The Glass Is Half-Full
If you were to poll most of my friends, family and co-workers; many of them might actually describe me as a “glass half-empty” kind of guy. I would tend to disagree with them. Those that REALLY know me would tell you that I’m not a negative person at all – cynical yes, but not negative. I consider myself more of a practical realist. If I am skeptical about an issue, I let it be known. I’ll always greet a mindless cheerleader wearing a baseless grin, with a raised eyebrow. When I am in strong favor or disagreement on something, I generally don’t hold back – either way. But negative? No.
One example of that is my outlook of the upcoming IZOD IndyCar season. I definitely think the glass is half-full when it comes to this season. Although there are new cars and engines for 2012; many predicted a dramatic reduction in car count for the new season. It made sense. With teams forced to buy all new equipment, costs were going to go up this year. Surely the smaller teams would be forced to sit on the sidelines for 2012. They just weren’t going to be able to pony up all that cash.
Are there any guesses how many cars answered the bell for the start of the 2009 season at St. Petersburg? Try only twenty-two cars. How many made the grid at St. Pete in 2010? Twenty-four. There is a real possibility that there could be as many as thirty cars in the starting field when 2012 season begins on the streets of St. Petersburg in less than two months. To me, that’s nothing short of incredible – especially when most thought the car count would be anywhere from eighteen to twenty-two cars at most races for 2012.
Not only have most of the teams returned with the same amount of cars as last year, there are new teams as well. Michael Shank and Ed Carpenter both have new teams. Dragon Racing should rename themselves Phoenix Racing as they have definitely risen from the ashes. They are going from a one-car part-time team, to a full-season two-car team. Rahal-Letterman has also reemerged from three years as mostly an Indy-only team back to a full-time operation fielding two cars.
Not only is car count up, but the number of quality drivers is up also. If Paul Tracy signs with MSR-Indy (Michael Shank Racing); that will give us two former CART champions with full-time rides along with three former IndyCar champions running full-time.
The new Dallara DW12 is a mixed bag for me. I think that they’ll get the handling problems solved. It appears they have made significant progress already on the road/street course package. I have full faith that they will have made similar gains on the oval package as well, way before Indianapolis and the other ovals arrive on the schedule. My only real problem with the car is the looks of the car around the rear-wheel area. I know the reasoning behind the new design, but that doesn’t mean I have to call it beautiful. I actually like the front of the car. It has an updated look to it. I’d prefer it if the air box was gone and have simply a roll-hoop in its place, but apparently that’s not going to happen. Maybe I’ll get used to the bulbous sidepods just ahead of the rear-wheel, but I haven’t yet.
The whole engine program for 2012 has me excited. Everything I’ve heard and read sounds promising. The recordings I’ve heard sound very pleasing to the ear. Those that have heard the cars in person all talk of the improvement the turbocharger makes in the sound. Plus, it sounds like all three engines will have a discernable sound. Variety on the track is always a good thing.
I’m not too worried that some cars will be left without an engine supplier. The fact that car count has exceeded league expectations is a good problem to have. It appears that Lotus is so far behind that they may not physically be able to supply any more teams than they’ve already signed. That means that Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing may actually end up with either a Honda or Chevy by default. I don’t think that would be a bad thing. Michael Shank has already signed with Lotus, but Honda could enter the picture if MSR-Indy signs veteran Paul Tracy.
With less than two months to go, some teams are still scrambling for primary sponsorship – but that’s normal for this time of year in any economy. I imagine all teams are still madly pursuing more associate sponsorship. Can you ever really have enough?
The schedule isn’t quite what we would like, but most of us understand why. We’re willing to put up with it in its current configuration for one or two more years, so long as we are assured by the powers that be that they are ultimately trying to get more ovals on the schedule. INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard is a smart man and a decent man. If he says he is working diligently for more ovals in 2013 and beyond – I fully believe him. Furthermore, I fully believe he will get it done.
I realized long ago that there will always be doom and gloomers on any subject and in any sport. It seems to especially apply when it comes to the IZOD IndyCar Series. There is no shortage of those wanting to see this series fail for whatever reason. I guess they think if the resulting series of what Tony George created two decades ago fails, there will automatically be another series to come along and pick up the pieces and not miss a beat. I wouldn’t be too sure about that.
But based on the growth and development that we’ve seen within the series over the past couple of seasons, I don’t think we need to worry about it folding anytime soon. Five or six years ago, I was actually concerned about the long-term viability of what was then known as the IRL and the Indianapolis 500. Those fears have subsided for the most part.
With IZOD and Randy Bernard both coming on board at about the same time, things have improved dramatically. Does the series now do a few gimmicky things that I don’t care for? Of course. But I’m a racing purist and an old curmudgeon. I think everyone should share the same fascination with this sport that I do. Of course, I realize that in this day of reality TV and short attention spans – it’s a totally different world than the one I grew up in. You have to use such gimmicks. If they work, I’m all for it.
Randy Bernard has a long-range plan to get the series where it needs to be. If he can do it with Bull-Riding, I know he is up to this task. He has had a few unexpected hurdles along the way, but show me any successful business that hasn’t experienced some major hiccups and eventually thrived. There will be few examples, if any.
So as we find ourselves eight weeks from the season opener at St. Petersburg, I honestly think that we will witness a fascinating season this year. With new cars, new engines, a healthy car count with a strong driver lineup with a good mixture of savvy veterans and rising stars along with some new and revived teams – it’s going to be interesting from the first race throughout the season. All in all, it would take someone a lot more pessimistic than I am to look at the upcoming season and predict it will be a flop. Even from my naturally cynical point of view, it sure looks like the 2012 glass is half full.