Thursday, December 8, 2011

Looking ahead to 2012...

It's that time of year my professional line of work (construction) tends to wind down a bit due to weather and, as the snowflakes fall, I want to recall a warmer, more enjoyable time of the year... Late-May.

Looking to Mays both past and ahead, just 168 days remain to departure for the 2012 Indy 500 trip. I begin to think about details and planning and improvements to the previous trip which leads to that monumental answer to the annual question that I cannot pose soon enough...


Monumental stuff to be sure as I have a fair group of people who are able only to come down for Carb Day and overnight, not the whole of the weekend. 

Plans must be made. Budgets combed through. Proper food and accommodation must be arranged. I take my trip and my hospitality VERY seriously. I also realize the band is very likely not selected at this point, so if the decision-makers are in the house, I'd like to offer my annual suggestions for Carb Day band selection, in no particular order...

On the heels of what was, in my opinion, a (maybe shouldn't be, yet very surprisingly) great show by ZZ Top in 2010, my standard is found in a veteran touring band with musical chops, extensive catalog and popularity, and ability to easily rock the 19-49 year-old demographic equally. 

I submit for your consideration three HUGELY popular bands currently available in mid-2012:

1. Red Hot Chili Peppers

2. Pearl Jam


OK, so the third option was facetious but the point could be made that ABBA is equally attractive as your crapcore bands such as Papa Roach or other infamous representative markers of a genre, depending on the audience you are attempting to attract. A broad appeal is always better if sheer volume of traffic is your goal, HOWEVER...I would like to propose an idea which isn't totally original yet would seem to be a great way to appeal to a more broad spectrum - adopt a single-day/festival approach. 

Instead of a single headline Carb Day band with smaller bands during the Month of May schedule, (of which most have a minor audience), bring that variety of bands (much as you have already) but allow them all to play on Carb Day. Two separate stage areas - one larger stage as we have today, and a smaller one down near the Turn 3-4 area. Have each of 4 to 6 bands play 60-75 maximum minutes with the two stages going concurrently. 

Two bands on the larger Miller Lite Stage is really no different than what exists today, with more popular (read: current) bands, one skewing to the younger set and one to the older demographics. On the smaller stage, incorporate other popular styles such as Jam Bands or other bands representative of different eras (read: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy as swing, etc.). IMS is certainly large enough to house two stages in this manner and the result is very likely a win-win as I see it.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a rich and extensive history. To honor the many traditions and eras as possible on Carb Day would seem to make it a richer experience for more attendees, and also could very well be more lucrative for IMS by charging the paltry sum of $40-50 (or double what was charged in 2011 and 4 times the 2009 rate) for an 'all-you-care-to-experience' of Carb Day in the future.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Indycar Slang Dictionary

As it has quite possibly been well overdue to become reality, (and since some insist that silly season isn't really in full-swing yet) we here at the Ground(ed) Effects blog hereby provide an open space for Indycar fans to participate in (what I believe to be) the first ever Indycar Slang Dictionary.

Your valuable assistance will help reduce the painful embarrassment thousands of newer or lesser informed Indycar fans may be forced to endure every day around their workplace, home, forums, or Twitter accounts, by not having the best slang or popular reference associated with the sport of Indycar.  Please help us all keep abreast of the current and past lingo associated with the wildly popular Indycar Series by submitting today.

Please submit (either via email to or simply as a comment below) your Indycar slang words with part of speech, definition, and an example of how the word is used. While this space is meant to be fun and not an official product of Indycar, IMS, or Hulman & Co. branding in anyway, we also do not aim to violate any copyright laws, so...

NOTE: If your word is an unregistered trademark, unlicensed service mark, or registered trademark, please do not submit. If you want are unsure of the origin is trademarked,  please refer to The US Patent and Trademark Office registry or if the owners of such items wish to submit for reference, we will accept them here. 

Again, we are searching primarily only for slang or popular references. If you only have only a word of reference, we will attempt to complete the definition as best we can.  Further, we will attempt to continue to compile ad infinitum for posterity (or at least until people quit submitting/ceases to be fun).

Some early submissions include:
King Hiro
chrome horn
Princess Sparkle Pony

Please feel free to throw words here for submission. I'll review them and contact you with any questions.  Many thanks for you assistance!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A family I never knew I had.

It's been a little less than a week since the tragedy of the Wheldon accident and I've been a bit surprised about a few things and the following thoughts have become apparent.

The Unexpected Grief: I don't know the Wheldons personally in anyway, yet felt much more grief and loss than I may have expected if and when the day came that an Indycar driver died while racing. Just by using the word 'if' in the previous statement makes me realize what a false sense of security had existed when it comes to Indycar racing. I've seen too many very ugly, flipping, twisting Indycar wrecks, only to have the vast majority of drivers escape with relatively minor-to-moderate injury and certainly life not threatened.

The Lack of Editorial Decorum: By both mainstream media and by other newer forms, much of what was thrown out by a relatively uninformed majority of media that reported on this event was largely wasteful (reporting of others reporting), harmful (endless replays of the crash footage), and opinion-based drivel. I will not link to the specific evidence here, suffice to say that NBC, CNN, Wall Street Journal, ABC's 'The View', and GOOD magazine/blog, were all ignoring their significant lack of knowledge and leveraging the tragedy for little more than their own sensationalist gain. The reprehensible nature of this 'death porn' coverage shows zero respect for those most affected and the responsibility lies with those persons and their editors/producers who choose how and what the story is to fit their own narrow agenda. So far from quality journalistic reportage this was that my distaste for those certain media outlets is greater than ever before. In the wake of this putrid and trashy coverage, I would be seriously remiss if I didn't mention that genuine and respectful reportage was done by some who chose to report the facts as they came, and not sensationalize the event. ABC/ESPN's live race coverage was immediately and appropriately highly concerned and their follow-up reporting was proper by all accounts of those who follow this sport. 'Beat' writers such as Nate Ryan of USA Today, Marshall Pruett of SpeedTV, Ryan McGee of ESPN, and Jenna Fryer for AP all contributed in appropriate manners and their approaches are to be commended, but again, they are familiar with this sport whereas the poorest of coverage comes from outlets who have admittedly no knowledge of the sport, yet feel compelled to spew forth with sweeping opinion and scornful declarations which do nothing but more damage. 

The Social Media Family: Twitter and, to a lesser degree, Facebook have enabled a tighter Indycar community through rapid and voluminous communication. In the case of this tragedy, events can be openly discussed and the goodness of human nature was made evident with tremendous immediacy. So much outpouring of help and goodness toward the Wheldon family as a result of this tightness reminds us all of how a community (despite the lack of geographical bounds) is to respond in troubled times. In some ways, I believe we all have a basal need for community and now more than ever there are multiple avenues to achieve it. This, in my view, is a good thing and just being in 'conversation' via Twitter, blogs, Facebook and the like have allowed us all to better handle the grieving process we feel as the dedicated followers of this sport.

That last item has been especially helpful in the wake of Wheldon's death as it is a surprising and newer dynamic to me. Very much in line with most familial dynamics, we can fight and bicker among ourselves, yet when an 'outsider' attacks our kindred, we are quick to band together against the 'invader' as was seen with our replies to the ill-informed opinions which called for many things to 'correct' the wrongs of our sport. I grew up in a very small family. Two parents and me. Many cousins, mostly distant whose sharing of live essentially only came at annual holiday gatherings or major family events.

So it with some surprise I found a deeper appreciation for this Indycar 'family' which, by one view, is made up of little more than strangers who are bound by enthusiastic common interest and adept electronic communication. What I've found though, behind the facades of blogs and Twitter accounts and Facebook groups and Flickr albums, are people. 

People who are generous, funny, kind, sad, concerned, happy, involved, angry, creative, old, young, wise, naive... people. 

I'm glad to get to know you all (in varying degrees) and appreciate all of our interactions. I hope we help each other more than we know. I aim to do my part to continue making this Indycar family a positive place for years to come.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Am I not a fan anymore?

edit: As of October 27, 2011 the title of this post was changed from statement; 'I'm Not a Fan Anymore' to question; 'Am I Not a Fan Anymore?'. I felt the need to amend this title to better reflect the intent of the article rather than imbue a tone for the reader.

Dan Wheldon's violent end was an unwelcome punch that caught me already reeling from other jarring events recently which only gives me further pause to wonder just what in this world is of true value.

As an ardent follower of Indycar, I of course feel grief for Dan's death, his family, children, and wife he leaves behind, but in my case, it comes on the heels of other head-shaking and tragic events. 

Some nine days ago, in my relatively benign little piece of Indiana, another violent end of life came in the form of an inexplicable home invasion of a well-loved, local college professor in which the (still at-large) attacker critically wounded the wife and mother of three, then turned his attention to the husband who had come to fend off the attacker. In a scant matter of moments, the lives of the survivors violently altered and the life of the husband and father brutally taken from him by circumstances beyond their control. 

I feel that in many ways Wheldon's death was similar in that circumstances conspired ruthlessly and tragically to deal a swift, unexpected, and horrible end to a life, and yet different in that I feel a level of responsibility for Dan's death that I couldn't possibly for a random murder.

On Sunday morning, I was a fan of Indycar. A fan of the speed, thrills, color, legend, pageantry, and excitement that one could only get from this form of auto racing. I supported it with my dollars, energy, and enthusiasm. On Sunday evening, I have decided to not be a fan of this anymore. By my assessment, there is simply no need significant enough to justify the cost of life and limb.

I assign no blame to any specific person, place, or thing for Sunday's events, mind you, I simply choose to not revel in sports such as these any longer. I am saddened for the crews, drivers, fans, and many others who have given their lives for this sport. As a husband and father, I am especially saddened that the hole left by Dan's death is irreparable for his wife and two young children left behind. 

It all became very clear to me when my 7-year old son last night (while tucking him into bed) asked if Dan Wheldon had children. "Yes", I said, "two boys, a 3 year-old and a 7 month-old". My son's reply was all too lucid, ..."and they will never know their father". It was all I could do to not cry then and simply hug and kiss my boy. I said a silent prayer that he never has to deal with that sort of loss.

I don't consider my decision to be any sort of vindictive or misplaced assignment of blame, and it's not just Indycar I am forced to consider. Any form of commercialized 'sport' where maiming and killing occurs under the guise of entertainment, applies. Most sports actively work toward preventing incidents such as these, however, there is a constant and violent undercurrent that remains and I question the commercialization of these sorts of activities. It sickens me that the reason some 'sports' exist today is built solely on the attraction of their brutal and sometimes horrific nature.

While I can understand (and have experienced) that incredible attraction and exhilaration of seeing death-defying feats, I have no more love for it. 

I elevate my love for life and will treat it with even more respect and dignity. 

I fully expect the sport to go much as planned in 2012, but I for one won't be celebrating it they way I have before. I simply can't.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Missing Character

In the years of Indycar's decline (which I personally date approximately 1994 to 2009), several extrinsic events (not including the rise of NASCAR as well as other sports options) conspired with cruel timing to hasten its slide. With the myopia of hindsight, we see none of these events could be avoided yet the magnitude of their occurrence may very well have been underestimated. 

1. The Law of Diminishing Returns: An early economic theory notes the tendency of additional input units to reach a point where they have progressively less marginal effect. I was in college during the mid-to-late 80s and studying this very subject. As an Indycar fan then, I could see how the speeds were already effectively reaching their plateau when  driver safety and rapidly rising costs to produce more speed became ever larger obstacles to overcome, rendering the then-current formula unsustainable. I associate the natural occurrence of this progression for the loss of the 'speed-freak/mayhem fan' whose attention each year was strictly focused on surpassing the next speed (and danger) threshold. With no supporting evidence, I place this at approximately 5% - 10% of the fanbase.

2. Legend Retirements: In an two-year span we lost to retirement nearly all of the Indycar greats of the previous 30 years. Consider these retirements from May 1992 through May of 1994 listed with
Retirement date - Name (Indy 500 wins, Total USAC/CART wins, Total USAC/CART Season Championships) source:
May 1992 - Johncock (2, 25, 1)
Dec. 1992 - Mears (4, 29, 6)
May 1993 - Foyt (4, 67, 7) 
May 1994 - Al Unser (4, 39, 4), Rutherford (3, 27, 2), Mario Andretti (1, 52, 4)
Six incredible drivers, 18 Indy 500 wins, 239 total race wins, 26 National Championships, and considerable influence over the previous 30 years of Indycar forever removed from the racing fields. This sport, within just a matter of a few years was now, despite a fairly strong generation following those drivers, set up for a serious decline. Eventually this day would come for all these greats but to lose them within a 24 month span was a shock that the sport has yet to fully (if ever) recover. Again with no supporting evidence, I would estimate that approximately 20% of the fanbase was lost following the 1994 season.

Those two extrinsic factors, in combination with other major advents of the time; influx of lesser known (and numerous) drivers of foreign origin, poor management of CART, fractious divide from the formation of The Indy Racing League, and more professional sports options to command viewers' attention, all lead and attributed to the current state of Indycar.

"Why do I mention all this?", you ask.  Now with the talk of what may be the most recognizable driver in the series on the verge of departure from Indycar, there is a great deal of debate about just how important the drivers are in the equation of success.  I'd say very important, but one thing that has been around longer than the legends and continues to be here to this day, seems to be a second-rate piece of the puzzle and I couldn't disagree more.

The original star of this series, dating back to 1911, has been and, in my opinion, should be today, the car

How many of you instantly recognize the STP Paxton Turbine as 'revolutionary' or the Novi as 'brutish'? The virtues of the 'reliable' Watson roadster were well known. Old Calhoun, for feck sake, was a Watson with its own name. The cars could be as finicky and cantankerous as the chaps who drove them and we loved that about them. I still prefer those days to the uber-competitive, micro-engineered and soulless shells that have carried the drivers of the last 8 years. 

As we know, the vehicular options have been ever-limited since the late-80s and, in going from sport to entertainment, the vehicle in the equation has been neutralized to being a mere specification of the 'sport', rather than one of it's illustrious characters. To make the car one of the stars again will take some doing, but unfortunately not even as its upcoming iteration would be. Similar or identical cars simply isn't something the American public appreciates or wants. Just ask NASCAR. Not once have I heard how much someone likes all cars being the same. It not only eliminates some of the drama, it takes away from the enjoyment. 

In an age where Indycar needs additive solutions, not subtractive ones, and I fully understand there is a 'new car' in testing as we speak and that horse is out of the barn so to speak, we cannot miss the next opportunity (if there is one) to be more free and open. 

Make the cars wild. Make the motors amazing. Allow the engineers to come up with amazing solutions to the questions of limited amounts of combustible energy. Allow this platform to create a place the mass automotive manufacturers will want to pour resources into and elevate the value-cost quotient. Eliminate the significant reliance on the rolling billboard model (whose value is dropping every year, by the way).

Let Indycar be the place to reignite our country's passion for driving. 
Let Indycar give us new heroes and villains - cars included.

2012-13 is essentially giving us little different from 1997. 

2014 could very well be Indycar's last chance to roll the dice. 

What really is there to lose?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Funkiest Cars of Indy, Part I

Sometimes, I believe we've all been That Kid. The one that seems a bit out of place and time.

Did you feel like maybe people didn't understand you fully? Did close friends laugh at something you said while others were left scratching their heads? Deep down you knew you were just as typical and shared common ideals with most everyone else, yet the world and you were a bit out of step. Indycars are no different and this post is to start a series of the funkiest, off-beat, head-scratch-inducing forms to ever enter the Speedway. 

There are several that come to mind quickly and I've enjoyed wondering what would've happened if that car would've won Indy? How would the racing/automotive world have changed? Just a quirk of fate may have opened our eyes to a new kind of way (to quote Gregg Rolie). 

My first offering comes from the early days of racing revolution that swept the Speedway in the 1960s on through the 1970s, Smokey Yunick's 1964 Hurst Floor-shifter Special:

Definitely a head-turner, Yunick was famous for producing some very 'out-of-the-box' solutions to engines and general racing problems. Often his ideas lead to rules changes due to the effectiveness of his solutions. After several years in NASCAR and at Indianapolis, 1964 saw what may have been, at the time, the most unusual chassis to debut. His sidecar-type chassis with Offenhauser power certainly didn't look like anything before it. 

Bobby Johns was the driver/pilot of this wacky machine whose offset certainly promoted left-turning. The car reportedly spun and made contact getting ready for qualifications in May of 1964 but never re-emerged. Possibly this very car or another chassis has been maintained to this day, in Yunick's trademark gloss black and metallic gold color scheme, which makes the tours of the Goodwood Festival and various automotive museums around the country. I saw the current one at the IMS museum within the last two years, not fully realizing the story of the machine and man behind it.

When seeing these funky creations, it takes little imagination to feel the anticipation and excitement of each May when creativity and innovation was truly the hallmark of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

They May Be Dumb, But They Ain't Stupid.

If you were invited to play a somewhat unfamiliar game, for a large prize, on the invitee's 'turf', viewed by a million people, and at risk of besmirching the company that provides your current lucrative living, one of two things might happen, so what would YOU say?

"Heh, thanks, but no, thanks".
Something like that maybe. So it goes with the few NASCAR drivers who might be qualified to make Indycar's World Challenge at the very least interesting. Some have gone so far as to make elaborate and uninformed excuses why 'it wouldn't be fair'. That's simply smart business. Allow the ego to be soothed by that bed of cash you roll around in, realizing that, no matter how badly you want to accept and win that challenge, you don't need it. Money has become to the NASCAR driver what that sweet high-school girlfriend was to the boyfriend whom with she pleaded to keep from getting into another scrap after the football game. The Id has again calmed and protected the Self from the fire of the Super-ego.

I have no doubt a few of the NASCAR drivers might be capable of fairly competing. Most of the NASCAR crowd, in my view, would be more fish out of water than in the reverse and very well know it, despite their 'facts' proving otherwise. Even with top-flight equipment the odds of winning the Challenge are marginal, say 10:1, at best.  Probably more like 20:1 for the few NASCAR jockeys capable. I'd put Stewart at the top of the list with a second-tier of Kahne, Gordon, and the like in that 20:1 bracket. The rest, just fish in a barrel.

"You're ON! Anytime, anyplace!"
All the sweet smell of... SUCKERRRRR! You've just stepped into the trap.. er, arena and now you're about to get abused only for the gain of others. Just couldn't keep your mouth shut could you? Now, at best, you could walk away with a $5 million prize, but odds are far more likely you'll will be a lap down by the first pit stop. Only then will the "I should've listened to Mr. France and kept my mouth shut", thought occur, realizing you now have two racing sanctions who don't care for you. Anyone remember what happened to Rocky Balboa when Clubber Lang called him out in public? Yep, that's right, severe ass-whuppin' from the hungrier challenger. Rocky should've listened to Mickey and sailed off into the sunset.

"But I can win this thing! I can be the hero!", you'll say. Yes, and an Offenhauser might fly out of your lower digestive tract. Even odds favorite Tony Stewart knows better and he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer so what does that make you? 

Dumb AND Stupid.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Favorite Engines of Indy - Part I

Recently the Indycar world seems a bit of a tempest in a teacup and to soothe my angst over the happenings and direction of the sport looking toward 2012, I felt the need to recall things that made me fall in love with the sport.

As far back as I can remember, one of the primary modes of interaction with this sport was through intense sound. The visual form and movement was always exciting but something about that deep rumble of a powerful automobile motor strikes more deeply, especially in person.

In keeping with some themes within this blog, I now present to you my Favorite Engines of Indy. Our first submission is the Ford V-8 Engine that was mated to the famous Lotus 38 driven by Jim Clark. In this video form 2010, Sir Jackie Stewart does the honors of warming up that beastly V-8 for a trip around The Goodwood Festival of Speed:

Despite the limitations of this video equipment, there's no mistaking this motor as it is a truly signature sound from Indys past.  Other links can be found on YouTube and I also recommend one by Road and Track which shows an interview with Dario Franchitti and driving the famous Lotus 38 at Indy. This is the actual vehicle driven by Jim Clark to victory at Indy in 1965. If you can make it through the advert at the beginning, you will hear one of the greatest sounds ever at IMS. Enjoy!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Prediction? Pain.

*edit* This post, begun on August 5th and not finished until today may appear to be a rough bit of 'piling on' or 'givin' Indycar the bizness', after all the hoopla surrounding Race Control's call at the end of the 225 yesterday.  I assure you the negative tone of this rant was set following the announcement that the all-new 2009 chassis (which became the 2010 ICONIC competition) became the 2011 safety-cell chassis with aero kits, to be introduced in 2012, is now slated for 2013.  I will admit my tone is enhanced by Sunday's double-birds and officiating hubris and 'best justice available'...

Recently a blog commentor, anotherindycarblog, noted some of my off-season thoughts of November 2009, several of which almost resemble something akin to prophecy.  Emboldened by my newfound clairvoyance, I again put it 'out there' for the world to digest.

There's a big ole bunch of Indycar badness headed our way. The size, strength, and threat of this badness reminds me of that fierce antagonist, Clubber Lang from Rocky III. Like Rocky Balboa, the current Indycar lives fairly comfortably on past success and we may or may not know the threat is even there, because our handlers (aka Indycar governors) will be coddling us, shielding us from harm, keeping us 'safe' from the very thing they fear, but what Rocky really wants... competition. 

So with no further delay, I give everyone the 'Tale of the Tape' for Indycar 2012 and beyond... (*hint* I pity the fools).

Rocky Balboa (Pro):
- The newest chassis debuts and elicits an overall positive response from fans.
- The new engines are well-received by fans and especially noticeable will be the turbo whine, maximized for the at-race fan's enjoyment.
- Two historic ovals not on the 2011 race schedule come on board to fans' delight.
- Two road/streets on the 2011 schedule DON'T come back to fans' delight.
- The Indy 500 TV ratings are higher than they've been in 18 years, largely due to the added hype of the 2012 chassis, Danica's return to Indycar for her one-off, and increased speeds at Indy which will approach the upper 230s during the month of May. The enthusiasm follows to the next several races as all of them enjoy double-digit increases in TV viewership and Ticket sales.
- by early 2013, we will have exactly three different manufacturers of aero kits for the 2012 chassis, which will be ballyhooed by what remains of Indycar's PR machine.
- by late 2012, a third engine manufacturer will be testing adding a bit of momentum for the spring of 2013.

Clubber Lang (Con):
- Danica leaves for NASCARland and things get seriously rainbows and kittens for her financial and retirement portfolio, in addition to finding that she actually prefers the slab-sided vehicles to the Indycar. Fans embrace her there and NASCAR's popularity, judged by most common measures gets a double-digit uptick. NASCAR's gain, Indycar's loss once again.
- Nothing will change the presence of the 'ride-buyer', although part-time driving schedules will lead to even less success than in the 'UberSpec' 2003-2011 era.
- Barnhardt will remain in the Race Control supervising tech, but Indycar will shuffle in a new race steward who will fare little better as race referee, despite a much ballyhooed nomination to the post. More disillusionment with the leadership of Indycar ensues.
- The 78% of Indycar fans who aren't on Twitter (and thereby don't follow @pressdog or @oilpressureblog or @SBPopOffValve) will only now realize all the 2012 chassis are all EXACTLY THE SAME, question the absence of different chassis, and become disenfranchised (AGAIN) with Indycar's governing ineptness. This group fractures into people who; begin watching WRC online, or foster their newfound interest in ALMS, largely due to the shockingly incredible performance at 24 Hours of LeMans by that Delta Wing thingy (Hey, why didn't we get that thing for Indycar?).
- The 2012 motors, despite their well-received sound will all prove somewhat inconsistently-powered and somewhat unreliable. Fans of 'three cars on the lead lap at midway' or of 'late-race motor-blowing which induces violent race standings shuffles' will rejoice. Owners of said motors will not and publicly lament the loss of the yawn-inducing reliability of the Honda V8, (much to the dismay of Indycar PR).
- the two additional manufacturers of 2013 aero kits finally enter the Indycar stage but will all look so amazingly similar that it triggers a violent and palpable *ker-THUNK* as ICONIC's decision for aero kits coupled with the Indycar owner-induced delay falls tremendously flat with nearly all Indycar fans. Many longtime fans will shake their heads and consider this the final-FINAL straw and leave for good.
- After numerous 'lead balloon' decisions and the Centennial Era a fading memory, Indycar is in a delicate state left with fewer fans than in 2011, a fractured TV coverage package, declining ratings, and a CEO teetering with his sport on the brink of total collapse...  Very hard decisions must be made... 

To continue to fight or retire? 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

" come in here with a skull full of mush and, if you survive, will leave thinking like an Indycar fan."

So so SOOOO often I get asked by my friends (who aren't yet Indycar fans) what are seemingly elementary questions about Indycars and the Indy 500. Things like, "Indycar... what exactly is that? Is that like NASCAR?" or, "Whaddya mean by open wheels?" or, "Isn't the Indy 500 just a big party? You go every year right? (implying that I can't pass on a big party which, while fairly accurate, in this case is missing the point). 

It forces me into a frame of reference that I haven't been since roughly the turn of the decade - the 80s decade, that is, when I first began approaching Indycar as a fan.  

I also must resist rapidly morphing into some aghast, codger-like visage of Houseman's Professor Kingsfield from "The Paper Chase" (a quote from which this post's title is paraphrased) and try to see Indycar through fresh eyes. My sometimes inquisitive kids also aid in this.

One thing I've noted is that we Indycar stalwarts (are there any other kind?) can be perceived as a very insulated, exclusive, micro-focused bunch approaching racing nerddom.  So when I get that seemingly elementary question from an Indycar 'Outsider', I must remember that it's all-new to someone and I will try hard to determine what depth of answer will lose them and develop an answer just short of that, because my goal has always been to maintain their interest in Indycar, no matter how shallow, and provide as informative an answer as possible. 

But also, after years of losing many people with amateur answers that regale the history and intricacies and dramas of Indycar, I have now determined one simple answer seems to to be about the only true and best advice I can give anyone who wants to know more about Indycar: 

"You just have to go see it." 

It's still my favorite way (by far) to experience it. TV rarely does the experience justice, the great crew with IMS Radio at the Indy 500 does a great job of communicating the excitement, but when I'm fortunate enough to be present when they fire up the engines, it's still a goosebump moment... everytime. Anticipation, sights, sounds, smells, vibrations through the ground all culminate in one overwhelming experience and the closer you are, the more amazing it is. 

So do yourself a favor. Go see a race and don't fail to take a friend who has never seen an Indycar race before. I've done it now for 8 years running to the Indy 500 and while, to an Indycar codger like me, it may seem their auto racing brain is full of mush, they also may just leave a fan.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Missed It By THAT Much...

As the cloud of excitement and ethanol and rubber and sunburn fades into memory, I can say without question that the 2011 Indy 500 was among the best 10% of races.  The last 35 laps were nothing short of classic sporting drama and, as Steph at More Front Wing so eloquently stated, without the information fed by a scanner or TV coverage, one never knew where all the players stood with regard to fuel, speed, and handling which made the closing laps all the more exciting to watch from the stands and every few laps of the closing 15 presented a new leader.

I must admit to feeling fairly clairvoyant with regard to the race winner predictions 6 days prior to the race. I then noted a predilection for the winner to be from a one-off team overcoming the day's dominance of team Target (who would befall some late-race misfortune) and win his second Indy 500 ring...  Sound vaguely familiar?  Where the prediction misses the mark is which one-off driver would win. I had Buddy Rice but history would show Dan Wheldon to be that driver in Victory Circle.

My Top 10 was a bit off, but still the overall theme was nearly right on. As for the weekend and raceday enjoyment, it was nearly unparalleled in the 24 different races I've been ('79, '80, '88-'96, '99-current).  Definitely in the Top 5 of races I've witnessed first-hand with 1992, 1979 (my first), 2006, and 1989.

Time will tell just how important this race was, but with the fantastic weather, pomp and circumstance on '11', complete stadium silence at Taps, our good friend Mister Jim Nabors, exciting racing with a finish to be long-remembered, it certainly has all the hallmarks of one of the greats.

We can also take a deep breath, and begin to look forward. 

Only 360 days to the Indy 500...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Qualifying Recap/Race Preview

THAT was maybe the most topsy-turvy Pole and Bump Day in recent history and maybe of all time.

I can say that despite the all the nonsensicalness of who qualified when and where and got bumped and by whom...  I correctly predicted the outcome of qualifying...  
for one driver anyway - Vitor Meira, middle of Row 5.  I was within one spot of another 4 drivers - Dixon, Power, Junquiera, and Kimball.  It appears I have the Foyt Racing stable pretty well pegged.

I managed to get only two of the seven 'bumpees' correct - Saavedra and Jakes, meaning 5 of the drivers I had bumped made the show. I'm happy to report that Pippa Mann, Hinchcliffe, Lloyd, Howard, and Beatriz made it in but coming at the expense of very good drivers such as Andretti Autosport teammates Hunter-Reay and Conway, AFS Racing's Matos, and both Dragons Speed and Tung.

Now excitement shifts into top gear, for raceday is nearly upon us and I for one cannot wait to see what this ol' Speedway is going to give us this year... I'm foreseeing something rather special...

"Race Prediction?", you ask. 
OK, not gonna just pick a winner, but a Top 10.

Panther finally gets their first win at Indy as Buddy Rice (crazy, flat-brimmed cap and all) wins his 2nd. 

Runner-up Dixon and teammate Franchitti will have been in the Top 5 all day, but fate conspires against TCGR near the end and Rice (who history will report had had the racing gods smiling upon him that day) steps through the breach and takes the victory.

Dixon finishes 2nd, Bell 3rd, Castroneves 4th, Tagliani 5th, Wheldon 6th, Carpenter 7th, Franchitti 8th, Meira 9th, Rahal 10th.  

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  Think I'm nuts and want to tell me so?  Please do.  Leave a comment below. It's like a type-written answering machine.  I may be listening to you, I may not.  Yep I'm a screener of my home phone.  "Leave a comment... I'll get back to you." 

Enjoy your race weekend (I know I plan to), and don't miss the 100th Anniversary edition of the Indianapolis 500!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's "Gettin' Serious" Time

The rapidly approaching weekend means one thing and one thing only to me.  Gone are concerns for the condition of my lawn or the tidyness of my backyard from kids' toys or the amount of items crossed of my 'to do' list at home... it's qualifying weekend at Indy.

Now I DO have some unmovable commitments (not scheduled by me) for Saturday that involve driving (the family to visit some longtime friends over an hour away). This is just such an occasion that reminds me why I have satellite radio. I will command the programming be Indy Pole day coverage unless *gasp* it is rained out (perish the thought).

Having said that, I will now make my qualifying predictions, in order, as I did a year ago. I can guarantee you one thing; this list will be wrong, but such is the life of a 'seer of sooth, sayer of all'.

The PEAK Performance Polesitter: I'm going against the prohibitive favorite Penske stable this year and pick a Target Car for the pole... Dario Franchitti.
Pole Speed: 228.683

The Top 11 (plus 1): 
Row 1 - Franchitti, Castroneves, Dixon, 
Row 2 - Briscoe, M. Andretti, Power,
Row 3 - Tagliani, Rahal, Patrick,
Row 4 - Kanaan, Meira, Carpenter,

Mid-table Obscurity (15):
Row 5 - Rice, Hunter-Reay, Hildebrand, 
Row 6 - Servia, Wilson, Scheckter,
Row 7 - Conway, Junquiera, Tracy,
Row 8 - Matos, Bell, Sato, 
Row 9 - Hamilton, Tung, J. Andretti, 

Danger Drives (6):
Row 10 - Viso, DeSilvestro, Kimball,
Row 11 - Speed, Wheldon, Baguette

____________ Bump Line _______________
Just missing out on this year's fun will be...
James Jakes, Alex Lloyd, Ana Beatriz,
Seb Saavedra, Pippa Mann, Jay Howard,
James Hinchliffe

The lone chassis without a driver is the the 57 of Sarah Fisher Racing. I doubt this will see any action whatsoever.

I make these predicitons with just minutes before practice on Thursday, May 19. As always my caveat for predictions is that any mid-table or lower driver forced into a backup car (due to practice crash or what-have-you, will likely move them down a group. In the immortal words of 80s rockers Asia, only time will tell...

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Greatest 33

Being a product of my heritage (analytical Germanic-type), my time (1967-current), my geographical upbringing (Indiana), and my primary hobby (sports appreciation), my Greatest 33 drivers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is better than yours.

OK, I don't really believe the previous statement and a subjective list such as IMS has created will certainly stimulate arguments and debates on not only the list itself but how the participant's list was assembled. By no means is there a perfect system but I would contend that to not primarily rely on statistics allows for a fairly significant bias against drivers in the first half of IMS's century of racing who most of us never saw (i.e. pre-1960). 

As is typical with me, I employed some simple statistics to assist in selecting and ranking from hundreds of drivers. Cool, unemotional, unsympathetic numbers will tell a vast majority of what I needed to know and after a bit of deliberation, I settled on a formula which weighed wins, laps lead, number of poles, number of races, and top-5 finishes, to varying degrees. 

For me this eliminated a great deal of debate about drivers who were in the top 25-28.  The remaining 5-8 spots would require some subjectivity as there were many drivers with 1 win and some drivers with no wins who fell in very close proximity via the statistics. In an homage to the Indy Press Corps' Last Row Club, the final row of 3 was reserved for the 3 greatest drivers to never have won. All other inclusions had at least one win to their credit.

Without further ado, I submit my Greatest 33 to have raced at the Indianapolis 500:
1-Al Unser   2-AJ Foyt Jr.   3-Rick Mears
4-Wilbur Shaw   5-Bobby Unser   6-Johnny Rutherford
7-Mauri Rose   8-Louis Meyer   9-Mario Andretti
10-Gordon Johncock   11-Helio Castroneves   12-Emerson Fittipaldi
13-Bill Vukovich   14-Rodger Ward   15-Arie Luyendyk
16-Al Unser Jr.   17-Ralph DePalma   18-Parnelli Jones
19-Tommy Milton   20-Tom Sneva   21-Dario Franchitti
22-Jim Clark   23-Dan Wheldon   24-Jim Rathmann
25-Bill Holland   26-Billy Arnold   27-Bobby Rahal
28-Scott Dixon   29-Jimmy Bryan   30-Jimmy Murphy
31-Michael Andretti   32-Rex Mays   33-Ted Horn

The group of tightly-scored drivers who just missed making the list were: Danny Sullivan, Buddy Lazier, Eddie Cheever Jr., Sam Hanks, Peter DePaulo, Mark Donohue, Bill Cummings, Pat Flaherty, Troy Ruttman, and Howdy Wilcox.

Of course I don't really think my list is better than anyone else's, however I will say that a fair bit of thought and bias-reducing consideration went into the making of the formula which produced a majority of my list. 

I would love to hear what you see as major misses or unsavory inclusions that populate my list...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Indy Car Parody Lyrics - Jay Penske's Lament

DZ’s Indycar Parody Lyrics
Parody of ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’ by Warren Zevon
‘Jay Penske’s Lament’ by DZ (aka:@groundedeffects)

I went home on the team bus
The way I always do
How was I to know
It was Gil deFerran’s too?

I was gambling in Indiana
I took a little risk
Send lawyers, cars and money
Daaad get me out of this, hyeah

I'm the innocent car owner
Somehow I got stuck
Between “Tô fora!” and a hard place   (“Tô fora” = “I’m out!”)
And I'm down on my luck
Well I'm down on my luck
There’s no cars in my truck

I'm hiding in California
and PT’s a desperate man
Send sponsors, cars and money
The shit has hit the fan

All right
Send lawyers, cars and money
Send sponsors, cars and money
Send lawyers, cars and money
Send sponsors, cars and money

Monday, March 21, 2011

Favorite Cars of Indy part IV

As is typical in the spring, my business responsibilities took me to Indianapolis this past week and I again made time to hit the IMS Museum and Gift Shop. Also took the bus tour for the first time.  

The museum was in the process of setting up the new 100th Anniversary Race display of only winning Indycars which includes 67 chassis from (and including) the first race in 1911. Amazing memories came back from races I've attended or merely watched on TV.  I also got the chance to see up close several cars I hadn't prior. Some truly legendary machines there and it got me thinking about my favorites.  Today's favorite is not necessarily known for it's dominating performance or unique engineering as much as how it became legendary...

The display wasn't complete when I visited so to see the complete display, I'll be visiting again in May when I return for race weekend or during a practice day. 

If you are in the Indianapolis area sometime in the next 3 months, I highly suggest a trip through the museum, the bus tour, and catch the 25-minute movie in the museum as well.  Total admissions will set you back $10 for an immense amount of American automotive racing history that won't be all together like this possibly ever again.