Spike’s World: Can anyone hear IndyCar?
We have all heard the saying, “If a tree fell in the woods and no one was there, would it make a sound?”. In this case, the woods are IMS, and the sounds? Everything from Carb Day coverage to Pole Day radio coverage. Did it ever make a sound? Last weekend I had to drive to Chester, Pennsylvania for an MLS game. During the rain delay at IMS, the IMS radio network informed listeners on affiliates they would be going off the air until 4:30 PM. I had it on the IndyCar channel on XM, surely I along with Verizon customers and people sitting around a PC would still have coverage. I mean, I already labored through Nick Yeoman’s terrible rain delay interviews. At least he didn’t ask Simona if she knew how to yodel like he did at Detroit last season during a delay. (Yes, he really did ask that once! Simona seemed rather put off by that question too.)
Well, don’t you know, they went off their own stinking XM channel. How is a series going to be nationwide, or international, when they don’t even keep coverage going for cars actually on-track on their own radio channel? Do you see this with the NASCAR channel? NO! They will actually provide full coverage. They often perhaps have too much coverage, but the one thing they don’t have is a robotic voice on their channel telling listeners, “Programming will return later” while cars are actually on track. NOT IndyCar!
Then we have Carb Day. The only thing the IndyCar channel had was the Freedom 100 race. While it was a great race and finish, it is just a fraction of what they could be covering. What I don’t get is why have a channel when you refuse to fill it with content. Imagine if Fox was only on the air during live sporting events and the Simpsons? You have something to promote your series heavily, but you refuse to try and use it. Why!?!?
IndyCar seems to think as long as ratings are high in Indiana, all is well. That is true if you are showing Indiana high school sports, not so much for an international motorsports series. The only thing I see similar to NASCAR is the radio networks both have mostly regional accents. Two people on IMS radio are great at what they do, and don’t sound so regional. But the same can not be said for all. Having an overly regional sound is what hurts not helps national attention. Hence why NASCAR’s love for North Carolina accents is just part of their massive decline of the last five years. The same decline, IndyCar can’t buy a clue on how to take advantage of.
As for Carb Day entertainment. When was the last time an actually still relevant act played? Posion lost their relevance in music when George H.W. Bush was still president. ZZ Top, an act many say was the last big one to play Carb Day, they were still two decades removed from their prime when they played IMS. The Indiana state fair gets more relevant acts.
There is one real positive in all of this, NBC Sports Network. They clearly have moved away from the decidedly Indiana regionalized coverage. It actually sounds like an international sport when you watch NBC Sports. IMS Radio and the IndyCar channel should take lessons from NBCSN. Make coverage more than just the race, make content well rounded for all fans, not just people in Hamilton County Indiana. The longer you keep fans listening, the more hooked they will become. Motorsports is the addiction with no cure, just ask any racer.
Now, who do I pick for Sunday? Well, I see three drivers putting on a show for the fans. First is the man who arguably was more famous for his last lap move last year, than the actual race winner—Sato. This guy is hotter than a stolen Mustang in a Nick Cage re-make. He only seems to know one way to race, HARD! And his owner only knows one way to live, HARD! Considering how well the Foyt team has looked, and how well they have mixed with Sato, I see at least a podium if not milk in their future. I also see them as the lone Honda team on the podium.
Next, defending series champ, Ryan Hunter-Reay. Everyone forgets this guy runs well on roads, streets, and ovals. He still seems to be regarded as a street and road racer, even though he has several oval wins. The Andretti team has become the new “red cars” for IndyCar of late. While Penske and Gannassi are not terrible, they are also no longer the most dominant force in the series. I don’t know if I would say RHR is a sure winner for the 500, but he will as always surprise people with a great race on an oval.
The teammate to the defending series champion, Marco Andretti may be the best candidate for milk consumption. It is his best start at the brickyard. And while like RHR Marco is good at all types of venues, ovals may be his strongest. Having watched him test at Pocono, Marco is someone obsessed with being the fastest on ovals. Unlike Dario, Marco was not scared like a child at Pocono. He was fearless and ran more than 4 laps at a time at Pocono.
Most importantly, Indy is the start to the triple crown, something an Andretti has never won, and involving two venues the Andretti family struggled to find wins at. I don’t see a struggle in 2013 for Marco Andretti. I see him settling the score for the disappointment with his loss to turncoat Hornish several years ago. I see tomorrow as settling the score for grandpa’s loss in the early ‘80s the courts would not overturn. I see 2013 as revenge for dad’s dominant day suddenly ending in heartbreak in ’92. I see Marco Andretti drinking milk on ABC, a story that will give the series and event more post race attention than they have seen in decades. America loves big names, none are bigger and more connected to race winning than Andretti.