that’s what I thought of the Honda Indy Toronto race.  It was nice.  So in a departure from my normal left-handed compliments, I will try to be nice in my “Ten Worthless Opinions.”  The operative word here is “try.”

1.  A recurring commentary in blogs and on Twitter relates to the various renditions of the “Star Spangled Banner” that we are subjected to in most pre-race programs.   American artists love to make the song theirs.  They slow it down, add guitar riffs, or try to jazz it up in some way.  Of course, that’s what you get when you use the tune from a British drinking song with the relatively nonsensical lyrics from the Francis Scott Key poem.  It’s open to interpretation.  With that in mind, I was so looking forward to hearing “O Canada,” one of the nicest national anthems in the world.  Apparently, ABC/ESPN felt that the singing of any other country’s national anthem would rile up those Tea Party folks or something, so no “O Canada” for us.  With that in mind, allow me to present a truly inspiring version of  “O Canada” performed with a truly Canadian twist: click HERE for “O Canada” played using nothing but instruments made from Molson Canadian bottles and cans.

2.  I regularly show great disrespect for ABC/ESPN’s coverage of the IZOD IndyCar Series.  They seem to go through the motions.  But this week’s coverage in Montreal was, well, nice.  They didn’t knock it out of the park, but they didn’t drop the ball, either.  Yes, they missed passes, but they came back and showed them to us.  They focused on the racing in the middle of the pack as Ryan Hunter-Reay was running away at the front.  Novel approach showing us action instead of a lock-step front-of-the-pack view.  Keep it up, ABC/ESPN.

3.  While having a split screen for viewing is nice, the waving flag background is distracting and stupid.  Don’t take my word for it, ABC/ESPN.  Do a focus group.  They will tell you the same thing.  Change it, PLEASE.

4.  It was nice of INDYCAR to change the rules to allow push-to-pass.  I like them spicing things up.  But I am still a little confused on why they took an already underpowered car and decreased power only to give it back in the form of push-to-pass.  Now, I have been traveling and off the grid for the past week and may have missed what is a very clear and obvious explanation as to why they did this and what the benefits are.  Still waiting…

5.  It was nicely explained to me that on-board starters cannot be used because they weigh too much and the car already has a front-to-back balance problem.  Thanks for the epic design, Dallara.  One thing this series needs is either an anti-stall system that works or on-board starters so a simple spin or nose-in wall touch is not a race-ender for teams.  As it sits now, a corner issue with two or three cars becomes a lottery on who gets help from the Holmatro Safety Team first.  I am tired of watching a driver gesture for help getting his car refired.  Sometimes that is the ONLY issue a driver has.  Fix this…now.

6.  I do like the side-by-side commercial and racing.  It’s a nice concept, but I’m not sure ABC/ESPN sees it from the viewer’s perspective.  It’s still a commercial, gang.  We are not really still watching the race.  With that said, you should try not to have commercials within two minutes of each other.  “Going side-by-side” is not the same as watching the race.  We are not stupid.  Quit treating us like we are.

7.  Interesting comments after the race from the drivers about the pits being closed during the caution.  Will Power was agitated.  Beaux Barfield did say they would try to open the pits in a timely manner during caution periods, didn’t he?  Power had a lead, managed his fuel and tires, and got screwed by the pits being closed.  Didn’t Simon Pagenaud suffer the same thing?  Please keep IndyCar racing different from other series.  If I want a nice vanilla serving of racing, I’ll watch NASCAR.

8.  How can you not like Sebastian Bourdais?  When Rick DeBruhl asked him if there were too many marbles during the restart, he said there were “too many idiots, that’s for sure.”  And that might have been the nicest thing he could say.  Oriel Servia also used the word “idiots” when describing  his fellow drivers.  They make me smile.  The right kind of controversy is good for racing.  These rascals bad mouthing each other is good for the sport.  We need some delinquents in the sport.  Choir boys are boring.

9.  Poor SFHR.  Joseph Newgarden is finally ready to climb the podium if he doesn’t screw it up.  Even Scott Goodyear got it right when he said all Newgarden had to do was be patient because Pagenaud had to pit.  That’s all he had to do.  I’m reminded of the two vultures sitting on a limb.  One turns to the other and says, “Patience my ass, I’m going to kill something.”  Newgarden decided to force a pass.  Pagenaud decided to block.  Sarah Fisher decided to go all A.J. in the pit box.  By the way, can anyone read lips?  What was that Sarah said?   I don’t think it was very nice.

10.  Here’s my WO’s (worthless opinions) on what IndyCar needs to do to make it the most diverse and exciting form of racing in the world:

  • Work to keep a nice balance between road, street, and oval courses.
  • Use a three wide start for Indy, a two wide start for other ovals, a two wide start for some road and street races, and a standing start for some road and street races.
  • More power, less downforce.  That separates the racers from the drivers.   This has worked!  To be diverse, we need differences on the track.
  • Anti-stall that works or on-board starters.  Cars should start and/or keep running.
  • Continue to make this an international series with international stars.  Run where the money is.
  • Add races.  It’s hard to stay in the headlines when nothing happens.

That’s it for this week.  It’s hard to believe that only five races remain on the schedule.  But with IndyCar’s recent skill at staying in the news cycle for all the wrong reasons, I’m sure we’ll have plenty of things to write about…and that’s nice.

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