A little bit about a lot of things. Pull up some dark roast and … DRINK, ye BASTARDS.
IndyCar’s Surprising Twisties — (Note: “twisty” is not a pejorative, just my shorthand for road or street track). My somewhat bipolar relationship with IndyCar twisties continued this weekend with a double dip (doubleheader, try to keep up) at Houston. First race: RAIN. Road and street races in the rain are always awesome, because the precip adds a big-ass dose of RANDOM to the event.
Given that amusing idea, I’m constantly screaming “WATER CANNONS” on the twitter (@pressdog) as shorthand for wet race excitement. (No, I don't actually advocate adding sprinklers to tracks.) When it rains you gotta go to the rain tires, you can’t go as fast, you obviously don’t have as much grip, and rain is notoriously variable. It’ll rain hard for a while, then not rain at all, then drizzle, then sprinkle, then not rain, so you gotta decide when to go from the rain tires back to the slicks. DRAMA. CARS FISHTAILING! ROOSTER TAILS! Love rain races and IndyCar Race 1 in Houston didn’t disappoint. Carlos Huertas won it as three drivers from Columbia swept the podium. AP Story on the results of Race 1 here.
So then — full confession — I expected the all-dry Houston Race 2 to be a snoozer. Street race. No room to pass. Cue the coffee to stay awake.
BUZZER! You’re a looooser, pdog! Race 2 was also action-packed with the kind of rock ‘em sock ‘em bumper cars and Festival of Random that attract fans to street races, even those who claim — pinkies out! — that IndyCar is pure, total-skill, technically superior racing to that full-contact NASCAR stuff. Cue the “YOU SUCK, PRESSDOG!!!!” reaction. Simmer down! Take some criticism for a minute. It’s not like I called your baby ugly or something. Sha. Submitted: NASCAR plate tracks and IndyCar street races have the exciting element of RANDOM! in common.
ANYWAY, both races were fun to watch with people doing bizarre stuff with their cars, beating and banging, taking low-percentage risks and either coming up SEVEN or snake eyes. Are you not entertained? I was. I wasn’t the artful classical music of racing, more like some acoustic bluegrass heavy on the banjo. (I was trying for half way to rock and roll. Best I could come up with was bluegrass. Weak, I know.) The highly likeable Simon Pagenaud won the second race. AP story on the results of Race 2 here.
My Rekindled Relationship with Juan Pablo Montoya — I overstate! I do it all the time. JPM doesn't know me from Joe Six Pack, so there was no “relationship” in the most literal sense to re-establish.
What I mean is this: I used to think, based on skimpy and anecdotal evidence that Juan Pablo was some kind of giant ego and fan-hostile guy. And maybe he is. I never met him or observed him in person, so I cannot fairly judge. But being a big ego and fan-hostile doesn't always disqualify people from my interest. Exhibit A: my ardor for Kimi Räikkönen. It seems like Kimi, JPM may not give a shit where it counts the most: on the track.
Witness: JPM’s multi-lap KNIFE FIGHT with Jack Hawksworth late in the second IndyCar race at Houston. YES. More of that. More “(f-bomb) the points, I want to win" attitude. ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK. It was a rolling brawl. Montoya obviously didn’t give a shit if he lost a position or whatever; he was all over Hawksworth like an F-16 on a MiG. For his part, Hawksworth didn't seem to give a shit that the Mighty JPM was on his ass. He was all like “Bring it on, wanker!!” (No, he didn't actually say that.) Yeah, buddy. Love ya both. People who say “think about the championship points” need a Crescent wrench upside the head. (Only figurative ... I never really advocate violence.) But you get my point, I hope. F-BOMB the points, man. GO FORWARD.
BTW, the whole JPM/Hawksworth multi-corner barroom brawl was nicely accented by Steve Matchett in the booth screaming and throwing in his trademark guttural utterances as it unfolded. Viewing enhanced, Mr. Matchett.
If JPM keeps up this “don’t give a shit” mode of racing, I may have to buy his t-shirt. Danica Patrick: “This isn’t miniature golf” … Sarah Fisher: “We’re not in a bowling league.” This is rolling war. LET ME SEE YOUR WAR FACE! I love "classy," don't get me wrong, but I think IndyCar needs more drivers saying "Bunch of goddamned idiots out there" as AJ Foyt actually said on air during Race 1. Give me the passion, man. Be a little inappropriate. Go Doug Boles and yell "WE GOT SCREWED." Remind me that I'm not watching (goddamned) GOLF, OK?
Honorable mention to Will Power, who kept pushing in Race 2 even after his points rival Helio Castroneves had to retire. You go, Willy P. SCREW THE POINTS. Drive that car 100 percent. We're all in for the win, baby.
NASCAR at Kentucky — NASCAR at Brutonland (Kentucky Speedway) last weekend. BUMPY! If “bumpy” was your drinking term, you’re dead right now. The race wasn’t scintillating by any stretch. Kind of a road oval thing going on, where “track position” via pit stops and other strategy was important. Brad Keselowski won it going away. Story here.
One of the stories from the race was the sparse crowd at the cavernous Kentucky Speedway. Why? WHY? was the question. Well, first of all, congrats for talking about the crowd at all. Crowd size is usually NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS with IndyCar media, because pointing out low attendance or any other flaw in the show is somehow cancerous to the series, and cues all the "Why focus on the negative? Just enjoy the racing!" tweets. Don’t get me started ...
ANYWAY, there were a few ideas floated as to why customers exercised their absolute right NOT to buy something (tickets). My guess is people are still chaffed about the traffic/parking debacle from the race there in 2011. WORSE than the traffic jam was news that when people finally DID make it to the track, there was nowhere to park? WTF? You can blame traffic on road construction, or even the fans themselves (the "should have left for the track at 5 a.m." RUBBISH) but not having enough parking spots is inexcusable and all on the track management. Others thought the 100+ degree last year spooked people from a return trip.
It’s an interesting topic. NOTHING gets action here in America quicker than people expressing their dissatisfaction by NOT buying something, and NASCAR especially takes that non-buying very seriously. When people stop buying a product or service, that’s when you see change in a heartbeat. When people keep buying and complain, then the changes may come, but at a slower pace. Smart companies want to hear their customers’ complaints because it tells them where they need to improve. Complaining customers are still customers, for the most part, and their input, even angry, is giving you a chance to keep their business. People who just walk away in silence are the ones who kill a business.
Also, the debate kind of rages over whether Kentucky Speedway is TOO bumpy. Some bumps create character and challenges, but big bumps can get to be too much. Given the stories of drivers having to readjust their helmets in order to see after hitting bumps wrong, I’d say maybe it’s time for the grinder if not the repaver. Even now Bruton is probably trying to get some state money to pay for it …
More Journalists, More Fun -- Speaking of informing fans, big shout out to racing journalist Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverSBN) who has taken an interest in covering IndyCar lately. Matt has already cranked out some articles that informed fans, including this gem that focused on why Marco Andretti was fined for ignoring a blue flag. Good stuff that involved the basic journalism of interviewing people on both sides of an issue and reporting what they said. Jenna Fryer of the AP was also in Houston, and it's always fabulous to have her covering IndyCar. I'm a big fan of Jenna who is a Woman of pressdog® .
Here's the thing: journalists compete just like any other business person. Having been a real journalist before (working for a daily newspaper, no less), I can tell you, when your competitors have something you don't have, your editor/bosses/readers start saying "why don't we have that?" That cranks up the pressure for YOU to get off your ass and get stories your readers want to read that other people don't have. Part of the appeal of journalism is competing for stories with other journalists. BRING IT.
It's easy for the Big Dogs of racing to ignore or be inaccessible to bloggers, because we don't have nearly the megaphone that makes that behavior risky. Drivers, teams, IndyCar, its officials, etc. can't duck and cover from AP or other big-deal organizations without some definite risks.
I'm not saying people who cover IndyCar before Matt arrived were bad or whatever, I AM saying that more reporters covering stuff creates competition among reporters and that is good for fans. SO, the more real reporters covering stuff, the better for fans. Simple.
Electric Katherine Legge — Word this week that Woman of pressdog and fellow introvert Katherine Legge will drive for Amlin Aguri in the new Formula E series. (Story here.) Formula E is an all-electric-car racing series that plans a season of street races in places like Berlin, London, Long Beach, Miami and Buenos Aires. More about Formula E here.
I mention it for a couple of reasons. First, I’m a fan of Katherine’s due to her skill and her somewhat introverted personality that seems close to my own, and I’m stoked for her to get in on this new series. It seems plainly rubbish to claim that Katherine has no skills given her performances over her career.
Since Katherine got bounced out of her ride in IndyCar for what I thought was specious reasons, she’s moved on admirably to other opportunities including driving the intriguing DeltaWing (her reaction to the Dwing is here) and now the all-electric Formula E. Everyone has to choose their own path, of course, and this is not meant to criticize anyone, but I admire how Katherine has broadened her view of opportunities beyond IndyCar. Maybe because that's what I think I would do if I was a race car driver. You gotta go where the jobs are, and given Katherine’s ability on twisty courses, it makes sense she looks at sports cars, etc. More from Katherine about her broadening view here.
Second, I find Formula E interesting. I know this will get all into if electric cars are “real” race cars. Sure, that’s a fair topic, I guess, but I’m less concerned with if it is a “real” race car and how it sounds than I am intrigued by the whole theory behind it. Electric cars are far less of a joke and pipe dream these days, what with major car makers starting to produce at least plug-in hybrids if not 100% electric cars like the Tesla with its impressive 250-mile range on a full charge. The idea of a racing series advancing a new technology in automobiles is intriguing.
Don’t worry, your right to NOT buy an electric car (or to NOT pay attention to Formula E) is in no danger. BUT, for my part, if there was an affordable (to me), reliable electric car out there, I’d give it a very long look. I think that day is coming. A decade from now I hope electric cars will be among the plausible choices for most people the marketplace, primarily because I think more choice is better, in general.
Day job awaits … Thanks for making it this far. Word to your posse! pdog … OUT