Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Racing Pollyanna

Apparently, I'm an incurable optimist. I suspect you wouldn't think so if we met, but I'm always searching for the upside in every situation. I don't know how this happened. It's the sort of thing that makes people nauseous. I'm guessing it's a coping mechanism. Why work hard at something if you're certain it's going to end in failure?
It's been a good trait, I think, to have as a race fan. Even if it has created some delusions.
I believed well into 2004 that Champ Car represented the future of American open wheel racing. It took until 2009 to realize that sports car racing just wasn't going anywhere.

As I've spent the last few years thinking about Indycar and its future, I've developed other hopeful, forward-looking thoughts.
Dallara was the right choice to build the 2012 car, even though I proclaimed the DeltaWing concept to be the last, best hope for Indycar.
The series will be stronger without Danica Patrick. (Even though I once wrote something like the opposite of that statement on this blog.)
The Lotus engine will be the equal of the Chevrolets and Hondas by mid-season.
Last October's events will bring the series, drivers, and fans together and make all of us stronger and raise the profile and image of Indycar in the public eye.
June's Milwaukee Indyfest will rile a now-dormant race fan hotspot and become a tradition all over again.
Coverage on NBCSNCNSN-er, NBC Sports, will pull in and keep new fans who won't be confused by the name or location of "Vs" any more. It will even spur ABC to improve its coverage.
Channel surfers and casual viewers will be pulled into said broadcasts, and be made fans for life.

Am I right? Wrong? Dangerously misguided? And please share what about the future of Indycar you're optimistic about.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Race Indycar Needed

Well, who would have thought that? General Internet Buzz has it that today's Izod Indycar series race at Alabama's Barber Motorsport Park was a FANTASTIC show. Based on the broadcast I saw, I'm going to agree. I think that race had everything one could want.

If St. Petersburg was the race Indycar needed after Las Vegas and this off-season, Barber is the race Indycar needs for the future.

A few points:

1. Near to my heart-because it's what I last wrote about-is Lotus' performance. Sebastian Bourdais whipped his Lotus-powered Dragon Racing Dallara to a hard-earned 9th place finish. Oriol Servia climbed from 26th (DFL) to 13th, on the lead lap. In fact, all but one of the Lotii were classified as "Running" at the conclusion of the race. Only Alex Tagliani's car failed to finish, but it was embarrassingly the first lap, and I'm not sure Lotus was pleased with him saying the engine blew up in interviews... In contrast, the best Lotus at St. Petersburg finished 15th, one lap down. Three more didn't finish the race. The NBCSN crew reported that Lotus will actually be skipping this week's Indianapolis test because of a lack of engines and spares. I understand their concern, but skipping that test sounds like a very, very bad idea.

2. Speaking of the NBCSN crew, they were great. The whole broadcast was great, especially when compared to ABC's last week. If Townsend Bell can't be driving race cars, at least he can be telling us about them. Jon Beekhuis' technical pieces were excellent. I have a hard time criticizing Bob Jenkins' gaffes, since he's been making them for 20+ years, but he tested me this afternoon. After defending him in a conversation Saturday, it seemed that Bob went on to confuse every blue-and-red car in the field, mispronounce names, cut names short, etc. Maybe he's rusty, or maybe he needs to study the Spotter's Guide, but I hope the guy who embodies "Racing Announcer" for me comes up better over the next few races. Overall, however, the crew showed how it was done. Hint: ABC, don't show us the leader all by his lonesome when there is dicing and passing for position back in the field.

3. Will Power won on a road course-but not from the pole, and not by dominating. I am slightly surprised by this. It should frighten the rest of the field.

4. I thought Barber, as a narrow motorcycle track, was impossible to pass on. Or so went conventional wisdom. Most laps looked like someone was challenging someone else for position, to the point where I started to wonder what the leaders looked like... What struck me most, however, was how many (all) of the passes were "Real"-none were caused by bumps between cars, none were the artificial results of underpowered engines and pack racing, etc, just real driver skill getting the job done.

More to come soon. What do you think the most promising part of the 2012 season is so far?