Friday, February 26, 2010

A Note From Mrs JP

Mrs JP here, just filling in for JP while he’s … well doing whatever it is he is doing...

We pulled the trigger this week. We’re having Dish Network installed tomorrow morning. We’d been loyal Directv customers for over eight years, but decided that we can’t live without Versus for the whole racing season. We’ll see how it goes… Perhaps you should consider the same???

Speaking of racing season, I need to dig out my favorite yellow Sarah Fisher t-shirt. I wore it every race last year, whether she was there or not. You know, it’s funny, Dollar General wasn’t even on my radar before they sponsored Sarah. I had never even been in one of their stores. When the news came out that they were sponsoring Sarah I had to go take a look. I was pleasantly surprised. Now it seems like I’m in a Dollar General store a couple times each week. Now I know I’m just one person, but their sponsorship made a difference to me, I wonder if it did for anyone else?

And now that I’ve mentioned my Sarah Fisher t-shirt it got me thinking. Maybe I’ll be able to add a couple more shirts to my wardrobe this year. Hopefully I’ll walk into the IndyCar store at the track and see an Ana or Simona t-shirt. Ana’s driving for Dreyer & Reinbold, looks like that’s where JP and I will be buying our new Subaru. Simona’s driving for HVM, I wonder where I’ll have to shop for them?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

JP Going Dark for a Bit

Hey everyone, I'll be going dark for a bit, both here and on twitter. I have another project I need to put some time and effort against. In the mean time you may see some guest bloggers gracing this site with content on a wide array of racing topics. Who knows, Mrs JP may post. I'll be back April 4th, in the middle of what promises to be the start of a great season in the IICS.

I see a season coming with a slight tick up on car counts, some promising new faces and races a So Paolo and St Pete that will be better than expected. No fuel knob, more juice in the P2P and long straightaways will provide more passing action than we are used to. Regardless, the season will be underway, ethanol fumes will be in the air and all will be right with the world. Untill then, happy blogging...

JP

Friday, February 12, 2010

She’s Smart, Personable, Really Understands You BUT She’s SO Ugly!!!

And No I am not talking about that girl from church your mother wanted you to date. In this case I am talking about – you guessed it, the Delta Wing. At this point we have seen three sets of image from three different car designers and as fate would have the three main constituencies are lined up behind a different concept for the future, The League is squarely behind the Dallara efforts, The fans generally seem to favor the Swift renderings and Chip’s posse of out of the box (but in the pants) thinking car owners is positioning the Delta Wing for world domination. Houston, you may have a race in 2011, but we have a problem. A big one (insert reference to the DW’s shape here). Welcome to the League Randy!!

And the problem is made intractable by the simple problem that one of the options really is the answer to what ails fans, teams and administrators of the sport. But once all the benefits are added up, aspects of function are accounted for, the Form is something that is entirely distasteful. She Just isn’t pretty and many will argue that she isn’t even a she to begin with.

What Delta Wing is proposing is a basic car design that allows multiple manufacturers to create unique chassis, that can be powered by a range of engine types, equalized by a device that limits the flow of fuel into the engine allowing a wide range of innovation and differentiation among competitors. Isn’t this what most bloggers and commentators on the blogging sites are screaming for?

What Delta Wing is suggesting is a car that is less expensive overall, has fewer pieces to replace, while at the same time offering more visible surface to sell to sponsors, allows to team to innovate and develop their own customized bits for the cars. Again what most owners say they are in need of.

What Delta Wing is suggesting is a car that because it is lighter and has fewer breakable pieces and is more easily confined to the fenced in boundaries of the racing surface, can potentially run smaller stock engine programs that are directly linkable to product offerings for car manufacturers and finally differentiates IndyCar from all other major series.. Isn’t that combination of fan safety and sponsor friendliness exactly what the league has wanted?

But again it doesn’t look anything like what we expect an IndyCar to look like and is simply a jolt to the senses.

After seeing it there are concerns about safety. The Delta Wingers will suggest that with the longer nose, there is the opportunity to have two whole feet of crumple room followed by a cockpit area that is more blunt in its shaping as opposed to the piecing dagger of the current car. Since the car weighs significantly less, it will carry less inertia into any collision it has, which is better for the wall, fence or most importantly car the collision is with. But with no crumple areas around the driver It may be that while Meira, Power and Dana might fare better in an accident, I would still be very concerned if I were Zanardi, Carpenter or Phillipe.

Probably my biggest concern is the raceability of these cars and issues that might arise with a car that does not have equally wide fronts as backs. How these car do with each other dicing with each other on the track while drivers learn the intricacies of driving where they have the opportunity to stick their skinny front end into places their fat asses won’t go may be an issue. Computer simulations are good, but human drivers with risk taking tendencies are different. We simply wont know until we are on the track.

What makes the issues and consequences larger than in any other new car introduction for a long long time is that the change to the field is complete. When the first rear engine car showed up, there were 40 plus other established front engine cars competing as well. If the rear engine car was a failure, then it didn’t qualify or it became a back marker and the race went on without it. Whereas here we are in the situation that if this car is a dud then the whole series has dropped a lot of coin into securing its collective failure and demise.

At this point the problem then becomes one of timing. The manufacturers say they need 18 months to engineer, create and test a new car. SO a decision has to be made in May to be ready for 2012. Delta Wing says it can have a prototype up and running for an August test BUT if things don’t go well? The League is committed and can only go backwards to another year of the current car.

I am on the record as saying that the next IndyCar should not be afraid of being bold and different and that what the car accomplished from an engineering statement should be noteworthy in the wider automotive community. But frankly what I was expecting was something more akin to the #33 Swift, which to date is the choice that most interests me.

The benefits from the Delta Wing appear to be real, but so too are the fears and concerns from fans and league officials. The only way around that I currently see is that two tracks may progress. A winner from the cars on a standard wheel base platform and the Delta Wing. The standard wheelbase winner should be selected with a promise that it will race at least two years. The winner should also be a bold enough design to distance the series from the current basic form of the car which has been in play for 40 years. A transition car should be selected that accomplishes some of what the DW promises.

In that time, a handful, 5 – 10 Delta Wings should be built and raced. But not in the IICS series.
A couple options are available first, there’s a bunch of empty dates for what used to be the A1GP series. Perhaps a 5 race off season series (1 race on each continent?) could be created for the sole exclusive purpose of testing these new cars. An Engine sponsor might be found, the fans would flock like the circus (or freak show) is in town, finishing with an additional 100 mile race during the month of May. Since the bulk of the races would be off season in south of the equator warm spots, the drivers recruited could potentially give the exhibition series an air of an all star event, with drivers from IICS, F1 and nascar participating in the project. Even if the DW is not ultimately selected, the events will garner world wide attention for the series and it's 2012 design and if the DW is selected, the world will then be watching that first DW season.

Another alternative is to collaborate with a series that already runs a mixed specification field, like partnering with ALMS or Grand Am to include DW’s in the field for a select number of their events.


Ultimately if the DW is not selected for 2014, that allows the 2012 chassis to continue for another 2 years and a 2 year lead time for the next chassis.

In the end, the benefits of change needs to come, but the world has to be ready for it and it has to have more than a "probable" likelihood of success since the current economics dictate an all in move. A transition and testing period is needed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Izod, Danica and the Ratings Bump

Heard the two stick and ball boneheads on the local radio station today talking about Danica Patrick and the ratings bump she gave the ARCA race this past weekend. That ARCA with Danica doubled its ratings from the year before w/o Danica. They then went on to postulate the ratings hit that IndyCar will take without her, postulating that the IICS ratings would be half what they are now.

Thinking through the numbers and what they mean that simply isn’t true. Since she joined the league, ratings have been in decline. There may have been a bump for the first 500 and races immediately after that, but if she were really the thing holding the whole ball of wax together, then things should be trending up. They aren’t. The people who still watch anything other than the 500 are the die hards for whom Danica is merely a circus act and distracting novelty. Danica goes and that TV number stays the same.

Where she would be missed is in the ability of Andretti Autosport to field more than a two car team. Obviously if Danica is gone, they probably don’t have sponsorship to fill the gap for another driver to fill the car and just having her as a part of the team probably rounds up enough sponsor commitment to field another car. AA w/o her is at best a 2 car proposition.

Ironically, Danica could very well give the league a boost on her way OUT the door. If she has a good set of nationwide races, top half of the field or better, people will continue to track her progress and they will become Dani-fans. When it comes time for her to go back to the day job in March many will follow her and watch. It’s at this point we realize how much a benefit to other IndyCar drivers it would be if she does well in those nascar races (keep in mind she will have one of the best cars on the track for every race she is in). We know how well she does in our cars and if she is doing no better against the competition here as she is doing there, then our drivers compare well and could potentially gain some respect.

How much of a bump she brings will be a good question and one not easily answered. I expect a sizeable bump in early season ratings, not only because of Danica, but because of the major campaign Izod is running. I work in the advertising and marketing research industry and trust me it is getting noticed. A friend at a company who is actually tracking the Izod campaign tells me that it is tracking very well with some attractive demographic groups. As much as we got tired of those ads, 98% of the country has never seen them before and they are getting attention and are registering with potential new fans.

Overall, the league has been exposed to the country via Golden Globe Awards, Grammy Awards, Sport Center Spots, Nascar races, AFC and NFC conference championship games which are a better value in advertising than the Superbowl - Oh Yeah - Danica was there too! All in all the word is getting out in a way it never has before.

Danica or Izod? which would be responsible for any bump we might see will be hard to tell, since we are in a position where we can’t observe the effect of one w/o the other, an issue called confounded effects. I do think the third piece of the puzzle here is for someone, like Versus (Bueller? Bueller?), to string the two themes together Danica and the IICS. Their promo ads should run on the wider set Comcast/NBCU channels and feature Danica in at least 50% of them.

Now the million dollar question is, after she converts all the way to nascar will any of those who saw here first in nascar and then tracked her career in IndyCar stay? Will those drawn in by the Izod campaign stay? I don’t know, depends on what they see. A lot of people are very concerned starting the season with four road/street circuits. I am guardedly optimistic for the competition at Brazil. I think a lot of thought went into that course. I think the league and Tony Cottman realized just how bad places like Belle Island were. I think they took what they knew made Cleveland successful and tried to find a street course with similar characteristics. There are 3 long straight-aways with wide braking zones, which will hopefully translate into three frequently used passing zones. The retuned P2P should help also.

My gut tells me that those coming in the door from the Izod ads are more likely to stay longer since they are not coming for someone specific who is going away. What many of us immersed in the sport sometimes don’t realize is that a lot of people who have never been engaged racing fans may be more open to, and interested in twisty racing than you think. Many non racing fans will tell you that they don’t want to watch people going around in circles. If nascar based Danifans show up and see bright you talents like RHR, GH, JRH or MA who knows. If all these people show up and see Simona hit the podium in one of the first four races, before Danica does on an oval – who knows what will happen. If versus puts any airtime into covering the NEW CAR extravaganza – again who knows. Unlike last year I think there are some game changers in play here.

Hopefully the show doesn’t disappoint.

Monday, February 8, 2010

This, That and the Other Thing

Dark again – hate when I miss out on a week or two, had plenty of ideas for content and humor just not enough time. I will share some thoughts on news from past week below. I also had a few ideas for Fake Press Releases that will simply have to go unrealized, but I will share some previews if you want to let your own mental creativity wander a bit.

Fake Press Release Concept 1: Danica Quits Racing to Focus on Acting Career. On way out the door rips nascar drivers for “being smelly”, calls Tony Stewart a “Pudgy Creepy Letch”, describes IICS as sweet people who need to get a clue and get it together. Announces new role in latest Bond flick where she plays a race car driving spy for USF1 which turns out to be a CIA cover organization for an investigation into the fixing of races by a French team in order to collect massive gambling winnings which are then siphoned off to a terrorist organization in So Paolo Brazil where a scheme is underway to attack an upcoming IICS race. To break the case she hooks up with Bond, who is also secretly driving undercover for McLaren and MI6. The Male lead was yet to be determined though rumors are persistent that Dario Franchitti was being targeted for the role. Dan Wheldon was quoted as saying “I could be Bond, look at these teeth! I could be Bond”. The role of Moneypenney was to be played by Pippa Mann.

Fake Press Release Concept 2: Well known Blogger Creates Split in AOWR by Forming New Racing League. Our buddy Pressdog, disgusted and disappointed that Leilanni Munter has been left rideless in the IICS and Simona Desilvestra was getting politicked by Iron Hand of Justice, decides to start a new all female racing league. Initially called “Women of Pressdog”, he soon finds sponsor and it is renamed “The Victoria’s Secret All Hottie Racing League” TO help teams get started financially a TEAM program is created that is partially funded by the publication of a calendar of scantily clad VSAHRL drivers. Insert several zingers about “Fast Women”.

Fake Press Release Concept 3: IICS Creates New Program to Promote Safe Driving with Local High Schools. Based on an idea from the Trackside Radio show, drivers are sent to local high schools to promote safe teenage driving and connect with future fans of the sport. Plan goes awry when an after hours custodian walks in on Tomas Schechter and 12 male students sporting black eyes, bloody noses and missing teeth. During questioning afterwards all twelve students were quoted as saying “What happens in Fight Club stays in Fight Club”. In a separate incident, after a school wide convocation Paul Tracy is spotted in the school parking lot passing out cans of Monster, packs of cigs and teaching kids how to do donuts in a hand me down minivan.

OK enough of silliness, a few comments concerning the news of the week.

Dallara Concepts –

Burgundy Car – Wouldn’t it be great if that burgundy car was the current car design having been adopted at the end of the 2008 season? AND we were still discussing the consideration of either of the two other designs for 2012? NOTE To IICS: Every four years, Every four years.

Red Car - If you took that after thought of a wing off the red car then told me that was the delta wing, I would believe you. If I were the Delta Wing people, I would be concerned about the reaction to that design. Marshall Pruett has some interesting rants about the release of the Dallara concepts. On top of his main points, something no one seems to be talking about is why this Image has such different production value and image quality than the other two. It strikes me that it was rushed together and thrown into the stack to have some ill affect on the unveiling of the Delta Wing. Not sure what the intended effect is but something is up here.

Yellow car - that’s the one I like the most. It looks like a respectable step forward in the design of Indycar.

Overall though, whether the new car is successful probably has little to do with what it looks like and has more to do with what it does under the hood. Will it go 225 with 400 hp, can it make 40 MPG?? Does it do something interesting and cutting edge enough to regain the respect of the wider automobile and racing community, getting manufacturers interested in and spending money on the league again? That is the real question and should be the first criteria in evaluating the ultimate success of the new car.

As for the impending war that reporters are rumbling about, one thing I would say is that there are more than two sides to this issue. The most important side has yet to be heard from. That’s you. Once the designs, strategies and plans are on the table, take it in think hard and then weigh in. Follow the Vision lead, write a letter and address it to 16th and Georgetown. If Mr Bernard wants to hear from you then take the opportunity, it seems expected. I’m sure Pressdog will tell me “Silly JP, car designs and the discussions about the future of the league are no business for fans”, but at the end of the day we are the ultimate arbiter, the supreme court that trumps the executive and legislative branches. Don’t be afraid to let your feelings be known.

Danica and the Ride of a Lifetime

I have had a couple posts over the life of this blog about Danica’s leaving for nascar. But after spending most of Saturday out and about with the Mrs, late Saturday night I settled in to watch the replay of Danica’s premier in the ARCA race. I knew basically what a fiasco it was over the first 2/3rds of the race – following tweets and texting nascar loving nephews killing time until the shootout. As I watched the race I realized some things. First, she will be gone to nascar when her current contract is up. For the first time and for positive reasons, I hope she goes and I hope she succeeds.

If she does, she will be doing something for all the competitors that she leaves behind. Sam, Dario, Juan Pablo and AJ all have struggled early on with their nascar careers, and with that has come this arrogance from the others that the quality of our drivers is low and we have inferior heroes. Truth is until TCGR merged with DEI (I think that is who it was) and Montoya got a Chevrolet to drive, none of those drivers had better than middling rides in which to display their talents. But with Danica it will be different – as she was charging from 23rd up to 5th before finishing 6th, I realized that no matter which level of tintop she races, she will always have one of the top 10 rides, she will have the opportunity to shine that her peers have never had. If she succeeds then our series does also because her relative lack of success against our best will validate their talent and ability. SO on the days you she is driving a chevy, I will be a fan. Of course on the days she is driving a Honda, I’ll be wearing my soon to be acquired Simona DeSilvestra t - shirt. Some habits die hard, but there’s no reason that reason can’t prevail.

The Izod Hex

There’s the SI curse, the Heisman Jinx and the Madden Curse and now Izod Hex – Film an Izod commercial spot and poof!! Funding for the upcoming season disappears. Happened to Ryan Hunter Reay and after shooting a new spot in Panama, Graham Rahal is searching. The full scramble in on to find him a home, tweets about clandestine trips to Minneapolis, a charity speaking event for Felix Sabates and rumors of a third TCGR car abound. This certainly would be a great outcome for Graham, and a decent one for the league. With the strides they made last year, It would be nice to see Graham also stay with NHL.

There’s always a disaster plan and it strikes me that there are two in play here. The first could be Coyne. Dale is lobbying and would love to land Graham. Coyne is running a business and clearly, Graham trumps nearly everyone else available from a business perspective. But a lot of fans have some high hopes for that #19 car. Hildebrand, Summerton or Edwards it doesn’t matter. To me that car represents an opportunity for a new young American. A young driver that otherwise might not get the chance. A young driver with common roots and sensibilities. A young driver who’s parents have already spent family savings and college funds, hoping to make their child’s dream possible. Perhaps I should write a letter.

The other possibility would be that Bobby unlocks the garage and he and Graham go racing together. Graham has learned a lot being out on his own, I think a partnership with dad now makes sense. I am a sentimental dreamer sometimes, but for all the parents with lesser means who took what was for them extraordinary measures to keep their promising young child’s dreams alive, Go Racing Bobby, Go Racing.

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