It always comes down to this. For every yin, there’s a yang; for every oversteer, there’s an understeer; for every drunken race fan there’s a smug glare of self-righteousness. Part I of this series was the “good” of the title; the events, people, and actions that make Indy what it is. For the sake of fairness and snark, there must be a “bad.” Presented here are the ones that made the cut.
1. The bad on the track was easy. The contretemps among Ed Carpenter, James Hinchcliffe, and Townsend Bell took out two cars that had a chance to win with Bell wrecking later with what may have been problems stemming from this incident. It was nice to see the bad side of Ed Carpenter, though. His dirt track days just jumped out of him. Not only did he physically loom over Hinchcliffe while Hinch was sitting in his car, he was quoted on ABC saying that it’s lucky Hinch had a concussion two weeks ago. The indication being, I think, that if Hinch wasn’t already concussed then Ed would have been more than happy to oblige. Dirt track meets championship wrestling with Ed Carpenter flipping from face to heel. Bad boys. Hinchcliffe did accept the blame, though. Stand up guy. Of course when video shows clearly that you made it three wide, there’s not much else to say.
2. The luck of Chip Gaanassi racing was most definitely bad at Indy this year. Not only did the boys have trouble qualifying, but Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, and Ryan Briscoe placed 29th, 26th, 31st, and 24th respectively. Ouch. Now that’s a “Bad Moon Rising.” It’s time for someone there to say “Got my Mojo Working.” Just a couple of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Muddy Waters references for you. Again, it’s all about racing and popular culture here.
3. As someone who paid $75 to IMS for parking passes to the North 40 (Lot 7), I was more than a little miffed when the parking attendants told me at 7:30 AM that there were no spots available for me to park. My explanation that having a reserved spot to park is precisely the reason that IMS sold the parking passes and why I decided to buy them left the dead-eyed, yellow shirted parking attendant unmoved, and I was forced to park at the back of the North 40. Imagine my surprise when I checked the front of the lot where I was supposed to park and found almost no cars with parking credentials. It was just a smaller version of last year’s line fiasco being played out on a grassy stage. Normally, commerce is conducted in such as way as to give a guest or client what they paid to get. When you pay a year in advance for something you don’t get, it’s called chiseling. To put it another way, imagine how you would feel if you stood in an enormous line behind the NE Vista to purchase a $9 tenderloin and were told AFTER you paid for it, that it was given to an earlier patron for free. “Thank you, and please come again.” Bad business, that.
4. Let’s talk about those bad concession lines. In the NE Vista, which was packed, the new food service professionals at Levy Restaurants decided it was better to have fewer open concession stands to serve more people. The lines were endless and slow. I’m just glad IMS contracted the food service out to those that do it for a living. I’m sure there’s an explanation for how this is better for the guests on site. Spin it!
5. With the last “bad” in mind, let’s consider that the
marks customers are now paying more for every item on the concession list. Again, I’m just a plebeian, untutored in the art of separating acquiring money from rubes guests. I am sure a computer wonk in accounting can show how much better all this is for IMS. And that is what counts. I am sorry for being so selfish here and thinking only of my experience. Mea culpa.
6. I am sure I am no the only one who has noticed the decline in the interest, enthusiasm, and competence of the fabled Yellow Shirts at IMS. Even though I have called some “petty tyrants and martinets,” it was obvious that they took their jobs seriously. Many of the workers now seem unhappy and disinterested in improving the guest experience. For all the world, it seems like most have little or no training. Many out in the hinterlands of the facility seem to have the dead, vacant stares of those who have the seen the world at its worst: fast food workers. It’s not pretty.
7. Finally, what saddens me the most is the passing of an era, the loss of innocence. IMS has finally gone over to the dark side of corporate America. No longer do I have the sense that the series, the race, and the facility are some Mom and Pop organization run on whims and greyhound rescues. No, it has become the antithesis of that. It is now a business run on the American virtues of greed and profit. And I’m really okay with that. Money is good for the drivers, the owners, the promoters, the tracks and the networks. It’s just not good for the soul. I miss my old friend, the one who let you get falling down drunk on reasonably priced beer, the one who sold you a greasy frozen fritter of pork without acting like it wouldn’t give you heartburn, the one who allowed you to torch couches and old cars in the infield for the sheer joy of socially accepted arson. Today, Simon and Garfunkel would sing, “Where have you gone, Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Our nation turns its bloodshot eyes to you.” Woo, woo, woo, indeed.
Don’t get me wrong, the good far outweighs the bad in regards to my race day experience. The Verizon IndyCar Series still offers the best racing on the planet. I’ll be coming back with more cash in my wallet and lower expectations of what that cash will buy me but higher expectations for the action on the track. And that is really the bottom line.