THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK:
Well, we entered another week with sponsorship announcements. Again the Penske Empire seems to just keep gaining financially on the competition this off season. Should anyone be shocked Penske just keeps upping the ante this off season?
They (Penske) have now lost the INDYCAR Championship two seasons in a row at the last race. Penske is an operation that wants to travel the galaxy meet interesting and exotic tracks, drivers and teams, and conquer them.
Darth Penske hates losing especially to his biggest rival of an empire in Target Chip Ganassi Racing. If all these new backers can add just a tiny bit more to the Penske Empire pot, maybe just maybe Will Power or Helio can be the champion instead of the Scotsman with the curiously Italian name.
A valid point was made this week by my buddy Mark. Could any other owners offer more bang for ones buck than Penske or Ganassi? He is correct, as much as I love the entire Andretti family having grown up 45 minutes north of Nazareth, PA. There is no way any driver not named Danica at Andretti Autosport could give you the camera time before, during, and after the race the drivers of the two “Empires” could.
Also while the last week has been anything but promising for Andretti fans, this has been a great showing for the Series. The economy of America is still weak at best, yet we see continued support from existing sponsors like IZOD and Meijer.
Furthermore we are seeing more support of recent as well from sponsors who had been away or in a smaller role. Shell/Pennzoil is a great example a corporate brand that had walked away from INDYCAR racing is now back. Maybe not running the entire season as a primary sponsor but back nevertheless.
Of course it should be noted that two time defending INDYCAR Series Champion, Dario Franchitti does not have Target as his exclusive primary sponsor during the season. We have seen a toilet paper brand, GPS system among others also as the main focus on his car.
Well, this is not new to Penske from his NASCAR side. Although there the roots of special race primary sponsors really first had it’s roots in making special paint schemes for one off die casts to see to their once souvenir hungry fans. Now in this economy it is a great way to eventually have the amount of funds you desire without killing the deal from your main sponsor.
Most important out of this all is every time the Penske Empire has another sponsor announcement, the IZOD INDYCAR Series gets more attention. Where are all the big announcements in the once giant NASCAR? The only one of recent I heard was AAA, which was a Penske announcement held at the same press event as their announcement for Helio. Go figure the former Reality Show sensation has better name recognition than Penske’s NASCAR driver involved Kurt Busch. (Who is now often confused by many non-NASCAR fans for his younger more obnoxious brother Kyle.)
WHERE ARE ALL THE YOUNG DRIVERS GOING?
This week we got some great news of sorts. J.R. Hildebrand has been testing with Panther Racing at PIR. While at first everyone thought it was an official deal, seems Panther is making sure they are making the right decision before they break out the pens.
Of course with Graham Rahal seemingly a lock with the rumored satellite team between Ganassi and Don “the Snake” Prudhomme. Ed Carpenter as we all now know is the employee of Sarah Fisher Racing. So what other decent American drivers are left to pick other than Hildebrand? Considering how bad the American economy is it would be far better Public Relations for the Department of Defense to pay $3 Million to an American driver than a British Citizen as they did with Dan Wheldon last season. It seems only a matter of days now before we hear the final word, but I am willing to bet J.R. is going to be the driver wearing the ACUPAT firesuit at Indy in May.
James Hinchcliffe last week was fitted into a car at Newman/Haas. Another team in need with what looks to be yet again the loss of Graham Rahal. So we now have two great talents from the Firestone Indy Lights spoken for. Yet a few others seem to remain on the outside looking in.
Charlie Brown from Race Fan Radio asked me the other night on The Inside Line with Jeremy Scott about Jonathan Summerton, a yet another American on the outside. Well, to be honest I have heard ZERO rumors about him in the IZOD INDYCAR Series or even the Firestone Indy lights.
Also where will the defending Indy Lights Champion J.K. Vernay be for 2011. This guy pulled a Will Power on the Indy Lights in 2010, minus the stumble on ovals and losing it at the final event to Dario.
It is a shame both Vernay and Summerton lack any real prospects in the IZOD INDYCAR Series. It is to be hoped that we will see JK back in the Lights if nothing else for 2011, and maybe just maybe the kid will get a car for the month of May to try to make the 500.
On a sad note, a terrible loss
I love the fact I have the freedom to be a total wise ass. My ability to speak freely from making fun of Roger Penske, to infuriating people with spelling of a series name. All of these silly things I have the right to do come from the brave men and women who protect us and give us these rights.
In late November America lost a fine young man in Spc. William Middleton. The 26 year old Virginian was killed in Afghanistan, his funeral was earlier this week at Arlington National Cemetery.
While I did not know him personally I do know his cousin. I hate to hear when anyone I know has a friend or loved one lost in this war. Without these brave members of our Armed Services there would be no Open Paddock, no IZOD INDYCAR Series, No Indy 500, and maybe no United States of America.
I thank all those like William Middleton who make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. May heaven treat you well sir. My heart hurts, and my prayers go out to the family of William Middleton, and all others who have recently lost someone in the war. Again, thank you all for your service living or passed.