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Indycar Race On The Road Course at IMS

I started quite the discussion on twitter the other night when I posted I would like to see Indycar run on the road course at IMS. To be completely honest, when I heard the idea first come up I thought, no way they should race there. From all accounts, people are saying the racing would be bad. It may be, or it may not, how can anyone know until they actually race there. The DW12 has proven it can turn the dullest of road/street courses (Belle Isle & Barber Motorsports Park) into a thrilling race.
What the Indycar series is in dire need of is more profitable events. A race in Indy at the road course should (keyword should) fit the bill. Most of the teams are based in Indy, therefore cutting down on travel expenses. With most of the teams based here I would also assume most of the crew members also live in the greater Indianapolis area, cutting down on hotel expenses for the teams as well.
Where would I want this race to be on the schedule?  Opening weekend in May. “Oh no you cant do that! It will take away from the 500!!”  will be the general response from some fans. I dont believe that for a second. If you had a choice between going to the 500 or the road course race, which one are you going to choose? Thats right,  you will choose the 500 every time. In my perfect world, the new unified sports car series would also race on that weekend as well, giving more fans a chance to action on the track. But more than likely it will be Indycar, Lights, ProMazda & USF2000 running the weekend.
As its been noted by Indycar reporters and analysts way smarter than me that no idea should be off the table for Indycar. IMS wants to build a bigger crowd for Opening Weekend and I think this would be a good idea to at least try. If it doesnt work, no harm, no foul, at least Indycar would know that it doesnt work. But if it does work, it could possibly open the doors for more races that currently arent on the schedule.
Thanks for the time, comments are always appreciated, either on here or on twitter @djordan3233.

Watching the 1995 Indycar Series

I love Youtube. You can almost find any type of video you are looking for on Youtube. Especially Indycar races. In being a relatively newer Indycar Series fan (only since 2008), I have spent some of this exceptionally long offseason watching old Indycar races. I have been watching races in chronological order, because well, that is the way it happened. I just finished watching the 1995 Indycar season, which is arguably one of the best seasons of all time.

Wow……just wow. The 95 season had everything. Multiple winners, 9 in total, 4 first time winners, as well as a rookie winner the final race of the season (Gil de Ferran at Laguna Seca). An Indy 500 where the winner was 2 laps down early in the race. A photo finish at Michigan. A controversial finish at Portland. Four different engine manufacturers to go along with 5 different chassis’. A relatively balanced schedule of 17 total races, consisting of 7 street courses, 4 natural terrain road courses and 5 ovals. Races at Michigan, Road America, Portland, Surfer’s Paradise, Phoenix and Laguna Seca. Some very well-known sponsors were also involved in Indycar, companies like Firestone, Target, STP, 3M/Scotch, Miller Genuine Draft, K-Mart, Nike Canada, Players LTD, Pennzoil, VISA, Texaco Havoline, Copenhagen, Marlboro, Duracell, Valvoline, Tecate, Quaker State, Budweiser, Goodyear, AC-Delco, Bosch, Craftsman, PPG, Gillette, Motorola, and Cummings. On some of the videos, the original commercials of the race broadcast were on them. Sponsors who had Indycar related commercials were Target (who knew?), Miller Genuine Draft (where Bobby Rahal’s car turns into a MGD jet, one of my favorite Indycar commercials of all time), a Toyota Atlantics commercial (!), a Firestone Indycar commercial, as well as several Texaco Havoline Indycar commercials. There was also a relatively well-known NFL legend who was also a co-owner of an Indycar team, 3 time Super Bowl champion QB Joe Montana was a co-owner of Ganassi Racing. The other thing I noticed was the crowds at the races. With the exception of the New Hampshire race, damn near every seat at every Indycar race was filled.

Being a Hoosier my whole life, I know how popular the Indy 500 was during this time, but since I did not follow the series at all I really had no clue the series was as popular as it was. I had always heard the 95 Indycar season was the last of the “glory years” of Indycar. Thanks to Youtube, I have been able to make the offseason seem a little shorter. Comments are welcome as always, either on here or on twitter (@djordan3223) Thanks for reading.

INDYCAR Ideas – Part #3

Quite frankly, this idea I am proposing will never work (especially with all that has transpired in the past 24 hours). Part of me doesn’t even want to write about it because it is a waste of my time writing it and your time reading it. A 6 person fan committee that reports to the CEO of Indycar. Yes, you read that correctly. An actual fan committee who will take fan’s suggestions (within reason) and submit them formally to the CEO and the Indycar Series. To be eligible to be on the fan committee, you must first be an Indycar Nation Champions Member. There will be a two-week time period when prospective committee members would be required to write on why they should be on the fan committeeand what ideas they can bring to the table. These “essays” if you will, will then be submitted to the CEO and the Indycar PR staff. They will be in charge of narrowing it down to 12 potential candidates. The 12 candidates will get cut down to 6 by a vote on Indycar.com. Again the only fans who would be eligible to vote would be Indycar Nation Champion members. This will have the potential to take place every 4 years. The Fan Committee would take a fan’s idea or what they would like to see, research it to see if it is possible. If it is a possible scenario, the idea would be presented to the CEO at an official monthly meeting. If the idea is approved, it would be noted the idea came from the Fan Committee. If the idea is rejected by the CEO, the Fan Committee would release their research through a press release, also stating why the idea would not work. This is a very rough sketch of what a Fan Committee could be for Indycar. Unfortunately, this falls into the category of no chance in hell this idea would ever happen.

D.J. Note

Indycar Idea – Part #2

This idea should be used in conjunction with idea #1. School field trips to the race tracks. For the week of practice for the Indy 500, every day there are busloads of kids who are at the track all day long. This idea alone is a good one, letting the kids (and adults) seeing the cars fly by at speed as well as seeing how fan friendly the driver are. During a practice day this year at Indy, I saw Alex Tagliani jump out of his golf cart to run back and sign autographs for about 10 kids standing along the railing. I was surprised but then again I shouldn’t have been. Tags is one of the most fan friendly drivers I have had the opportunity to meet. But if you combine both idea #1 (drivers at schools) and this idea, it goes from good to great in my opinion. If, for example, Scott Dixon comes and talks to school kids and then those same students go to the track on a practice day, they instantly have a driver to cheer for, since they “know” that driver. This idea also falls into the category of why aren’t they doing this already.

Stay tuned for another Indycar Idea segment soon.

Indycar Ideas – Part #1

The other day I was sitting around and thinking about what Indycar can/needs to do to grow their fanbase. This could end up being a regular part of the blog, who knows. These ideas range from “no way in hell it will happen” to ” why aren’t they doing this already”, as well as they could be doing this and I don’t know about it. Without further ado, I bring you INDYCAR IDEA PART #1.

When races are occuring during the school year (generally March to May, August to October) every driver needs to visit a local school with their showcar and give some sort of Indycar presentation. And I mean EVERY driver on every race weekend. Having 25-28 drivers all speaking at different schools could have the potential to positively impact Indycar’s fan base. Also, depending on which Mazda Road to Indy series was at said event, have one of the younger drivers join the Indycar regular at the school. Presentations could range from how different the race cars look compared to Nascar (younger age groups) up to the different types of jobs in motorsports (high school aged kids). I do understand Indycar may be doing this to some degree with kids interested in technology, but in my mind they need to go all in. Each team’s PR rep should contact the local media in advance of the driver(s) appearances at the schools. The local media would then report said driver was giving a speech to whatever school. They would also state the driver would be competing in the Indycar series race at fill in the blank on whenever date. This would obviously fall into the why aren’t they doing this already category.

That’s it for now, look for another installment of Indycar Ideas soon.

Dan Wheldon

Please Note : I generally write my thoughts on paper and edit it before posting it. This however will be different. I am sitting in front of my computer with basically a blank screen and I will just put my thoughts, specifically about Dan Wheldon, here in no particular order.

 

I have to be honest here, I used to not like Dan Wheldon at all. No, I mean really, I did not like him AT ALL. I thought he was a whiny, pompous ass. And he just looked like he was a person who was full of himself. This was during Dan’s time at Andretti Green Racing and Target Chip Ganassi Racing. I will admit, I was not as big of an Indycar fan then as I am now. My all time dislike of Dan Wheldon culminated when he “stole” (my thoughts) Vitor Meira’s ride at Panther Racing. Vitor was (and still is) my favorite Indycar driver, who I had met at the 500 the year before. He (Meira) is the reason I started following Indycar more closely. I can honestly say I was pissed off that Vitor lost his ride to Dan.

While Wheldon was at Panther Racing driving the #4 National Guard car, my opinion of him changed. It is pretty common, well, damn near required, for a driver to mention his sponsors, generally AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Dan was no different, mentioning his sponsors any time he did a TV or radio interview. But what I noticed with Dan, he didn’t just mention the “National Guard”, he talked about visiting the troops every chance he could. He would talk about the courage and bravery the service men and women showed defending the country, pointing out THEY were the heroes, not someone who drove  a racecar.  You could tell he wasn’t saying these things because he had to, he was saying them because he wanted to. Dan wanted everyone to know how proud HE was to represent these true heroes he was meeting.  This is what made me become a Dan Wheldon fan.

I was at an autograph session before last year’s 500 at Macy’s. They had all the driver’s who were attempting to qualify for the Indy 500 that year. As I was making my way through the line, picking up signed hero cards, I got to Dan. He looked me right in the eye and said, “Hey, how are you doing?’ To be honest, I was shocked for a second.  I finally answered that I was good and wished him luck for the 500. He said thanks and thanks for coming out. I was honestly stunned. This was Dan Wheldon, an Indianapolis 500 Champion, not only asking me how I was doing, but looking me in the eyes and asking me. It was maybe 1 or 2 minutes tops, but as a fan, it meant so much more than that.

In becoming more of a fan of the Indycar series, I started listening to old Indycar/IRL races, thanks to iTunes. There were two moments which struck me, showing the type of person Dan was. The first was in 2006, after winning the race in Homestead, the first thing he said in getting out of the car was to offer his condolences to the family of Paul Dana, who lost his life in an accident in a practice session earlier in the weekend.  The other moment was the 2008 race in Iowa, where he announced in victory lane he was going to donate his race winnings to the people who were affected by the Iowa floods that year.

My 2011 Indy 500 program has autographs from every driver who was in the 500 that year except one, the race winner, Dan Wheldon. I will admit, I was disappointed to not get his autograph on my program, especially since I missed two different chances to get to him (the Indy 500 that year, as well as the Brickyard 400).  Now I have to say in my mind, it is fitting I didn’t get his autograph, and it actually means more to me by not getting it. It will make me remember Dan even more, adding a personal story for me for that 500.

October 16th is a day that all of us Indycar fans will never forget. Though very few of us fans really knew Dan, the events of that day one year ago affected us all. I can only speak for myself but it honestly felt like a family member of mine had passed away. To me, Indycar isn’t a sport I just follow. I think of it as one big family. Now with social media, it allows us all to interact with everyone, fans, crew members, drivers, owners, PR staff, etc. I have personally enjoyed all the photos I have seen of Dan on twitter as well as reading other people’s personal stories of Dan’s.  October 16th will be tough to handle, but lets not dwell on the ending, lets enjoying the fun times, seeing those trademark pearly whites of Dan Wheldon.

 

Thoughts and comments are always welcome, either on here or twitter.

 

PS : I really want to hear more of the Dario, TK, Bryan and Dan stories from their days at Andretti Green Racing.

Taking A Nascar Idea & Making It Better

As a reader of this blog, it should be very apparent this is an Indycar blog. With the Indycar race at Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon, I had nothing to do or watch on Sunday.  My original thought was to watch the Nascar race from Michigan and compare the two races. That plan went to the dumpster when I fell asleep. However I was struck by a couple of things TNT & Nascar did during the race that incorporated social media (mainly Twitter) during their broadcast.

#NASCAR Commercials

There were at least 2 #NASCAR commercials I saw during the race. The first one I saw was with Kyle Busch & his wife. It shows Kyle giving his wife a kiss before putting on his helmet. The next screen shot is the web address twitter.com/#NASCAR. No talking, no voiceover. The other commercial I saw was a car pulling into the pits to make a it stop. As the car stopped, the next screen shot was the twitter.com/#NASCAR. My jaw hit the ground. As a user of twitter, I thought this is a brillant marketing move. I understand this will only list the twitter users who use the #NASCAR in their tweets. But it gives the opportunity to interact with other fans who have a common interest.

This would be fantastic for Indycar to use. For example, I would use the clip of Dario Franchitti pouring the milk over his head after winning this year’s Indianapolis 500 followed by twitter.com/#INDYCAR for the rest of this year. No talking, keep it simple. I would also want to take it a step further for next year. Once the schedule for the 2013 Indycar schedule is released, I would also release the official twitter hashtag (ex. #Indy500) for each event. Then I would use IMS Productions to produce very short commercials FOR EVERY RACE ON THE SCHEDULE. Since IMS Productions is at every race, there should be no shortage of highlights. Personally I would use either an exciting pass or the winner taking the checkered flag followed by the twitter.com/# whatever race is next.

USING TV PARTNERS

The other aspect of the Nascar race I was impressed with was the promotion of twitter during the race broadcast itself. Multiple times during the broadcast they mentioned “to join the conversation on twitter, use hashtag Nascar (#NASCAR). After an early pit stop, TNT showed an on screen graphic of a tweet @JoeGibbsRacing sent out concerning Kyle Busch. Also later in the race, there was a tweet shown on screen from a regular fan. I wonder how many new followers that fan received shortly after that tweet was shown.

Indycar, its drivers, and teams generally do a very good job at interacting with fans on twitter. Last year Mike Conway’s Andretti Autosport car had a “primary sponsor” that was the teams’ twitter handle (@FollowAndretti) for multiple races. Some teams also do a better job than other teams in using twitter to promote themselves to fans (you know who you are). The fact remains however, that we can all do better. The social media garage at the Indianapolis 500 this year was a fantastic idea. Wouldn’t it be great to have a social media garage at every race next year? I think it would work. As it has been stated in other blogs I have read, why not have the drivers/team twitter handle shown on screen during driver introductions, as well as when tv does their “through the field” segments? In my opinion, Indycar needs to take this idea from Nascar and run with it. It is time for Indycar and their TV partners to show the casual fans how interactive their drivers actually are. I just hope someone from NBC Sports Network was watching the Nascar broadcast.

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