Wednesday, March 25, 2015

IndyCar Answers its Fans

The following is a transcript of an imaginary press conference, where IndyCar answers a bunch of questions it shouldn't have to:

(Please note that I don't actually speak for IndyCar, IMS, Verizon, or anybody else. I just wanted to write something you'd enjoy reading.)

IndyCar: Welcome to 2015! This season marks the fulfillment of a promise we made to fans and manufacturers in 2010-the arrival of brand-specific aero kits! The series now has variety in differentiated cars!

IndyCar Fan #1: God, those are hideous!

IC: But they are modern, factory-supported designs developed with CFD and tuned on-track! Teams even have almost unlimited options to mix and match aero kit elements!

ICF1: But the track will be littered with broken winglets!

IC: Well, um, we don't know that since, you know, we haven't actually run a race with the aero kits yet... We would assume that the manufacturers will avoid that situation, since it's one no party wants. 

ICF1: So you haven't tested them yet? How can you run a series like this? The season will be a disaster!

IC: Well, if it does become an issue, you can rest assured that it will be IndyCar who cleans up the debris, and IndyCar will legislate a solution.

IndyCar Fan #2: Brian Barnhart is a @#$%&!!!! How can you have him back as a chief steward? 

IndyCar: We understand that some fans are not happy with the decisions made by Mr. Barnhart in the past, but we assure you that he is the best man for the job.

ICF2: But he's made so many bad calls in the past!

IC: Again, we understand many fans' concerns, but we'd like to point out that the Race Control procedure (and, indeed, the entire regime) is different from when Mr. Barnhart last held this position. We are confident he will do a good job.

ICF2: (Unprintable comment questioning Mr. Barnhart's family heritage)

IC: ...Well, that was kind of harsh. Tell me, do you follow racing, or race stewards?

IndyCar Fan #3: What are you doing to promote the heroes of the series, the drivers? We don't hear nearly enough about them!

IC: We're glad you asked. Check this out.

ICF3: Could you have shot an uglier commerical? And all the footage is from 2014! There are drivers who aren't even in the series this year!

IC: ...Uh, um, er, the 2015 season hasn't started, so... we don't really have footage from this year... We thought that shooting the drivers in serious poses would help illustrate the commercial's theme...

IndyCar: In addition to the TV spot linked above, we've inked a partnership with USAToday to include regular features on IndyCar!

IndyCar Fan #4: Yeah, that's going to reach a lot of people-how many people read USAToday?

IC: About 4 million...

ICF4: But are they the right people?

IndyCar: We are testing a new system that will display current running position on the side of each car so fans can more easily follow the action and strategy of the race!

IndyCar Fan #5: But you'll never be able to read it at the speeds IndyCars travel at! And you should make the colors different. This looks awful. 

IC: Um, ok, we admit it, we didn't invent this. Similar systems are used by other series, who don't seem to have any problems. Oh, and we're STILL TESTING it!

IndyCar: Ok, we'll take one more question and wrap up what's become a train wreck of a Q&A.

IndyCar Fan #6: Why can the Verizon IndyCar app only be had on a Verizon phone? That's really unfair. I want the app on my [Not Verizon] phone!

IC: There seems to be some confusion among the general public about what a "sponsorship" actually is. You see, Verizon is interested in selling cell phone plans. The point is for the customer interested in IndyCar to seek out and purchase a Verizon cell phone plan so that they can download the app. If the app could be used on another brand's phone, that would defeat the purpose.

Full Disclosure:
Yes, I criticized Brian Barnhart back in 2011. A lot. I'm still optimistic about 2015. My cell phone plan is NOT Verizon. I think the commercial is awesome. And I LOVE the new aero kits. I can't wait to see them at Indianapolis and Milwaukee.

In short, I'm really really excited for 2015. Sure, not everything is perfect, but I think it's going to be a great season!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Championship Finales

I have a couple of things to say about NASCAR's upcoming championship weekend. I'm sure my opinions aren't unique, but I'd like to think I have something useful to say about the situation...

The purpose of a championship in racing (or other sports) is to reward performance over an entire season. It's one level of accomplishment to win a single race, it's another entirely to sustain that performance over 15 or 20 or 36 races. No individual race result should be used to determine that champion-it's the culmination of his or her work over an entire season. In the current NASCAR system, it's actually possible for a driver to win the championship without winning a race (which is, you know, the point of racing, and what NASCAR was trying to encourage) all season long. Conversely, a driver could win the first 35 races of the season and still lose the championship if 2nd place in the points did nothing more than finish ahead of the points leader.

The entire concept of the "Chase for the Cup" playoff system is flawed. Playoff systems are necessary in stick-and-ball sports, not in racing. Racing's fundamental difference is that every competitor faces off against every other competitor in each event. In other sports leagues, only 2 teams can play each other at one time in any given event. When it comes time to decide a champion, the best team may not be apparent. To find the best team, those with the best records face off in eliminations until the two best teams play one series (or one game, or what have you) to decide the ultimate winner. In racing, the best team in the league is obvious EVERY SINGLE RACE-only one car can win. By assigning a points value to each finishing position, a champion can be decided at the end of the season.

But what is a complaint but a chance to put my own ideas and suggestions out there? I'm sure nothing I propose will be adopted by anyone anywhere, but it was fun for me to think about. By the way, this is non-series specific. It ought to work as well for Indycar as NASCAR as anyone else. The whole point of racing is to complete a given distance quicker than any competitor. What if the championship worked on the same principle? Instead of assigning points based on finishing position, what if the championship were based on who finished the total championship distance in the least amount of time?
What I'm thinking about is assigning points to the 2nd, 3rd, etc place finishers based on how far behind the leader they are at the end of the race. Apply some sort of multiplier based on their interval to the leader. I'd assign extra points for the win, since that's the point of the whole enterprise. Races that end under caution would use a fixed, pre-set multiplier to determine points. I admit it's a complicated system that precludes counting points in one's head, but that's what our computers are for. This system would reward winning and hard-charging at the end of races, while still putting a premium on consistency and reliability. And what better way of promoting your season finale by announcing who "Got Here Fastest!"?