Yes it is! We have finally made it to the closing weeks of the six month off season. Six months?! That’s akin to cruel and unusual punishment; a rant for another day. But, here we are a mere 20 days from the green flag in sunny St. Petersburg and there could not be more excitement brewing among what is left of the indycar fanbase.
Last year we were all excited for the new equipment package, plain and simple. And whether or not you thought that new hardware was successful, sexy or needed last year, it’s here to stay for at least four more years. And it provides a workable base to slowly increase speeds (fingers crossed) over the next few years. The administration woes that really made me rethink my, and many others, level of commitment to the sport have more or less been smoothed over; or at least hidden from the public eye.
But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to get excited about in 2013, or to dread each new news release that comes from INDYCAR or IMS. Without the equipment to focus on, it seems like we have had more plain old news this off-season. It has been mostly quiet in indycar world, but only if you weren’t listening. We just get swallowed in the six month absence; as the old adage goes: indycar is its own worst enemy. None of that matters to me because we are close enough now and all that is important now is the racing.
So, what am I excited for?
- 400 more feet and approximately 18 more lanes of real estate on Pocono Raceway’s front straight than IMS.
- Watching Andretti Autosport solidifying their place, again, as a true powerhouse team.
- Finally hearing some of the world’s beefiest direct injection engines turning laps in anger for the first time in half a year.
- The annual three-wide parade lap by Penske Racing to kick off free practice in May; now including AJ Allmendinger… hopefully.
- Feeling the struggle of the teams and drivers as they navigate through the three extremely busy double header weekends.
- Experiencing another season of a light-on-true-ride-buyer, heavy-on-talent competition between closely matched teams who are there for the sport.
- Watching Sebastien Bourdais fight with the big boys for an underfunded team; all while regaining his championship form and reminding people why he skipped the European feeder series and leapt straight to F1.
- A “normal” race season without extraneous dedications, moments of silence, teary-eyed interviews, or overly emotional scenes. Dan was a great man, but the racing moves on.
- The new and improved Lotus-free grid.
- Knowing there’s always more to a season than the championship title battle. Manufacturers, Rookies, ovals and twisties; a five-in-one championship series is always more entertaining.
- Back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back race weekends starting with the 500, encompassing two long ovals, two shorts ovals and a double header weekend on the streets of Belle isle.
- Camping… family… friends… the worship of speed…
- Standing starts… double headers… ethanol exhaust… smoky burnouts… drizzle tires… high-side passes… high-speed knife fights… twin checkers… finish line drag races… close calls… precision driving… flat-out racing… carbon-fiber… milk… passion…
- Realized dreams… broken hearts… heroes… villains…
… The thrill of it all…
I would never say I am walking away from the sport, because that would be a bold faced lie. And anyone reading this will never walk away either, that’s just how it is. Our participation ebbs and flows with life, but the love never dies. Top-level, American open-wheeled racing would have to cease to exist, and the Indy 500 would have to become a NASCAR race before I would ever “walk away”.
There is just something about indycar racing that no other form of motorsport can match. We have the sexiness of Formula One with the accessibility of a Saturday night short track combined with outright speed that no other form of circuit racing can boast. We may not be the best in every single aspect of competition and entertainment, but when pieced together makes indycar racing quite a complete package; even if no one watches.
Regular posting engaged… I’m back for the season and could not be more excited to see some good ol’ American grown open-wheeled racing. Is March 24th still too far away? Think about this: the September break is still one week longer than what we have until the season kicks off in Florida. Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Mid-Ohio are on my to-do list for the year, I’ll see you at the track!