I am sure you will read pages upon pages of writing breaking down what happened at the state of INDYCAR presentation. There are many, better qualified word hacks to dissect what each and every item means, but that man is not me. I am just a fan, nothing more, nothing less. My access is no more special than any random dude walking down the street. It is this reason that I was so excited to be able to attend something like this.
My only honest gripe about the night happened as soon as I arrived. In an attempt to show a bit early and possibly meet some of the people behind the twitter names, I was greeted with a line for us commoners. They kept us outside until 5:10 and by the time we were let in, there was really only time to find a seat and wait for the start. I didn’t appreciate, or understand, the need to keep us out there literally in the cold.
During the early part of the night’s festivities, there were a fair amount of tweets rolling in about the cheesiness of the whole endeavor. I was not innocent myself, but it was nice to see an honest attempt to engage us consumers. We always need some smoke and flashy lights to make anything worth coming to, and we were not let down.
I can imagine how the whole shebang looked across a webcast; overdone and overproduced to an almost comical end. I will admit to laughing out loud when I saw the foam show car sitting on the stage. I initially thought it was a cardboard cutout but was graciously informed to its actual makeup… confusion ensued. Until, that is, I realized its actual role. They used it as a sort of reflection screen and projected different car liveries on it all night. It was quite cool.
As the night wore on I realized more and more that this was not the “press conference” for lack of a better term, that many were expecting during the lead up. There was a reason why no journalists flew in for this, because it was not for them. More a celebration of what Indycar has done right, and the momentum we carry through to the 2012 season. It was a show purely for the fans. Just the fact that we were being invited to Hilbert Circle Theatre free of charge was impressive. Make no mistake; there is not a more high class venue in the city period.
The series did a great job working the human aspect of competition into the evening. They broke the drivers up into engine groups, handed out more than a few awards and showcased the Americans. I will say that Michael Shanks absence from the Lotus lineup was noted, loud and clear. They even went so far as to create the fearsome five; the group of drivers finishing P2 through P6 in the 2011 standings. Focus was drawn to Dario Franchitti’s run of championships, and Ganassi’s position as the team to beat. All of these cards foreshadow what many fans have been clamoring for. There will be some kind of behind the scenes TV show done with the teams during race weekends. About time, and the series hit a homerun showcasing just a few of the possible storylines the paddock has to offer.
There was a presentation about the top ten on the all time wins list, because Dario is sitting in P9 with 30 and Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy are tied in P7 with 31. We know that PT may very well never see victory lane again, but SeaBass and Dario can make legitimate runs to near the top of the record book. Al Unser Sr. sits in P4 with 39 wins, but with the Andretti boys and AJ Foyt seemingly untouchable at the top. We really are truly in an era of excellence.
The good news just did not seem to stop flowing once for the hour and a half presentation. I was extremely curious at Firestone Racing boss Al Speyer’s large presence in the early portions of the program. It all came together with the fantastic announcement of Firestones continued presence in the series. Huge news, no matter how you spin it. Fuzzy’s Vodka, Discover (The credit card guys), and Lids were all announced as series partners. I cannot wait to drink a signature Fuzzy’s vodka INDYCAR drink during May. It seems that Lids really wants to make Indycar hats and activate the brand; we even received membership cards as we were leaving the hall. Experience enhanced, and immediate activation of sponsorship noted… well done Lids and INDYCAR.
Missing most from the webcast, I am sure, was the energy of the crowd. The audience was not scared to yell up on stage and the drivers really hammed it up for all of us. There was one guy who would just scream his head off anytime Ed Carpenter was seen or even mentioned. At one point I was sure that the balcony group was getting bottle service, because they were really rocking. The crowd let you know what they liked; Milwaukee and Will Powers double bird, and let you know what they didn’t like. Painful silence for China.
The presence of the Borg Warner Trophy as well as the Astor Championship Cup was classy. Although Dario was somewhat presented the Astor Cup, almost surprisingly the Borg was never showcased. Its presence was enough to remind us of what didn’t need to be said, yet again. Wheldon was remembered for his win, as it should be. I applaud the directors for not memorializing during an hour and a half celebration of sport.
I had many “I love this sport” moments during the entire evening. The display car was parked right out front; not letting indycar slip to the back of the cities collective mind. Fired up, is the only way I could describe my feelings when walking out. To punctuate the positive night, I saw the three Andretti boys walking together to who only knows where, quickly, with purpose, and alone… not something I think you would have seen a few years ago. I think this is a wider feeling through the paddock; good things are happening and good things are coming. A stance that more of us fans could stand to take; thanks Randy for calling out the naysayers. A perfect way to cap off a great evening with INDYCAR.