Friday, January 14, 2011

IndyCar’s Slate of Changes – Point | Counterpoint | Tangent

So at this Tuesday’s State of INDYCAR presentation in Indianapolis, Randy Bernard and company announced a lot of small changes that will be coming to the many series under the INDYCAR parent sanctioning body. Are the changes, good or bad or neutral? Even if we’re not all as versed in the subject, the entire GBS team is giving their thoughts to these 20 items:

1.    In an effort to capitalize on spoken name recognition, the Indy Racing League has officially changed its name to INDYCAR.

Allen Wedge: As a fellow Marketing guy, I can totally see where Randy is going with this; we all know how much easier it is recognized by the standard public, I just could have gone for an actual acronym.

The Speedgeek: I…sort of hate it. So, now it’s the INDYCAR IZOD IndyCar Series? Why not call it the “INDYCAR Presents the INDYCAR IZOD IndyCar Series”? And when the new Dallara “IndyCar”(that’s what they’re badging it) comes out in 2012, it could be the “INDYCAR Presents the INDYCAR IZOD IndyCar Series Featuring The New IndyCar”?

Mike Furious
: No, this is totally an acronym.  If I ever have trouble spelling "INDYCAR," I only need to remember the classic quote from Washington Irving: "Ichabod never danced, yet craved ample ravioli."

2.    Starwood hotels has been announced as a sponsor by way of “the official hotels of INDYCAR” under a 3 year deal.

Wedge: A great positive for the series as Starwood represents some heavy hitters: Westin, W, Sheraton, FourPoints, etc. But with them being higher end hotels, one would really hope that it also includes discounts for teams as they travel to 17 different cities.

Speedgeek: This Gold Level Hilton Honors member wishes it were a different chain. Now, I have to balance my loyalty to my favorite racing series and my loyalty to my favorite hotel chain/favorite talentless harlot?

Furious: Is there an official cheeseburger of INDYCAR?  I need to know so I can have loyalties as well.

3.    The minimum age for Garage access at races has been lowered from 18yrs old to 9yrs old (Except at Texas Motor Speedway).

Wedge: On one hand a great move; get them in while they are young. On the other hand how in the world do they plan on having security enforce the difference between 8 and 9?

Speedgeek: You got that right, Wedge. They’re going to have to start “carding” anybody who looks like they might be younger than 11, just in case.

Furious: No, this is easy.  Anyone not holding a beer (or wearing a hat filled with beer containing convenient straws reaching down to the mouth) is obviously 8 or younger.  Or... is that NASCAR?

4.    INDYCAR is opening an L.A. office In order to try and develop new inroads to movies and documentary type TV shows.

Wedge: On one hand it worries me that the person they chose, Sarah Nettinga, has Herbie: Fully Loaded to her name… on the other hand she also produced Talledega Nights. Push. 

Speedgeek: This is worthless unless somebody can convince Sebastien Bourdais to come back to IndyCar and then have him change his name to Jean Girard. That’s the only way this pays off.

Furious: You guys know I'm a horror person myself.  So if you tell me I'm getting a Christine sequel based on this new Dallara "IndyCar," my only question is: How long until Stephen King is done with the script?!

5.    The Edmonton race, previously cancelled by city legislators, has been re-added to the schedule.  A new 3-year agreement has been reached between city, promoter, and series to continue the race.

Wedge: This is awesome for Edmonton, but let’s see the new track map please, we love track maps. What’s it going to be like now since it uses a totally different set of runways?

Speedgeek: I love it. The schedule should be 1/4th airport tracks anyway. Now let’s get on Cleveland and Meigs Field (where there was rumored to be a CART race back in the late-‘90s, if memory serves), and we’ll be talking.

Furious: Any chance of adding that idea I sent in where we would do a "running of the bulls" with IndyCars instead of animals?  Randy Bernard is not the best about returning my e-mails.

6.    ABC’s slate of broadcast races have been announced: St. Pete, Indy, Milwaukee, New Hampshire and the unannounced finale race which is probably  Vegas but for some reason no one wants to admit it’s Vegas, even though at this point it’d be silly to not be Vegas.

Wedge: On the one hand, great move getting the finale on ABC… on the other hand: For the love of all that is holy, can we keep Marty Reid away from Vegas? The last thing we need going into the final laps of a close championship is misidentification between a Penske Black and Red car and the blue and green Hyundai Sonata in the parking lot outside the track.

Speedgeek: I can already hear it. “Vince Welch! Can you tell us how many laps it’s been since Ryan Briscoe pitted…oh! Ryan Briscoe wins the race and the championship!”

: The problem is that they've made the decision, but out of respect for the unwritten rules, no one can talk about it!  "What happens in Vegas..."

7.    The Mazda Road to Indy official ladder program was announced with dollar figures. Each champion of a lower league will get a very nice financial boost if they choose to move up to the next level. An odd surprise was announcing Conor Daly will do the Indy Lights road courses for the car that Bryan Clausen is already doing oval tracks for.

Wedge: Super positive news here, especially considering they are significant numbers that can actually help carry a driver up to the next level, but not enough that they can be lazy about it. As for the Daly/Clausen car, this seems to me a negative, isn’t the true idea to get those drivers good at both ovals and road courses, now we’ve taken away that chance in 2011.

Speedgeek: All seriousness here, I think this gives Conor and Bryan a chance to run up front in the handful of races that they’ll get, allowing them to build sponsorship to run the whole second half of 2011 or the whole 2012 season. Force Clausen to run at St. Pete, and he’s liable to look Jack Miller-esque out there. It’s just not his bag yet.

Furious: This would be like the American League deciding its pitchers shouldn't have to bat, therefore allowing an extra position player to bat in the pitcher's spot of the line-up.  How sad would that be??  Oh wait...

8.    The IndyCar series will implement a 105% rule on road/street courses, meaning all drivers must be within 105% of the leader’s lap times; otherwise they can be disqualified.

Otherwise known as the Milka Duno rule; or the Marty Roth Rule part B. It’s a great move assuming the race director has the discretion of enforcing it. This way a good driver who has a wreck in early practice while warming up isn’t eliminated from the weekend.

Speedgeek: I’m only a tad concerned about 105% being a little too tight. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a couple of races last year when Mario Moraes, Mario Romancini and maybe even Danica Patrick flirted with 105%. That could get reeeeeal squishy, under the case that somebody gets held up on their one fast lap or something.

Furious: This only ensures that the first INDYCAR movie will not be based on "The Tortoise and the Hare."  And I'm fine with that.

9.    The Indy Lights Series is returning to TV and will be tape-delayed to broadcast on Wednesdays following their race weekends at 6pm.

Wedge: I’m very glad they’re on TV and all, but seriously, Versus, you couldn’t make room between your 5,000th airing of Tin Cup, Rocky and Caddyshack and replaying WEC fights for the 72nd time? I hope NBC teaches you that showing sports is much better for a sports channel than showing the same 4 movies repeatedly.

Speedgeek: Agreed. You’re a sports channel, Versus. Act like it. And while you’re in the act of filling program hours, let’s have some half hour shows for Star Mazda and USF2000, while we’re at it. And, yes, I know I’m being demanding. What can I say? I like to watch racing.

Furious: Do they understand I'm going to have walk around at work and at home for like FOUR DAYS going, "NO ONE tell me who won the Indy Lights Race this weekend!  I'M WAITING FOR THE VERSUS COVERAGE, OK?!"

10.    This year's Indianapolis 500 will do two things to go after new audiences: 1) they will for the first time allow online at-home printing of tickets and, 2) the race will get a Spanish-language radio broadcast.

: Great move on both parts because both are optional. The people those things cater to can participate while traditionalists can do their thing.

Speedgeek: I like print-at-home tickets for movies, but I can’t imagine having my printer make a display-able heirloom, like all the rest of my 500 tickets are. On the other hand, I love the Spanish radio broadcast thing, and I’m liable to listen to that instead of Paul Page at the race this May. Gooooooooaaaaaaaalllll!!!!

Furious: Can we print cheeseburgers yet?  We can send a man to the moon, but we can't print cheeseburgers yet.

11.    Indy 500 100th birthday festivities: All 269 living Indianapolis 500 veterans have been invited to take part in an autograph session the day before the race.  70 of the 74 existing winning cars will be on the track. Sports Illustrated will produce a special Indy 500 Centennial issue and the race is being billed as “The Most Important Race in History”

Wedge: The only thing better than that is if they got all those cars to go around the track with veterans driving them. I also really hope that tagline is prefaced about the entire race, not the very spec-car 2011 edition.

Speedgeek: I almost fainted at the thought of scrambling around getting Ted Prappas’s, Didier Theys’s and Tero Palmroth’s autographs. Yes, I’ll also be the one doing cartwheels down the Tower Terrace because I caught a glimpse of Al Unser Jr.’s 1994 Penske-Mercedes 500I.

Is this going to be one of those things that they have to cancel at the last second and get all of this together again next year all because someone didn't realize that the first year doesn't count as a "birthday"?

12.    The IndyCar Series this year will have a new gigantic Driver Introduction stage, so big it will fit a full size car and shoot flames out of the sides and have a giant video screen.

Wedge: It’s probably a good idea to keep the KV Racing cars off the stage as the car would likely roll itself over the shooting flames in an effort to avoid being driven in a race.

Speedgeek: I just think that they guy that designed this should be fired. FIRED! FIRED! Heh heh heh. Um, yeah. That’s cool.

Furious: Yeah, I don't think we use the word "stage" anymore in America unless U2 has performed on it.  Is U2 lined up?  What about the Goo Goo Dolls at least?

13.    IndyCar will start using the combined statistics of USAC, CART, ChampCar and IndyCar sanctioned series.

Wedge: Oh thank you Mr. Bernard; I’m so glad we can stop talking about breaking the amazing records of Sam Hornish Jr. and get back to shooting for Foyt’s records.

Speedgeek: Ralph de Palma, your place in history is secure again. Oh, and Paul Tracy, here’s where you need to win another race to pull ahead of Bourdais once and for all.

Furious: One time, in high school, I raced this guy from Indy in my Pontiac and I won.  Am I undefeated in Indy stats?  Well, technically I already was, I suppose...

14.    The Series has changed the rule stating that: “A person can’t pit once a yellow comes out”  to “If a driver has passed the pit-road commit line then they are allowed to pit when the yellow first comes out”

Wedge: Honestly I don’t know why it took them this long? We watched probably 20 different drivers lose races over this dumb original rule in the past 5 years, when they were forced to lose a lap by random circumstance.

Speedgeek: Amen and amen. A long overdue fix.

Furious: Will the pit monitor be checking the drivers for pit passes or what?

15.    Pit selection for races (except Indy) will no longer be determined by current point standings, but instead by qualifying order of the previous race of like-type track (oval-to-oval/road-to-road). Also teams will no longer be allowed to average their 2 cars to get a spot for both between them.

Wedge: While this is not the best idea I’ve seen for determining the order, it’s better than giving the point leader an unfair advantage all season like we’ve done for so long now. I also don’t get why oval vs. road matters, in fact that’d help mix things up better.

Speedgeek: Agree. It’s 10 times better than the same guy getting to pit at pit-out for as long as he can squat in the points lead, which then helps him keep that points lead, which then allows him to keep pitting at pit-out, which then…never mind. Good rule change.

Furious: I heard Danica was trying to enforce the "Ladies First" rule here.

16.    Restarts will now go to two-wide lines; and the start line will no longer be in the 3rd turn before the start finish line but “somewhere closer.” This is only for oval courses currently but will be evaluated for street courses.

: Another good progression but not a good final idea. The drivers already fail miserably at lining up for a regular two-wide or even single file start/re-start; the only way this works is if Barnhart starts black flagging drivers for screwing it up on purpose… or say jumping the start of the Indy 500.

Speedgeek: We are all watching you, Brian Barnhart. This rule change succeeds or fails on your shoulders.

: We can put a man on the moon, but we can't fix this start line stuff.  Great.

17.    For Road/Street course qualifying; each car will only be allowed to select one set of tires for each round. Also the rookie (everyone out of top 10) practice session is returning each weekend.

Wedge: I do like making guys stick with one decision, in the past 2 years they all went with black hard tires until someone the guy who went with soft/red tires put up a good lap time and everyone then just switched to follow suit. Reminds me of how in A1GP qualifying you got 1 power boost but you had to choose which race to use it for in the weekend.

Speedgeek: Agree. Anything we can do like A1GP is a good thing… well except that whole lawsuits from partners, cars getting seized by law enforcement and going bankrupt.

Furious: Remember the time when that guy's tire exploded and it was filled with cork and he said he only did that to entertain the fans for fun during the practice sessions?

18.    IndyCar is expecting at least 4 different aero kits to compete for the 2012 IndyCar chassis; they have till May to inform the series of their intent, and all will be announced in October. At least 2 chassis types will be at Indy in May this year.

Wedge: So many of us were excited there could be 2, but 4 is ecstatic level considering we will go from 1 engine 1 chassis to 3 engines 4 chassis options. So many combos we can see attempted, almost frothing at the mouth a little.

: Aaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrsssssshhhhhhhhhhffffffffllllggghhhhhh….. Oops. Sorry. Just frothing a little.

: Combos are good, especially the pizza-flavored ones.  I'm going to get some for Blogathon.

19.    Cell phone technology may be integrated for the 2012 cars to help fans follow the series/races better. Think in-car cameras, telemetry and the like all available on your phone while you sit in the stands or on the couch of a race.

Wedge: This is EXACTLY the kind of thing that screams “Technologically advanced” and frankly will put this series well ahead of Formula One (who are just now going to HD) and NASCAR (who just got to unleaded fuel) for fan interaction and consumer seen technology.

Speedgeek: One demographic that’s woefully underserved by all racing series worldwide? Nerds. I just think that IndyCar needs to go the next step and have free race tickets print out automatically for anybody who downloads the latest version of Linux.

Furious: The INDYCAR app!  How do you explain to these nerds that the Danica version only follows her when she is RACING?

20.    Lastly, the 2012 engine specifications have changed from 2.4 liter maximum to 2.2 liter maximum.

Wedge: This seems to have been done to be more energy efficient and to give more weight to the turbocharging capability, which sounds like good reasoning to me and forward thinking: Let’s still go faster than NASCAR but use even smaller engines.

Speedgeek: Amen. “Hey, NASCAR fans! Your guys do 180 MPH at the Speedway? Yeah, we do 50 extra MPH with just over a third of the engine size! How’s that space-age fuel injection working out for you, anyway?”

Furious: Can I just get a 2.4 liter of Coke?  We can put a man on the moon, but we can't get a 2.4 liter of Coke.

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