What Has Improved For 2010?

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If you sift through the bilge water that is all of the offseason happenings in the Izod IndyCar Series, there are actually many improvements that have been overshadowed by things like the loss of Vision Racing and the hoopla surrounding the 2012 chassis. First of all, have you been to the new IndyCar website? It has been completely redesigned. Normally, I’m not a fan when a website is redesigned. I get comfortable with various sites and know exactly where everything is. Then, for no apparent reason, they change everything up just for the sake of change. More times than not — it is not an improvement.

That’s not the case with the new IndyCar website. The previous website was crowded and cumbersome; and God help you if you migrated to it and you happened to be on an older, slow computer. This site is clean and it loads quickly. Whoever is responsible for this upgrade should be commended.

Jumping around a bit, it’s worth noting the increased presence that Izod has created since they were officially announced as the Series sponsor last fall. I saw Mike Kelly, the Senior VP of corporate marketing on Wind Tunnel the other night. He was very impressive and seemed to have a genuine passion for the sport. Although he was unsure of where he saw the series at the end of their six-year commitment, he certainly seemed to have a vision of where he thought it could go.

This is a far cry from any of the other attempts at a corporate sponsor for American open-wheel racing. Internet search-engine Northern Light and Pep Boys were laughable in their short stints as the corporate sponsor for the IRL. PPG did a decent job in their years as the title sponsor for the PPG Indy Car World Series, but that went away in the mid-nineties. FedEx may have been the biggest disappointment in the role as a series sponsor. Other than a new logo, they did little more than write a big check for the years they were the title sponsor for CART.

From sitting here in Nashville, everything I have seen from Izod in the past few months has been first-class. From the over-the-top announcement ceremony to well-placed ads, they seem to have their heads and wallets in the right place. I could not believe it when I saw Izod IndyCar ads during the NFL playoffs.

At first glance, after a week on the job, Randy Bernard seems to have gotten high marks as the leagues new CEO. He seems to understand the importance of having Graham Rahal in a car, and all indications are he is already utilizing his connections to do what he can to make that happen. As of right now, nothing has been announced, but something could be forthcoming at any moment. Well, scratch that…it’s just been announced that Graham Rahal will drive at St. Petersburg and Barber for Sarah Fisher Racing. I’m sure more details are to follow and I don’t really know if Randy Bernard had anything to do with this or not.

There are still a lot of serious questions to be answered. The Izod IndyCar Series is heading into one of its most critical seasons in its brief fifteen year history. So much time in the last few months has been centered on the gloom and doom of every piece of bad news that has come out – and rightfully so. To ignore the bad would be to pretend it didn’t exist, which would ultimately be disastrous.

But this is the opening week of the new season. Conference basketball tournaments are this week, Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament is just a few hours after the IndyCar race, there is no NASCAR race this weekend and baseball is just around the corner. Other than October when you have football, the World Series and the IndyCar championship, there is no better time of the year in sports.

So for this one week, let’s forget about DeltaWing, Tony George’s woes, Danica’s NASCAR dalliance and DirecTV. There are still a lot of things about the Izod IndyCar Series that keep us coming back year after year. So sit back this weekend (assuming you get Versus) and appreciate the fact that we can watch open-wheel racing this weekend. Plus, the Month of May is just fifty more days away from today.

George Phillips

On a side note – with the season starting back, I will TRY to have a weekend post on race weekends in addition to my usual Monday, Wednesday and Friday postings. — GP

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19 Responses to “What Has Improved For 2010?”

  1. When you consider what the IIRS has been through lately–the absorption of CART after a painful war, the loss of TG’s “vision” and pursestrings, the economic downturn that severely limited sponsorships in a variety of sports, the dropping of Versus by DirectTV, and the polarizing debut of the Delta Wing concept, it’s a wonder they still exist at all.

    So I’m ready to kick off the season with a crazy crowd in Brazil and the two popular street courses on opposite coasts. I’m ready to see if Danica brings any Nasgroupies with her, curious to see how Wilson and Power will do and wondering what R. Bernard will bring to the show. I’m happy about Izods participation and really looking forward to the two weeks of May.

  2. An attempt to put “old wine in new wine skins” is difficult.
    Without Graham Rahal, the Penske’s new colors, no Vision, there is still a small spark of change. {Another Penske team (WOW), Simona, and Randy Bernard, along with the new swaggar and style of Izod.} The sport of genuine open-wheelracing in the series seems to have been slightly deminished.

    The USF1 fabrication didn’t help…

    The opening carnivale’ atmosphere in Brazil along with Apex-Brazil makes the series look fun but we need more than just push to pass and some genuine automobile engineering.

    • Nick Jagger Says:

      Talk about “old wine in new skins”, what about Mars now calling herself Venus?

      • Interesting that “Nick Jagger” and others notice.
        Since I am just about 2 hours away from St. Pete I will probably be going to the carnival of cars with my friend Bruce…The Safe Teen Driver rep.

        Interestingly, the lovers of Speed are now also interested in younger boys….Something George forgot to mention.

  3. The USF1 debacle had nothing to do with IIRS.

    And, yeah, we’re all for innovation and engineering, but once they got rid of the wickers or what ever they’re called, there was some real good racing last year. Sure, the big teams tend to dominate–money talks like in every form of autoracing–but another way to look at it is there will be some tight races amongst individual drivers–Dario, Power, Dixon, Helio, Power and maybe even Wilson and TK. And those aero changes, along with push-to-pass and the veto of the save-fuel knob are real good attempts to improve the competetion and entertainment value and to try and please a very fickle fan base. And I haven’t even said anything yet about Danica Sue and the new posse of cool chick drivers.

    (Sorry to post twice, but I’m really trying this year not lose sight of what I like about the Izod Indycar Series.)

  4. Let us not forget that this Brazil race is coming almost entirely out of the pockets of ApexBrazil. Having a sponsor pay teams to come to their race is something we rarely see in any form of racing anymore (with sanctioning fees usually being given to the series, then redistributed according to the series’ boss’ wishes).

    The American driver thing is a bit of an annoyance, but there’s still a good new crop of drivers coming in this year with the smaller teams.

  5. Oh, and here’s something interesting:

    this

    and this

    These were linked on facebook through IMS’ official facebook site…which means the Speedway is officially embracing the concept of the Snake Pit. That can ONLY be a good thing.

  6. I can’t say I’m that hyped up for 2010. First off, being a direct TV customer doesn’t help. Then throw in the Intertnational ride buyers, Barber, a ton of street courses, 2and 1/2 full time Americans, and Big two domination, I find it hard to be hyped up

    • Stephen_P83 Says:

      So what if you have DirectTV, you obviously have a computer and Internet. Watch it online since IICS is providing that option for you. I cannot wait for Barber. I’ve already got my tickets and a new camping chair. What a beautiful setting for a race. It’ll be fun, you should give it a chance before you write it off before the race has happened.

      • I agree. Tony Cotman’s been saying a lot of good stuff about Brazil (as you’d expect, I imagine) being an excellent street course. You never know. Sometimes something’s just right about a course/car combo (like, say, Silver Crown cars at IRP), and it winds up providing good racing, even though it doesn’t look so good on paper. It’s the same as tuning in even though you know the odds are that a Ganassi or Penske car is going to win. Sometimes they don’t, and something special happens. That’s the reason to watch.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    Hey now, FedEx did collaborate with Honda on a pretty good ad featuring Gil DeFerran as a package delivery man… A shame they only aired that ad for a year and a half.

    Even with the transportation assistance they gave the CART teams, FedEx could have been a much better title sponsor.

  8. Indycars themselves serve as marketing vehicles for Brazilian products, as they have been running on Brazilian sugarcane ethanol since last year so the opening race is like a HUGE celebtration for Brazil,

    The President of Brazil will probably be there and that will make it very memorable for many of the drivers.

    Ethanol Green has a new meaning-

  9. I am very excited for the season. Granted, there are issues, as there always are, but a race in Brazil, a dedicated title sponsor, a new CEO untainted by the past. And yes, you can watch the races online, so the complaining about DirecTV/Versus doesn’t hold water.

    BTW, MARS, changing your name doesn’t change what you are.

  10. Brazil, home to passion, music, joie de vivre, but above all, an F1 legacy that is beyond reproach. Every year, Brazilian Grand Prix produces some of the most exciting moments of the F1 season.

    The Brazilian Grand Prix is held at Interlagos in São Paulo, one of the most vibrant cities in all of Brazil. Having an Indy race there is very exciting, there is a good chance that we will all be surprised on who wins this race. A big step for this series, much more exciting than the race I get to see in Florida. Makes NASCAR look very boring, Daniker-sue will be happy.

  11. I’m surprised that having IZOD on board ranked so highly. If you read the PVH comments to stockholders about the sponsorship it is pretty clear that it amounts to nothing more than taking over a portion of payments from IMS to the teams. So all told the only beneficiaries of the sponsorship seem to be the Sisters who don’t have to worry about that cash coming from their own coffers. They even got to commandeer television ad time that the series negotiated with ESPN/ABC as part of the deal… so they get to run Izod ads in those slots rather than Indycar commercials that would publicize upcoming events. Word is that at they are even consuming those commercial slots far faster than expected and all of the slots on ABC/ESPN will be spent by the end of May.

    You can’t seriously think that a company that takes pride in making a drivers suit match the Ethanol sidepods so that they don’t have to spend extra money on Paint is really going to go the extra mile to dump money into the series.

  12. What I am excited about, however (since I wouldn’t be reading sites like this if I didn’t actually enjoy Indycar) is the fact that they are starting with a street course where the playing field is actually somewhat level. I’m excited that there might be a yellow early in the middle of a pit sequence that could actually jumble the field.

    I’m espeically excited that there are zero points on the board and the Dixons and Briscoes of the world will actually race for position instead of points. This is the opposite of what we will see after June when those guys are happy to sit on the bumper of a slower car in 3rd place rather than risk a pass that could potentially hurt their point standings if they don’t make it work. Its always more enjoyable before the Championship starts to give certain drivers the incentive to NOT RACE.

  13. What has improved?

    Uhh….well….

    Not sure.

    I know starting your season in early March, on another continent, on a network that is only in 58 million homes, with only 2 full-time American drivers, doesn’t exactly rev up many folks engines.

    But lets all hope something interesting happens and some new drivers get named to rides at least for Indy.

  14. […] Abso-diddily-lutely!!! It’s a big GO! […]

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