Yes, it has been a long time since I last wrote to you, the fans of Open Paddock. You can thank; warrants being served, people being sued, moves involving protections from abuses being supervised, my lady friend moving (not related to the item before in any way), numerous college research papers, training at the pistol range, countless law enforcement meetings, a bad virus, locus, volcanoes, lions, tigers, bears, and a tendency to put things off as a short list of reasons why the lack of posts.
One thing I need to address is the quality of the first two races on-track, and on-television. The latter is well known, if you follow the series for more than three weeks, you are well aware of this lopsided quality. “The network formerly known as Prince Versus”, has the best on-air talent, working with a production truck filled with people who actually know the series. (Even if some self-righteous nobody from Track Forum writes 10,000 words saying otherwise. Yes, I’m looking at you “Gonzo”!)
And why beat a poor dead horse further into the ground? I’ve said it a million times, and I’m actually sick of saying it—ABC’s coverage sucks! Marty Reid is a freaking clown, Scott Goodyear, while a once good racer is a terrible color analyst. Jaime Little is okay as a pit reporter for this series (I think she is still better for NASCAR), and Vince Welch is the ONLY person there who seems to really care about IndyCar in how he covers the sport. (Constable bangs head on wall from repeating himself yet again).
As for the on-track product, I hate to sound like some bitter teenage blogger always being a pessimist. But I honestly see this product for 2012 so far as, “okay”. It is neither the ‘worst’ product we could have, but they by no means have been the ‘most exciting races ever’. (I’ve heard many fans claim the latter since Barber. Did I miss something?) Sure, lots of nice racing for spots P8 & further back the first two events—but where was all the on track green flag passing for the top two spots? (Crickets).
Listen, these cars are a new package, and the quality and competition will improve as 2012 rolls along—I know this from experience in racing myself. But has the bar really been lowered that much, that people honestly think Barber was the best road course race in years? I don’t even think it compares to the 2009 Watkins Glen race that Justin Wilson won. Let alone, it is NO 1996 Laguna Secca with “the Pass”. It was okay.
What I have noticed is the fans like me tend to have something in common—we are not very big F1 fans. Sure I watch F1 if it is on and I’m awake, but I never plan my weekend around it. See F1 all the lead changes involve when one pits. Rarely is an F1 race loaded with lead changes on track under green, you might get a pass every few events on track. That is somewhat what IndyCar too has had these first two events.
Of course St. Petersburg and Barber while both beautiful places to attend an event, both stink for passing opportunities. Those venues coming later will provide better racing, starting with this weekend in Long Beach. Not only will Snoop Dog no doubt be “in da hizzizel”, but so will better racing. See, Long Beach while a tight course, still provides for better chances to take positions. Just ask 2011 winner Mike Conway.
Aside from the Hollywood experience of the event, it has traditionally provided some of the most action packed racing on a tight street layout. (Toronto has far more room for their excitement, which might be the best street course in IndyCar history). I suspect unlike the first two events, no one will run away with the lead all day, nor will all the lead changes come on pit road. The new cars (Chevrolets and Hondas at least) will wow the fans with some great dicey action. Also don’t be shocked to see someone like Ryan Hunter-Reay walk away the winner. Clearly Chevy has fed me crow this season and started off with an awesome, BANG! (Even with those issues with keeping the batteries charged lol).
Well, we found out after St. Petersbug, Texas seems to be a popular place for the Randy Bernard era of IndyCar. Maybe he has great connections there from his PBR days, I don’t know. What I do know is I question how much longer Texas Motor Speedway, or any SMI oval may ever host an IndyCar event. Streets of Houston have been met with a lukewarm response for non-Texans who follow the sport. Even the fans that prefer street courses to ovals seem room temperature at best to that event. The Austin GP track? That has generated a little more excitement than Houston.
The great Robin Miller wrote maybe the best piece in laying out the venues most likely to be seen in 2013. Richmond may very well return. I was at the 2009 event, and they only sell tickets for the seats between the last turn and first turn for non-Cup races. The place was packed in those sections that day. Although I’m not sure how many were there with free Penske tickets (about 40% had Penske swag and left after both cars crashed out). Still butts in seats means eyes on sponsors and money for a track. Plenty of NASCAR events are loaded with comp tickets these days. Hell, that massive Monday crowd at Daytona was all people who walked in for free. (Dirty secret about rain outs reveled).
Phoenix may return if a deal can be made. But considering the track layout has been modified since the last open wheel event there, it could turn into a massive disappointment. Road America is one that couldn’t be worked out for 2012, but Randy Bernard is still working on something for 2013 there. (And that track will blow any Barber event out of the bloody water!)
But perhaps the greatest positive for myself as an IndyCar fan who calls Monroe County, Pennsylvania my home—POCONO!!! Yes, in case you don’t read the best IndyCar reporter Robin Miller’s stuff and waste your time instead with his Lex Luthor at the Star—Brandon Igdalsky was Randy Bernard and the series “guest” at St. Pete a few weeks ago. The thirty something President & CEO of Pocono attended his first IndyCar event as “just a fan” according to a later tweet.
This fan has massively changed Pocono Raceway into a venue of modern times; a far cry from what it had been remembered for by CART fans, and those of us who recall the facility in the early to mid 1990s. (I have pics with the front stretch catch fence having massive slack in it around 1995). Long gone are the old tired amenities. Now; the seats have backs in many sections, the walls have safer barriers instead of boiler plate and guard rails from the Richard Nixon years, there is catch fence around all 2.5 miles of the triangle, and Locus Ridge Quarry has laid down the last layers of fresh smoothed out blacktop. Pocono is for all intents and purposes a new superspeedway. This is not your father’s Pocono International Raceway—this is Pocono Raceway the “Tricky Triangle” with a solar farm. My home venue is moving not just into the 21st Century, but into the future looking ahead of many other speedways.
And according to many sources I have been e-mailing and texting in Indiana, as well as a few highly reliable sources here in Monroe County, 2013 may be a very possible future. It is very possible that Pocono may have one of two options, an IndyCar event the same month as one NASCAR race, or September may see an Atlantic region leg with Baltimore and Pocono one after the other. The only possible losers for Pocono could be the SCCA and similar car clubs who may lose a weekend to accommodate IndyCar. (If Randy could think about going back on his no July 4th weekend policy—Pocono could actually go back to their roots from 1971 until Hurricane Agnes changed where the track was on the IndyCar Schedule). Also there could be a possible ‘tire test’ for two or three IndyCar teams at Pocono this August. All of this is tentative if an agreement can be reached in the coming three months. It is also possible nothing can be worked out for 2013.
Either way, I have spent years of my life making noise about Pocono. This track’s 2.5 mile triangle was built just for IndyCars. In 1971 the event at Pocono was a copy in many ways to the Indy 500. It was meant to be the Indy 500 of the east coast. Pole and Bump days were the last weekend in June. The race was on July 3rd, a Saturday, and winner Mark Donahue was given a milk carton to drink in victory lane.
In those days Penske Racing was based two hours away in Reading, PA. A large number of participants in the series, both drivers and crew members hailed from the Keystone State. Marco and Mario Andretti still call Nazareth, PA their year round residence. Nazareth is just 45 minutes south in neighboring Northampton County.
While the number of likes is by no means epic in numbers (I have never spent a dime to advertise this movement), Bring IndyCar Back to Pocono Facebook page has over 100 plus likes, and at least one new ‘Like’ per day. Most of those are race fans I have no idea who they even are. It seems to be a steady stream of interest since St. Pete. I can’t say I’m disappointed.
While starting in 2013 I will be the armed security for the Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport for NASCAR weekends being a local State Constable. (Where we keep the adoring NASCAR fans to a distance making sure they don’t wander places in the airport that could be dangerous to them, and also making sure they in no way can harm the NASCAR stars either). Should IndyCar come to Pocono in 2013, I will have to let one of my Fraternal Brothers from a neighboring municipality cover for me on IndyCar weekend. I will be too busy working the Pocono Raceway media center to handle airport security that weekend. Although, I may be seen at Pocono in my straw Sheriff’s style hat, and sporting a star in circle badge on my chest during the IndyCar weekend—after all, I do write Constable’s Corner at Open Paddock.
Below is a great YouTube video of the 1st ever IndyCar race at Pocono.