A Cure For IndyCar Agitation
Most would agree that it’s been tough to be a fan of the IZOD IndyCar Series for the past couple of weeks. With all of the political infighting and uncertainty, it’s easy to understand why fans are getting extremely frustrated growing more impatient by the day as they threaten to leave the sport for good. Some have already left for good. By that, I mean they have quit reading about the sport or even caring about it. They’ve given up and we’ve already lost them – and that’s too bad. But we knew that would happen.
Others, like me are frustrated, but we keep hanging around. These last couple of weeks have made us question why we continue to follow this sport. Actually, the frustration goes back much further than that. After the unification in 2008, we looked forward to full fields with a variety of winners. It didn’t happen.
The 2009 season started in St. Petersburg with only twenty-two cars on the grid. That season lowered the bar for anticipation, as all but one race was won by either a Penske or Ganassi car. That one race provided the only unexpected twist as Justin Wilson gave Dale Coyne his first win after twenty-five years of competition, when he blanketed the field at Watkins Glen. It was pretty much the same the following year as Andretti Autosport broke up the Penske/Ganassi juggernaut for two races while the “red cars” won the rest.
The 2011 season began an uptick in the anticipation factor. Eight drivers from five different teams won during the sixteen-race schedule. Unfortunately, a much-improved season ended in tragedy – but beyond that, the 2011 season was considered a success by many. The 2012 season was one of the most anticipated in recent memory. There was a new car for the first time in nine seasons. Multiple engine manufacturers were in the series for the first time since 2005. Turbo-charged engines were heard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time since 1996. There was a lot of buzz entering the 2012 season.
It was well-founded. While no one really knew what to expect from the new DW-12, it turned out to be quite racy and we fans got to watch some of the best racing we had seen in years. When the season was over, the numbers were almost identical to the previous year. There were eight different winning drivers among five teams for fifteen races.
Of course, we all know about the petty politics that were mounting throughout the season that came to a brutally ugly head just a couple of weeks ago that resulted in the firing of popular CEO Randy Bernard. What led up to that has been dissected many times over. I won’t re-hash any of that here, but if you want to read the best account I’ve seen, go check out Marshall Pruett’s explanation – The Firing of Randy Bernard Part 1 and Part 2.
It’s been asked here and on other sites why we should continue to follow a sport that continues to kick its fans in the teeth. I’ve privately asked myself the same question. If you’ve been asking the same of yourself, don’t feel alone. But help may be on the way.
This may not work for you, but I found a way to get everything back into perspective and put me into a frame of mind to where I’m again looking forward to the excitement that next spring will bring. No, it’s not Scotch or Xanax. It’s something much better for you and actually more enjoyable.
A few days after the Randy Bernard firing, I found myself on the verge of going berserk over everything I was reading and seeing on Twitter. I was convinced that the IndyCar I knew was gone for good and seriously questioned why or if I would continue following it in the future. I have about a fifty-minute commute from work each afternoon. Rather than listening to the sports-talk pundits give their latest explanations on the demise of the Vols and Titans, I decided to go to my collection of podcasts of Donald Davidson and The Talk of Gasoline Alley.
I have every episode from each May from 2006 to the present, so that gives me 162 different shows to choose from. Whenever I listen to Donald, I generally pick an episode at random. It doesn’t matter – they’re all enjoyable although many contain repeated versions of stories.
Depending on the year or the individual show, episodes range from thirty minutes if Donald was going up against a Pacer game – or up to two hours. Sometimes Donald has a co-host like Kevin Lee, Jake Query or Dave “The King” Wilson – other times, he goes it alone. Once again, it doesn’t matter – they’re all good.
As I made my way home that day, suddenly my mind wasn’t wrapped up with thoughts of Tony George, Zak Brown or Jeff Belskus. Instead, I was engrossed in stories about Sam Hanks, Wilbur Shaw and Cliff Bergere. I found myself in a completely different state of mind as these stories acted on me like a tonic. I was transformed from worrying about the future of the sport I follow, to suddenly looking forward to the season opener next March and of course – the month of May.
The history of open-wheel racing in this country is full of controversy and times of doom and gloom when the sport seemed destined to implode. Somehow, it always managed to pick itself up and survive. It will this time too. As much as the board bungled this move, the sun has still come up every morning over the Southeast Vista at 16th and Georgetown and the sky has not fallen. As riled up as I have gotten over the last couple of weeks, listening to various episodes of Donald Davidson has helped to settle me down and keep me grounded.
So if you’ve found yourself at your wits end with no way to settle your mind, I’d suggest you calm yourself by listening to the master storyteller spin his tales of yesteryear at the Indianapolis 500. His entire 2012 season is available online here. Do yourself a favor and take in a couple of episodes this weekend. You’ll be glad you did.