Two Welcomed Additions

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When I first started this site almost a year ago (has it really been that long?), it seemed as if I was simply blogging away to myself every day. Then out of the blue, two of the biggest bloggers out there – Pressdog and My Name Is IRL – each gave me an unsolicited shout-out and my traffic exploded. Other than simply saying "Thank you", which I have tried to do from time to time – there is no way that I could ever repay them for giving my little site the boost that it needed. One thing I can do however is to do the same thing for new sites that I come across in the blogosphere that I think are worthy enough to comment on.

Over the past few months, there are a couple of sites that I have found that certainly meet that criteria. They are Pop Off Valve and Fastastic Network.

I cannot pinpoint exactly when I came across Pop Off Valve, but it was sometime in mid-January. The first thing I noticed about Pop Off Valve was that it had the appearance of being professionally done and makes sites like mine look like something done out of some kid’s basement.

The writing is what sets it apart, though. It is mostly written by Tony Johns. Unlike a lot of us bloggers (myself included), Tony actually has a professional journalism background and experience in motorsports journalism to boot. Tony was actually one of the first bloggers, ever. He began blogging way back in 1997 (before I even owned my first computer) when the practice was known as "self-publishing", before it assumed the moniker of “blogging”. He was writing mostly op-ed pieces about NASCAR, when some of his articles caught the eye of a publisher starting up a new racing magazine. It was short lived however, as the money dried up before the circulation picked up.

Tony Johns has also worked for Rivals.com, where he won his first publishing award. From there, he teamed up with the late Earl Ma at Racing Press where the two worked together for seven years. It was during that time that Tony began to shift his focus to what is now the Izod IndyCar Series. In those years, Tony and Earl won many prestigious awards for their writing, publishing and photography and actually operated a writer’s clinic that helped launch the careers of a couple of motorsports journalists.

Unfortunately, Earl Ma was diagnosed with cancer and succumbed in 2007. Tony lost his desire to continue with Racing Press and chose to focus more on his design business. He did some writing on the side for a hockey blog at SBNation. Then the IndyCar bug bit him again when he did some writing for our friend Jeff Iannucci at the aforementioned My Name Is IRL. Writing for Jeff made him realize how much he missed IndyCar racing. Then as fate would have it, SBNation decided to start an IndyCar blog and he was chosen for the job at Pop Off Valve.

IndyCar racing is definitely in Tony’s blood. Although he now lives in Arizona, he was born in Indianapolis over Memorial Day weekend and grew up just a few blocks from the famed oval. Tony does an outstanding job and his writing is superb. He and I don’t always agree on every topic, but that’s part of the intrigue of this hobby of mine. Pop Off Valve is now part of my routine and is one of a handful IndyCar blog sites that I make sure to check on a daily basis, no matter how busy I am.

Within the last couple of weeks, I had someone bring another site to my attention that I had never seen. Fastastic Network has been around for about a year and lo and behold; I found out that the founder of the site, Jeff Loper, also lives in the Nashville area. Imagine that – another IndyCar fan in Nashville. That must make six of us now.

Fastastic Network is unique in that it is more of an online IndyCar community. The site is laid out beautifully and like Pop Off valve; the aesthetics put my site to shame.

Curiosity got the best of me, so I contacted Jeff and met him for lunch. As we got to know each other a little bit, I came to realize very quickly just how in the dark I am about all the different aspects of blogging and social networking. Although he didn’t realize it or do it intentionally, Jeff really made me feel old…very old. Of course, part of is that I really AM old – but we won’t go into that now.

Like Tony, Jeff was born in Indianapolis but his parents moved to Freeport, IL when he was young. He grew up going to Road America and the Milwaukee Mile after the IndyCar bug bit him as a child. As an adult, his profession led him to the Nashville area where he found himself in the heart of NASCAR country. I’m not sure which is harder (or more unusual) – being a native Tennessean like me, but growing up an IndyCar fan in the land of the tin-tops; or a life-long IndyCar fan from the Midwest like Jeff, that is transplanted into an area where racing can mean only one thing – stock cars.

Although I didn’t mean to, I may have insulted Jeff when I compared his site to an IndyCar Facebook. I don’t do Facebook and I don’t utilize Twitter very well, so it was obvious that I really didn’t know what I was talking about. But this much I know…anyone can browse through his site and come across a lot of interesting blogs from different participants. You can also join as a member at no cost and share blogs, photos, thoughts and comments. As Jeff says; it is a place for the fans by the fans.

Jeff is the first fellow IndyCar blogger I have met, although I plan to meet a couple at Barber this weekend and more at Indy next month. It takes about ten seconds to see why he started his site – his passion. It’s the one common thread that I see among all of the IndyCar bloggers I read. They all have an incredible passion for this sport, perhaps with the exception of Roy Hobbson. It frightens me to think what Hobbson’s true passions might actually be.

But with both of these sites, the passion of the bloggers is obvious. I would recommend that you take the time to visit their links provided on the Blogroll to the right and treat yourself. With the Month of May just around the corner, it’s always good to hear another perspective.

Go Butler!

George Phillips

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9 Responses to “Two Welcomed Additions”

  1. Do you have links to the sites?

  2. I regulalry read both sites, and in fact participated in Pop Off Vaulve’s Live Chat for the Delta Wing Launch. Fantastic Network’s format is really great, because it gives people who are just getting into blogging a chance to test their skills. As someone who started as a co-blogger, I think that’s really helpful.

  3. Oh, the humanity! The constant shots fired between George and Hobbson! Can’t we all just get along?!? [Sobbing]

    [/end Rodney King voice]

    Seriously, Tony Johns is top-shelf, and I’ll be adding Fastastic to my daily rotation, like, right now.

  4. Freeport? Home of the mighty Freeport Pretzels? hah!

    Pop-of-Valve is a very nice site. I prefer Oilpressure :-) but both are professionally done.

  5. I have also read Pop-Off Valve before becoming aware of Fantastic Network.
    Both are very well done indeed. However, George, I wouldn’t put down your work. You are the only IndyCar blog that I have bookmarked and visit the others via your links. Oilpressure is by far my favourite IndyCar blog.

  6. Since the Indy-car sport does not attract a lot of mainstream media attention, the obvious thing is the interest of the blogosphere.
    I hope the mainstream media treat you well when they get the chance to meet you at practices during the month of May-
    Freedom of the press has a new meaning now and the guys who write blogs on this sport deserve some credit.

    Oilpressure is the most interesting and informative especially for people who are new to the Indy-car series…maybe being “old” helps.

  7. If it makes you feel any better, George–I’m old enough to remember front-engine roadsters, Tony Hulman saying “Gentlemen, start your engines,” and oval STP stickers.

    I read Oilpressure just to keep up with you youngsters.

  8. Geez, my first year working on a car at the Speedway was Mr. Hulman’s last year there to give the command. Linda Vaughn was still a hotty. The big event was the female rookie named Janet Guthrie until Foyt went on to win his fourth race there. I’m betting that you’re gonna say I’m old now too…

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