Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Soapbox Tuesday!

To quote the legendary Charlie Steiner (formerly of ESPN and now an LA Dodgers broadcaster)...it's Tuesday already! Two days of work down, two more to go and then it is Milwaukee IndyFest time! Until then here are a few things that have crossed my mind this week:

*Texas Wrap. Lots of chatter from Texas is still going on, mostly surrounding the future of the event and the fines levied against race winner Justin Wilson. First, the thoughts of Texas going forward. While some (like Curt Cavin) believe a future event is a 50/50 proposition, I think it will still happen, only because despite what he says Randy Bernard knows that he needs Texas. How do you replace an event that is a staple (and important constant) on your schedule, AND find another venue that is going to draw 60-70,000 on a race night? Sure, Eddie Gossage holds the cards here and the series won't get the best of deals, but until they find something better, they will be dancing partners now and in the future. Until you reach the point that tracks want (and need) you and not the other way around, you will always be on the short end of business deals.

Was a bit disappointed to see Wilson's penalty. Obviously because of the nature of the fine ($7,500 and five points) and the explanation that it was an oversight on the part of the peeps in pre-race tech, in the scope of things it probably isn't a big deal. And, as was mentioned, if the part was so important, why did they qualify the car 17th in the first place? Still, to some it looks bad and puts a bit of a cloud over his win. It shouldn't, he was the best car and driver Saturday night. Besides, with a lack of transparency on the part of race control in the past, how many times did something like this happen in the past and it just wasn't reported? By the way, Ed Carpenter drew a fine and a one-point deduction for a wickerbill issue.

*It looks like no race in China. I think the whispers going around are true in that the Aug. 19 race in Qingdao is not going to happen. It looks like the race is going to be a victim of a political battle in the area as the incoming mayor isn't as stoked for the event as the outgoing mayor was when he set up the race. Too bad, while the event would have sucked for us in the States (like Motegi did last year) I was interested to see how the Chinese would take to the race. Oh well.

Now the question becomes how they plan to fill out that date in order to satisfy the contractual obligations to series sponsor Izod. The popular belief is that Road America might be a possibility as there is an ALMS event there that weekend so they could fit IndyCar into the schedule. I don't know about that one as Milwaukee will have been just two months prior, but maybe people would dig Road America since it was long a staple on the CART circuit. Cavin mentioned on Trackside tonight that Bernard may have as many as five venues on his mind, particularly Kentucky and maybe even Pocono. I could accept the former, in fact if it happened maybe I would make the trip down there for the first time, but the latter is intriguing if it could be set up quickly enough. Pocono is a great open-wheel track and now that it is more compliant in terms of safety it might be a good place to race either now or in the future. Don't forget, the track is less than 100 miles from Manhattan -- I know, it would be a bit of a stretch to say it would be in the New York market -- and millions of people live within 100 miles of the venue. Promote it right, and even try to sell the local NASCAR fans on the race, and it might work out well.

*Iowa! I will write plenty on Milwaukee this weekend so I'm going to skip ahead to next weekend in Iowa as drivers were there testing today. Didn't hear a lot of news from out that way, but I'm sure Pressdog might have something later, so check out the Dawg as he always has great content.

I did hear of two items, though. The first is that Scott Dixon blew up a Honda and Will Power did the same to a Chevy, allegedly in spectacular fashion too. No word yet on whether or not they will be facing a 10-grid penalty either this weekend or next, but honestly, as we have discovered this year it's not a disadvantage to start midfield. Of the seven races this season, four of them have been won by drivers starting ninth or worse, and two of the last three races have been won by drivers starting way back (Dario Franchitti 16th at Indy and Wilson 17th at Texas). I think it adds to the entertainment factor, because say a driver qualifies third and is dropped to 13th...you know they have a fast car, and it is fun to watch them try and move up.

(EDIT! According to the Associated Press, both Dixon and Power will get 10-grid penalties in Milwaukee this week.)

Speaking of entertainment, I have heard a few drivers have spoken out about the qualifying races that will set the field at Iowa next weekend. Power called it "gimmicky" and other drivers have said they don't like it because of a fear of tearing up equipment the day before a race.

Is it gimmicky? Of course it is! But as a born and raised Midwesterner, that type of racing is the heart of our sport, and I think the fans at Iowa will have a blast watching. And guys, if you haven't noticed, IndyCar is working at bringing in more fans and getting more eyes to watch on TV. If it takes something like this to get people interested, it does. It's different and is worth trying. No it shouldn't be a staple of every IndyCar stop, but if it works and is something unique to Iowa, I say go for it. Maybe sweeten the pot with some cash or an extra point or two for winning one of them.

And this idea of trashing equipment. Please, stop being wussies and act like racers! Nobody wants to tear up cars, I get that, but it just seems there is a faction of drivers who take issue to something at pretty much every stop on the circuit. I love watching Power drive -- as I have stated more than once here I think he is one of the finest road racers in the world -- but he gets his panties in a bunch an awful lot. I'm waiting for one driver to just say "you know what, I love to race, anytime...anywhere, and I have no problem mixing it up in one of the qualifiers". Somebody say it, please? The idea of tearing up cars is just as lame as it would be for other pros to complain about All-Star games because of the risk of injury. Sometimes you have to do something for the fans, it's part of the job and you do it. Put some pride on the line and get after it.

Besides, how is it any different than the Gatorade Duels? Because of the Top 35 program and the fact you can win at Daytona from anywhere in the field, there is really little to no incentive for most of those guys to race hard. But they still do. I'm guessing when the adrenaline starts flowing they will have a different opinion, and I have several drivers who I think will go out there and put on a good show. If it isn't your bag, drop to the back of the field, drive in circles for 20 miles and shut the hell up.

That's it for today! I will be wired in at the Mile by around 11 a.m. Friday. Look for random streams of consciousness and a Twitter blowup, just like I did in Indy!

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