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.
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.
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.
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.