Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Dear Danica, Just GO!
Sunday, May 23, 2010
For the past month I have been getting psyched for the 9 days that are upon us. My theme song for the month has been Magnificence by U2. A choice so obvious, that ESPN has been using the song for its World Cup promos. Too bad the IICS doesn’t have the budget to have used it in their work (though the Versus promo does a nice job on a budget) and ESPN didn’t have the commitment to the sport to have chosen it for the 500. There is one line in the song which I especially like “Only Love can leave such a scar”. I am captivated by that line because it separates love from the things that are gratuitous and hedonistic from all that is to be desired even if they are accompanied by a painful journey beset by hard and wrenching setbacks to overcome.
The Indy 500 is a contest, and like any other contest or race it can provide moments of happiness for its winner. Go down to the local little league park and you will see happy kids who have just won a game. The 500 is no different, the winner is excited as they drink the milk and wear the wreath, but what sets Indy apart are the emotions of those who don’t win. There again, even down at the little league park there are upset kids who have lost a game. But happiness and disappointment at Indy is on a different scale altogether from most other sporting events. The evidence of this played out today at the track.
Today was bump day, the final day for qualifications. Today we saw a man so tough that he makes Chuck Norris wet himself, Tony Kanaan, with the look of fear in his eyes. Not the fear of pain or injury but a different kind of fear. For all the work his team had done and for as much as he could, over the course of 10 miles, throw caution to the wind and risk his own safety, his was the fear of failure, that it all simply would not be enough.
Today we also saw the agony of failure. We saw it in the face of Sarah Fisher as her driver Jay Howard took to the track at a last second attempt to qualify for the Race. After Jay’s first lap that looked like it might be quick enough Sarah looked pensive but hopeful. Then the speeds started dropping. After lap 2 her face was in her hands, after laps 3, the sobbing and tears could not be held back anymore.
Likewise, strapped in his car with his helmet on and his visor down was Paul Tracy. The scene was altogether similar and at the same time antithetical to the scene that played out for a bitter rival the year before. Paul Tracy, hoping against hope for one last final run on the track, to turn back time, to get the band back together and to defy time and circumstance for one last moment of glory at the tail end of a career only a few can match. A few minutes after the gun sounded as his car still sat in tech line, he was walking down pit lane and into the press center to do a final interview for the press. He was emotional, but he was also honest and decent. He displayed an understanding for the nature of his sport. Knowing that he is only the front man for a team that largely toils in relative obscurity, he wasn’t going to throw his team under the bus and as he talked the tears dripped.
Meanwhile, 5 miles to the east, in an ER room, a nineteen year old waiting for an MRI on his back. It had been a bad day, in prepping contingencies for being bumped and facing the need of having to do better, when better had not been there all month, he spun his car and wrecked the only piece of machinery his team had for the month. The phone rang, and the news came. Not that he had won anything, but rather that he had finished 33rd in a contest of wills and nerves, and in that 33rd place finish, he found unadulterated Joy. Walter Mitty has a new name, and it is Sebastian Saverdra.
What we saw play out today with such a wide range of emotions was not the difference between winning and losing, first and second, Duke and Butler, it was the difference between 33rd and 34th place in qualifying. If the swing of emotions for 33rd and 34th are so great, it only goes to put perspective around what actually finishing first seven days from now must be like. When Helio cries, “I got my life back” and that “you guys kept me strong” it all comes back to the words of Al Unser Jr “You just don’t know what Indy means”. The emotions that were on display today point to the greatness of the 500. Where else are tears shed for 34th place?
Over the past 15 years, the emotion of simply “belonging” has been missing. It has been discussed recently if there were “Lost Years” for Indy and in my opinion yes there were. But not so much for the race on the Sunday before Memorial Day, because on that day someone always won, and the trophy was always handed out to someone who genuinely was moved by the experience. But what so many of those races lacked was the compelling drama the weekend before, when even the greats of the sport were humbled by 4 laps and 10 miles around the speedway. Over the past two years that drama has returned, and it only serves to show just how great this race is.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Here's a thought on how to get all the boats rising on the tide and get ISC their cut. Other than a small handfull of drivers, there are none that have spent any time in the other series' car to make it an inviting proposition. I would Imagine the Dixon's, Castroneves and Briscoe's of the world would want some seat time in a cup car before Charlotte and likewise, anyone named Harvick, Gordon, Busch or Johnson would want to take a spin or two in an IICS car before pulling out onto the yard of bricks memorial day weekend.
So what's the compromise? Simple, we know that Kansas is getting a second cup date. While the fear has been the second cup date would mean the plug getting pulled on the IICS date there, what if the second Kansas cup date was the first week of May and the IICS moved their Kansas date to the same weekend as the Saturday race the day before? That weekend you could have drivers cross pollinating across the two series as a feeling out and learning process for the circus later in the month, with the drama selling more tickets for both days of the weekend event.
Similarly an earlier season cup date could be spiced up in the same manner. Take Fontana, IICS needs early season Ovals, ISC needs something to breathe life back into the stale event at that locale and a weekend of driver swapping might do the trick. A fringe benefit here is that if the IICS fontana part of the race ticket was on Versus, you would immediately bring a lot of attention to the channel with the hopes that the bump in ratings carried through for the rest of the season. Not sure if this would add or detract from Long Beach, but I sense that the LB event has always been its own sustainable animal.
At the end of the day ISC/nascar won't play along unless there is something in it for them. This arrangement sells more tickets for ISC, keeps/get more IICS dates at ISC ovals, gets more drivers interested since they will have some prep time in the alien cars and looks to share the wealth across all the interested parties...Just a thought...and Bruton, I thought of it first...
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Speedway, IN – An Amber alert has been issued for missing Izod IndyCar Pace Car Team Driver Pippa Mann. Mann went missing after appearing with fellow pace car team members at a recent Indiana Pacers game. She was last seen throwing throwing t-shirts to the crowd during a fourth quarter time out. Witnesses were quoted as saying that she showed impressive dexterity in tossing the t-shirts while wearing shoes that featured 11” high heels.
Mann, a native of Ipswich, England is known to speak with an odd accent and has not been seen at several subsequent Pace Car Team events including functions at St Petersburg, Birmingham Al and Long Beach California. It was shortly after her no show at Long Beach that friends became concerned, filing a missing person’s report. After confirming her absence, police triggered the Amber Alert that has been issued and broadcast through the early warning system in 5 midwestern states.
An emotional Fellow Pace Car Team Member James Hinchliffe was quoted “We have a buddy system to make sure that we look out for each other when we are out at events and Pippa and I were buddies that evening. I saw a hottie wearing a sweet pair of skinny jeans and I took my eyes off Pippa for just a second and then she was gone. I feel so responsible, I don’t know what to do, I miss Pippa” as tears rolled down Hinchliffe’s cheek.
Police have exhausted all traditional leads have gone to extreme measures in the effort to locate the popular Pace Car Team driver. Recently police have utilized the services of Psychic Allison DuBois to help in the effort to find the missing Mann. DuBois was quoted a feeling that Mann “Was somewhere tight, cramped and warm, there was a lot of loud noise in the background, sort of like a really powerful engine revving up and down”.
Police also said that based on a feed from surveillance cameras at Conseco Fieldhouse they have identified a “person of interest” in the case. They currently do not have the name of a man who was spotted in several different camera shots following Mann around the arena that evening. They have issued a close up image of the man in hopes that someone can identify him.
Fans of Pippa Mann have been holding a candle light vigil at the entrance to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Mann was scheduled to make her next appearance. They sing songs and pray for Mann’s safe return. One of those attending the vigil is Jenny Roush who was quoted as saying “Things just aren’t the same without Pippa. She brought Class, spunk and a wonderful fashion sense to a team of boys who appear to be very Laundry challenged. She is a leader and an inspiration to all of us. We just want to know that she is safe and ok. I so hope to be able to take a Pace Car ride with her when she is found.”
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Fort Worth, Texas - Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage has a $2 Million dollar decision on his hands. That decision being whether to accept an offer from the Izod IndyCar series to change his name, from his birthright Eddie Fillmore Gossage to the shorter and catchier Nascar Sucks in exchange for $2 million Dollars. While rumors of the offer have been circulating for weeks, official announcement came today during a press Q and A with Randy Bernard, the president of the Izod IndyCar Series. Bernard confirmed that the offer had been made to Gossage three weeks ago simultaneously to an invitation for Gossage to serve on the ICONIC committee formed to steer the league through it’s new car selection process.
When asked what he felt the prospects were for Gossage accepting the deal, taking the money and changing his name, Bernard replied, “Well, we made the offer three weeks ago and at this point Eddie has not turned us down. That has to be a clear indication that he is giving the offer serious consideration.” He added, “Hopefully, we can time this so that we can make the announcement in early June, potentially at the TMS race itself.”
Bernard was asked what the IICS hoped to gain from such an audacious publicity stunt, he replied “Publicity”. Probed further on the subject he added “we feel like the majority of America outside the 317 area code has forgotten that IndyCar exists. Before I became President of the series, I have to come clean, I thought that the Indy 500 was another nascar race. We have to get the word out to those potential race fans who are alienated by Competition yellows, Potholes, Shredded tires, Lucky Dogs and random drivers walking away with victories from green and white Checkered finishes that there is another option available to them.”
When asked why he chose Gossage to be the recipient of the $2M offer, Bernard replied “When we went down to TMS and met with Eddie to discuss his Joining the Iconic Committee, he insisted on doing the whole meeting while wearing one of Johnny Rutherford’s old driving helmets and driving gloves. He insisted that we all call him “Lone Star” and indicated that he was predisposed to the Chaparral chassis design. We knew right then and there we found our man.” When asked if he felt like there needed to be further negotiations with Gossage, Bernard replied “We have that taken care of, we sent AJ Foyt down to talk to him, Texan to Texan. AJ took his hammer with him and I am sure if need be he will make Eddie an offer he can’t refuse.”
Gossage did not return press inquiries on the matter. Earlier this year, on April 1, Gossage announced a similar offer when he reportedly offered a local Dallas DJ $100,000 to change his name to “TexasSpeedway.com”. The offer was declined and later revealed to be a publicity stunt.
Texas Motor Speedway is owned by SMI and is a long standing track owning rival to ISC the parent company to Nascar. Tensions between ISC and SMI have always been tense, but in recent months have in recent months since announcement that certain ISC tracks will be gaining third dates to support new Casinos being built at those tracks. Bruton Smith, President of SMI, and Gossage’s boss commented on the situation “Eddie’s been trying real hard to get a third date for TMS for five years now, and they just won’t let him have it. These people are moving more dates to their own properties and telling everyone else to go screw themselves. These people got Potholes at what is supposed to be the showcase of the sport, and meanwhile I spent $5M dollars to fix the weepers at Kentucky and they still won’t let us have a cup date there.” When asked if he thought Gossage should take the IICS up on it’s $2m offer, Smith replied, “We’ll see, Eddie’s naming rights may be part of the New Hampshire deal”.