From the Pocono Pulpit: Forget Snow, Let’s Talk Racing!

The off season has been a rather long one—with an even longer off season to follow. Now we have finally found the month of March. For many sports fans it is all about “brackets” they will never get right, and college hoops. But for those of us, who crave ethanol fumes, rubber dust in our hair, and ringing ear drums on Mondays—it’s all about the streets of St. Petersburg. The season we have all waited for, whilst snowed in like Eskimos is almost upon us.


It means I will actually be writing more than once every 6-8 weeks now. In the past two weeks, we finally received some fodder for our conversations. Let me start with the Simona story. I am not the least bit shocked Simona moved on. She is a very talented and intelligent person. Although, she never did care for those ovals—as few as IndyCar may visit. It is something not all classically trained European racers may care for. We had another driver a few years ago, retire from ovals. A few bad wrecks can do that to some.


Simona walking St Pete pitsF1, well, they only know courses with both left and right handed turns. Not to mention, it was always clear Simona had higher aspirations than IndyCar. So I am beyond thrilled to see her move on to new and hopefully MUCH BIGGER things in the future. Lord knows if any series is really lacking female drivers—it’s F1. (Notice how open wheel fans have bemoaned NASCAR over the past several years prior to Danica-palooza, but F1 always got a pass?) It’s about time a NAZI/bondage fan, and an (alleged) white collar criminal got some Swiss medicine. Who knows, maybe Simona will be on the streets of Long Beach in the coming years. (More on that later).


But what Simona’s exit caused is a passionate discussion about no more full-time female drivers in IndyCar. Now, here is where I may upset some. Why must we talk about this, as if women are just a quota for IndyCar? Where is the Japanese driver quota? Considering all the involvement from Japan, why just one driver? How about Brazilian quotas? Why are we talking like there should be, one female driver? Did baseball settle for just Jackie Robinson? Or did people like Larry Dolby, Hank Thompson (twice), Ernie Banks, and Pumpsie Green  also bring integration to MLB, and the United States? So why do we talk as if we need a minimum. What we need, is a system that creates and encourages diversity. We need a functional ladder system.


We also need owners, who have—to be family friendly, courage. It is rather pathetic that only a small handful of seats are available based on talent in the top level. I’ve heard some claim, “that’s how it’s always been”. Really? So how did some immigrant kid from Nazareth get rides? He didn’t have a wealthy tycoon father buying his way into the sport. How about some feisty dude from Texas they called, “A.J.”? How did he make it to the top? Or what about another Texan named Johnny? Were they all oil tycoon kids? Did they come from some wealthy Russian family? Were they princes from royal klans? NO!!! They all got to the top from owners with the courage to put unproven raw talent behind their wheels.


Also, spare me the argument things were less expensive. Inflation was also lower, so in many aspects, it was not really any different. Sure you need more paid staff, and more parts—but things were not always as simple in the past as faded memories might illustrate. If you are too poor to own a race team—you have no business in the paddock. PERIOD! So this poverty song is rather old. Same tired tune we had on repeat play with aero-kits.


I personally feel that one driver in particular right now has earned her right to a full-time ride. But is victim of the rental car business. Pippa Mann climbed up the ladder, and even got some impressive achievements along the way. Most of all, no driver in that paddock does a better job at connecting with fans. Heck, no other driver in any major racing series is as fan friendly as Pippa. You think Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhardt Jr. actually communicate directly with fans? Granted, there is a larger following for that series. But, when I was in ARCA, people like: Dale Sr., Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, the Labonte brothers, and even Ted Musgrave all would cut through our paddock to go from theirs to pit road. Why? To avoid all the fans. I just don’t see Pippa Mann doing that, no matter how big IndyCar may be. Just like Richard Petty and Bill Elliott back in NASCAR’s better days. Or A.J. Foyt during IndyCar’s glory days.


I mean, what sponsor does not want a driver who will give you great press, and fan support? Close your eyes to see that answer. Still, I find it insulting that people have said Pippa needs a full-time ride to fill a female quota. No, Pippa deserves a full-time ride because she earned it! It is nice also to see Pippa’s involvement with Glass Hammer Racing. Which brings me back to the ladder.


Some owners are not just cowards or cheap when it comes to filling seats in the top level. Why is Michael Andretti the lone “big gun” fielding cars in the ladder system? Is no one else interested in developing their own future? Especially since two have developmental plans for their stock car efforts. Could you see the Philadelphia Phillies or LA Dodgers saying, “Farm teams? We don’t need those; we will just sign the best free agents”. I might add the NY Yankees basically started that a few years ago, how did that work out? Yeah, different sports. But same issue—talent development. Why would someone else foot the bill to build your future for you? Sounds like a bunch of bollocks to me.


Panther at the GlenSpeaking of bloody bollocks—Panther’s law suit against IndyCar, Rahal Letterman, and the National Guard. Paul Tracy had better reasons to sue both IndyCar over 2002, and his basic back stabbing at KV over a sponsor. I don’t recall any litigation worth noting there. I see very little hope for a desperate Panther.



Start of the Firestone Indy Lights race on the Streets of Long Beach -- Photo by John Cole, INDYCAR
Start of the Firestone Indy Lights race on the Streets of Long Beach — Photo by John Cole, INDYCAR

Now, back to the F1 in Long Beach story. As reported by Robin Miller, Long Beach city council will decide if they might put the event up for bids. Back in the day, Long Beach was an F1 event until 1983. Well, F1 was a bit different then too. While they had standards, they were not as astronomical as today. Basically F1 is much like the corrupt Olympic Committee. They make you spend more than you will ever re-coupe on the event—leaving the local tax payers with the massive debts.


Well residents of Long Beach, what do you want? An event that turns a profit? Or one that will run your city financially into the sand? I know plenty of people who live in that area that went to the IndyCar events. Only two were actual fans. The rest—just casual observers who went to the party. Bring in the cost of F1, how many of those masses will be left? In North America, casual fans do not attend F1. Even some hardcore F1 fans can’t afford it.


Also, while F1 made Long Beach, some would argue, Watkins Glen made F1 in North America. I personally feel that F1 should be at the Glen more than any other place in the United States. But considering the current track ownership—lots of bollocks there!


From the snow covered Poconos—Cheers!

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