The State Of IndyCar
An offseason that has been far busier than most, was sent into overdrive on Monday with the second annual State of IndyCar event at the Hilbert Circle Theater in Indianapolis. Thank goodness I don’t consider this a news site, otherwise I would feel negligent if I left out a significant detail from all the news that came out of Monday and Tuesday.
Amid all the glitz and glamour of the event, there were many different stories coming from all angles the last two days. There were so many, I’ll offer little, if any, comment today. Instead, I’ll take a couple of days to reflect and in some cases – simmer down, before offering my opinions. Some were positive, some were expected, some were negative and some were controversial. Where do I begin?
In no particular order, I’ll start with the expected. Milwaukee was officially confirmed, although a website glitch spilled the beans last week. Michael Andretti will be the promoter, which is good; but the race will be held on a Saturday, which has the potential to not be so good. A very nice bonus was the announcement that Firestone will remain the official tire provider through 2014. Although I am a proponent of varying chassis and engines, I am a firm believer that there should only be one tire. There is too much risk with a tire war. Safety is compromised for the sake of speed. If an engine fails, a driver might lose the race. If a tire fails, a driver can lose much more.
The TV announcements were mostly positive. ABC will carry six races – one more than in the previous three years. NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will carry the remaining ten. Driver Townsend Bell has also been added to the NBCSN pit reporting crew. Probably the most positive bit of news from the TV side was that NBCSN would be producing an all-access type show called INDYCAR 36, where film crews will follow a driver for thirty-six hours while he or she prepares for the next race. It will give fans a close inside look at the behind-the-scenes life of an IndyCar driver. Although I’ve never seen it, NBCSN does a similar thing with the NHL and it has earned high-praise. These shows will air immediately prior to each race on NBCSN. Personally, I think this could be big in generating interest from potential new fans.
The most disturbing news regarding TV coverage was that Lindy Thackston would not be returning to NBC Sports Network. To me, this is a huge loss. Lindy was very knowledgeable about the sport and had earned the respect of most fans. She seemed to get along very well with her on-air co-workers and also appeared to have a very good rapport with the drivers. I never had the privilege to meet Lindy, but I heard nothing but good things about her from my fellow IndyCar bloggers. Nothing against Townsend Bell, but I think NBCSN committed a large blunder by dumping Lindy for Bell. We’ll miss you, LindyCar.
At first glance, I believe it’s a good thing that Lids will be handling merchandise promotions on-site at the tracks. A second glance shows very little on their website for IndyCar fans. I expect that to change quickly. They are a well-known company and have name recognition. Plus, their parent company, Genesco, happens to be based in Nashville. It’s interesting how many Nashville ties there have been through the years with the IZOD IndyCar Series. Firestone, Lids (Genesco), Dollar General are all based in Nashville. Reigning champions Josef Newgarden and Dario Franchitti both called the Nashville area home last year – although Newgarden has recently relocated to Indianapolis to be near his team, which was a smart move for a rookie.
Fontana has now been confirmed as the site of the season finale on September 15. While many see that as a problem, I welcome it. The less that IndyCar goes up against the NFL, the better. The race will be a Saturday night race, which will pit it against NCAA football, but not the NFL. I’ve always been an advocate of starting the season early and wrapping it up on Labor Day weekend. This gets us closer to that goal.
An interesting development was announced yesterday, when we learned of a new twist on qualifying at Iowa. Instead of each car running alone for two laps to qualify, there will be three heat races to determine the qualifying order. The race format will remain unchanged. This appeals to me a lot more than the silly twin race format tried at Texas last season. If successful, this may be something put in place at all ovals at some point. Don’t try it at Indianapolis, though. Let’s not get carried away.
New director of Race Control Beaux Barfield introduced his new team of race stewards on Monday that would assist him on race weekends – Arie Luyendyk, Johnny Unser and Gary Barnard. On Tuesday, he dropped the news that double-file re-starts would not be used at Indianapolis, Texas and Fontana – leaving only Milwaukee and Iowa as the only ovals to utilize the double-file re-starts that became the standard last season. This time last year, I was outraged that the double-file restarts that had become popular in NASCAR would be copied and used by INDYCAR. After seeing them, I became a fan. I am disappointed that the series has chosen to abandon this practice. If double-file re-starts are deemed too dangerous at Indianapolis, how can they possibly justify starting the race three-abreast?
Then there was the little nugget that standing starts “might” be used at some road/street course at some time later on in the season. To be honest, I have no idea what I think about that. Give me some time to ponder that one.
Monday’s festivities closed with a passionate speech by Randy Bernard. I’ll admit, I have not seen a replay of it, but I’ve pretty well caught the gist of it from things I’ve read. I’ve been accused of being a Randy Bernard apologist and this won’t change anyone’s mind – but, give him a break. Some say he is too laid back at times. Now that he has shown some feistiness, he’s being attacked for choosing the wrong time. The main message from his was “…I’m not going anywhere. I’m here to stay”. Personally, that’s exactly what I want to hear. This series would again be rudderless without Randy Bernard and the course he has laid out. Let him say whatever he wants.
With that, I’m going to close. Give me your thoughts on everything we learned the last couple of days. I actually laid out more commentary than I planned. In the coming days, I plan to give a lot of thought to some of the goings on of this past week. Many things I liked, some I did not. But following this series wouldn’t be the same if everybody agreed on everything, would it?