Off-Season Anticipation

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When I started this site almost three years ago, I was surprised how quickly the readership grew throughout the racing season. I was just as surprised how quickly it tailed off once the season was over. I’ve mentioned many times how Pressdog and former blogger Jeff Iannucci (My Name is IRL) helped me that first year. Fortunately, they both assured me that the off-season drop-off was typical and was nothing to be alarmed about.

They turned out to be right. As the site is now in the midst of its third offseason, the average weekly readership is still about half of what it is during the season and only about a third of what is normal for the Month of May. Although it is  no longer a point of concern, it still perplexes me. I sometimes find the offseason to be just as entertaining as the season, if not more so.

I find the cliché “back in the day” to be almost as overused as the term “old school”; so I usually avoid it at all cost. Therefore, I’ll just say that many years ago when there were new and different cars coming out each year, it added a lot of intrigue wondering what each car would look like in the next year and how it would perform.

Although the internet existed in the early nineties, I didn’t own a computer and wouldn’t have known how to use it if I ever sat down in front of one. That was the domain of pure geeks that I had no interest in associating with. Such low-brow reverse snobbery left me relying on subscriptions to Indy Car Racing, Racer, and AutoWeek magazines to try and sneak a peek at what the new Lola, Galmer, Penske and Reynard chassis would look like. These first glimpses were usually in the “out of the box” flat-black look. Every now and then, they would feature and new sponsor livery from Dick Simon, who was always one of the first to have his cars painted. In fact, he seemed to want to be the first to do just about everything.

Information was much harder to get in those days. I had no internet, no Trackside Online or no Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee – just the aforementioned three magazine subscriptions to keep me updated. By the time I learned that the Chevy-B engine was being outperformed by the Ford-Cosworth XB in pre-season testing, the season was about to start. I would spend hours each month at the magazine rack in bookstores (remember those?) flipping through some of the more obscure motorsports publications, just trying to catch a free tidbit of information that I didn’t already know. What I would have given to have the access of information we have today.

That’s why it has been frustrating for these past several years. We’ve had no new cars to anticipate for the past nine years. Variations have been pretty bleak on the engine front as well. Although there is only one new car this season and everyone is getting it, it’s still fun to see how different the cars will look in virtually the same livery that teams carried last year. On Twitter, we’ve already caught glimpses of the various paint schemes the cars will be running in 2012.

Count me as one that thinks the new car is not aesthetically pleasing – especially from the rear of the cockpit. I actually think from the cockpit forward that it is very sexy looking. But it is amazing how a different paint scheme can make or break the car’s appearance. Just last week, we got several different looks at the new Dallara DW12 on Twitter. Some made me think the car looked much better than I thought it would, while others accentuated what it was I didn’t like about the car.

Someone tweeted this picture from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last week. This was a DW12 dressed up to promote the upcoming IZOD IndyCar Series race at Belle Isle this June. I was pleasantly surprised how much better this version looked compared to what I had seen on the track since last August.

DW12

Then Panther Racing tweeted their 2012 version of the car. I know I’m in the minority, but I’ve never been a fan of the National Guard “camo” scheme. It looks even worse on this car. It puts way too much emphasis on the protruding undertray jutting out from the sidepod – already a very ugly feature of the car.

12panther

But my hope for some decent looking cars was renewed when this picture of Dario Franchitti’s new car surfaced on Twitter. Although I don’t care for the giant bulbous growth in front of the rear tires, Target Chip Ganassi Racing has maximized the area as a new and tasteful spot for a sponsor’s logo. I personally think the new car looks good in Target red.

Dario2012

The internet has also served a great purpose in allowing us to read instantaneous reports on the development of the new engine. Before test sessions have been completed, there are already videos surfacing on You Tube letting us hear what the new engines sound like. I’ve heard the Honda and Chevy so far on You Tube and both are very pleasing to the ear.

Those that have become fans of this sport in the past ten years or so, have no idea how starved we were for information in the old days (see, I avoided that cliché again). My passion for the sport and the lack of information made me a sponge for whatever information I could get. My then-wife hated to see those monthly magazines come in the mail, because she knew I would be up late scouring through them in bed that night. Maybe that’s why I’ve been unmarried for the past fifteen years.

A couple of years ago, I could understand a drop-off in off-season interest. The cars and engines were the same. One may be repainted for a new sponsor, but that’s about it. With new engines, new cars, several new teams and what appears to be an expanded car count – this offseason has had me more excited than any in the past fifteen years or so. There is actually some off-season anticipation again. It’s good that we can now finally utilize all the new technology of the “information age” when there is finally some offseason information worth hunting for.

George Phillips

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8 Responses to “Off-Season Anticipation”

  1. I don’t mind the big trunk, if it really is helpful in terms of safety. What I never really noticed before was that big flat mower deck on the bottom. If they get any wider, they’ll have to invest in cranes (Acorn sponsorship?) to lower the driver into the cockpit. I also wonder how much flexibility designers will really have in next years “aero kits?” Doesn’t look like much leeway to me, so why would they bother to make the investment.

    Lots of questions as to performance with this unbalanced chassis and three new engines. Should be interesting.

    I really like the black and gold Lotus livery on the new car because it looks all Batmobiley.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    I probably fall in the middle on the DW-12, I don’t think it’s particularly attractive or especially ugly, at least not when compared to most of this planet’s current generation of open wheel cars. I think that finally getting to see some of the actual paint schemes that teams intend to use goes a long way in making the car look better.

    I would say that about any race car, actually. Much like the DW-12, I thought the DP-01 looked goofy when I first say it, painted in an awkward combination of orange, silver, and black with American flag styling on top of the side pods. Once teams began revealing the paint jobs they planned to run during the season, the car started looking a lot better to me. I guess it just doesn’t seem like a race car until it’s painted the way I’m used to seeing race cars painted.

  3. I, too, am more excited about the off-season than I have been in several years and am very grateful for the information shared from the ‘old-guard’ bloggers (such as yourself George), FB, Twitter, and the like. It’s now a major part of what I enjoy about the series, especially with the new equipment this year.

    I also like waiting until the liveries are painted to determine my favorite. The chassis ‘are what they are’ but over the years, I’ve found a great paint styling will make less-attractive shape look good. Conversely, a bad paint job will make an attractive chassis, off-putting.

    Traditionally, (a term selected to refer to my vision of old-school) my fervor ramps up in late-April with my mind focused solely on speeds at Indy. My enthusiasm may be less ‘traditional’ and more subdued this year, however, with the realization that 220 may be our top speed at Indy this year.

  4. I happen to like the look of the DW12, but I have to agree that the Panther colors do not flatter it.
    I think the big splitter looks cool, but maybe the camouflage draws too much attention to it. Notice on the Target scheme that a new splitter line has been ‘drawn on’ in red, and the protruding parts are hidden by black paint.

    My time available waned last season starting in about August, though I still watched every race. I’m trying really hard to get back into the groove this year, and yes, the new cars and engines are helping.

  5. I’m kinda nerdy so I like following the techie stuff too, where they are trying to iron out the handling and performance issues. I like hearing about the new electronics, etc.

    Personally I think the owners really shot themselves in the foot (feet?) by not allowing the alternate aerokits this year. With the handling being an issue, imagine if you were the team that found a way to counter it.

    Now that all the drivers are starting testing at Seebring, it will interesting to see the evolution of the DW12, especislly in traffi .

  6. George I remember well the days to which you refer. While I have business interests that are keeping me (happily) very busy right now, I really enjoy and appreciate the information available to be while eating lunch or taking a short break.
    This is an exciting off season.

  7. I was JUST thinking in the car today that I HATE the off-season and am looking forward to watching the Daytona24, Sebring 12, and, months away, Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg…
    I can watch recordings of IndyCar, ChampCar, and F1 races, but … these off-seasons are way too long for me.
    BTW, I fondly remember Championship Racing magazine, On Track, National Speed Sport News, Indy Car Racing, … and I still read Racer and AutoWeek magazines & websites.
    Since 2008 I’ve read a few IndyCar blogs, and favor yours and Pressdog’s.

  8. I think sites like this one give me some info in the off season, however…I think the indycar site is the first one most fans check out…if there is anything new…they may well head over here or to pressdog, trackforum et al.
    i am continually baffled as to why the indycar site is relatively stagnant during the off season.

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