After such a great race in Edmonton, Alberta, it was discouraging to hear talk of the race not coming back due to sponsorship difficulties. The talk seems to center around local engagement and activation. Nothing a title sponsor can’t solve. What does it take to get the folks from Medicine Hat, Okotoks, Wetaskiwin, Athabasca, Waskastenau, Atikameg, Ponoka, and Sexsmith to fully engage? OK, judging by the name, maybe the folks at Sexsmith are busy with other activities. This was a fantastic race. C’mon, local Canadian populace, you can’t just fish and drink beer all summer. With the oil business at the center of Edmonton commerce, you would think local connections would flourish. That’s why this week’s title is (Sponsor Name Here) Edmonton Indy Edition. I’m willing to do my small part to help recruit sponsorship. Here are this week’s WO’s (worthless opinions).
1. I thought I would familiarize myself with Edmonton by taking out my atlas and HOLY SMOKES, EDMONTON IS IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! I grew up in a small Indiana town (Shirley) and thought it was the middle of nowhere, but now I know how wrong I was. I can only assume the winters at this northern latitude are brutal, and the summers are plagued by giant biting flies. Am I wrong? I can see why a title sponsor is difficult to find. Bad economy, wrong location (notice I did not say “bad location”), and low TV ratings may doom this race. And that’s too bad; the racing was excellent. Speaking of races, Randy Bernard is still adamant on 19 races while reports suggest that some owners are happy where they are and don’t have the money to expand to 19. Sometimes I just shake my head at the dysfunction in the IndyCar family. I think they all need therapy. As a fan, I know I do.
2. The teams complained about the long drive. What’s the payoff for them? Are they going to excite their sponsors with hospitality in Edmonton? Sadly, there is no compelling reason for owners, teams, and sponsors to go to Alberta, Canada. The Calgary Stampede does draw a huge crowd, though. Hmm. Maybe Randy Bernard can use his rodeo connections to combine the Stampede and the (Sponsor Name Here) Edmonton Indy race. I’m an idea guy. Just one of the many services offered here at New Track Record.
3. Is it my imagination, or is NBC Sports tweaking the pre-race a little? The giant gear that serves as Kevin Lee’s pre-race perch was missing. That was probably a cost containment move, though. Again, the costs to go to Edmonton are enormous, and does NBC Sports really need that piece of modern art and the wranglers that go with it? It will be interesting to see if it continues to show up at other races. NBC Sports cutting an already low-budget presentation is not good news.
4. Robin Miller has been marginalized as an in-race reporter. His schtick is the grid run. He even has his own cartoon graphic now. He’s NBC Sports version of Fox Sports’ Digger. Here’s my idea. Create a college-type mascot of Robin Miller. He can parade up and down pit row in his suit with the Firehawk. They can even play little tricks on each other. With the quality of the questions he’s asking in the grid run now, the mascots vow of silence can only be a benefit to the viewer.
5. What’s up with Marty Snider? He went from a pretty good pit reporter to a shit-stirrer. Pre-race, he tried to get Sebastien Bourdais to comment on Charlie Kimball from last week, even asking if an apology was offered. Post-race, he tried to get Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power in a dust-up about Power’s alleged chopping of RHR while exiting the pits. He also tried to get Helio Castoneves to comment on last year’s penalty. It seemed contrived. Is some faceless producer trying to spice things up? Is NBC Sports trying to create some soap opera controversy? I can’t blame NBC for trying to start things. Ratings rule. Let’s see if this continues.
6. It was nice to hear Simon Pagenaud tell us that his run-in with Josef Newgarden at Toronto was not really blocking. It was just two moves (his and Newgarden’s) at almost the same time. I’m reminded of the guy caught in the act asking his wife, “What are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” I’ll stick with my own eyes, but thanks for asking, Simon.
7. Push-to-pass, or PTP, seemed to work well. NBC Sports showed a graphic that let the viewer know when PTP was in use and how many seconds were left. It had my interest in the last few laps as Takuma Sato tried to overtake Helio Castroneves. In other words, it engaged me. Keep it.
8. I did notice that IZOD used two different commercials, one with golfer Kevin Na and one with their normal set of models splashing fully clothed in the ocean. Still no commercials using or connecting to IndyCar. So long, IZOD. It’s been good to know you. I’ll miss buying your socks and pocketed T-shirts. They have become my signatures. And the Van Heusen commercials with Jerry Rice and Steve Young will also be gone since Van Heusen owns IZOD. But before you go, can you do one commercial where Robin Miller is the “schlub.” Please.
9. I loved all the passing at the (Sponsor Name Here) Edmonton Indy and how NBC Sports continues to show the passes, both live and on replay. This is how you keep your core fans engaged. Show them racing. Let Marty Snider titillate the casual fans with gossip; show me the action. And I agree NBC needs both because they need the viewers. Whatever works.
10. I love the IndyCar post-race interviews. The NASCAR drivers are often surly and pissy. The IndyCar drivers seem approachable and willing to sell the brand, both their own and the series. Helio Castroneves bubbles over with emotion. How can you not like him? Alex Tagliani was gracious in defeat. Takuma Sato was all smiles. OK, Ryan Hunter-Reay was a little moody now that he expects to win every race, but I’ll give him a pass this time.
There you go. I hope you found this week’s WO’s (worthless opinions) satisfying. Hopefully, IndyCar finds itself back in Edmonton, Alberta next year with a title sponsor and plenty of insect repellent to keep those damn biting flies off. In honor of our northern friends, I leave you with this famous paean to western Canada. You’re welcome.