Monday, April 23, 2012

Facebook and My Greatest 33.1

WARNING: Indy 500 Nerdery Blogpost Alert!
Abandon hope, all ye who enter...

Oh we're steadily creeping up on May and a happy birthday to that wonderful web feature, The Greatest 33, that IMS used to great effect in generating discussion and interest for the 100th Anniversary race last spring.

The reason I mention it begins with some recent flim-flammery with my Facebook cover picture in its current edition (for those of you with Facebook, you'll know what I mean).  I had produced the Greatest 33 cover pic over the winter as the new Timeline format for Facebook began to propagate, also making cover pictures using my favorite sports to be rotated in during the events.  Took a bit of 'cntl+printscreen' and 'save as...' and ham-fisted photoshoppery, but I managed to achieve my goal.

As The Masters concluded, my cover pic was now to be set rather impatiently in anticipation of the month of May. I selected my prized Greatest 33 cover pic with a smug degree of self-satisfaction... that is until I began to think about Dan Wheldon's place in my ranking and the ranking of all currently active drivers who made the cut.

My original ranking was submitted prior to last year's 500 and now most certainly must review it in light of Dan's victory last year and the results of that race. Do I change it as time marches on or leave it, as is, as a signpost of early May 2011?

Nope, can't leave it be. Spent far too much time, energy, and thought in developing a statistical formula and spreadsheet and arguments with myself for that group and now, being so emotionally invested in such matters, must take the time to review it again.  I found my spreadsheet and reviewed my picture only to find a few discrepancies I had settled a year ago but forgotten about.

For the record, here's an image of my original Greatest 33:

My original intent was to use select statistics to weed out so many emotional arguments and get a clear handle strictly on the elite performers at Indy. My formula (which included weighted statistics of: # of Races, Poles, Laps Lead, Wins, and Top 5s) gave me a solid 27 drivers which includes all of the 4-, 3-, and 2-time winners plus significant 1-time winners, so I elected to make space (Row 11) for only those performers who had no wins but amazing career numbers at the Brickyard. The remaining 3 places of Row 10 would be debated on the merits of a tightly-scored group of 5 drivers, all with 1 win.

Now My (latest) Greatest 33 with no added or dropped drivers, only place-shuffling:

Having redressed the numbers to include the current statistics following the 2011 Indy 500, some things emerged...

- Rows 1 through 4 went unchanged. 
- Row 7 changed with Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti each jumping up one place and moving Tommy Milton down two. I hate to move anyone down, but the amount of wins for Wheldon (2) and laps lead for still-active Franchitti were enough to sufficiently supplant Milton.
- Rows 8 and 9 changed as Dixon, chiefly from his laps lead number and another Top 5 finish, leapfrogged 5 places to 23rd, shuffling all those passed backward one place.

Rows 5 and 6 is where some debate occurred. 1-time winner Ralph DePalma had scored 4 spots higher than his placing showed and I recalled moving him down in favor of 2-time winners Vukovich and Ward, the 2-time winner and speed record-holder Luyendyk, and on the bias that he was a 2-timer as well and was involved in the closest finish in history to date, Unser Jr. Now a year later, I found this a bit distasteful for some reason and split the difference, placing DePalma up two spots as the second highest-ranked 1-time winner and in the middle of a group of 2-time winners.

Finding the study of this list to be enjoyable, I've decided to continue to update my list each year.  As I look forward to the 2012 race, some places that likely will change will be for active drivers Castroneves, Franchitti, and Dixon due to their relative points proximity to the drivers ahead of them and those drivers all inactive.

For those 0 of you interested in the particulars of my formula and rankings, a Google docs version of my spreadsheet, can be found here. There are two tabs at the bottom of the sheet which house the April 2011 and April 2012 versions.

Go ahead and set your Indy 500 nerdery alarm to ring in 365 days as I plan to be right back here (Mayan calendar be damned) updating prior to the 2013 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. I'd be interested in your thoughts on your own Greatest 33 and if you've thought about changing it as well...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

J.K. Rowling, Contrition, and Wagers

"Bizarre title, that" I can hear you say... bear with me. Yesterday I ran across this quote attributed to writer J.K. Rowling:

"I always surprise myself on my ability to turn a phrase. 
Words are, in my not so humble opinion, a most inexhaustible source of magic; 
capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” 

I immediately brought this into my realm and how this quote applies to my Indycar-related word-butchering blogging. Broken-down, here is how I applied it:

I read: "I always surprise myself on my ability to turn a phrase."
I heard: I have a high regard for my writing. 

When I sit down to write, in essence, I do little more than jot a stream of consciousness. I simply don't have time or the financial compunction to belabor my direction, theme, and modus operandi which can lead to wild inconsistency from one post to the next. Maybe that is a feature which can be appreciated to a degree since it is meant to be fodder for entertainment, and not an examination of critical sociological matters. 

However, I do see that as a convenient circumstance which can preclude me from such professional behaviors as outlining a point, proper grammar, proper spelling, etc. A writer, in the professional sense, I am not. I am an opinionated, digital graffiti artist with a college-level vocabulary and a means to extend that to this world via the internet, which brings me to the next portion of the quote:

I read: "Words are, in my not so humble opinion, the most inexhaustible source of magic; capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it."
I heard: There are many directions that words can take. It's how you choose to go about using them that makes all the difference.

Those words caused me to think about some of my previous writings and I recall one which has bothered me for some time, especially with the myopia of hindsight. It is a post from mid-2011 which has a prediction-based pro and con of the sport from 2012 through 2013.

It is with sincere regret that I look back at the negative tone of that post and how it ultimately was released. It was consistent with my stream of consciousness style of writing and, with the end tone hanging in the balance as I wrote, it skewed into a backhanded and ham-fisted negative critique. I wrote out of discomfort with many (then) current unknowns and a genuine fear for the decline of a beloved sport which I truly only wish for better days ahead.

Many people much smarter than me have worked very hard to right the ship of Indycar.  For my over-reaction and straying from the 'grounded' viewpoint that my blog is supposed to have, I am quite sorry. I do aim to be fair and well-thought with my views, however, I sometimes succumb to my own emotional leanings. An emotional diatribe is not what I intended this blog to be.  

Having said that, and in light of the fact that with all the effectiveness of the new car,  manufacturers, teams, and NBCSN's great TV coverage, Indycar has just put on a great show at Barber Motorsports Park, (which may very well be the best Indycar twisty racing in the last 6 years or more) and virtually nobody outside of our little Indycar cloister saw it. This bothers me to no end.

Ultimately, what I firmly believe is this - Indycar CAN regain an audience comparable to its previous glory, but that will only comes with risk. Risk is relevant to the amount wagered versus the amount of potential gain. There are more changes necessary for Indycar if its goal is to return near its previous peaks. 

Which ever direction Indycar goes, I wish it nothing but the best and will continue to support it because I like it and have followed it for over 30 years. I also would love for it to be here 30 years from now.