Things are Changing Again! on OP, Pit Lane Reporter, aicb, and IndyCar Blogs

Hello! Welcome back to anotherindycarblog. As you can see, it’s already been another active year! A few administrative issues to get through before we can get back to the same ‘ol aicb goodness we are all used to.

I have mostly shuttered my portion of Open Paddock.net. Why?! Well, remember the “Podium Magazine” from last year? Well, it has been rebranded as the “Pit Lane Reporter” and is even prettier than before. My large feature articles will appear there monthly with the usual drivel available here at some sort of regularity. Our first issue went live today! (Direct link to first issue) Download, read, share and interact!

The conflict of interest created by my transition to the full-house motorsport publication has necessitated my resignation from the still awesome, but also full-house source of motorsport coverage, Open Paddock.

My “How Did We Get here?” series of article originally appearing at OP will absolutely be finished. That (or those, not sure how many articles the series will take to finish) will be my last written appearance on Open Paddock for the foreseeable future. Of course, they will be posted here at least a week after appearing on OP.

On a more personal level, I also felt that shuttering my blog to transition to an actual motorsport site was the wrong decision. Open Paddock is a fantastic place and can cultivate A+ talent not otherwise available through independent blogging. Just look at Mr. Kevin Neely; an amazing writer who exploded onto the scene at OP. I have no worries about the continuation of their historically fantastic IndyCar coverage.

Basically, I felt that closing my slice of the internet and moving to OP caused more harm than good to the entirety of independent coverage of IndyCar. Sure, I would probably do better as OP has a much greater reach than I do. But a shuttered blog is not helping fight the good fight, and I had the power and drive to rectify that situation. So here we are again!

A common misconception about blogging is that we only do it to see out names in the lights, monetize somehow or just to “get in”. For me, I was inspired by the bloggers I was reading and I needed a new hobby so writing it was. I already like indycar but was not a successful language student. I nearly failed every spelling, writing, grammar, French, Spanish, English class I took… I was not passing with flying colors… at all. My new hobby not only allowed me to find a new creative outlet, but it was also a journey of personal improvement.

I want to enjoy they awesomeness that is indycar racing! I also want to just put more content out there. We enjoy an under the radar sport that could always use more balanced and well spoken commentary. I’ve met life long friends and shared some amazing experiences with them through this crazy journey. I just want as many people as possible to know about and be involved with this most epic sport.

Along those same lines, I have created a new site called The IndyCar Blogs. A place where every single Indycar blog I can find will be linked to. Alive or dead, shuttered or active, the pages will live on. Some sites aren’t even available to read anymore, but I have included everyone. Currently it is just a list, but links will be added soon enough.

I’ve created a twitter account to accompany the list. The goal will be to simply retweet every single new blog post from across the IndyCar blogosphere. Make no mistake; this is not a ratings grab by me! I want to share ALL THE WORDS! When I found out there was such a thing as an IndyCar blog so many years ago, those writers rekindled my love of the sport and possibly sent it into over drive. The least I can do is share as many new and established writers as I can!

Eric Hall

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The Core Audience: YouTube is King

(NOTE: This post originally appeared on OpenPaddock.net on 2/18/2014. My writing at OP will all be archived here to keep my work compiled in a single location at least one week after originally appearing at OpenPaddock.net.)

(NOTE 2: The numbers used in this article were retrieved on the afternoon of February18, 2014)

A conversation between Matt Archuleta (@Indy44 get on twitter… follow him now), Steve Jarzombek (@sejarzo) and myself about YouTube, subscribers, the NASCAR behemoth and IndyCar uncovered something interesting.

We all know that NASCAR far and away exceeds INDYCAR in popularity in all aspects of the word. But a curious little tidbit came to light when looking through social media numbers. The oft quoted social media count to determine who is watching is twitter. The official IndyCar account (@indyCar) boasts a following of 105,668, while NASCAR (@NASCAR) comes in at a respectable 1,349,455. With an order of magnitude advantage, the evidence is pretty damning concerning who talks about what more.

Over on YouTube, the story is a bit different. NASCAR has 53,219 subscribers, while IndyCar has 108,645. Considering this is a NASCAR verse IndyCar numbers comparison, the difference was quite surprising to me. The subscribership/follower numbers for indycar are very close, whereas the NASCAR twitter following dwarfs its YouTube subscriber number by over 20 times the amount.

The reasons could be simple, and probably are, but there may be more complex things at work here. Another twitter user (@JPIndycar) quickly pointed out that NASCAR has many other media outlets to distribute content through. Races, practice, qualifying, testing, hunting, cooking, magazines, news, RV pimping; the list of NASCAR themed and related properties could go on forever. IndyCar and its fans and sponsors would do nearly anything for the kind of saturation and exposure that NASCAR enjoys.

And of course, there will be an argument that NASCAR fans may not be as tech savvy as IndyCar fans. The twitter numbers and the views of NASCAR crash videos would say otherwise.

But these numbers got me thinking. Who is the core audience; the audience that will choose Verizon over Sprint because of auto racing affiliation? We all know that casual fans pay the bills and build the playgrounds, but how exactly does one determine that core audience number?

How many are left standing once all the “casual” viewers are swept away? Common knowledge states that the bulk of NASCAR consumers are also entertainment consumers; the regular stick and ball guys who also watch and odd sprinkling of other entertainment properties. The IndyCar casual audience looks to be absent.

I said crash videos earlier because the NASCAR channel itself does not have a staggering amount of views, and the content is a bit sparse considering who we are talking about. IndyCar has 2,144 videos while NASCAR has 1,835 videos. The views are pretty similar with videos getting one to five thousand views while the odd standout may have 20 thousand plus. But the crash videos posted by everyday users for each series could have over a million views each.

There are many more user posted NASCAR videos, but they are usually some kind of crash video. And the users who post these videos are usually in the business of posting various crash compilation videos. There are more NASCAR videos around simply because they crash more often and more spectacularly than other forms of racing. Again, yet another segment of the casual audience who are searching for crash videos on the whole, and the view numbers for both forms of racing crash videos are very similar.

YouTube is a fantastic place to find cool videos and is used by nearly everyone with an internet connection, but the subscription system seems to be the home of the fanatics. They are the kind of fan who is guided by brand loyalty and must consume every ounce of media that their favorite racing series releases. The fan that will support the series before supporting any singe driver or team. The fan invested in the longevity and perpetuity of their favorite kind of racing.

Could this be one area where IndyCar could leverage its advantage over NASCAR? I have no idea, and I am probably completely backwards how I interpreted these numbers. But the fact still remains; IndyCar has twice the amount of YouTube subscribers over NASCAR, which has to could mean something.

Does the number of YouTube subscribers indicate core audience size? These guys are dedicated enough to have an account and click subscribe with the intent to return for content. If you could pinpoint this core audience and find a way to speak directly to them, could you use this communication to leverage nontraditional advertisers and sponsors in a nontraditional way? I have no idea, but it is always cooler when you feel an organization is speaking directly to you because they “get you”.

YouTube has replaced casual or couch surfing TV viewing for me, thus freeing me from the tyrannies of non-DVRed programing of which I cannot skip through commercials while watching. YouTube is possibly the best route to advertise to me while having my undivided attention outside of radio commercials during my morning drive to work dose of Bob and Tom.

Do you have a YouTube account and are you a subscription user? I am, and have found that I get huge amounts of fresh and interesting content on a daily basis. When IndyCar shows up in my feed it’s just bonus because I have already decided to watch YouTube without purposefully seeking out IndyCar specific content to watch. It has become increasingly more difficult to directly advertise to people; maybe it is time to turn up the volume for people who are already actively listening.

Eric Hall

Posted in Brain Vomit | Tagged , | 5 Comments

A Trophy and a Concert

(NOTE: This post originally appeared on OpenPaddock.net on 2/13/2014. My writing at OP will all be archived here to keep my work compiled in a single location at least one week after originally appearing at OpenPaddock.net.)

I must commend IMS and INDYCAR for the bold design of the trophy for the new Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The trophy, although not a physical creation as of yet, looks to be another polished silver beauty that has come to define Indycar championship hardware.

The futuristic look for the trophy dazzles me; high-tech and aspirational were the two words that come to mind as soon as I saw the hardware. Plus, the trophy has absolutely no historical connections, and I feel that was the correct decision, and important to building the foundations of a successful event. This race isn’t The 500, why would we connect 500 iconography with it?

Instead of attempting to coalesce some sort of esoteric historically relevant icon with a race and trophy that has zero historical importance, IMS and INDYCAR have created something that looks like it is straight out of the pages of a science fiction novel. The trophy isn’t adorned with a tiny Pagoda, or a bronzed tenderloin, and for good reason. No one has attempted to fake history to make this race more attractive to potential attendees. The trophy is a physical representation of the awareness of everyone involved that this is a brand new race.

When placed next to the historic Borg-Warner trophy, the new-take-on-and-old-tradition of the Triple-Crown trophy, and the historic-but-more-or-less-connectionless-with-modern-Indycar Astor Cup, The GPoI trophy will look right at home. This is new and old living together, and that is the very definition of Indycar racing.

For once, instead of shoehorning something new into history, IMS and INDYCAR have finally turned an eye to the future. The race is new and the trophy design is fresh. With that said, the main complaint about staging such a race still heard today is: Won’t you think of the tradition?!

What tradition? This race has nothing of the sort and respectably, the powers that be have treated it as such. Personally, I hope there is no milk in victory lane, and that the winning team does not kiss the bricks. This is a new event; we should be looking to make new traditions.

You don’t like the idea of running Indycars at IMS on another weekend besides Memorial Day? For better or worse, the sanctity of 16th and Georgetown was already erased in 1992. It’s time for IMS and INDYCAR to leverage that huge piece of capitol that is more ghost town than social hub for most days of the year.

Continuing down this path, IMS has inked a deal with country singer Jason Aldean to play a concert on the evening before the 500. That is a day when The Speedway should be a social hub, but currently looks more like that ghost town so many are afraid of.

Sure, the Firestone backing could have been used in another location to bring what could be 50,000+ concert goers to another facility on the schedule. But this felt more like a direct deal with IMS. Which is, in case we forgot, an important neighbor in Indianapolis society. Would Mr. Aldean have really played in the middle of nowhere Mid-Ohio or Barber? Would he really sign up to play at Milwaukee where the total capacity is a paltry in comparison 37,000 people?

No. The local track is simply trying to make use of its facility for more than a few weekends a year.

From an Indianapolis prospective, I hope this is the start of something more regular. As one of the largest small market cities in the nation, Indianapolis has no mid-sized or super-sized outdoor concert venues. To the north we have the Klipsch Music Center with a capacity of 24,000 and downtown we have The Lawn at White River State Park with a capacity of 6,000.

Could IMS be trying out a plan to plant a permanent concert facility in turn four? I hope so. Add a few fences and ticket gates and only a standard parking and concert venue work force would be needed to man the event, instead of an ocean of yellow shirts that usually accompany open gates at The Speedway.

As a city, we miss out on mid-sized acts that are too small to sell out Klipsch, but too large to play at the Lawn. This would be the perfect location to file 15,000 people in on a regular basis while still allowing a place for the biggest acts in music to finally make Indianapolis a summer stop on the tour schedule. This could very well fill a much needed niche in the Indianapolis leisure activities department. Believe me, we are all tired of driving to Chicago to see world renowned acts.

Sure, this could be seen as INDYCAR and IMS thinking inside of 465, but it could also be a local business trying to improve the way Indianapolis is seen on a national level. I do not believe that a concert at a racetrack has anything to do with the health of a national racing series. Nor should it be used to gauge INDYCAR’s commitment to growing the series nationally.

It’s often hard to separate IMS from INDYCAR, but this just a concert happening at a place we all happen to love and is inextricably linked with the bigger idea American open-wheel racing.

Without the availability of IMS, I doubt Mr. Aldean would have made a stop in Indy. There just isn’t the venue to hold an act of his caliber, and many people in central Indiana will be pumped that he is actually making an appearance here. And who knows, maybe some of those concert goers will accidentally see some Indycars. Where was your first exposure to Indycar racing? I bet it had something to do with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Eric Hall

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How Did We Get Here? Pt. 3 The Indy Effect

(NOTE: This post originally appeared on OpenPaddock.net on 1/27/2014. My writing at OP will all be archived here to keep my work compiled in a single location at least one week after originally appearing at OpenPaddock.net.)

(NOTE 2: Part one here. Part two here.)

After years of instability, the championship had finally become recognized and repeatable. Historical mistakes were made, but the sport is well on its way to greatness and The Indianapolis Motor Speedway finally takes the helm of championship racing for the first time.

Board track racing was at its height in the early 1920’s. Millions of trees were felled to accommodate the hundreds of miles of the highly banked wooden autodromes that popped up all around the nation. These facilities led to a decline in interest from the general public. The high banking and speeds almost guaranteed there would be no passing; the highest starting car that could stay in one piece would nearly always claim victory.

National championship regulations had allowed more or less bespoke racing machines to contest the trail. This equipment was foreign to the general public, bearing almost no resemblance to the automobiles they drove on the street. Interest was slipping and the first threats to the Championship started to expose themselves. Audiences were clamoring for the unpredictability of dirt track racing, and more recognizable machinery.

Fans got their wishes very quickly, safety hazards and the cubic dollars required for the upkeep of autodromes saw the last board track race take place at Altoona in 1931. The facilities quickly faded from existence. Outside of the bricks of Indianapolis, all championship races took place on the dirt.

During the same time, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Eddie Rickenbacker pushed through a rule set that has more recently taken on the misnomer “Junkyard Formula”. What looked like a relaxing of the rules to allow cheaper and less technical shade-tree mechanics to enter equipment into the race was actually a move to entice automotive manufacturers to come back to the championship. They had been all but absent for over a decade, citing the bespoke equipment as no interest to them.

The equipment that contested the championship in the 30’s was more akin to sports cars or stock cars than the fire breathing thoroughbred monsters that had previously graced the circuits of America. Large displacement naturally aspirated engines and riding mechanics replaced the tiny supercharged single seat equipment from years past.

This was also the first time IMS flexed its muscles in the face of the sanctioning body. Series bosses had almost always deferred to The Speedway on technical matters, but this time IMS pushed the agenda that it saw as correct. Although a massive fixture in National racing, IMS had finally positioned itself as the beginning and end of American open-wheel racing from a technical standpoint.

The late 20’s also saw the total decline of racing in the US. Transitioning from the post-WWI boom of 20 championship races to the pre-WWII bust of only a handful each year was a difficult process. Unstable rules, uncooperative promoters and financially poor owners ushered in the most tenuous time ever seen in big time racing. The late 30’s and early 40’s were shells of its former championship glory. Seasons saw an average of three or four rounds a years during this period. US racing was dying, and the merciful cancellation of big time racing in 1942 for WWII could not have come at a better time.

1946 saw the resuscitation of big time racing in the US. However, there were few facilities prepared to host championship racing. Even Indianapolis was questionable due to its neglect during the war. The decision was made to include sprint car events in the national championship trail to pad event and entrant numbers during this complete rebuild season.

Six Championship car events, historically defined as a race over 100 miles in length, and 71 sprint car events were included the calendar that year. Better than expected car counts led to a fair bit of confusion regarding what is and isn’t championship history during the 1946 season.  Whatever confusion is present in period sources, AAA released a memo ahead of the 1947 season stating that championship scoring for the 1947 season will revert to only Champ Car races, plus the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.

Dirt racing had been the predominant style of racing after filling the void left by board track racing. Only Pikes Peak and Indianapolis being the two non-dirt events until the inclusion of paved Darlington Raceway in 1951. It took a few years to catch on, but by 1956, a third of the championship was held on pavement and the divergence of pavement and dirt cars started in earnest.

1955 marked a time of new beginnings and rapid change as AAA withdrew from race sanctioning, instead choosing to focus on public automobiling services and programs. The power vacuum allowed Tony Hulman, then owner of IMS, to step in and create the United States Auto Club (USAC) to handle championship sanctions. By doing this, Hulman had consolidated IMS, big time auto racing, and technical control of the championship into one unified behemoth.

Indianapolis did indeed take full power of Championship racing, but it wasn’t with the single knockout punch of creating the 500 that sealed its place. Once board tracks fell to the wayside, IMS was the last strong promoter and track owner to compete with fairground horse racing tracks. This allowed Speedway brass a more free hand in guiding the technical regulations on behalf of the manufacturers and owners. A move AAA clearly had no motivation to make, evident by the missing but promised supercharger equivalency formula following the riding mechanic era.

Next week will examine the Split era’s and how in choosing where and what to race in the championship has led us to IndyCar racing as we know it today.

Eric Hall

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How Did We Get Here? Pt. 2 When Did It Go Sideways?

(NOTE: This post originally appeared on OpenPaddock.net on 1/20/2014. My writing at OP will all be archived here to keep my work compiled in a single location at least one week after originally appearing at OpenPaddock.net.)

(NOTE2: Part one here.)

Welcome back to the weird and wonderful world that is AAA and INDYCAR history. Racing through the 20’s was political, but more or less straight forward in its execution. The late 20’s bring a whole different problem. Instead of making history, AAA was finally interested in documenting its history correctly and accurately. You can decide how successful they eventually were.

In 1926/1927, AAA Assistant Secretary Arthur Means, for reasons unknown, created false season tables for 1909-1915 and 1917-1919 and reworked the 1920 season  stripping the championship from Gaston Chevrolet and awarding it to Tommy Milton. By 1929 Chevrolet reappeared as the champion and the Motor Age picks were considered cannon. Means’ work had slipped into oblivion and was filed away for the time being.

This version of history persisted until Russ Catlin found the Means crib sheets in early 1951. He, in his eyes, recovered history, and “restored” Milton as the 1920 champion; going as far as to award the still living Milton with a championship medal. (Chevrolet’s brothers were still alive in the late 20’s but had passed by this time; coincidence that no one was left to fight for Gaston?) Catlin also created champions from 1902 through 1908 to coincide with AAA’s golden anniversary. He wanted 50 years of champions for 50 years of operation and were folded into the ever changing cannon.

All of the early nineteen-naught picks were totally bogus; proof can be seen in his 1905 pick. Catlin chose Victor Hemery (the years Vanderbilt Cup winner) instead of Oldfield, the official 1905 champion. Showing that Catlin probably had no idea the proper 1905 season existed, not to mention period media is at complete odds with Catlin’s accounts. Why he did not reference contemporary media is unknown. Now it is thought that Mr. Catlin may not have been the crack historian he was once thought of as. Why did he choose some of Means’ work, but not all of it?

Sometime during the CART era, the 1902-1908 listings were finally dropped, but Catlin’s 1909-1915 and 1917-1919 champions proved to be a bit more persistent. It seems to me that sometime during the Champ Car era, as they had control over the old CART records, officials rectified some of the issues that had plagued history books for nearly 75 years. Gaston had been rightfully restored and at least an asterisk had been placed beside the false early seasons.

CART historian Bob Russo had always sided with Russ Catlin through many, continued attacks from up and coming revisionist historian John Glenn Printz. Starting in 1981, Printz actively lobbied CART to change its historical records to reflect what really happened. CART held firm, but in the 1985 CART media guide, the original, unaltered championship list was present with Chevrolet as the 1920 champion. CART had printed the listing by mistake and in 1986; the false list replaced the correct one. Printz and Russo proceeded to engage in a public feud carried out on the pages of “Indycar Racing” over the next few years.

Throughout the years, the AAA records had been stolen, thrown away or simply lost, leading to a few records finding their way to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway collection, with the bulk of what little surviving paperwork exists residing in the Racemaker Press storage room. By all accounts, a single box remains, its contents tainted by Russ Catlin.

Donald Davidson’s, the current IMS historian, connections with the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States  (ACCUS), the same organization that Bob Russo was part of, is probably what is stopping him from looking too closely at these early seasons. It’s easy for him to stay relegated to IMS history, and I’m not sure I blame him.

What our media guide holds now are the 1952 Catlin picks from 1909-1915 and 1917-1919. There is no official entry for 1905, and Gaston Chevrolet is the 1920 champion. But, of course, there is an asterisk and a lengthy admission that something is indeed funky with early history along with the Motor Age picks from 1909-1915 and 1919. The 1902-1908 picks are long gone.

When did our history start? 1896? 1899? 1902? 1905? 1909? 1916? Do our roots lay with the ACA and MCA as well as AAA? Is early Grand Prix racing included? I believe it started in 1905 with the first championship, took 11 years off and started again in 1916, was cancelled for WWI and fired up a third time for the 1920 season.

What do you think? How important is it that INDYCAR presents its records correctly and accurately? This discussion is about things over 100 years old, it can be difficult to change that much history, even if it is changed to reflect what actually happened. It surely did not start in 1909 when The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened, or in 1911 when the first 500 was contested. How The Speedway fits into all of this will be looked at in detail next week along with even more confusion at the hand of AAA.

Eric Hall

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How Did We Get Here? Pt. 1 When Did We Start?

(NOTE: This post originally appeared on OpenPaddock.net on 1/13/2014. My writing at OP will all be archived here to keep my work compiled in a single location at least one week after originally appearing at OpenPaddock.net.)

The prospect of American open-wheel racing is a fractured endeavor at best, and has been for nearly the entirety of its history. How long is that history, and how do we differentiate between the massive gaps in execution, ideology and technology that has graced the dusty roads of North America for over 100 years?

We can at least agree that what we watch now can trace its history back a very long time. But how long depends on who you ask. The first race in the US was held in Chicago in 1895, and it was early events like this that directly led to the creation of the Automobile Club of America (ACA), in 1899, to arbitrate US racing and liaise with the newly created Automobile Club of France (ACF), the earliest vestige of the FIA.

The ACA continued uncontested for only three years before the first competing sanctioning body was created in opposition to the perceived bourgeois ideology of the ACA. The Automobile Association of America (AAA) was founded in 1902 along with the Racing Board, later to become the Contest Board in 1908.

The board sanctioned its first race, The Vanderbilt Cup, in 1904. It is unclear why William Vanderbilt chose AAA and its Contest Board instead of the more established and internationally aligned ACA to sanction his event. Had the roles been reversed, we could have been witnessing a totally different face of American open-wheel racing today.

1905 saw the Contest board sanction the first championship decided by points take place anywhere in the world; a season largely forgot by history and not even considered an “official” season by the current keeper-of-records INDYCAR due to its relegation to the sidebar and not included in history proper.

INDYCAR believes the championship to be “abandoned”, however, period sources state the championship did indeed run to completion with Barney Oldfield taking the crown. Oldfield was the only competitor to take the green flag regularly throughout the season. His lack of consistent, season long competition made him the de facto champion regardless of points awarded.

When the AAA Contest Board superseded the Racing Board in 1908/1909, it was assumed the new organization transferred and filed the old records, if any were even created, for reference. As time has moved on, and more questionable events that have transpired regarding the sports written history, it is clear these records most likely did not seen the light of day post 1908.

The other side of the days sanctioning war saw the ACA create the American Grand Prize in 1908. This event, along with AAA’s Vanderbilt cup, are the earliest traces of European Grand Prix racing in the US. And to make things even more difficult, the Manufacturers Contest Association (MCA) was created in 1909 by US auto manufacturers to pressure AAA into more favorable rules for automakers.

This ushered in an era of European Grand Prix car domination at Indianapolis and US manufacturers were unable to competently compete at the highest national stages, Indianapolis or otherwise. This focus on AAA by the MCA and the ACA’s relationship with the international racing world led to the two organizations to draw definitive lines regarding the “who and what” of US racing. AAA would handle national contests and the Vanderbilt Cup, while the ACA would handle international events, or basically just the American Grand Prize races.

1916 saw the power of the MCA fade and AAA was finally able to relax the rules to allow thoroughbred race machines to reenter into competition. The same year, they also inaugurated what would become to be known as the first true and recognized US championship season. Our history is finally starting to take shape.

The ACA sanctioned its final event in 1916 and quickly faded into memory along with the MCA, leaving AAA as the final say in American racing through the 1955 season, but that isn’t the end of the AAA story. The automobiling magazine Motor Age selected a “Driver of the Year” for the 1909-1915 and 1919 seasons. These picks were contemporary and printed each year in the publication.

It was pressure from motoring enthusiasts and Motor Age that forced AAA’s hand at inaugurating the national championship. For many years until the late 20’s when new, but still just as unofficial picks were created, these picks stood side by side official history. Beside the Motor Age picks, history is very much straight forward at this point. The general public understood the magazine picks were not official and AAA obliged Motor Age by creating a championship. We were well on our way to greatness, but it all went wrong very quickly. Next week we will look at how the decisions of a few men tainted history and forwarded misinformation that still persists to this day.

Eric Hall

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One Final Dance with 2013

(NOTE: This post originally appeared on OpenPaddock.net on 1/6/2014. My work at OP will all be posted here to keep my life work compiled in a single location.)

Eric Hall here, you may remember me from such word-hack outlets as anotherindycarblog and Podium Magazine. After the tragic passing of Mr. Kevin Neely, I have been tapped to continue his fantastic work here at OpenPaddock.net. There is no way I, nor anyone, will be able to fill Mr. Neely’s shoes, but I do promise to keep spreading the love of IndyCar to the best of my ability.

2013 was another historic year for IndyCar, with the highest of highs and nearly the lowest of lows experienced at different times throughout the season. We saw another championship come right down to the wire with Helio Castroneves again failing to cement himself into the pantheon of open-wheel greats by missing another championship title. The year also brought us four first-time winners in, Kimball, Sato, Pagenaud, and Hinchcliffe, with the latter two drivers making multiple visits to victory lane.

Scott Dixon’s championship winning season and Helio Castroneves’ near miss also highlights the slow but gradual changing of the guard at the top over the past decade. Penske last stood atop the year end standings in 2006 eight years ago, a lifetime for Team Penske. Although Andretti Autosport is slowly on its way to former glory, it’s Ganassi Racing that has solidified itself as the team to beat.

Not only did Dixon absolutely steal the championship, but Kimball also showed us he has what it takes to compete at the top. Even though Will Power looked like the man to beat for three years running and Andretti clinched in 2012, the IndyCar championship runs through the Ganassi garage. For a man as successful as Mr. Penske, his team has a steep mountain to climb with a path littered by small but powerful teams and the gate at the top guarded by Ganassi and Andretti.

Speaking of the little teams that could, on a race by race basis, the top step of the podium was up for grabs between at least 15 drivers during any given round of the championship trail. AJ Foyt Enterprises, KV Racing, Dale Coyne Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports can all claim the title of “Giant killer” in 2013 by fighting off the monsters of Andretti, Penske, and Ganassi to the top of the podium.

However, as good as these small teams were, there were a few that were out to lunch for most of the season. Barracuda racing has been searching for it since the miraculous 2011 500 win. Sarah Fisher Hartman is still building but couldn’t seem to put it all together for longer than a single race, and Dragon Racing was… well… Dragon Racing. The team was only bolstered by the pure talent that was Sebastien Bourdais , the rest of the team looked totally and utterly lost all year.

We also saw the tragic end to Dario Franchitti’s illustrious career after his tremendous aerial impact with the Houston catch fence. But as a testament to the technical superiority of the unloved DW12, Franchitti was able to tender his resignation in person and hear the high esteem and celebration that has filled his 20+ year journey to the top of the sport. Thank you, Dario.

The leadership structure of INDYCAR was crafted into a slightly more efficient operation when Mark Miles started to coalesce the INDYCAR and IMS corporate offices under the Hulman Racing banner in a bid to create more power and efficiency within both. INDYCAR also saw the hiring of Jay Frye as the Chief Revenue Officer and CJ O’Donnell as the Chief Marketing Officer. The front office is starting to resemble an actual corporate entity instead of a mom and pop store, a sign for the hopefuls that better times are on the horizon. We actually have a businessman at the head of our business with the right technical and marketing people in the right place. I am nothing but bullish about the near future of our series.

Goodbye 2013, you were a great year and a fantastic contest. For the first time in a very long time, I was not embarrassed by the series at any point last year. Of course there were some questionable moments and decisions, but IndyCar racing just felt better in 2013. And it has provided a good base to build on in 2014 and beyond. Viewership was down, but strength and competency was up and for INDYCAR, which is a huge gain in the fight to make the future a bright and secure place.

Eric Hall

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