A scary IndyCar Halloween
How about all the news out of IndyCar since the season ended in September? You remember, right? A race was announced for Brazil…and, uh….wait a minute…I know there’s something else. Oh, James Hinchcliffe changed teams and has a beer named after him, and Simon Pagenaud is now driving for Roger Penske. Did I miss anything? The long off-season of the Verizon IndyCar Series has begun with what many predicted: a scary lack of anything resembling the buzz that IndyCar so desperately needs. The fear that IndyCar will not build on its spectacular racing and personalities is only one of the tricks that the series may have played on it. Here are a few more.
I sure would love to start planning my IndyCar travels for 2015. To do that, of course, the series would have to release a 2015 schedule. With all the talk about the importance of date equity, it seems that movement to new dates for Toronto, Milwaukee, Fontana, and Pocono may be in the offing. Mark Miles and his team have suddenly gone quiet on when the schedule will come out after falling into the old IndyCar trap of talking about races before the checks have cleared. Cue the sound of rattling skeletons in the closet.
Will one of the aero kits being designed (and clamored for by internet trolls everywhere) shift the balance of power between Honda and Chevy so much that the season will become class racing? Could one aero kilt be dominant on ovals and another on road and street courses? Sure. The old Law of Unintended Consequences could be in full effect here. Be careful what you ask for. The racing last year was great, but that is no guarantee that next year will be.
Derrick Walker has stated that the series is closing on on having race control sorted out. This recurring Nightmare on 16th Street could wreak havoc on the credibility the league has been so desperately pursuing if the decision is somehow mishandled. With the track record of the series, this has the potential to be a flaming paper bag full of potential problems on the front porch of the series. On one side, the hire needs to have the support of the owners and drivers form the beginning. Beaux Barfield was an outlier and his support in the paddock was lukewarm, at best. Brian Barnhart was a control freak that was liked in the paddock but had terrible PR with the public. How about somewhere in the middle? No tricks here, please.
One of the things I like about the holiday triumvirate of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas is the buzz. You cannot escape the marketing might of corporate America from October to December. Granted these marketing mavens have a lot of money to throw around, but they are out there selling every day. Where’s the sell, IndyCar? I know it is too early to have commercials on television, but where’s the buzz? Did you know that John Green (3,296,107 Twitter followers), best-selling author of The Fault in Our Stars, was in the two-seater at IMS? How about Deadmau5 (3,015,012 Twitter followers) being on track with James Hinchcliffe? It should be noted that IMS did tweet about these appearances as they happened, but not much before or after. Build the buzz. Both of these artists have more followers than the total viewers of every IndyCar race the last two years combined. Leverage that. And if Deadmau5 plays at the Snake Pit this year, that is HUGE, even if you have no idea who he is. He wears a mouse head as he DJ’s electronic dance music, for what it’s worth. Costumes are big this time of year, right?
So Happy Halloween, IndyCar! The fans are still waiting for their treats, but keeping their fickle interest may be the biggest trick of all.
I understand that Derrick and the Hulman family are working with a complex Speedway naming rights deal which will result in the 500 becoming the Big Mac Classic and Ronald McDonald being named IndyCar Competition Director
My new Indycar off-season mantra: Wake me up when it’s February.