Monday, May 16, 2022

Winners and Losers: Indy GP

I always think the Indy GP is the appetizer to the full-course meal that is the Month of May in Indianapolis. 

But after the racing we've seen the last few years at the GP, maybe we need to up its status, because the event has become an exciting, standalone race that seems to keep getting better. Especially when it rains!

Back in 2019 I went to college football games at Nebraska and Iowa, and later wrote a story for it for my college paper, the NIU Northern Star. One thing I noticed about both games is that when it got dark the energy in the stadium and the play on the field got ratcheted up a couple of notches.

I'm realizing that's what happens when it rains for the GP. All of the sudden you get all sorts of crazy strategies, cars in the grass, cars spinning on slicks, cars moving up through the field, falling back, then doing it again. It was so chaotic that the race blew away previous records for on-track passes (471) and passes for position (362).

We loved it, it was great, but now, can we not have any rain for two weeks?

After all the chaos had settled, who were the winners and losers from Saturday?


Colton Herta. After three straight disappointing races -- well, by Herta's standards -- the 21-year-old started 14th but quickly moved to the point and led 50 of the event's 75 laps. May hasn't been the kindest to Herta, but let's see if this win gives him a little more momentum.

Simon Pagenaud. Considering he started 20th on the grid I didn't have a lot of hope of a great finish by Pagenaud, but then I remembered he won in the rain in 2019, so his runner-up finish was no big surprise. It's been a difficult season so far for the Frenchman, but his Meyer Shank Racing team comes to IMS as the defending race winner, so he's got to be feeling pretty good right now.

Will Power. The IMS road course has been Power's playland since the GP went into existence, and that trend continued this past weekend. On Friday he captured the 63rd pole of his career, and Saturday drove a great race to finish third. If I had to pick a championship contender list after just five races, Power would be holding on to the top spot. Two third-place finishes have bookended three fourth-place efforts. Sitting at the top of the points standings, he is definitely looking focused and determined.

Conor Daly. Yeah, my winners list is the top for finishers. Duh, right? But with the exception of Power, the other three drivers definitely redeemed themselves this weekend. After starting fifth, Daly fell to 16th by Lap 14. He brought it back to finish fourth to pick up his best finish since a fifth-place effort at Gateway in 2017. He's still my pick to win the Indianapolis 500, I expect a huge month from him.


Alex Palou. Palou entered the weekend leading the points standings, but an early spin dropped him to the back of the field, and he couldn't recover, only managing a 20th-place finish. He's got to hope that's the only mulligan he'll need to use this year, but while it could've been worse he is only 14 points behind Power heading into a double-points race.

Pato O'Ward. Pato was in the hunt for a while on Saturday, and even led five laps. But the rest of the race didn't go as well, and he finished behind Palou in 19th. O'Ward looked untouchable in winning at Barber two weeks ago, but his season has also been marked with three finishes of 12th or worse. He should run up front in the 500, so double points could be his friend and get him back into the championship hunt.

Josef Newgarden. Saturday was just miserable for the season's only two-time winner, as early contact put him in a deep hole and he came home 25th. But he does have the advantage of winning the first oval race of the season at Texas, and will definitely be a contender in the 500 in two weeks.

500 Pace Car

Back in the day, it was always interesting to see what kind of car would lead the field to green on Race Day. Since now the only choices seem to be the Corvette or Camaro (both made by Chevrolet of course), there isn't any mystery involved.

This year, it will be the super-sexy Corvette leading the field, and behind the wheel will be IndyCar veteran and former car owner Sarah Fisher.

Editor's note: Years ago I remarked to my son Kevin how I thought Corvettes needed more of a "supercar"-type design. While I of course had nothing to do with their decision, I was incredibly happy when they started doing it.

Anyway, in one capacity or another, Fisher has been involved with IndyCar since the start of the millennium and in her racing career had a pole and two podiums, which is pretty impressive given she never really had the funding necessary for a top ride. Along with Janet Guthrie and Lyn St. James, Fisher helped pave the way for many of the women drivers that have driven in the 500 or the series itself.

But I'm glad they are honoring someone in the IndyCar community as opposed to pro athletes or celebrities. That stuff has run its course, and while many say they bring "eyeballs" to the sport, I'm going to guess no one turned on the TV or bought a ticket because of the person driving the pace car, so I hope that moving forward the honor is given to someone who has made an impact on the sport.

The Club

Did you happen to catch The Club anytime this weekend? I finally checked it out last night and it was very entertaining, yet poignant at the same time given the passing of Al Unser Sr. a few months later. While I wish it would've gone on longer, there were some great stories told, and I love the admiration and respect each driver has with one another.

I'm also going to vent for a sec, but not about the show itself. I'm on the IndyCar/IMS mailing list, and I heard about the screening event that happened during the week. Mentioned in the release was that the event was "by invitation only".

OK, I get that, but this show wasn't made for the drivers, it was made for the fans. So I was thinking...why couldn't they have had a separate showing for the fans? Those events are just all the same people being invited to the same stuff over and over. How does that help IndyCar?

Give away some free tickets to fans and influencers and give them their own showing. Better yet, charge $5 for people to sit in the Paddock Penthouse on Friday night and show it, then give the money to a local charity. I don't know, somehow, someway it would've made a lot of sense to have the fans involved.

Anyway, welcome to the 15 Days of May! Practice begins tomorrow, qualifying is this weekend and the race is just 13 days away. I'm on a work trip this week so I'll only be at the track on Saturday so if you see me, stop me and say hello! 

Photo: This was from the GP held at IMS last August. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Remembering the Social Media Garage

Time marches on.

Am I telling you something you already know? Of course I am, but every once in a while memories pop up in your mind that really reminds you of that fact.

For me, it was when the calendar turned to May and I remembered it has been 10 years since I participated in the Social Media Garage at IMS. And, as a side note, it's been five years since I was part of Buddy Lazier's team for the 2017 Indy 500.

Side note #2: I'm still a free agent for this year's race and if anyone wants any kind of help hit me up as I'd love to work for you. Insider secret from that month: Buddy had a personal PR guy who got him one placement in USA Today then spent the rest of the month with another driver, meanwhile I was busting my butt for the team, doing everything asked of me while putting out tweets and getting a great story placement with Gregg Doyel the day before the race.

Here's that piece. (Hope you can read it) It's a great story, and reading it again reminded me how much fun being with that team was. 

Editor's note: This photo was taken at 5 a.m. the day of the 2017 Indy 500. 

That's what I do. I'm good at it, and also frustrated as hell because I worry I'll never get another chance.

But anyway, it was that experience in 2012 that really gave me the bug to wanting to work in racing. It was a pretty sweet setup, the SMG was actually one of the F1 garages and we had everything in there, two TVs with a live feed on one and speed chart on another, chairs and couches to sit in and hang out, hard-wired internet, and silver (otherwise known as cart blanche) badges.

It was incredible, and I spent Fast Friday and qualifying weekend running around like a kid in a candy store. While I provided updates on what was going on with the cars on track, I also made it a goal to show how accessible the IndyCar paddock is by trying to get my photo taken with as many people as possible.

Let's just say it was a rousing success. If you feel like reliving 2012, here are a few links:

It was such a great experience, made even better by the new friends I made, like Eric Hall, Mark Wilkinson, Zach Houghton and Pippa Mann. Overall I thought the SMG was a rousing success, but sadly it's not a thing anymore. Which is sad, because given how big of a reach social media has today, it would be incredible to get some influencers in the same room for a weekend and just absolutely kill it.

Then again, it would involve thinking outside of I-465 and that just can't happen.

But it is crazy to think about what 10 years has done. Back then, bloggers and social media people were really a welcomed part of the IndyCar family. I could get credentials for almost any race (context here: I still can for a couple but nothing is guaranteed) and I remember Trackside holding a "blogger night" where we could come on the air and talk about a subject that interested us.

Mine was how we were entering a "Golden Age" of the sport -- which I still believe -- and that we should be looking forward to some of the younger guys in the sport and what they were going to bring to the table in the future. Of course, with little to no on-air experience at the time I talked at a hundred miles an hour and I don't know if many people understood what I was saying, but it was still a fun experience.

Since those days, a lot of my fellow bloggers from those have packed it up. I get it, the hardest part of doing this is that you really never know how many people actually read it, it takes a lot of time (by the time I finish this post I will have invested almost four hours into it), and you rarely, if ever, get feedback. Plus, I fight impostor syndrome all. the. time. I can't tell you the number of posts I've written and deleted just because I didn't think they were any good. Some days I just don't know if I'm interesting.

And, we all did it for free. People's lives change, and when it's time to sort things out, stuff like this is usually the first to go. I mean, I do this because I'm a writer, I write for a living -- and have done so for 22 years -- and now that I'm not a sportswriter it's a chance to share my passion of the sport and keep the rust on my sportswriting skills from building up. 

I will admit, that if I could start all over again I think I would be a little more critical of things that have gone on in the series. I haven't done enough of that, I had my reasons and that falls on me for not being as authentic as I should. 

I definitely miss those days, being part of a group of people who loved blogging about their thoughts on IndyCar and the Indy 500. Of course, times have changed, and so have the attitudes of most of the fanbase. Not saying that is a bad thing, it's just the evolution of how information is disseminated. 

Most people enjoy videos and podcasts now, and that's all good. I love podcasting as well, which is why I've also delved into those mediums over the last couple of years. Podcasts are great because you can hit play and listen whenever, wherever. I certainly don't want you trying to read this while you are driving, but you can listen to a podcast. It's a great medium.

I still think there is an audience for blogging, and with the lack of media coverage IndyCar gets, I wish they still embraced it. You'd think for a series that is still struggling to reach audiences would be, but it's definitely gone in the exact opposite direction. And that sucks. It's hard to understand, because we are willing to promote the series any way we can, and like I said, we don't ask for much in return. If I owned a business I would be utilizing every medium I could to promote said business.

Times change, I guess. I'm still here, and will be for a long time. Many times over the 11 1/2 years I've been on this little blog, I've tried to walk away. I've hovered my mouse pointer over the "Delete Blog" button on more than one occasion.

But despite everything, I'm proud of this blog. I've invested more than a decade into it, and I just can't walk away from it. Because I believe in writing and I believe people still like to read good content.

Not to mention, I have such a love and passion for racing, and this blog is a big outlet for me to talk about it. 

So that means I'm going to stick around a little longer, and hopefully we're still talking in another 10 years. Whadda you say?