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Archive for the month “August, 2012”

The IMS Garage Sale

I’m not normally reactionary.  I’ll tell a few jokes, make a few oddball connections, and generally cheerlead for the IZOD IndyCar Series.  You don’t come here for news or in-depth commentary.  Basically, I just try to be entertaining.  But occasionally I have a laser-like flash of insight; I suddenly see the future with uncanny clarity.  And I absolutely hate that this insight, this clarity, was inspired by Robin Miller.

On the Sunday, August 19 edition of Speed TV’s Wind Tunnel, a sport coat wearing Robin Miller was co-hosting and gave voice to the rumor that a few series owners were planning/conspiring to purchase the IndyCar series from IMS.  If anyone actually read this blog, I might take credit for starting the rumor that IndyCar was for sale.  Just scroll down to last week’s post, “IndyCar’s Endless Summer,” and read the “God Only Knows” section.  Sure, I suggested that NASCAR would be the deep pockets that would step up and take this slightly used series off IMS’s hands, but this sounds like a variation on a theme.  The big question is whether IMS would really sell the series.

Let’s make a list of the pros and cons, shall we?

Reasons for IMS to sell the IndyCar Series

  • The series is a giant sucking chest wound.  The patient is alive, but on life support.
  • The “family” at IMS probably doesn’t like to see their inheritances spent on a series that only gives them headaches.  Keep the kids happy.
  • No owners, engine manufacturers, chassis fabricators, series sponsors, series TV contracts, or series CEO’s will be a major concern again.  Ever.
  • It doesn’t matter who runs the series.  The Indy 500 will always be a bucket list event and make money.  Always.
  • IMS becomes the good guy again.  They don’t have to hire, fire, or defend a series boss.  Got a bitch?  Tell the guys in charge of the series.  We’re just the promoters.
  • IMS has positioned itself as a summer-long palace of racing.  They make money on every event.  Guaranteed.
  • The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is iconic.  The IZOD IndyCar Series is not.  Trade on the big name.
  • The IZOD IndyCar Series is a used car that needs new tires and is leaking oil.  That pesky “Check Engine ” light is on, too.  Some sucker will want to buy it, though.  I assume IMS will make them a whale of a deal, probably “30 Days Same as Cash.”

Reasons for IMS to keep the IndyCar Series

  • Tony George still wants to be like the Frances.
  • Power and authority never go out of style.
  • If you are one of the 1%, you can throw money away.
  • I will gladly post others if you think of them.

I really tried to find solid reasons for IMS to keep ownership of the series.  I just can’t come up with any.  IMS selling IndyCar makes incredible sense in this economy.  The only suitors out there are NASCAR, who would marginalize the series, or the current car owners, who would take it down the same trail they traveled before.  Someone can come in and look like a white knight rescuing the damsel in distress.  The new owners just need to remember that beauty is only skin deep.  Ugly goes all the way to the bone.  Anyone want to buy a used series?  I think IMS is in the market.

IndyCar’s Endless Summer

As the end of summer looms on the horizon, I have been listening to the band that has defined summer for me through the years.  That’s right, nothing says “summer” like America’s Band, The Beach Boys.  And wouldn’t you know it, it seems like their songs have something to say to IndyCar.  So get out that scratchy copy of Pet Sounds and drop the needle.  IndyCar’s Endless Summer is here, courtesy of your host with the most, New Track Record.

“Fun, Fun, Fun”  Really, did you think our trip through the summer could start anywhere except America’s playground for the rich, Nantucket?  In the song, our teenage girl is driving her daddy’s T-Bird when she should be doing something else.  Poor, privileged Jay Penske was standing on the sidewalk in one of America’s richest enclaves when he was accosted by a simple bartender for urinating in the street.  The horror.  All of IndyCar hopes he can recover from this tawdry display of the rabble trying to take a picture of the rich and famous answering the call of nature.  In today’s political climate, the rich should be pissing on the middle class with impunity.  Accountability is for the poor.  Of course, what makes this story delicious is that Jay Penske owns the gossip website, which specializes in covering the sordid affairs of the rich and famous.  Funny, I could find nothing about him on the website.  It seems rival gossip site TMZ has no such qualms.  Go here to see their article.

“All Summer Long”  The boys sing about how wonderful summer is with all the items that define the season.  One line sings about wearing “T-shirts, cut-offs, and a pair of thongs” all summer long.  Wait a minute.  I think a definition may have changed over the years.  These are thongs you wear on your feet.  In any case, it must have been nice to have the things you love all summer long.  As we go dark in IndyCar for 20 days or so, the die-hard IndyCar fans wait restlessly while the casual fan finds something else to do.  I understand that China was scheduled in there, but who was going to watch that race, anyway.  The fact is that IndyCar is over before summer ends.  We need to race all summer long.

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”  Ah, this one takes me back to a time when what you wanted – in this song’s case, sex – was something for which you were willing to wait, although not necessarily happily.  In IndyCar, many folks just aren’t willing to wait.  Owners want a change in IndyCar management.  Tony George wants control back.  Promoters want a better deal.  The paddock wants cheaper parts.  Fans want more ovals, unless they want more road courses.  Sponsors want better ratings.  China wants a beer festival.  Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was willing to wait and work through the issues together.  The fragmentation of all the constituencies of IndyCar is part of the dysfunction of this particular racing family.  In the song, you know the kids are going to “get together” at some time.  I’m not so sure about IndyCar.

“Good Vibrations”  All is not gloom and doom, though.  There are good vibrations all through IndyCar.  In fact, IndyCar is “giving me excitations.”  The car count is staying up and the racing is great!  Cars are passing each other on every track (except Detroit).  The series championship is still undecided.  Did I mention the racing is great?  The problem seems to be that nobody knows about it.  The monolith of NASCAR dominates the news with its TV partners, especially ESPN.  Still, the product on the track is the best in America, or maybe the world, right now.  Hopefully, these good vibrations will continue and not be an indication of a wheel getting ready to fall off.

“Be True To Your School”  The concept of loyalty to your school is the theme of this song.  And I agree with it.  At the risk of being called a cheerleader (and I don’t even own pom-poms), I think fans should support the series, the sponsors, the events, and the networks.  They also can, and should, be critical of what they don’t like.  But they should also defend the series, at least in general terms.  I would rather have my critics inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.  Right now, IndyCar can use more people in the tent.  And I’m not sure where I want Jay Penske; I just know he’s going to be pissing somewhere.

“God Only Knows”  Sometimes we don’t take the time to show our appreciation for those things that are meaningful to us.  This song says “God only knows what I’d do without you.”  It’s good to be self-aware.  A little self-awareness might be good for all of IndyCar, fans included.  The Indianapolis 500 will always be there, but no such guarantee exists for IndyCar (remember USAC and CART).  If the series fails – and it can – then there might not be a white knight with deep pockets to pick up the pieces.  It might just be a NASCAR knight with an indeterminate color of armor.  If people think IndyCar is a niche sport now, wait until the series is taken over by an organization that views it as competition for its primary business.  It happens in the real world all the time.  Not trying to be all Mayan-end-of-the-world here, but this threat may exist.  God only knows.

“Don’t Worry Baby”  The Pollyanna choir keeps telling me how good everything is.  And the racing is good.  The propaganda of the series and its minions say that TV ratings don’t matter.  They do.  Just ask any sponsor.  The bottom-liners at every business want to calculate the ROI (return on investment).  Right now, IndyCar is iffy.  When your series is handing out Leader’s Circle money to Jay Penske based on his promise of advertising impressions, then we better be singing “Worry Baby.”  Everyone knows he’s only going to piss it away.

“I Get Around”  Whatever else you can say about Randy Bernard, he works.  He is on the road courting promoters, engine builders, sponsors, and the media.  IndyCar is lucky to have him.  It was recently announced that Randy Bernard may be getting ready to ink NOLA Motorsports Park in Louisiana.  Check out the link to see this very interesting layout.  At a time when tracks are trying to negotiate sweetheart deals, if they want to deal at all, then it’s absolutely imperative that IndyCar goes racing where someone wants it to race.  So where y’at, NOLA Motorsports Park.  I hear it’s nice south of I-10 in the spring.

My recommendation?  Roll down the car windows, cruise your local root beer stand, crank up The Beach Boy’s Endless Summer, and pretend that you’re still that too-cool-for-school kid you were – or wanted to be – when you were in high school.  That summer in our mind never needs to end.

Ten Worthless Opinions – Mid-Ohio Back-to-School Edition

August is here and you know what that means, don’t you?  That’s right, it’s back-to-school time everywhere.  Open the newspaper or turn on the TV and you are inundated with ads and commercials for every item your entitled little geniuses need.  With that as a backdrop, here’s this weeks WO’s (worthless opinions).

1.  Everyone line up, please.  Single file.  Let’s take a seat in Professor B’s classroom.  Every school has that teacher that’s a little off-center but so sincere and bright that he becomes a favorite.  That’s Jon Beekhuis.  Every broadcast he explains something that helps me understand the engineering marvels of racing and how these concepts affect the teams and drivers.  Class, pay attention.

2.  Sometimes it takes a practical lesson for students to see the value of their knowledge.  After the deluge at Mid-Ohio and the tragic lightning strike at Pocono, it behooves us to pay attention to weather warnings.  I met Brian Nuedorff (@NASCAR_WXMAN) at IMS last week.  His real job is a TV meteorologist in Idaho, but he is an avid NASCAR fan and provides up-to-the-minute forecasts for fans of the various NASCAR series.  Like most bloggers/social media types, he does it for free.  Leading up to the red flag at Pocono, he was screaming on Twitter to stop the race and evacuate the stands.  It didn’t happen in time.  As someone who has managed large events for a living, I can tell you that there is a certain inertia in making the decision to evacuate a facility.  Is your information accurate?  Do you have a plan?  What effect will it have on the event?  What effect will it have on everyone involved in the event?  The simple answer is to say “do the right thing.”  Right is always easy to ascertain in the past tense.  It’s much more difficult in the present.  Here’s a link to Brian Nuedorff’s response on the Pocono weather situation on Sunday.  Read it, please.  And the next time lightning is in the area of an event you are attending, do the right thing and seek shelter.  Don’t wait to be told.  Trust yourself to do the right thing; don’t wait for someone else to make your decision for you.

3.  Justin Wilson is the strong “B” student in class.  He pays attention, does all of this homework, participates in discussion, but when the test rolls around he just misses an “A.”  After getting spun and not stalling his car, he battled back as best he could to soldier home in 18th.  Sometimes a teacher just wants to give a kid an “E” for effort.

4.  Every class has a kid who cuts up, makes jokes, and basically keep a smile on everyone’s face, whether you are a teacher or student.  Josef Newgarden is that kid.  Teachers want to discipline him, but he just ends up making them laugh.  Newgarden almost cracked the top ten this week.   He ran up front until the second half of the race.   Let’s have a short Socratic seminar using this question:  HOW IN THE HELL DOES THIS GUY NOT HAVE A SPONSOR?  Please discuss following the Socratic rules.  What?  Not familiar with them?  Damn American educational system.  Just watch this video and talk among yourselves then.  You won’t see this kind of stuff in NASCAR, class.

5.  After lap 4, ABC/ESPN/NBC showed a graphic on the biggest movers.  Graphs and charts are always a hit when doing multi-media presentations.  It listed Newgarden and Conway at +4, Tags and Barrichello at +3, and Viso at +2. I liked this; however, it would have been nice to SHOW SOME OF THE PASSES.  You have to support your assertions with proof.

6.  Just like the over enthusiastic student who becomes enamored with props and graphs during a presentation, ABC/ESPN/NBC followed that up later with a new graphic that showed Simona de Silvestro,  James Jakes, and Ed Carpenter as the new biggest movers.  Now I was really confused.  I didn’t see those passes, either.  Just like a student who finds facts while researching but does not think about those facts, our broadcasters missed that those passes occurred during pit stops.  Give yourself extra credit if you noticed this.

7.  The booth crew of Bob Jenkins, Jon Beekuis, and Wally Dallenbach did a fine job of explaining the 2-stop versus 3-stop strategies.  It made me long for a yellow flag to allow the 3-stoppers to cozy up to the 2-stoppers.  The back and forth between Beekhuis and Dallenbach explaining these situations works.  That’s the kind of classroom discussion you need: disagreement without animosity.  Both of them are willing to be convinced by the other.  Poor Bob chimes in occasionally trying to draft off their knowledge.

8.  Every class has the answer guy who always knows the right formula, law of physics, or equation for any situation.  In this IndyCar class, the valedictorian is going to come from either the Penske or Ganassi families.  They always have the right strategy and the right fuel mileage.  And to top it off, they’re cool, too.  You are always a little jealous of their seemingly effortless success, at least until you see how hard they work to be cool and successful.

9.  Push-to-pass was…something.  Sometimes the newest fashion you see in a catalog or on a mannequin just doesn’t quite work when you wear it to school.  That’s push-to-pass.  The five second delay seemed like a good idea to prevent it being used as a defensive measure.  The problem with the new iteration seems to be that the driver has to stay on the gas or the button clicks off.  This pretty much means that you can’t use the PTP in a corner if you are not accelerating.  Not only does the driver have to plan to push the button five seconds before it takes effect, he needs to plan to push it at a time when he is on the gas.  In other words, it’s FUBAR.  I think IndyCar needs to dial it back to how they had it.  Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey comes to mind here.

10.  Every student in school needs an assignment notebook with a calendar to plan what they need to do and when they need to do it.  I think it’s time for Randy Bernard to start filling his in.  We only have three races left.  Three!  Next year, IndyCar needs a solid schedule put together as early as possible.  Bernard says 19 is the number of races IndyCar needs to fully activate sponsorship and stay current with the public.  He also says the promoters need to pay up front.  Total agreement here.  Just my opinion, but the schedule for next year is vital.  IndyCar needs the traction that a firm schedule provides to induce sponsorship, both at track and on TV.  This test will not be graded on a curve.

Those are my WO’s (worthless opinions) for this week.  Now please excuse me.  I’ve been told to stand at the board and write “I will compose better WO’s next time.”  It seems I got caught cribbing from the Internet.

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