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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.

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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.

Ten Worthless Opinions – The Indy 500 Edition

I was on overload at the 500 this year.  As the wrangler of our extended entourage, numbering 16 this year, there is always the stress of buying supplies, packing coolers, hosting the Checkered Past Soiree on Saturday afternoon, and cajoling and threatening my extended family to get out of bed on race morning.  And that is every year.  This year, I had the additional stress of being a member of the inaugural Social Media Garage at the 500.  I needed to get to the track early this year. In past years, my feckless family truly enjoyed my angst on race morning.  They love it when I threaten to leave their asses at home.  To a person, they are intelligent, witty, and sarcastic.  As a newcomer to the race said of my nephew this year, “Everything he says is the opposite of what he means.”  Yep.  We are that family: happiest when identifying a person’s weakness and exploiting it for humor.  I love them dearly, and they have my eternal gratitude for getting up early (I was up at 4:15 AM) and making sure I had my Social Media Garage experience even though they mocked me without mercy the entire time.  In any case, here are my “Ten Worthless Opinions – The Indy 500 Edition.”  Feel like a member of my family and mock them without mercy.  They are a compilation of both the at-track experience and the TV viewing later.

  1. First and foremost, my sincerest gratitude to IMS and Cassie Conklin for the opportunity to be a part of the first Social Media Garage.  The other bloggers and I didn’t really know what to expect and were gratified to be included in the evolution of the SMG.  Apparently, my loud voice and rather large personality put me in the position of tweet-up wrangler and lead interviewer when I was there.  You can check out my interview with Wade Cunningham here.  If you want a real interview, then watch Zack Houghton follow my cat queries with true race questions.  Blah, blah, blah.  And thanks to @TheMiniChad for the cat swag.  I wore my cat button proudly, and the can cooler really came in handy in the heat.  I also had the opportunity to embarrass drivers Pippa Mann, Ashley Freiberg, Shannon McIntosh, and ESPN.com’s John Oreovicz.  Thanks for playing along.  And huge thanks to my fellow bloggers: Zack Houghton, IndyCarAdvocate.com and @IndyCarAdvocate; Chris AKA Johnny Montona, andhesonit.com and @andhesonit; Mike Knapp, 15daysinmay.blogspot.com and @15daysinmay; and Eric Hall, anotherindycarblog.wordpress.com and @Erock_in_Indy.  You guys really do rock.
  2. The drive to the track (earlier than normal as explained above) was the easiest in memory.  The only line we had was for one or two minutes as we pulled into the Coke Lot.  And thank you IMS for the parking credential.  It got three cars into the front lot.  After last year’s changes in traffic, I was expecting a similar FUBAR.  Good job, nameless traffic pattern people.
  3. I had the opportunity to interview John Oreovicz from ESPN.com in the Social Media Garage Sunday morning.  He has some strong opinions.  The best part is he did not treat the bloggers like the bottom feeding catfish we are.
  4. Eric Hall from anotherindycarblog.com and I used our credentials to walk the grid.  I have been coming to the Indianapolis since 1966, and I never thought I would have that opportunity.  I felt like I was doing it for every fan who will never have that chance.  Neither Eric or I used the opportunity to take many pictures; we simply wanted to focus on the moment and the experience.  The track on race morning breathes; it whispers.  It speaks to you about history.  It makes you think about all the drivers who motored down that narrow front straight.  It say, “I’m here.  I’ve been here.  I’ll be here.”  It moved me.
  5. The pre-race was well done.  Martina McBride knocked it out of the park with the “National Anthem.”  The Jim Nabors video of “Back Home Again in Indiana” worked.  I wept during “Taps.”  Never forget what Memorial Day means.  The fly-over absolutely blew me away.  Two P-51 Mustangs flanking an A-10 followed by an F16 in tight formation?  Are you kidding me?  Beyond cool.  Did anyone else notice that the balloons were released a little late?  Trying to coordinate all the actions of this event must be tough.  The prayer was interesting.  It was a Catholic priest giving a Baptist call and response.  Can I get an “Amen?’
  6. Thanks to IZOD for sponsoring the spotter’s guide that could be found in the Social Media Garage and other places.  If you could not recognize the livery of the cars, you could not identify them.  For a series that touts the fan as paramount, they did a poor job on numerical recognition.  I can fix the problem:  BIGGER NUMBERS ON THE CARS.  You’re welcome.  I am available as a consultant.  I will work for credentials, swag, and a small per diem.
  7. The restarts, even single file, were AMAZING.  The almost made me incontinent.  Here’s a marketing sell: “This restart brought to you by Depends.  Feel free to piss your pants.”  Or is that too NASCAR?
  8. Do I even have to list the reasons I love Tony Kanaan?  Our stands erupted when he took the lead near the end.  He gets Indy, and Indy loves him for it.  With that said, I have to give credit to Dario Franchitti for his emotional Dan Wheldon remarks after the race.  It made me cry.  And what a classy gesture to take Suzie Wheldon on the victory lap.  Much respect to Dario.
  9. And now, my ABC television coverage review:
    • The pre-race was world-class.  Give it the Emmy right now.  The Dan Wheldon tribute was poetry.  It made me and everyone else in the room weep.  As much as I malign ABC’s race coverage, their feature productions are superb.  Well done, ABC.
    • The Tony Kanaan/Rubens Barrichello feature was touching, particularly with TK choking up talking about his father.  I knew the two were friends from karting days, but I did not know how Rubens father was such a surrogate to Tony.  This segment was powerful.  Again, well done, ABC.
    • The Charlie Kimball story about his impact on a young female athlete with diabetes was moving.  Once again, the camera caught someone choking up without making us feel like voyeurs.  That’s the art of a producer.  Well done, ABC.
    • J.R. Hildebrand talking about last year had to be done.  Insightful and humanizing, I felt for him then and feel for him now.
    • Brent Musburger can be cloying, but he has a certain combination of gravitas and enthusiasm that I like.
    • Scott Goodyear, Eddie Cheever, and Marty Reid made their usual number of head scratching mistakes, but the race was so good that I refuse to point them out.  The best I can say is that the trio did not ruin the race.  And that’s saying something.
    • Vince Welch did a great job in Victory Lane.  The raw emotion of Dario Franchitti tells you that Indy is more than a race.
  10. Every year we create a shirt for the Checkered Past Soiree.  Here are some of the quotes from past years: “Drive it like you stole it,” “Race Globally – Drink Locally,” “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough” by Mario Andretti, and “You just don’t know what Indy means” by Al Unser, Jr.  Here’s this year’s shirt.  Considering the race we just had, it still seems apropos after all these years.

Another Indianapolis 500 has come and gone.  We had new cars, new engines, a Social Media Garage, credentials for the race, and the love and abuse of friends and family.  I will now go sit moodily on my back porch and start the countdown to May 26, 2013.

Ten Worthless Opinions – Time Trials Edition

You would think after spending the last three days at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I would have more than ten WO’s (worthless opinions) to give you.  I assume you expect only the best in WO’s, so I have culled the herd, so to speak.  I will just be trotting out the best selection of trimmed USDA Prime opinions.  Just don’t look in the back room where the cutting occurs.  In no particular order, here are this week’s Ten Worthless Opinions.

  1. The Social Media Garage (yes, I am shilling again) has been a hit.  Tons of Twitter followers have come through and the elite, select, top-notch bloggers (I may be exaggerating) have had a great time.  Go to the Social Media Garage and follow Zack Houghton, Eric Hall, Mike Knapp, and Johnny Montona (real name is Chris…long story) on Twitter and bookmark their blogs.  They are great writers with interesting perspectives.  The staff has been wonderful, and the access has been unbelievable (did I mention the credentials?).  Again, I can be bought.  I am without shame or conscience in these matters.
  2. I do miss the very unique appellation “Time Trials” over the more pedestrian “Qualifications.”  If you have something special to your brand, don’t just keep it, market it.
  3. I have never met a nicer professional than Pippa Mann.  If you need a model on how a racer should interact with fans, then watch her.  She’s gracious, friendly, and accessible.  Pippa had agreed to show up in the Social Media Garage on Saturday afternoon.  Moments before she was to arrive, she got the news that any possible deal to race at Indy was gone.  We would have completely understood if she had passed on the Social Media Garage.  Not Pippa.  She showed up, smiled, and took questions from the bloggers and the audience.  She let her emotions show as she spoke about what Indy means to her.  She gets Indy.  She made some new fans, and I’m one of them.
  4. I had a chance to interview Wade Cunningham, and the result is posted on his rookie diary on YouTube.[1]  Cats, rugby, and A.J. Foyt were discussed.  He was a great sport, and now has another new fan.  That’s the benefit of being a blogger: I don’t have to be impartial.  With that said, I may be partial to the Canberra Raiders in Rugby League.  Wade is an Auckland Warrior fan.  The Warriors do have a cooler logo, though.  The Maori symbolism rocks.  Give us the Haka, Wade. [2]                                                                                                                                                                        
  5. Love the music selection on the PA at Indy.  I noticed some Lynyrd Skynyrd [3] on Bump Day.  I guess they are warming up the crowd for Carb Day.  Good idea.  We discussed Lynyrd Skynyrd in the SM Garage.  We wondered what demographic the marketers at Indy were after.  It seems a departure from Kid Rock, Stone Temple Pilots, Staind, and Papa Roach.  It seems closer to the ZZ Top choice two years ago.  Skynyrd was popular in the mid-70’s.  I guess the older crowd will show up to hear songs from their youth, and the younger crowd will show up to hear “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird.”  In any case, wouldn’t you like to listen to the suits in marketing discuss who they are going to bring to Carb Day.  It makes me smile.
  6. And there was more music at Indy.  Here Come the Mummies [4] played on the Pagoda Plaza after Pole Day and they KILLED it.  The have a great horn section and play dirty, undead funk.  I had to shout, “Play that funky music, dead boy!”  And the lead singer Java is one sick dude, you know, for a dead guy.  You MUST see this band.
  7. Pack racing may make me incontinent.  The cars sliced and diced all week in practice and REALLY chopped on Sunday evening.  Wow.  Let’s hope the car is as safe as it seems because if they race like this on May 27, then someone is saying hello to the SAFER Barrier.  Will Power and two other drivers were VERY displeased with James Jakes taking a Sunday drive in the groove in Turn 1 on Bump Day.  Say hello to my one fingered friend, James.
  8. There were a number of feel good stories.  Bryan Clauson, the local boy from Noblesville, Indiana, came back from a hard hit in Turn 1 on Saturday to qualify for the race.  The SFHR team did a great job getting the car ready.  The same can be said for the ECR team after Ed Carpenter hit hard in Turn 2.  Fuzzy’s Vodka Bloody Mary’s all around tonight, boys.
  9. The DW12 is still ugly, but it has done its job.  It may rotate on contact but it did not get airborne after three hard hits that took the cars off the ground.  If that’s the case, I can live with ugly.  I know that because I look in the mirror every morning and am still able to walk out the front door.
  10. We have pissed and moaned for years about competition and good racing.  I’m glad Lotus is in the race.  We need as many marques as we can get.  Steve Wittich (@stevewittich) did a guest post for New Track Record on Thursday called “Honda: Checkered Past to Checkered Flag” that followed Honda’s rise to the top of the heap.  Give Lotus time.

There they are, my “Ten Worthless Opinions – Time Trials Edition.”  So grab your knickers on Sunday, May 27 because my opinion, worthless or not, is that we are going to be highly entertained.  Once again, it’s going to be the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

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1.  Here’s the link to Wade Cunningham’s Rookie Diary on YouTube.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6memYAIUhe8

2.  I tried to convince Wade to intimidate his opponents with this New Zealand Mauri original.  The Haka rocks.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHW1K2LeQXE

3.  Dig the dinosaurs! Her’s a link to Lynyrd Skynyrd.  http://www.lynyrdskynyrd.com/

4.  Party with the undead.  Check out the Mummies site. http://www.herecomethemummies.com/

Ten Worthless Opinions – Indy Social Media Garage Edition

Through some legerdemain, hocus-pocus, super moon cosmic connection, or dumb luck,  I have been selected to be a blogger in the IMS Social Media Garage.  I’m pretty sure it was a combination of more qualified writers being unable to participate and a deadline where the vivacious Cassie Conklin, one of the primary SMG mechanics, simply said, “We have one more spot to fill.  Who’s next on the list?”  However it happened, I’m just happy to park New Track Record in the garage for the month of May.  I do have a few WO’s (worthless opinions) regarding the Social Media Garage and the first weekend of practice.

1.  Bloggers are normally happy in the shadows.  I mean, take a look at our pictures on the SMG web page.  Yikes.  Would you call us edgy, classy, or cool looking?  How about old, fat, or geeky then?  By and large, bloggers live on hope. We hope someone will read our opinions or laugh at our jokes.  We hope that people will follow us on Twitter or comment on our stuff.  And we hope for the blogger bonanza: money, swag, or credentials.  In the case of the Social Media Garage…Yahtzee!  We have been HOOKED UP.  We are still doing it for free, and I haven’t seen any shirts or hats yet, but we scored credentials for the month of May.  Normally, bloggers are told they can come in the back door and not to touch anything.  The SMG people said come on in, and you can even sit on the furniture.  It’s like the Jimmy Buffett song “Gypsies in the Palace.” [1]  We are just taking advantage of the situation while we can.  And I have to tell you, my family and friends now think I am an insufferable ass.  Or as Steve Wittich (@stevewittich) said, “You mean more of an insufferable ass.”  Well, yes.

2.  I have always contended that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is really just a large Mom and Pop business.  It’s family run, and the people you come in contact with in the ticket office, credentials office, the gift shop, and the museum are invariably friendly and helpful.  Maybe it’s the business culture or Hoosier hospitality, but IMS people are just nice.  After getting word that I was one of the chosen/lucky bloggers, I was instructed to head to the corner of 16th and Georgetown to pick up my credentials.  I was hoping for Bronze Badge access, but was given a parking pass, a pass for race day pit/garage/grid access, and a Silver Badge.  Since I previously purchased a Bronze Badge, there was some paperwork/computer issues to work through.  Jennifer, one of the supervisors, was professional, pleasant, and helpful.  I might add that the credentials office runs a tight ship.  I would guess that not too many things fall through the cracks in there.  To add to the festivities, Eric Hall (@Erock_in_Indy), one of the other SMG bloggers, was in the office with the same problem as I.  We both felt like interlopers, waiting for someone to say, “Just a minute, you two.  There’s been some mistake.”  But we walked out clutching our badges and passes like kids gripping bags of candy on Halloween evening.

3.  The sidewalk and lawn in front of the IMS office on 16th and Georgetown is a great place to see the various team personnel pick up their credentials.  And the best part is they have to stand in line in the credentials office just like everybody else.  I love the great equalizers in our society.

4.  As Eric and I left the IMS offices, a woman who was picking up credentials at the window between us stopped to ask what was going on in there.  She was friendly (Hoosier hospitality once again) and interested in our story.  She introduced herself as Joan Parsons Voyles and very quietly, but with great pride, said that her father was a former 500 winner.  Her father was Johnnie Parsons, the 1950 champion. [2]  Stories are everywhere at Indy.

5.  If you see Eric at the SMG this year, be sure to ask him who else we met in front of the IMS offices.  And ask him where he got his picture that you see on the SMG webpage.  It only looks like a mug shot.

6.  Need another place to go to see the IndyCar personnel?  Get to Charlie Brown’s Pancake and Steak House on Main St. in Speedway early on any given practice morning.  Good food and good people watching.

7.  Opening Day at the track is just cool.  The auto show behind the Pagoda this year was superb.  Just assume the cars were beyond description.  Even better was watching the blazer wearing judges making their choices.  They talked, walked, dressed, and smelled like money.  My favorite was the judge wearing a “Gulfstream” logo cap.  Does he think we can’t tell he’s already rich?  And I can mock him all I want because I absolutely know he does not read my blog.  Small victory, I guess.

8.  Planning to buy your beer at the track?  The Foster’s Oil Can [3] holds 25.4 oz. of beer.  At $7.00 a beer that’s only $3.50 for 12 oz.  I dare you to find a better deal at any major sporting event.  At New Track Record, we believe in value.

9.  If you are a regular at the track and do not have a Bronze Badge, you are making a mistake.  Walking through the garage is flat-out fun.  The drivers are approachable, and you are up close to the action.  (Thanks to Bryan Clauson, a Noblesville boy like myself, for taking time to talk to my son and I on Saturday.  He’s genuine, and that is some of my highest praise.)  Plus, having a badge is great just because you can feel special.  And who doesn’t like that?  It’s human nature.  And for $100, you can feel special, too.  Also, I found out that badge envy exists.  Twice, people saw my badge, looked me up and down, and said, “Silver?”  I smiled.  If I only had a hat that said “Gulfstream” on it.

10.  Oh.  And there were some cars on the track, and they went kind of fast.

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1.  Here is a live version of “Gypsies in the Palace.”  I hope I don’t get a cease and desist order.  I hear JB is harsh. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBpG-GEZLCE&feature=related

2.  Here’s a link to Johnnie Parson’s Wikipedia page with an interesting story about the trophy.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnnie_Parsons

3.  And of course, a link to Foster’s beer.  Enjoy.  http://www.fostersbeer.com/ 

Ten Worthless Opinions – The Shawshank Redemption Edition

What better way to preface my WO’s (worthless opinions) than with quotes from one of those movies you always have to stop and watch when you are flipping through the channels.  Here’s this week’s “Ten Worthless Opinions – The Shawshank Redemption Edition”  Let’s see what Red and Andy have to say about IndyCar racing.

1.  “I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.” 

This is Red on his way to meet Andy in Mexico.  If you substitute “Indy” for “Pacific,” you have how it feels to live in central Indiana in May.  For an Indy 500 fan, nothing compares.  You just can’t wait for the track to open.  Of course, if you are regular reader, you know I can’t keep a thought in my head any other time of the year, either.  If you are an IndyCar fan, the last two words sum everything up.

2.  “Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine, or maybe I just don’t want to. Five hundred yards… that’s the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile.”  

This is Red talking about Andy’s escape.  Have you ever seen the campground in the Coke Lot?  Have you ever walked down Georgetown the night before the race?  Have you ever been in the third turn infield at Indy?  Were you ever in the real Snake Pit in first turn?  Yep, this is Indy.

3.  “I believe in two things: discipline and the Bible. Here you’ll receive both. Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me. Welcome to Shawshank.”  

Warden Norton said this to the new prisoners.  Taking away the fact that Norton was completely corrupt, isn’t this what Beaux Barfield has been telling the drivers?  Substitute “rule book” for “Bible” and “IndyCar” for “Shawshank,” and I think you’ve got it.

4.  “I  must admit I didn’t think much of Andy first time I laid eyes on him; looked like a stiff breeze would blow him over. That was my first impression of the man.” 

This comment by Red seems to be how so many people viewed Randy Bernard when he was first hired.  And yes, I’m looking at you Track Forum and Miller’s Mailbag.  Randy’s got some sand.  He is handling the stiff breezes, and the tornadoes, quite well.

5.  “What is your malfunction, you fat barrel of monkey spunk?”

Captain Hadley said this.  I don’t know if A.J. Foyt ever uttered these words to anyone, but he should have.  I can hear that Texas twang now.  It makes me smile just to think about it.

6.  Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

Red’s comment sums up exactly how I feel about the present and future of IndyCar.  I continue to hope, but things like the continuing Lotus saga and the Michael Shank Racing issues keep popping up.  Insane?  Not yet, but give me time.

7.  “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.” 

Red’s response to Andy playing opera on the prison PA defines the power of music.  At the 500, you don’t have to have a music degree to understand “On the Banks of the Wabash Far Away,” “Back Home Again in Indiana,” “Taps,” or the music of the engines on the first lap.  Those songs and sounds may not make us feel free like they did Red, but they certainly make us feel. [1]

8.  Bad luck, I guess. It floats around. It’s got to land on somebody. It was my turn, that’s all. I was in the path of the tornado. I just didn’t expect the storm would last as long as it has.” 

Andy Dufresne talking here.  This could be either Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, or Dario Franchitti being interviewed after a shunt when there is no one else to blame.  It must be fate, since it can’t be their driving.

9.  “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”  

This is Red again, and I think he makes a valid point about the future of IndyCar.  As fans, we can embrace the past, but we have to stop living in it.  Other than Indy, the series needs to make a new history with new drivers, new cars, and new motors.  This series needs vitality, and that is found in new things.  If IndyCar continues to live in the past, then the series will continue its descent out of the public’s eye.  Get busy, Indycar.

10.  “Sometimes it makes me sad, though… Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.” 

Red describing Andy being gone is how I feel every other month of the year.  May is magical for an Indy 500 fan.  The race is on the horizon, and every day the excitement builds.   The only thing keeping depression from setting in the day after the race is knowing the next race on the schedule is coming up.  The checkered flags and banners on the house are carefully folded and stored for another year.  Life is much more drab and empty.  I miss my friend the 500.

I’m glad Red and Andy took the time to share their thoughts on IndyCar racing with us.  I am sure they would both understand when I say that the night before the 500 is “the longest night of my life.”

________________________________________

1.  Here’s Straight No Chaser, founded at Indiana University, singing “Back Home Again in Indiana.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZ8A7Q-SVHI

New Track Record’s Ten Worthless Opinions – Sao Paulo Indy 300

What comes to mind when you think of Brazil?  Carnival?  Samba?  Nude beaches?  Crime?  I assume your answer is “yes” to all of those.  Another answer is auto racing.  Brazilians love fast cars.  It’s quicker to get to the nude beaches that way.  Or away from kidnappers.  But I jest.  I have formulated some totally worthless opinions about this week’s race in Brazil.

1.  How can you not love Bitchin’ Bob Jenkins.  For all of his mistakes ( confusing Brazil with Canada TWICE, starting the broadcast by misstating how long until the start,  miscounting the number of Brazilians in the race, and his usual assortment of using the wrong name for people), he is totally self-aware.  He knows he makes the mistakes and takes the ribbing of his booth cohorts with grace and good humor.  I had the opportunity to do TV color commentary for the Indiana state high school softball championships, and I can tell you it is the hardest, most humbling thing I have ever done.  Bob is the guy in the booth that must keep the focus on the race while watching a foreign broadcast from a studio in America.  I liked that he disclaimed the fact a number of times.  Even as I criticize, I realize we are lucky to have a guy like Bob Jenkins in the booth.  He’s sincere and honest, and that goes a long way with me.

2.  Does anyone else have a love-hate relationship with IndyCar 36?  I love that fact that NBC Sports is publicizing the drivers, but find myself being put to sleep by the narrative.  In my WO (worthless opinion), I would like to see more controversy and conflict.  The drivers are so politically aware.  We need some A.J. injected into the story.  Still, the meaning of Long Beach to Ryan Hunter-Reay and his wife was touching.  Maybe I’m not the demographic they are looking to entertain.

3.  Does anyone else find double file restarts exciting when they are done correctly?  True, the tight first turn in Brazil led to some, as Twitter aptly suggested, monkey/football romance.  But aside from that, I find myself leaning forward on restarts.  That’s good, right?  This has been a positive change.

4.  Speaking of positive changes, Beaux Barfield has been one.  After each accident, we were informed of an investigation and were informed (as well as TV, Brazil, Bob Jenkins, and technology allowed) of the outcome.  The rules seem clear to the drivers and the penalties seem fair and impartially enforced.  Unless you’re Sarah Fisher at Long Beach.  Speaking of which, the prerace had a moment of racing comedy as Kevin Lee questioned Dario Franchitti and referenced his contact with Josef Newgarden in Long Beach.  Tricky, Kevin, tricky.  Dario did not bite on the bait and continued to be blissfully unaware of “feeling” contact, Sarah Fisher’s sidepod evidence to the contrary.  I can only imagine Dario watching every video of the wreck and having a big grin spread over his face as he realized that no evidence existed that proved he punted Newgarden.  Plausible deniability, baby.

5.  Robin Miller was a ghost in the broadcast, which seemed to please some on Twitter.  I missed seeing what new way he could come up with to totally screw up the grid run.  I was hoping NBC Sports would do a hologram like they had of Tupac at the Coachella Festival.  A digital Robin Miller might not be so out of breath during his interviews.  If you can’t do a digital Miller, then at least give him a Segway.

6.  NBC sports, here’s my WO on your broadcast:  just because you have a great segment in the can doesn’t mean you cut away from the race to show it.  How the cam locks on the nose and tail assemblies work is cool information.  I like it.  But how about a side-by-side?

7.  Turbo wars!  You can expect the following press release from Roger Penske:

Since the turbo change resulted in an equalizing of the Chevy and Honda motors, it is COMPLETELY UNFAIR.  Fairness only exists when the equipment used by Penske Racing is superior.  HOW CAN YOU PEOPLE NOT SEE THAT? 

8.  Will Power is an absolute beast.  In all seriousness, he is in a class of one.  Same car, same aero, same motor, different result.

9.  And how about the other racing?  Takuma Sato showed that he really can drive.  What a dive bomb in turn 1 at the end of the race.  How about Ed Carpenter’s day?  His late spin, assisted by Ana Beatriz, kept him out of a possible top ten finish.  His improvement on road/street courses is vital to the success of his program.  It should be noted that this very fast circuit is probably better suited to his emerging road/street course skills than slower venues.  In any case, a nice day for Ed and Fuzzy’s Premium Vodka.  As much as I rag on Dario Franchitti for his it’s-not-my-fault responses to contact initiated by him, he really can drive a race car.  After spinning and being airborne, he steers it back to fifth place.

10.  Twitter responses were interesting today.  It seems that people are made uncomfortable by commercials showing people who have lost limbs, required surgery, or have become incapacitated because of smoking.  I think that’s the idea.  And since they pay for the commercial time no one else wants to buy, I think we will see more of them.  People also seem slightly entertained by the Honda commercial featuring the “Hoodie Ninja” song by MC Chris.  People, have you ever listened to the lyrics of this song?  I’m surprised that Honda uses a song that refers to…well, refers to so many things that probably don’t need to be in a commercial for Honda.[1] You REALLY need to check out the footnote to listen to the song and read the lyrics.

Another set of worthless opinions offered for your perusal.  Don’t forget to check out the “Indy Tenderloin Tour” post coming up later this week.  A good breaded tenderloin is never worthless.

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1.  Entertain yourself with this link that has the music and lyrics to “Hoodie Ninja” bu MC Chris. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8aMumvh9eI

New Track Record’s Ten Worthless Opinions – The Grand Prix of Long Beach

I’ve been cogitating on a quote to describe the racing at the Grand Prix of Long Beach (or #TGPLB as their PR flak shrilly demanded on Twitter).  The best I can come up with is Kramer’s review of a novel for Elaine on Seinfeld:

“Well, it’s a story about love, deception, greed, lust and..unbridled enthusiasm…You see, Elaine, Billy was a simple country boy. You might say a cockeyed optimist who got himself mixed up in the high stakes game of world diplomacy and international intrigue.”

OK, the world diplomacy and international intrigue is really the F1 situation in Bahrain, but I think I can finesse the others into my Ten Worthless Opinions.

1.  Robin Miller has moved to the top of my list.  At Barber, he interrupted the prayer.  Last time, I called his grid run half-assed and asked that NBC Sports add additional ass.  It seems my pleas have been ignored.  If anything, ass has been deleted.  Maybe the reason ass for Robin Miller is in such short supply is because Charles Barkley has convinced everyone to go to Weight Watchers.  I don’t know.  NBC Sports, once again I ask you to have an intern or SOMEBODY produce that segment.  Maybe you could speak to the teams before the race to let them know that Robin is planning on his grid run.  Perhaps you could verify that the drivers are IN THE PITS FOR THE SEGMENT and not still tooling around the track for introductions.  Now, I have observed that Robin is dressing better now that NBC is in charge.  That’s a nice shirt.  Very professional.  But lose the sunglasses when you are in the booth with Kevin Lee.  Here’s some free advice.  If you really want to dress Robin appropriately for this segment, try big floppy shoes and a bright red nose.  You are already making him look like a freaking clown.  Unless this unintentional comedy is part of a bigger, secret plan to make us laugh.  Then carry on.  (Kramer quote connection: deception)

2.  Kramer said the book was about “unbridled enthusiasm.”  That about sums up Josef Newgarden’s move on Dario Franchitti in turn 1.  I guess you could say that Newgarden was a “cockeyed optimist” when he thought a turn 1 outside move on the first lap was his best chance to win an 85 lap race.  My opinion?  We need more cockeyed optimism. (Kramer quote connection: unbridled enthusiasm and cockeyed optimism)

3.  Does anyone have a problem with the starts?  They seemed acceptable to me.  I’m sure someone wants them to be perfect.  I just like the fact the drivers seem to be attempting to do it.  We’ll see if a bad one gets waved off.  Stay tuned.

4.  Townsend Bell gets better and better.  I think he likes the gig.  Two things he said stood out: “gnarly” and “twenty-six of my fellow wack jobs behind me.”  Where else are you going to hear that?  Keep this guy.  Lindy who?

5.  Finally, the new breed is back to finger-pointing and complaining.  I don’t know whose fault Marco’s shunt was; it doesn’t matter.  The fact that blame cannot be squarely assigned makes this drama more entertaining.  Graham Rahal said that Marco Andretti hit him from behind. Marco said that Graham “chopped” him and could have killed him.  After hearing this Graham said that was to be expected from someone with that last name.  THIS is the soap opera we have been waiting for.  Whiners, start your bitching.

6.  It appears the honeymoon is over for Beaux Barfield.  He’s making calls and people are reacting.  Sucks to be Ryan Hunter-Reay, E.J. Viso, and Simona De Silvestro doesn’t it.  Personally, I have no problem with any of his rulings because the new transparency lets us know that the race director is reviewing a situation and actually making a ruling.  If you watched IndyCar 36, you know Graham Rahal was a little cranky with Beaux about qualifying at Barber.  Be prepared for more grousing about blocking.  The fur will fly when Beaux hangs a penalty on a certain Brazilian or someone with the last name Andretti.  And you just know it’s going to happen. *rubbing hands in anticipation*

7.   All the problems with the motors has created controversy, conversation, and conflict.  That’s good, right?  We want the competitors talking and the media buzzing.  It makes us watch every lap and every puff of smoke.

8.  Twitter BLEW UP when Marco Andretti went airborne after contact with  Graham Rahal.  The armchair engineers had all they needed to categorically state that the new rear bumpers do not work.  I will use my daughter’s favorite response to my idiotic musings: Really?  One inconclusive camera angle proved it.  Damn, I wish I had a degree from your school.  You be smart.

9.  I give NBC Sports a B+ for this broadcast.  It seems to be much more difficult to position cameras at street courses as opposed to road courses.  It might have something to do with, you know, all those BIG BUILDINGS.  But it would have been nice to see the penalties on Viso and De Silvestro.

10.  I truly appreciate those who can work it to “accidentally” be in frame on a national TV broadcast.  Kudos this week to Chris Sheridan who blogs at IndySoup.com and can be found @indysoupdotcom on Twitter.  Here in Indiana we have a term for that kind of grin, Chris.  Something about ingesting feces.  Good on, ya.  See you at Indy.

I understand that I did not connect every WO to the Seinfeld quote.  If you see how I missed one, please let me know.  I hope these opinions are as worthless to you as they are to me.

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