Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fearless Midnight Prognosticating...

Well, time to blogger up and prognosticate…I feel distinctly different things with different parts of my body:
HeartAlex Tagliani – So far everything has gone golden for Alex and well it should.  Amidst the hubbub over the DHL ride buy this year were references to it happening before, most recently two years ago when Bruno Junquiera was pulled in favor of Alex.  A year later, Alex had formed his own team, Fazzt racing and come May he had not forgotten what had transpired the year before.  Alex offered Bruno a ride for the month of May and Bruno put the second Fazzt car into the show.  He didn’t have to do it but he did, it was the decent thing to do.  We didn’t know how much of a favor that was until later.  Fazzt racing spent the final stages of last year limping from event to event, just barely finding the finances to hit the track.  Heading into this year we discovered the true extent of the financial situation when Fazzt was sold to Sam Schmidt Motosports.  The previous May, Alex didn’t have money to do the right thing, but he did it anyway.  If Karma has a favorite it will be Tagliani.
HeadScott Dixon - The cynic in me says that race day will be hotter than it has been all month, the teams with the DATA to mine and find a setup will make the changes before all the one off and short season teams.  Lap One, Turn One Dixie has it hooked up, runs away and dishes out a heavy dose of Buzz Kill.  I hope that isn’t what happens, not for Scott’s detriment, but for the betterment of the sport.
My GutRows 2 and 4 rock the show, taking all three podium spots.  A lot of cars that have historically been fast, drivers have been fast but as combinations they are just unknown.  And I Fear Not the Unknown!
Townsend Bell – Bell has run this event well.  Fourth place two years ago and a drive through penalty a year ago from flirting with another strong finish last year.  The Schmidt cars are fast.  The question mark?  A pit crew that is well versed to running a lights car.  The IndyCar…not so much.  Can that group put together 7 clean spots?  Time will tell.
Will Power – Never has won an oval, but in Will’s case “never” simple means “not yet”.  Enough Said.
Dan Wheldon – Once a winner, twice a runner up this is Dan’s track and the ride isn’t over yet.  The BHA team was an afterthought last year, but with the shared technical program with the Schmidt program this year and one of the best drivers on the course this combination is a force to be reckoned with.
Takuma Sato – Quietly solid all month, Takuma has shown improvement on the ovals in his time in IndyCar and has had a clean spring.  Will flirt with the top 5 spots.  His success would be a great story and source of inspiration for his countrymen.  If you are at the Track Sunday, make sure you stop by the “With You Japan” tent in Pagoda Plaza and give a little to those that have suffered so much.
Vitor Meira – Hard to be objective…I am a Vitor fan.  If there’s a Ballsy pass to be made late in the show, Vitor is the man.  His car is now getting all the attention in the Foyt Garage and will benefit from that.  The Foyt team has been much improved this year and ovals are usually a strength for them.
JR Hildebrand – Fanboy profile #2 – This car has the speed, we’ve seen it the past three years.  This month has seemed comfortable for JR and the team.  It just seems like there is a little something left in the tank.  They have played things close to the vest in order to not push too far and make a mistake that would set them back.  On Sunday, throw caution to the wind.  If there is any more left, we’ll see it.
My Picks:
Bell – Winner
Meira – Second
Hildebrand – Third.
Biggest mover?  Always look to see if there’s a fast guy in the last row and go there since that person has the most opportunity to move up.  Ryan Hunter Reay…
Rookie of the Year…If Hildebrand places third…No contest.
Mrs JP’s Pick – Wheldon.
JP’s beverage of the race?  Diet SunDrop.  I get the sense that the People at Dr Pepper got sucked into DHL’s mess.  I will pack plenty of Diet SunDrop and toast that sweet looking paint scheme that has
graced us so far this year, if in more subdued tones tomorrow.  DrPepper et al THANKS for Supporting our sport!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Power of Research...Part II

so if you bumped into me at Carb day today, you might have noticed I was a bit of a zombie...Up to 3:30 lastnight getting that one last thing done for the day job before i took today off... read it here....

http://blog.insightexpress.com/2011/05/happy-birthday-indy-500-brands-invited/

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Burned Hands, Autographs, Popemobiles and the Future of IndyCar

Drama filled day at Bump Day, Gutted for Ryan Hunter Reay, Thrilled for the last row members and basking in the illumination of an epiphany. 
Today was a fun day for me.  I spent much of the day with my Nephew, a Dale Jr, nascar fan.  Much of it was spent wandering through a wet Gasoline alley trying to share whatever knowledge I knew that might perk an interest for him.  We talked about fuel injection and turbo chargers, how P2P works now, how it will next year, how the engine is part of the cars structure.  We saw Paul Tracy’s crew make a change in the gearbox before their final run, saw Will Power’s car broken into a tub and rear suspension, w/ no engine in between.  He’s more mechanically inclined than I am and I hoped I wouldn’t run out of material before the afternoon was done.
First trip through we saw Simona Desilvestro out signing autographs.  I told him how she had second degree burns on her hands after a wicked accident on Thursday.  We saw her hands and the bandages.  We saw the same hands sign autograph after autograph, even at a time when there was concern whether she would need to zip up the Nomex, hop back in the old warhorse tub and bang out 4 laps fighting through the pain the whole way. 
We saw the clouds and wandered over to the paddock to take advantage of a covered seating space while we watched Ana and Graham make their runs.  I found the replay of Simona’s accident on YouTube and he expressed the same surprise he had a year earlier watching Mike Conway’s accident “The driver lived?”
I explained that during the landing of Simona’s car, the roll bar was destroyed taking out the fueling point to the fuel cell with it splashing fuel on and soaking gloves that caught fire, scorching the flesh underneath.  After the rain we went back to Gasoline Alley and Simona was out signing autographs again and again for all takers.  Even after a second round of rain we headed back to Gasoline Alley and passed the HVM garages and yes, there was Simona, Signing autographs again.
The track was beginning to dry and one very notable driver had yet to qualify.  We looked down that row of garages and we saw the throngs loitering around.  Then we saw the tow vehicle coming with the team loaded on and the bright green car in tow behind.  I said, “Let’s wait here, she’ll be coming by soon” I could tell my Nephew was interested…this was someone he Knew before hearing me drone on indefinitely today.  Then it rolled our way…something completely unanticipated…I uttered out (and later tweeted) the first thing that came to mind…”It’s a F-ing Pope Mobile!” I looked over to my nephew, and the moment had fizzled.  We weren’t expecting much perhaps a smile and a wave, but what we got was an insult.
A golf cart with an engineered enclosure to insure that the passenger inside could completely avoid interaction with the masses that define her place in the world and ultimately pay her wages.  It is probably worthy of a debate, is she the “Girl in the bubble” or the “Woman Above it all” but at the end of the day the demarcation between star and fans was real and tangible.
To me this is a two sided tale of how stardom is made.  Are stars made by talented individuals giving back to the people that make their occupation possible or are they the artificial creation of cynical brand managers and soul-less spin doctors? 
Bob Kravitz of the IndyStar made his once a year trip to the speedway to write his after the matter has been decided column about how IndyCar must do everything it can to keep Danica in the fold.  Educated fans know the truth, she’s gone.  But the retort “she’s the only one that moves the needle” is always thrown about. 
What moves the needle is simple…it’s fans who LOVE drivers.  Perhaps I am nostalgically na├»ve, but while Fans Loving a driver may be had in short lived mass media created in 30 second commercial bursts, in the long term it has more permanence when it is built brick by brick, interaction by interaction.  One autograph signed with a bandaged and burned hand will not only gain the fan who walks away with the autograph but also the 20 people they tell about the experience. 
One of these strategies has staying power, one doesn’t, one is expensive and the other just requires commitment and a little humility.  If I were a team PR rep I would make sure my driver spent as much time as possible interacting with and touching fans.  With drivers committed to their fans and a fan base built this way, IndyCar will find itself and its future. I just hope everyone is on the same page...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fast Friday Images...

Yeah, I'm Lazy...Don't want to take the time to load them up in two places so go HERE....

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Opening Day...A Few Pictures...

Weather Friday night made for a wet day at the Acre on Saturday, it's too muddy to plant, Soooo...Let's head to the track!  Didn't catch much action on the track, but puttered around the Garages for a couple hours and here's some of what we saw.... (Better Quality Images Here)
















Friday, May 13, 2011

JP's Month of May Schedule...

Obviously if some additional weekend opportunities present themselves....But I have a couple business trips during the week, and if you notice the little Icon to the right...due to the excessively wet spring to date, planting on the Acre is way behind schedule and I need to dedicate at least one day a weekend to it.

I plan to be out and about on the following days at the speedway...

  • Fast Friday
  • Depending on weather ...Bump day or Pole day (preference right now - Bump day)
  • Carb Day
  • The Night before at IRP or whatever the heck they are calling it now
  • Raceday.

I tend to be a bit of a social hermit, but I am generally friendly, so if you see me or someone like me say hello!

Stay tuned here and on twitter...Some really cool stuff is going to be coming out of my work/blog feed...you will all want to stay tuned...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Man Beheaded in Turn 3 Hot Sauce Incident

Tragedy struck this afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a spectator in the turn three infield was beheaded by a Brickyard Burger loaded with a critical mass of Cholula Hot Sauce.  Frank McIlhenney a resident of Ashland, WI, was in town for the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500.  A crowd of stunned onlookers gathered to gawk at the headless body still twitching from the lingering Jalapeno impulses.
The day had started out on a much happier note for McIlhenney as he was named the Cholula Fan of the Day after visiting the Cholula facebook page http://facebook.com/Cholula.  McIlhenney was recognized in front of millions of IMS fans as the fan of the day, presented with a 6’ tall gold bottle containing 15 gallons of Cholula Original Hot sauce and had his face immortalized on the side of the Borg Warner Trophy.
“He was so happy” said the recently widowed Penny McIlhenney.  “I could tell as he posed with the giant bottle of hot sauce. He enjoyed his first Pole Dog with a little of the Original Cholula sauce on it.  He said it was the best one ever, the spiciness brought out flavors in the dog he had never tasted before.  But then he started to experiment, on his second Pole Dog he added some of the Chilli Lime variety in addition to the original.  There was a crazed look in his eye, when he got to eating his Brickyard Burger.  We couldn’t stop him: First a splash of Original, then a dab of the Chilli Lime, then a dash of the Chipotle, then he reached for the Chilli Garlic.  I Screamed no baby, NOT THE CHILLI GARLIC, No Baby.  But he wouldn’t listen.  He started eating and his face was filled with a strange fascination as it turned from yellow, to orange to bright red and then his head just blew up.  It was horrible, just like the Aliens in Mars Attacks!”
Mrs McIlhenney overcome with grief, was unable to talk to the press further.  Shortly thereafter a fight broke out between opportunistic onlookers attempting to claim ownership of the giant trophy bottle of hot sauce. 
Cholula is a mainstay at Izod Indycar races.  “Cholula has been a part of the Grand Prix of Long Beach for more than 10 years now without serious incident” said Esteban Lomez, President of Cholula.  We hand out free bottles to everyone in attendance at Long Beach and the fans enjoy Cholula responsibly.  The Indy Fans are so accustomed to bland food that when Cholula brings the taste of their food alive they go overboard. 
 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wednesday Rants: Volume 2

Thoughts on…
Brazil
It rained, get over it…So it rained two years in a row…The weather was clear in St Pete this year, but I remember rain two of the past three years with last year’s race bouncing to Monday no different than what happened Sao Paulo did this past weekend.  If I have a gripe as to the weekend it is that the race probably never should have been started.  Surely someone could have looked at a weather radar and seen the monsoon on the way and had the sense to either not have started or at least dropped the red flag earlier.
Let’s not dance around the elephant in the room.  There are many people who simply don’t want to race outside North America and the States in particular.  ESPN has provided Eddie Gossage space to write a blog and on Monday it featured a post questioning:  If IndyCar races in Brazil, will anyone know it or see it?
Photo From The Economist
Let’s talk some numbers here…IndyCar has been running around a .3 rating on the Versus broadcasts which translates into around 400,000 actual viewers on the Television.  Kevin Lee reported tonight that 15,000,000 eyeballs were on the Band broadcast in Brazil.  Now US eyeballs are probably worth a bit more in monetary terms for an advertiser due to the difference in disposable income between the two countries.  So let’s say based on GDP #’s that One US eyeball is worth 4 Brazilian eyeballs.  That means that in US equivalents the Brazilian market is 3,750,000 eyeballs…compared to 400,000 US eyeballs.  The Brazilian television market is worth 10X as much to an advertiser as is the Domestic IndyCar television market. 
What Brazil does for IndyCar and its teams is makes a marginal ROI decision featuring only the US TV Market turn into a complete No Brainer when the US and Brazilian TV markets are Bundled as a package.  Unlike Europe where there is a very different Branding landscape than in the US, many of the players in Brazil are either American companies with divisions in Brazil or global companies with presences in both. So selling sponsorship packages for a single company with a footprint, like Nestle or Chevrolet or Honda, in both countries becomes easier if two sizeable markets are a part of the viewership package.
A second Brazilian race makes sense in that it helps to grow viewership in Brazil for all IndyCar races in Brazil.  The  past couple of years, Sao Paulo and Indy were broadcast on Band Proper, garnering 8 digit audiences, then once the 500 came and went, IndyCar bounced to the Band Sports cable channel where the viewership dropped off tremendously.  The second race late in the season means that the season kicks off early with a Brazilian date, has the 500 in between and then closes with a date during the championship run (that doesn’t throw a time zone wrench into the picture like Motegi does).  Along with the involvement of Itaipava, what that does is to keep IndyCar on the main BAND channel and the 15M Brazilian eyeballs engaged the whole season long.  More Value for the Sponsor that operates in both markets.
The Sao Paulo race is very well attended, after Indy, it is in the running with Texas and Long Beach as the next most well attended event.  This is where I have a bone to pick with Mr Gossage.  He does a good job selling IndyCar down in DFW and is to be commended as a partner.  TMS is one of several SMI tracks, and at this point his parent company has yet to deliver for IndyCar.  More People attended the race in Brazil this year than attended the Kentucky race over the course of the past 3 years combined.  Last year I sat next to a man with his grandkids who asked me what car Kyle Busch was in, I had to break the news to him that Kyle was in the trucks the night before.  Turns out a ticket agent at the Kentucky speedway assured him that morning that Busch was in the Saturday night’s race.  Last Thursday I got an e-mail from Kentucky Speedway letting me know that the Sao Paulo race was on ABC Sunday at three.
IndyCar is partnering with SMI and has new dates at New Hampshire and Vegas.  I hope the company Mr Gossage works for can deliver crowds at those events or perhaps the question should be…If IndyCar races at an SMI track and there is no one there to see it, did it actually happen?  What say you Mssrs Gossage and Smith?

China
On principal, NO. 
But, there is a story I think that once was attributed to Will Rodgers.  But Mr Rodgers was at a dinner with several stuffy, well to do women.  He decided to have some fun with them and asked “Would you sleep with a man for a million dollars?” The women  giggled and postured and came to the conclusion of course they would, it was a lot of money.  The he proceeded to ask them, “How about $50?” To which one of the women responded with shock “What do you do you think I am, a prostitute?”  Rodgers responded “We’ve already established that, we’re just haggling about the price now”.
That’s the rub here.  How much money is involved?  I guess if they back the money truck up with $50m, IndyCar will be packing the planes as quickly as they can.  Please do it some weekend early in the year when no one is paying attention anyway – like the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.
On Blogger night on trackside last fall, I mentioned a vision of what the series could be.  The Pan American series.  A series that delivers a common marketing platform to the three largest economies in the Western Hemisphere:  The US, Brazil and Canada.  That trio features three of the top ten largest Economies in the world featuring: the largest Economy in the world, the second fastest growing economy in the world and, well, Canada, cuz’ we wouldn’t want Step or Meesh to feel left out.  Ultimately the only events that would make the series schedule would be races in those three countries.  If an aspirational season grew to 24 events, 18 would be domestic and 6 elsewhere. 
Currently we are looking at a 2012 that will feature two Brazilian dates and two Canadian dates.  As the series schedule grows the next stop might well be in French Canada.  Of course the issue in Canada currently is the piss poor commitment to IndyCar that TSN has shown.  Perhaps a presenting sponsor (like Itaipava with Band in Brazil) could be found that would Insure live broadcasts for our Canadian friends.  Then the Sixth date (if China Doesn’t happen and Motegi does go away) could be a third stop in Brazil, perhaps done the same trip as SP.  The wildcard might be if Mexico reclaims their country from the drug lords.  Mexico City has an established history of open wheel racing.
Anyway, I am rambling and you are bored. 
Trump got axed and I do want to follow up the opinion from yesterday:  How cool would it be to announce Alex Zanardi as the First official member of the Vegas 5 as he drove the pacecar at the 500…
Look for some reality based snark that could win you a prize of some sort over the weekend….

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wednesday Rants, Volume 1

The Owners and Aero kits…
As with pretty much everyone else on the face of the earth:  The owner’s are selfish and crazy, bring on the Aero kits in 2012. 
But still…the thought lingers…Why is this going on?  Realistically even if the owners do have a fundamental difference with the league over the kits, they had to know before taking the vote and a stance against the kits, that Bernard would eventually go public and they were going be on the wrong side of a PR beating.  SO why do this? 
MyThought's are this, for the beefy teams, the 15-0-1 vote had nothing to do with aero kits in 2012 or 2013 (for the ankle biters it may still be) but for the Penske’s, Ganassi's and Andretti’s of the world, siding with the smaller teams on this issue was a way of posturing for a benefit further down the road.  A collective “We are united and got each other’s back” for something bigger…But what? 
My theory…2015.  It has been said several places that the expectation is that this formula will have a three year life span.  My thought is that the posturing today is to plant the seeds for the owners to have more input into the when and how the next generation of car is created.  With how the Iconic committee was formed and then input obtained, I suspect the owners feel like they were completely left out of the process. 
In theory, they had an owner, Gil DeFerren who was charged with getting their input, which is great, but there is a difference between the functions of input and review in a decision making process.  Their input went into the design, but it is clear they had no opportunity to provide commentary on and review the decision that was finally made.  Throw in the fact that their representative in the process is now on the sidelines of the sport, they may feel like the 13 colonies answering to a parliament in which they had no representation. 
One thing that has come from this that has me, as a fan very optimistic.  The Fan’s voice matters.  It seems we are destined to see League vs Team; League vs Driver or Team vs Driver conflicts break out and be resolved by appealing to a higher power, namely the fans.  Now on three occasions: Lucky Dog, Elimination of Double file restarts (the John Barnes tweet) and now Aero kits, as a conflict has arisen, one side has chosen to throw it to the fans to see where the public opinion falls and the decisions (assuming there are Aero kits in 2012) have always fallen in line with the outcry of the fans.  In essence, we have been serving as the Supreme Court of sorts, a final arbiter of conflict resolution.  Enjoy the power friends… Not sure if there is another sport where your voice carries such sway as it does right now in IndyCar.


Trump
The whole Dump Trump campaign has built a head of steam in recent weeks as Mr Trump decided that he was going to pitch a gimme over to the obsessed denialists and give their Obama birth theories a supporting believer with national prominence.  Many more these days are doubting that he should be driving the pace car this year.
For the record, I think Trump is a pompous nutball, I am a moderate Republican and frankly if he somehow wins the nomination for 2012 I might be in quite the quandary come election day (expect a single write in for Dick Lugar)  But I have also been publically ambivalent about him driving the pace car.  Celebrities driving the pace car is nothing new so landing one who’s television show is seen by 8M viewers an episode makes him a more than viable candidate based on historical precedent. 
But with that ambivalence came an expectation that there’s more behind the curtain.  That there is some plan that Trump’s pace car appearance brings with it either the placement of an IndyCar driver like Simona DeSilvestro on the next season of Celebrity Apprentice or Trump Casinos stepping up to be involved with some sponsorship angle with the League and the Vegas race or both.  Money and exposure are both items the league desperately needs right now and if Trump brought both, then allowing him the same privilege previously shared by the former Mrs Mellencamp and Josh Duhamel is a non starter and I have said so. 
At this point, out of disgust, I follow politics so infrequently, I don't feel like I know enough to judge whether his birther alignment is so aggregious as to outweigh the benefits of his celebrity and wealth after the 500.  I just hope Jewel sings the national anthem again.
As it stands now however, this is shaping up to be a mess.  If Trump has fallen in love with the idea of driving the pace car, he may not take a snub of removal quietly and I would imagine that his supporters nationally would be offended and turned off to the Indy 500 completely.  At the end of the day, their eyes would have tracked as nicely in a Neilson rating as much as anyone else’s.  If Trump is removed from Pace Car duties, I hope all the people who have signed up for the Dump Trump facebook page or particpated in the twitter war at least do the Speedway the courtesy of Buying a ticket.
I miss the days when people could disagree on politics but still respect the dignity and humanity of the people expressing their opinions.  But hate is the popular new social ethos in this country and it is practiced by both end of the political spectrum in equally as vile of doses.  This country is a much less relevant and noble character in the book of history as long as dualistic McCarthy-ism carries the day.
So if no Trump, Who. 
The elephant in the room is this, many people want Foyt behind the wheel, but they disguise this motive by saying a “former driver”. 
Pressdog makes a valid point that the problem with choosing one driver to drive the car for the 100th anniversary is to say that the others aren’t as worthy.  So an honor for Foyt is a snub for Unser, Mears, and Andretti.  I would add this to the argument, if you can go through 100 years of history and conclusively identify a single person above all others, then that does not say much for the depth of greatness participating in the event.  If an event like the 500 truly has the history of greatness we all want to attach to it, then it should contain a list of arguably inseparable icons as long as the list of Super Heroes that reside in the DC Comics Hall of Justice.
If a decision cannot be made from a list of recognized titans, then perhaps the honor of driving the pace car for this unique event could be defined not so much as a reaffirmation of greatness but perhaps as an affirmation of greatness to someone denied the opportunity of competing on that grand stage.
Tragic circumstances, both in a political and personal sense, kept Alex Zanardi from ever racing in the 500, but the indications are, based on both his accomplishments in the sport and by those who filled his shoes, that Zanardi would have excelled at Indy if he had ever been given the chance.  I would rather see the greats extend an honor to accept another into their ranks than for a spitting match over their personal standing within the group commence.

More Rants on Friday.

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