How’s everybody doing? Sunburned? If you live in Iowa you probably are since last weekend was our first in the 70s and 80s for about a year, it seems. And, since it’s supposed to be 40s with rain starting Tuesday, Iowa was a festival of yard work and, oddly, burning ditches last weekend.
I drove from pdog world headquarters in West Des Moines (center of the state) to my parents’ house in northwest corner (four hour trip!) over the weekend. All along the way I saw farmers burning their ditches. I am sure there is some ditch-management reason for this, but it eludes me. Just another Iowa moment.
NASCAR’s Never-Ending Races — NASCAR at Richmond. If ever there was a race where the first 400 of 500 laps were basically a rolling heat race to sort out the good cars from the bad cars, it was Richmond. It seems to me that many of NASCAR’s races are intentionally long because 1) endurance is part of the tradition/expectation, 2) it maybe justifies the high-dollar ticket price 3) beer vendors love the four-hour marathons and 4) it makes the finish seem just that much more exciting in comparison.
For once, ole DW (Darrell Wallace) called it right from the FOX announcer booth during a restart with 51 to go: “Fans are standing like it’s the start of the race.” Essentially it was the start of the real race. Too bad by then many (ok, at least some) of the TVC audience were dozing off.
I blame myself, not the teams. The teams are just running the race distance in a fashion that gives them the best chance to win. Many people I know watch the start of a NASCAR race, then check in periodically to see what lap the race is on, and start paying attention again during the last 25% of the distance. That’s what I should have done. Lesson learned.
The problem with that approach is it robs you of enjoying the strategy. It so reminds me of a road and street race, where the middle part is all about tire and fuel management, surviving or advancing on restarts (especially on street races) and positioning your car for the last stint (or “run” in NASCAR lingo). I enjoy watching that strategy play out on IndyCar twisties, in part because that section of the race only lasts about an hour or so.
NASCAR forces me to choose between squeezing out enjoyment of the strategy segment of their races (while enduring commercials every five minutes) or investing two hours of my life in other ways. So far the enjoyment doesn’t justify the time investment for me. At home I’ll have Danica Patrick’s radio going on Race View Audio in the background while I do other things during the middle stint.
At least one other person, Matt Weaver, agrees that NASCAR should chop some laps off many of its races. His SB Nation column here. Matt presents some good arguments.
If you bailed before the end of the race, Kevin Harvick won, followed by Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Jeff Burton. NASCAR has thoughtfully provided some highlights here.
Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart provided some post-race entertainment by swapping paint several times on the cool-down lap. (Contact under yellow!!! Deploy the outrage.) Stewart was P5 on the final restart but dropped to P18 after Bush, ah, helped him out of the racing groove. There was woofing post race, but we avoided a brawl/po-po involvement, at least.
That was a change from the Nationwide race, wherein Nelson Piquet Jr. kicked at Brian Scott and made contact, um, in the “man parts” region. It wasn’t exactly a classic kick in the crotch, more like a kick that landed in the crotch, but the Twitter jocularity ensued nonetheless. Later it seems that two of Scott’s team members confronted Piquet or one of his team members (I’m not sure), and the police ended up arresting Scott’s teammates. Details here. Just another day in NASCAR.
Rethinking the DeltaWing -- I interviewed Katherine Legge by phone on Saturday. It’s always a pleasure to talk to Katherine, who admits to being a fellow introvert. Maybe that explains my fascination of/fandom for Ms. Legge.
Katherine tested the DeltaWing last week so I got the skinny on what she thought of it. You may be surprised. I also talked to her about life after the whole Dragon/True Car brouhaha. Watch for the posts starting Tuesday.
It occurs to me that maybe I wrote off the Delta Wing too quickly. I still find the tricycle-like shape jarring, but what isn’t jarring is DeltaWing’s extreme difference to other cars. Also not jarring: its super efficiency in creating as much performance using about half of everything other cars use to do it. With the world ever-more concerned with efficiency, sustainability, and environmental friendliness, the DeltaWing has the potential to hit a sweet spot. Plus its “open source” approach to components leaves room for innovation and competition that could further lower costs while spurring engineering and mechanical performance advances.
Contrast that to what IndyCar chose instead, the Dallara DW12. It’s performed well, but it’s not really attention-getting. There’s just not a lot of élan there, especially since the aerokits which were promised to add many wrinkles to the car have been repeatedly vetoed by the teams as too costly.
Confession: I’ve never been overly concerned with race car appearance. I love 410 sprint cars and they may be the ugliest cars on the planet from a purely aesthetic sense. But in some sense the sprint car’s unique appearance and unique race format makes it stand out from all other forms of racing. And as a marketer, I like being different in a positive way that attracts attention. Undeniably, the DeltaWing attracts attention. Whether it’s good or bad attention is much debated. As a marketer I also like appealing to customers with money to spend, in the DeltaWing’s case it’s the increasing number of companies focused on meeting consumer demand for sustainable, environmentally friendly products.
Would I really mind if there were a bunch of DeltaWings going around Indy or Iowa Speedway? I’d probably adapt to it rather quickly. Would it attract a ton of attention? I gotta ay it would. Is it attention IndyCar wants? Cue the debate, but at this point any attention is better than what IndyCar has going now, which is racing in stealth mode.
The biggest mistake the DeltaWing folks made when they introduced the car was to make animated simulations of it driving on various tracks. The inherent cartoon association that’s made with animated videos, along with the jarring image of the DeltaWing on iconic tracks, made it LESS attractive to me. It would have been better to leave that to the imagination. Once you see a working model actually on track, and talk to drivers like Katherine who say it’s a brilliant race car from a driving standpoint, you start to change your view of the ‘Wing. At least I did.
Do I want IndyCar to switch to the DeltaWing tomorrow? Probably not. Am I just rethinking the car since one of my favorite drivers is driving it? Somewhat, but not entirely. Do I want more than 300,000 people to care about non-Indy 500 IndyCar races? I definitely do. TV ratings were lower for Long Beach (despite this being the second race there for the DW12) compared to last year, and have been pretty much flat for several years. “Give it time” is starting to run thin. Maybe I’m to the point where my desire for something different and alarm at the lack of progress IndyCar is making in life-sustaining areas like TV ratings are making the DeltaWing look good. Alas the die is already cast for IndyCar, and the DW12 isn’t going anywhere for three more years at least.
I know I’ll be following the Katherine’s race on May 11 however I can (not sure if it will be televised), just to see how she and the DWing do, in part because I’m a fan of Katherine but also in part because I’m fascinated to see that strange-shaped car race. Too bad more people aren’t similarly fascinated to see IndyCar race.
For a huge huge background story on the Delta Wing, read Marshall Pruett’s tome, insightfully titled “The Silver Vitamin” here. The DeltaWing Racing site is here. Also check my interview with DeltaWing developer Ben Bowlby here.
That’ll do it. Day job and stuff. Thanks hugely for your continuing comments. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to post their opinions in a civil way. The responses are a large part of my enjoyment in posting to the dog blog, so continued thanks to all commenters.
Have a good one … ye BASTARDS.