In lieu of having a solid premise, argument, or idea to present, I once again fall back upon the widely popular, and much easier to write, “Ten Worthless Opinions” model. It allows me to write a few hundred words without the messy necessity of coherent thought or the thesis/evidence/conclusion paradigm so popular with critics. My audience does not need all that; they just need the broad strokes that allow them to reach totally unsubstantiated conclusions. So in typical fashion, here are a few totally unrelated thoughts about the upcoming Verizon IndyCar season starting this weekend at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
1. What forms will Verizon engagement take? Will we just see commercials on TV and a presence in the Fan Zone? What we need to see is Verizon using their technological wizardry to update timing & scoring and improve the entity know as race control. Verizon says they want to be known as a technology company. Here is their chance to have an immediate and noticeable effect on the series. Or maybe we’ll just see ads where drivers use mobile devices in a really cool setting like we have before.
2. With ABC’s network reach, and hopefully ESPN’s support, the TV ratings for the series should climb as the season progresses. The vortex of negativity that often surrounds the series will become a small eddy if it does. Of course, the vortex will become a raging maelstrom if the ratings do not peak right away because THE SERIES WILL DIE IF THIS IS NOT CORRECTED IMMEDIATELY. Or so they say. Give the ratings a year and evaluate. Patience.
3. It will be interesting to see how the Andretti Autosport and Honda Performance Development shotgun wedding works out. The divorce between Chip Ganasssi Racing and HPD was rife with public comments from Chip. Somehow, I doubt if Michael Andretti will air dirty laundry about a partner like that. Hope it works out for the kids.
4. Can Chip Ganassi ever find happiness with an engine partner? Will he take pot shots at Chevrolet if another Chevy team beats him? Will the Verizon IndyCar Series somehow not live up to his lofty standards. Will backmarkers who are running ahead of him refuse to yield the right of way to the rightful champion? Will Chip start using the royal “we” in interviews and conversations? A better than average chance exists for all of these to happen.
5. The question is not IF Juan Pablo Montoya does an incredibly brave/stupid/dangerous/irritating thing, it’s when he does it. The under is St. Pete and the over is Barber. I’ve got the under. And you just know a Chip Ganassi car is going to be involved. A just universe would not let it happen any other way.
6. The (Your Name Here) Grand Prix of Indianapolis is on the clock. Is it the start of a new tradition (because new traditions DO start), or is it taking tradition out behind the barn and shooting it? Will the hidebound traditionalists stay home or will the sound of the turbos lure them to the Speedway? It may be an average road course, but it is still the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. See you there.
7. In a series founded on ovals, will we see NASCAR, the owner of Iowa Speedway, try to push the Verizon IndyCar Series out of a popular and profitable partnership? Let’s see now, should the owner of a series sponsored by a mobile technology company promote a series sponsored by a competitor of its own sponsor at a track that it-the series- owns? Did anyone even understand that? In other words, so long Iowa Speedway. We’ll always have Des Moines.
8. How important are the ovals going to be now with the relatively complicated scoring system that basically doubles the value of Indy, Pocono, and Fontana, the three 500 mile events on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar? The answer of course is very. What happens if Chip Ganassi loses the championship precisely because these events are worth more points? It makes you smile to think about it, doesn’t it? Gentlemen, start your hype!
9. What delicious rumors will start this year? Brazil is already in the picture for a race. What about Providence and Fort Lauderdale? How about F1 at Long Beach? Is a new Canadian venue in the offing? Will the international races be in Australia, Italy, or the Middle East? Who will be buying the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the Hulman-George family? Gossip and rumormongering are IndyCar traditions that will never die.
10. Will the dysfunction caused by antiquated equipment in race control be resolved? Derrick Walker has promised improvement. Will Verizon be a part of the solution? Hopefully. Will Chip Ganassi and/or Scott Dixon call for the head of Beaux Barfield on a pike to be displayed from the battlements of their pit box? Likely. Will the suave and ultra-cool Beaux Barfield survive his third season? He has to. If the Verizon IndyCar Series is going to market itself as THE place to be, then Beaux belongs…just for the cool factor. Smoke ’em if you got ’em, Beaux.
There you have some of the more compelling and/or nonsensical issues facing the Verizon IndyCar Series this year. The series has iconic tracks, competitive races, robust car and engine combinations, and engaging personalities. The series is moving from an analog past into a digital future. This will be a great year to tune in.