Wednesday, January 12, 2011

State of IndyCar...Readers Digest Version

Since many of my fellow bloggers were able to attend State of IndyCar function and did a fantastic job with both their live and follow-up coverage, I'm not going to get into a large-scale roundup of the plethora of information that was passed on Tuesday in Indianapolis, other than to say I'm extremely jealous and wish I had been there!

In all, it was just a great day for the series, and Randy Bernard and his people did a great job presenting the many things that have happened to IndyCar recently and what is going to happen in the future.

I have to say I'm very confident. Why? It's not just Randy Bernard and the insane amount of work he has gotten done in his 9-10 months on the job. It's the fact that for the first time ever, there actually seems to be a plan in place and a vision for the future.

Maybe there was one before, and now it's just more transparent. If that's the case, my hat is off to the series for publically presenting their plans and letting everyone know what is going on, and what is waiting down the road.

Still, I think this time is different. When your title sponsor announces they have received a 350% return on their investment in IndyCar, and other corporate sponsors are jumping into the series, it's a huge sign that good things are happening. Also, opening an office in Santa Monica, Calif. with the idea of growing the exposure of the drivers and series through TV and other media is a very underrated decision, and the right people are in place there to make that a successful venture.

Throw in as many as three engine and four body kit manufacturers for 2012, and it's apparent that people are deciding that IndyCar racing is a good investment again.

And of course, the new influx of young American drivers is a great thing too.

There is a plan for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and beyond. That's where we as fans can feel confident that positive things to grow the series are being put into place. I don't know if I'm the only one, but it felt like in the past the series lived year to year, and almost paycheck to paycheck, so to speak.

It was almost like the old IRL existed in a state where it was always searching for its success and never seeming to find it. There were always issues that made us question the viability for the series. I mean, heck, as recently as last year I heard people express their theory that the Indy 500 would eventually become a NASCAR race.

Thank goodness, no.

As far as the 500 goes, what is upcoming this spring and culminating in May is nothing short of exciting. It's the way it should be, as the activities will bring an electricity back to the city that has been missing for a while. The Speedway has been building on the Centennail race for the last couple of years, and now we are realizing it's been for good reason.

I'm looking forward to spending the entire weekend there and am pretty amped about taking in Carb Day for the first time, attending the living driver's autograph session, and of course taking in Curt Cavin's Burger Bash for the first time, not to mention a possible May Indy Tweetup. Perhaps even a blogger's summit in there somewhere?

Lot's of good things, but that's not to say there aren't also some challenges in there too. Whether or not Firestone stays in the series beyond this year is a very big deal. Keeping them in the fold has to happen as they have been a great partner through the years.

Figuring out the TV deal is another factor. With only five races on ABC and the rest on Versus (who does a great job by the way), it's going to be difficult to appeal to the masses in a way that grows the sport. No one should expect people to tune into the 500 if they haven't been able to watch the previous races.

The league has to continue to find a way to cultivate a more competitive balance on the track. Two teams dominating qualifying and race day is not all that interesting, especially to new fans.

And for the love of (insert your own diety here), can we get Dan Wheldon and Paul Tracy full-time rides?

But to finish on a positive note, one of the more underlying messages that came out of yesterday's events is desptie the fact that there was the belief that 2011 was going to be a lame-duck year with the new equipment waiting for 2012, there a lot of good things to look forward to this year.

Really, we don't have the luxury of looking past this year anyway. Besides, it would be silly if we tried, because while I don't believe the 500 is going to be the most important race in the history of mankind or anything like that, I think it's going to be a big deal, and hopefully the cornerstone of a fantastic season.

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