Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"I have but one question" - Existential Ennui In The Summer Of Our Discontent



"Now is the summer of our discontent
Made glorious winter by this sun of Anton;
And all the clouds that lower'd upon IMS
In the deep bosom of racing buried."


In paraphrasing Shakespeare's Richard III, I am comparing the rise and fall of not only the oft-maligned leadership of Indycar by Anton Hulman George, but Indycar itself. 

It is interesting to me that nobody is more narcissistic or wants to believe just how fantastic Indycar is more than the sport itself, its fans, and its leadership. 

NO-body. 

Hubris, people... hubris.

A fantastic and wildly unpredictable race on Saturday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana Cali-forn-aye-ay, and subsequent social and traditional media storm in the following 48 hours was as exemplary a modern Indycar event that you'll ever see. 

If it were possible to quantify this statement, I'd proclaim the 2015 MAVTV500:
 
the single-best, highest-quality, overall Indycar race ever, that was seen and appreciated by the fewest people in modern (post-1979) history.

Talk about exclusive. For better and worse. 

That's Indycar 'in a nutshell'. 

It's in my nature to be inquisitive. Perhaps to a fault. Maybe I should have gone to journalism school and become an investigative reporter, like this guy who brought down the massive FIFA scandal. Journalism bad-assery of the sports variety at its best, but I digress.

I'd like to suggest that the most important thing we might do to help is to challenge ourselves to take a huge step back and look inward at the sport from the outside. I'm talking big, big wide-angle view of Indycar here.

Imagine you are NOT one of the approximate 500,000 (or 00.0083%) humans on this planet who follow Indycar. If you're reading this, it's quite likely you are a fan already, but please try. 

~ IF we are to take the leap and assume my posit about the quality of this race relative to the total audience worldwide is fairly accurate, my question is, "WHY?"

~ IF Indycar has such great racing (even applauded publicly by much more famous drivers from other disciplines - via Twitter et. al.), why is it not wildly successful and more popular?

~ Why does Indycar struggle to gain any TV ratings of significance (which, as we know, serve primarily to bolster media ad buys, increase exposure and sponsorship for teams and the league, leading to better financial stability and security)?

~ Why does Indycar struggle with ticket sales in such low demand to the degree that venues have little desire or financial incentive to host a race?

Which, therefore, leads me to wonder - does it matter that Indycar exists at all? 

"Why does Indycar exist and for what purpose?"  

Here's where I ask for your thoughts. In the comments please try to step waaaaay back from the sport and clearly, concisely, and honestly illuminate your answer for me in one or two sentences/less than 50 words.

I have a thought in mind already, but I want to see what you say.  No snark, no bile, no humor, just honestly and succinctly answer the question.

If the Indycar ownership could also do that for me, we'd be well on our way to solving some things.




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Future is Now


February 25, 2017 - Austin, TX

Good morning everyone from sunny Austin, Texas and welcome to the first on-track open test of the inaugural season of the 2018 RedBull Hypercar Series.

Ever since the purchase of the nearly-defunct Indycar series by RedBull in late 2016 and the subsequent debut of the RedBull X1 chassis as the spec chassis for the new RBHS, fans have flocked to to the internet, track, and television to get their first impressions and follow the development of this amazing "hypercar" powered by a very unique, hybrid propulsion system. 


Fascinated by cutting-edge auto-racing, yet also unhappy with the fractious divides, polarization, and lack of transparency in the governance of F1, RedBull founder Dietrich Mateschitz vacated his teams and money from Formula 1 and devised his own series, and made an audacious offer for the failing Indycar Series that the Hulman and Company board could not refuse.  

The concept for the new series, born out of the twilight of the Indycar Series following the 100th Indy 500, was to open a new outlet for forward-visioning, single-seat, monocoque, single-spec chassis, incorporating a hybrid propulsion of various internal-combustion motors and electrical motor systems. 


Multiple settings will exist for the motors and even can be altered during the race based on strategy and in-race conditions. Teams will be allowed to devise their own fuel of choice prior to the race (from traditional ethanol, methanol, compressed natural gas, or biodiesel) and also their own downforce configurations from the bodywork options as well. 

Paid winnings will also be coupled with a points system including a graduated bonus system for minimal energy input usage.  A baseline for energy units (combustible fuels or electrical storage in the battery configuration) will be established for each race. Teams exceeding the baseline will receive a graduated-scale of reduced winnings while teams staying below the baseline will receive an increasing scale of bonus winnings and points in addition to their placement payout.


The new Redbull Hypercar Series will incorporate sprint and endurance racing, and span two divisions (one each in the South and North American continents) culminating in the Inaugural Championship of the Americas to be held at Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas in October 26-28, 2018. Each division of the Series will contest their own race series. Based on the results of those 'seasons', each division will produce 8 contestants for the final Championship race with a purse of US$20 million going to the winners.

Several existing racing teams from the former Indycar series have shown up for this weekend's testing fielding multiple cars piloted with an illustrious list of drivers for the new series.

In the North American Series, 12 events in the US and Canada will be held on a variety of race circuits, and run from May to late-September. The Central and South American series will see 8 races hosted in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico, with the season running from July to September.

The Top 8 teams from each division will contest the final 6-hour race at COTA with the Champions receiving the all-new traveling RedBull Hypercar Cup Trophy.


The inaugural 2018 season will launch in North America at Mazda Laguna-Seca Raceway on May 5th, with stops at Indianapolis on May 27, Road America on June 9. Night races also feature in the North American series including stops at Daytona International Speedway (road course) in late June, and again in Indianapolis for a 12-hour endurance race on the road course in late-August. 

Excitement and interest in an American racing series has not been seen like this for decades. Citing pre-sales of tickets already well-beyond 50% capacity at many of the venues, RedBull expects the inaugural season to be a success with likely expansion of new divisions to Asia and Europe following in 2019.




Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Sex and Genetics of Indycar Fandom


People may be surprised to learn that my blog is written totally off-the-cuff and with no preconceived idea until I get behind the keyboard in earnest. I've always done this intentionally to produce something immediate and genuine. Some posts are half-baked, others fully. Today's post is no different so only you will judge it's bakededness.

I'm going to just come out and say it: I've been enjoying this season of Indycar more than I have in many seasons prior.

The conversations surrounding it, even between previously aligned die-hard fans have become increasingly less comfortable, mostly highlighting more of our very personal preferences and illuminating our differences. It's beginning to remind me of the various levels of discomfort people have in talking about religion or politics or sex.



In professional sports I appreciate intrigue, variety, uncertainty, and urgency, but also a well-ordered game and consistency in fair play. Not easy to find but is why I have a few beloved favorite sports to the exclusion of many.


Aside from the near-panic that Indycar exhibited in Indy after the practice issues with the Chevy cars snap-oversteering at their limits, becoming airborne, pitching/rolling, and leading to a decision to modify both Honda and Chevy kits in the interest of pragmatic conservation of risk (and, in my opinion, unfairly penalizing Honda), I've enjoyed the original concept and subsequent drama and differentiation that has resulted from the aerokits. 

With little drama on the power front, the motors have been prescribed to produce very similar overall power, just slightly different power bands and torque points, but in relation to the differences in aerokits, essentially so similar to not be noticeable.


This season has also added drama off the track for fans (and owners), seemingly producing a significant divide in opinion on the worth of aerokits in relation to the on-track product that we haven't seen in many years. In the case of some newer fans, they've never seen this type of racing atmosphere at all. Love them or hate them, the differences are quite pointed. 

It appears that for people with a marked interest in Indycar racing, you appreciate very specific things: the markers of the distant past - open specs and ingenuity; recent past - single-spec racing (one larger, tightly-bunched packs with minuscule differentiation in performance and aesthetics); or you like more of the current racing - varied-but-similar-spec (multiple, smaller packs with more differentiation in performance and aesthetics).

There is also a longstanding gulf between oval-only fans and those that appreciate some twisties. Sounds like we've got ourselves enough traits to make a Punnet Square (hurray for high school Biology lessons paying off again)! Let's examine what kind of Indycar fan you are..



I'll admit I'm squarely OI dominant with RI as a recessive trait.

Where do you fall in this? 

Are you and your racing mates compatible?  In some cases, I see how those with opposite results might seem suddenly so foreign to us.

If you have offspring, what will your kids most like?

Insert your tongue-in-cheek, take a little time to be totally honest with yourself, regardless of the environment of the sport today, and think about what you most like, what you moderately like, what you are averse to, and why. 

At risk of making some readers even more uncomfortable, I'll walk out on a limb even further and suggest that what kind of Indycar fan you are based on this punnet square also correlates to the type of love-maker you are. Do you prefer more "strategy" and "set-up" or rather the lowest-cost, lowest-risk route to "victory lane"?  Is high-speed or accel/decel your game? Perhaps a stretch, but without question more research would be needed to examine that hypothesis further.

Regardless, the key to using this tool is understanding yourself, then employing your time to finding joy in what you like. Indycar fandom or otherwise.