Ten Worthless Opinions – MavTV 500 IndyCar Championships Edition
I really don’t know if I can condense the action from the MavTV 500 IndyCar Championships to just ten WO’s (worthless opinions). There were retirements, new contracts, an American series champion, awkwardness, and a race winner who was roundly ignored by everybody. It’s IndyCar at its best. Here we go.
1. What a race. If you watched it, then you don’t need me to explain it. If you didn’t, then you need to read Curt Cavin’s Indy Star article here. Or read John Oreovicz’s ESPN.com article here. Or Jenna Fryer’s AP article here. They have the quotes and insights. I just make stuff up. I was on the edge of my seat and sweating trying to do math in my head to figure out what Ryan Hunter-Reay needed to do to be the first American champion of this iconically American series since 2006. Robin Miller will tell us that’s a good thing because of fan interest. I will tell you it’s a good thing because of the racing. After a desultory first 200 miles, all hell broke loose when Will Power, who only had to keep pace with Hunter-Reay to finally win the championship, spun into the wall and opened the door for Hunter-Reay to go from journeyman to champion. The rest of the race was a story problem from 7th grade algebra. “Solve for x, where x is the place a driver needs to finish to score enough points to beat his closest rival.” The math made my head hurt, so I let NBC Sports do it for me. Unfortunately, all NBC Sports wanted to talk about was the championship. It was still a race, and the drivers competing to win it should have been recognized a little. Just my opinion. And it’s likely Ed Carpenter’s opinion, too.
2. As reported by the AP’s Jenna Fryer on Twitter, Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske both have come to the startling conclusion that there may be something wrong with the owners’ perspectives. There has to be a back story here. Comments about the owners not seeing the “big picture” and worrying about the parts prices instead of “building the series” were mentioned. There is a plot afoot. Something is about to happen. Stay tuned. Roger and Chip never say anything that does not in some way point to their self-interest.
3. I will miss Bob Jenkins in the booth. NBC Sports, and I assume IMS productions, put together a stellar retrospective of his career as an announcer. When I think about a race, I think about it in Bob Jenkins’ voice. Here’s to you, Bob. Vaya con Dios, mi amigo.
4. Mike Conway stepped out of AJ Foyt’s car because he was spooked by oval racing. What impressed me most is the support he received from the driving fraternity. It’s a dangerous business and nobody understands it better than the drivers who risk their lives weekly in pursuit of winning. IndyCar drivers are a special, and rare, breed, and I have immense respect for what they do. I get spooked at 80 mph on the interstate. I cannot imagine hanging on in a corner at 200 mph.
5. Did anyone else notice the crowd behind Kevin Lee’s gear-like structure in the pre-race? They were excited! Of course, they were excited because someone was throwing free t-shirts to them for making noise. Here’s a hint, NBC Sports. Don’t throw them so high that the viewers can see them on TV. You want us to believe that the crowd is cheering for IndyCar, Kevin Lee, and the guests, not their own self-interest. Remember, the Wizard of Oz was successful only when he stayed behind the curtain. As always, this advice is a free service from New Track Record. I am available for consultation.
6. Does NBC Sports talk in production meetings about how to make Robin Miller look like a clown? Would he wear a red nose and floppy shoes if they paid him enough? On the pre-race, the broadcast team sat perched high on their chairs. All except Robin Miller. His chair was at least a foot lower than all the others. It was entertaining to watch him try to raise it. He failed to do so. The sad part of this is that RM is aces when it comes to series info and gossip. His quick overview of the silly season possibilities of drivers and teams was spot on. Viewers need that information. The grid run, as always, was an afterthought. Add Marty “The Shit Stirrer” Snider to it. If NBC sports is going to show the segment, then they should at least plan the segment. It’s embarrassing.
7. I say this every week, but Jon Beekhuis adds tremendous value to the broadcasts. He not only talks, he thinks. His “Professor B” segments tell me things I don’t know.
8. I am warming to Ryan Hunter-Reay. His openness talking about chasing the championship was refreshing. Yes, he mentions his sponsors and team, but he also has his emotions right there for us to see. When he got out of the car at the end of the race, he did not have a speech prepared. He was moved by the moment, and we saw an honest reaction. He’s a little wooden and a little awkward. And that’s OK. I like my heroes to be human. Plus, he remained loyal to Andretti Motorsport by signing a contract extension. I think I like that.
9. Sometime in the near future, Will Power will be as classy a champion as he is a runner-up. His responses last night after losing the championship in a gut-wrenching fashion just oozed class. He allowed the fans to see the rawness of the moment. He shared his bitterest disappointment with the world. I seem to remember rather churlish behavior from the tin top drivers in similar circumstances. Will Power is just another reason to like IndyCar.
10. I will end with a shout-out to Ed Carpenter for a great win last night (called by Robin Miller). Ed’s an oval driver. Period. He’s a hometown Indy guy with an Indiana sponsor who deserved to be celebrated for his win at Fontana. And he was an afterthought to Ryan Hunter-Reay in the post-race activities. I hope ECR decides to team up with either another car or another driver (Hey, Mike Conway) to be competitive on all the circuits next year. The new Dallara has opened the door for the small teams to win. It’s another reason to like IndyCar.
New Track Record’s WO’s (worthless opinions) are in the bag for 2012. Just like the new Dallara, they were designed to be quick, functional, and used in the IndyCar Series. I will likely hold them in abeyance until the start of the 2013 season. But, thanks to the relative dysfunction of owners, drivers, series officials, and fans, I will have plenty to write about until then.
Regarding your Point #2 (Penske/Ganassi), I smell AEROKITS. They’ve finished the season with a tidy profit, have their skunkworks working all summer under cover, underground, under the radar, readying for the day when called to let slip the dogs of aerodynamics… Here. It. Comes.
LOVE the Skunkworks reference! I have to find some way to get that in a blog as well as “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war!” Julius Caesar is still one of my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays. But to your point, the aero kits are an interesting possibility. I guarantee they both have something up their sleeves.