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Monday, May 12, 2014

Initial Feedback - The Inaugural Grand Prix of Indy

Mug-N-Bun never fails to satisfy
Following the #GPofINDY, and surviving a near brain-freeze from rapidly trying to ingest too much Mug-N-Bun root beer float, I had a three-hour drive home to recount the day's events. 

It's my opinion that direct and unfiltered customer-to-provider feedback is a good thing and especially when the experience is fresh in the mind. Upon returning home with sleepy family members in tow, I resisted my usual race-return tradition of watching the TV coverage and sent out only my most vivid impressions via Twitter. The immediacy of approximately five thoughts, I thought, would gather a decent snapshot of my experience. 

Listed below are those tweets in chronological order, which ended up being forwarded by a follower of mine to Douglas Boles, President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  He graciously responded. 

Who knew a blowhard blogger such as myself can provide useful, concise, and unbiased feedback? 

The President of IMS, that's who. You're a good man, Douggie Boles. 

I encourage all you reading this to add your own ON-SITE facility experiences in the comments below, and save the racing and TV critiques for other places. I believe that no opinion is 'right' or 'wrong', as long as you strive to be as fair and honest with your input as possible. 

I'll be happy to forward all of the input I receive to the uppity-ups at IMS. The more 'pixels' we have from the event, the better the overall picture they'll have.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crystal Ballin' 2014

Ah, yes. The waiting is over. It's all to be done.

The newest of Indycar seasons is upon us and in keeping with my ill-advised tradition of making predictions, the time has come again.  Rather than summarize my previous predictions, feel free to examine those thoughts from 2009, 2012, and 2013.  Seers of sooth, sayers of all, gather 'round whilst I make the following lead-pipe cinches:

St. Pete - A new tradition was born in 2013 and a previous non-winner will win here. Odds are heavily against me as there have only been two in the history of St. Pete (Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe), but the first race of the season is always a wild-card in my opinion and this year's first-time Indycar winner will be... Carlos Munoz.

Inaugural GP of Indy - A new tradition is born at IMS and I'll predict a rain-shortened race, finishing under the red flag, with the winner not being the one who lead most of the race.  2014 and inaugural GP winner will be Will Power.

Indy 500 - I'm pleased (and TK is as well) to report that back in 2013, and for the first time in 7 prior years, I did NOT pick TK to win the 500, thus allowing Murphy's Law to present him with his first Borg-Warner likeness. This year though the 'double' will actually come to be synonymous with grabbing the GP of Indy and the Indy 500 in the same year.  2014 Indy 500 winner = Will Power.

Triple Crownin' - Pocono and Fontana makes up the remaining two-thirds of the Fuzzy's Triple Crown. Again there will be a different winner at each race, so the winner of Pocono for '14 will be Marco Andretti, and the Fontana winner will be Tony Kanaan.

Elsewhere - The remainder of the season will largely be as many before it - entertaining with smatterings of controversy. Other race winners in 2014 will include Dixon, Pagenaud, Bourdais, Montoya, Wilson... hell, even Sato will get a win this year. Championship Controversy will abound because people will be tracking the points in both the 2013 and 2014 formats.  Replete with ballyhoo and consternation, the storylines following Indy will revolve around two points formats and who would be where. I predict the winner of the 2014 season championship would not have won under the 2013 points system. OH, THE HAND-WRINGING!

Verizon - A slow start, but major May-centric advertising blast will continue through the middle of the season with their logoed 'Red-V' on signage as far as the eye can see both in person and on TV. Nice, but how long before the public tunes it out as background noise much as the original IZOD campaign became tiresome?

Regardless, we'll have another enjoyable season with some slight momentum going into 2015...

Oh, yes.  2015...
Aerokits: Finally. In keeping with a previous prediction (under '2013' in that 2011 post) though, the visual and performance differences will be negligible to the average viewer, leaving many asking the question - "Just what in the wide, wide, world of sports was the point of aerokits anyway?!" 

Motors: A (new) third powerplant finally (European) badged and in development, two entirely new venues scheduled for 2016, the loss of one storied venue, and the ever-present B&C (ballyhoo and consternation) in the off-season.

Teams: Two more teams will call it quits just prior to 2015 (one will fold, one will join Formula E) and one new, hugely optimistic (and former IMSA) team will join Indycar. Car count will sit at 20 this time next year with further consolidation of smaller teams.

TV: ABC will perform marginally better, NBC Sports will crush them again however in terms of production and fan preference, just not in the ratings... yet.  Ratings will hold at their '13 levels and the Sunshine Squad will note that upticks in ratings at a few events signal things are on the right path. Overall, the ratings will be the same for the season which will be cause for ongoing concern by entitlement sponsor Verizon.

Management: Between the typical controversies, proclamations, hints, appointments, firings, and typical squabbles of the Indycar ilk, management will stay largely behind-the-scenes for better of worse. Fans will need to get used to paying no attention to the 'man behind the curtain', the great and powerful Oz will speak only as necessary. 

Despite the advent of what will be presented as new 'traditions/improvements/enhancements', Indycar will look largely the same by the start of 2015 that it did at the start of 2012, albeit with a slightly elevated financial situation. 

The glacial rate of decision-making (largely caused by the ongoing and misplaced placation of the freshly consolidated owners), will stagnate what minor growth has occurred.

Suddenly, like a thunderbolt, the decree from management will come that this is the very best that Indycar can expect.  The reverberations will at long last be enough to silence the long-time, ever-shinking, and stunned 'traditionalist fanbase' aged 45-95.

Conclusions - Enjoy what Indycar provides you, for it is all you shall have and all you shall expect to get. The sooner you can accept this, the happier you will be.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Training

The newly minted, pre-season Indy Fans Tweet-Up was a success by all accounts (I wasn't able to attend much to my chagrin), although I was there in spirit - a cantankerous, mean spirit to some perhaps. I'll admit the Polar Vortex had it's grip on me as I was preparing the trivia contest for the Tweet-Up.

Some of you may recall last off-season I spent many lunch hours posing Indycar Trivia questions to you via twitter just for a something to keep the Indycar home fires stoked a bit. I learned as much as anyone by doing it and in light of not being able to attend, much as I'd like to have, I offered my dastardly services to the kind and ever-gracious folks (@openwheelmom and @PippaMann) who organized the pre-season Indy Fans Tweet-Up which occurred last Sunday, March 16.

Granted, I made it fairly difficult, but based on my experience over last off-season (which made me realize I'm far from knowing as much about Indycar history as I think I do), making the quiz too easy would make the contest reliant on just a few questions to make the difference. Never was it my intention to make it humiliating, only to make questions that enlighten or give pause to think about Indycar for a bit, while rewarding those who are supremely studious. 

I suppose if I was a professor of Indycar Trivia, my "college-aged me" would think I was a real hard case probably. I guess I can live with that since I learned the most from those hard cases who challenged me. In my view to properly test knowledge, I posed questions as fill-in-the-blank type... none of this multiple-choice garbage.


Here is a copy of the quiz questions that assaulted, presented to Tweet-Up attendees, with the winner (@HinchFanatic) scoring 8.5 of 15 possible and taking from the prize table a genuine Mayor-of-Hinchtown-autographed, race-worn, helmet visor.  If you wish to play along for yourself without peeking at the answers at the bottom of this post, score one point for each correct answer (or half-points per the question). 

15 questions and 15 minutes to complete.

Are you ready? annnnnnnnnd, BEGIN!

Trivia Quiz Contest Form
1. Name the 2013 Season Sunoco Rookie of the Year.

2. In 2013, how many times did a race winner start from the pole position?

3. Of the drivers who finished in the Top 10 in points, name the only one whose best race finish in the 2013 season was 3rd.          

4. Who was the only driver to sport the number 63 during the 2013 season?

5. 2013 Champion Scott Dixon won 4 races, but finished outside the top 10 in how many races?                                   

6. From what position did Tony Kanaan start to win the 2013 Indy 500?

7. What former winner drove the Pace Car for the start of the Centennial 2011 Indy 500?

8. Name the only 2 drivers to win Indy 500s in 3 different decades (1/2 point for each correct).

9. Who currently holds the record for fastest race lap at the Indy 500?

10. Dan Wheldon was the most recent driver to win the Indy 500 with the number 98. Name the other two drivers to win the Indy 500 with this number (1/2 point for each correct).

11. Name the track at which A. J. Foyt got the final of his 67 Indycar wins.

12. Which engine manufacturer is currently credited with the most pole positions and most wins in Indycar history?           

13. Which currently active Indycar driver has the most career Indycar wins?

14. Of Indycar drivers with more than 20 wins, name the one whose average starting position of 1.98 is the best.           

15. Name the Indycar driver whose final career Indycar win was also the site of his first Indycar win at Long Beach.    

You may have noticed a bit of a pattern - 5 questions on the 2013 season, 5 on the Indy 500, and 5 of general Indycar history. Of course this was on purpose, OCD rarely relinquishes it's grip once taken hold. Below are the answers to the quiz:

...nope farther down still...

1. Tristan Vaultier
2. 3 (Barber, Toronto 2, Fontana)
3. Marco Andretti
4. Pippa Mann
5. 8
6. 12th
7. A.J. Foyt Jr.
8. Bobby Unser ('68, '75, '81) and Rick Mears ('79, '84, '88, '91)
9. Eddie Cheever Jr. (38.119 sec. / 236.103mph, Lap 78 of 1996 race)
10. Troy Ruttman (1952), Parnelli Jones (1963)
11. Pocono
12. Offenhauser
13. Scott Dixon (33)
14. Mario Andretti
15. Michael Andretti