The Fan’s Trophy

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There are several stories making headlines this week as the IZOD IndyCar Series heads into its much-hyped Las Vegas showdown. There is the Go-Daddy Challenge, which features Dan Wheldon, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, going after the chance to win $2.5 million for himself as well as a lucky fan. Then there is the fact that there will be thirty-four cars on the 1.5 mile Las Vegas oval. After nine seasons, the 2003 Dallara will finally be retired after this race. Danica Patrick will presumably be making her last regular-season start in the series (although there is the possibility that she may return to next year’s Indianapolis 500). The 2012 schedule will also be released at Las Vegas next weekend. Oh – and the championship between Dario Franchitti and Will Power will finally be decided on Sunday.

But what is my personal favorite story involving this coming weekend’s activities? That the hideous championship trophy that was introduced last year will be replaced by a more traditional trophy befitting the accomplishment of winning the IZID IndyCar Series championship.

My joy is not only that the series has opted for a more traditional and tasteful looking award, but that CEO Randy Bernard has proven, yet again, that he listens to the fans.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m thrilled that the “naked man on the unicycle” is one and done after he made his debut last season. When it was presented to Dario Franchitti after winning last year’s championship, he looked as if he didn’t quite know what to do with such an unusual looking ornament. He just kind of looked at it with a bewildered expression on his face. I’m just glad he didn’t kiss the trophy – that would have been just a little too weird.

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I’m not quite sure who made the decision to make such an eclectic artifact the symbol of the championship. I’ve heard that it was Randy Bernard himself, and I’ve also heard that it was the brainchild of series sponsor IZOD. Whoever is to blame, credit Randy Bernard to listening to the fans who made it clear that they hated the trophy.

This is just the latest in a number of examples of Randy Bernard listening to what the fans want and responding. When he announced last winter that INDYCAR was going to instill something that resembles NASCAR’s “Lucky Dog” rule, the fans were incensed. Randy responded by abandoning the idea before the season started. Although I wasn’t a fan of double file re-starts, many fans were and Randy listened to them. I’ll admit that I was wrong and he was right on that one.

It’s hard for me to imagine that the previous administration would ever listen to fans. They always seemed to think they knew better about what was best for the series.

It is predicted that the new trophy is going to closely resemble the previous trophy, which was an oversized cup with the words “Indy Racing League” encircling the top. Obviously, with the name change of the sanctioning body to INDYCAR and the series being renamed the IZOD IndyCar Series – the previous trophy had to be changed. Unfortunately, someone decided to radically change it.

This is the second-most sought after trophy in American open-wheel racing, just behind the Borg-Warner trophy for the Indianapolis 500. It should be something that a driver would be proud to display. Dario’s trophy from last year looks like an ugly gift from a white elephant party that he might use as a doorstop. Hopefully, whoever wins the new trophy this Sunday will be proud to hold it instead of just looking at it with a quizzical smirk.

So, whatever trophy is unveiled in Las Vegas this weekend – consider it a symbol of victory for the fans.

George Phillips

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5 Responses to “The Fan’s Trophy”

  1. “naked man on the unicycle”–I love that description. Count me in the Vanderbilt Cup group. Like the Stanley Cup, there is only one. That makes for a much cooler trophy.

  2. I’d take an awful trophy and more than five ovals, as I said on twitter…

  3. Thank goodness! That old trophy was more than hideous, it was actually a little bit creepy. I didn’t have a problem with it at first, but it anti-grew on me. :-S

  4. “Dario’s trophy from last year looks like an ugly gift from a white elephant party that he might use as a doorstop.”

    Ooh! I know what I’m doing with my afternoon now! Time to road trip it, to see if that’s where the “Naked Guy on a Unicycle” is hanging out!

    Really, as I said at The Pagoda last year when the trophy was unveiled, “can’t we just have a goddamn cup, like a regular sport?” Hooray. It’s never too late to fix a bad idea.

  5. An oval. A fast oval. New car revealed. Las Vegas. A whole gob of cars. Gambling. Simona? Hinch. A close championship race. A close rookie race. A crazy 5 million from the back race. Buddy Rice, Paul Tracy. Showgirls. Free tickets. Network television. Celebrities. Sunshine. A suitable TROPHY. Fireworks. Trucks. Danica’s Last Call.

    This might be the coolest freakin’ race 99.9 percent of the viewing won’t watch.

    I’m ready for Sunday and will not be watching NFL Football and DVRing the race.

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