Photo credit: Chris Owens/Indianapolis Motor Speedway
The first race of the IndyCar season is here. Of course, leave it to IndyCar to pick the same weekend as the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament to finally get going. Credit to the Detroit Free Press and writer Mike Brudenell for a nice season preview in Friday’s edition – they found room in a section that was understandably dominated by NCAA coverage of both Michigan State and Michigan playing at Auburn Hills.
Here are some things I hope to see this season:
1.) Activation, Activation, Activation. I want to see series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay staring at me from a display of Sun Drop all spring, summer and fall. And is there any particular reason why Target wants to keep Dario Franchitti’s Indianapolis 500 win a secret? As always, the series is wringing its hands about ways to reach new fans and how critical this is to growth. Here’s an idea: Let. People. Know. About. Your. Drivers.
Last summer, I bought a 12-pack of RC Cola with Marco Andretti on the side; ditto some cereal with Scott Dixon and Franchitti. But that’s about all I’ve seen. Maybe if Detroit had a race, you would see more activation in stores. Oh, right.
2.) Product, Product, Product. Related to the above, I want to see IndyCar SOMETHING in stores. Diecasts. Shirts. Hats. Handkerchiefs. I’m talking to you Meijer and Target. Please.
3.) Rivalries, Rivalries, Rivalries. For the past 10 years or so, rivalry in the IndyCar series has been team-based: Penske vs. Ganassi for the most part, with a bit of Andretti sprinkled in here and there. Everyone has been holding their breath until they’re blue in the face waiting for something between Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal to develop. At this point, frankly, our faces are more blue than a Smurf after eating a blueberry pie.
4.) Turbo, Turbo, Turbo. As in the new movie from DreamWorks about a snail who competes in the Indianapolis 500. (I’m sure we all have our own jokes about this: “Hey, this sounds like the year XXXX when XXXX XXXX was in the 500.” Because this is the start of the season and we all should be optimistic, I’m not going to fill in the blanks today.)
I’m not sure what, if anything, “Days of Thunder” had to do with spurring national interest in NASCAR in the early 1990s (I would give most of that credit to then-new phenom Jeff Gordon, with perhaps some to the Brickyard 400), but it didn’t hurt, either.
Today, of course, when you mention racing to the average American, it is defined by NASCAR. If a new generation can start to at least consider IndyCar as an alternative, “Turbo” will have helped. You can learn more about the movie, arriving in theaters July 19, HERE
5.) Two for four. I really hope the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has some sort of plan to draw attention to Helio Castroneves and Franchitti trying to become four-time winners this May. Like Hunter-Reay’s championship, this obvious storyline has been kept under wraps for some reason.
Instead, fans were “treated” to an off-season about findings from a consultant group, a tax break/enterprise zone around the track and, oh yes, yet another IndyCar leader who was black-flagged.
Still, spring is here – even if springlike weather is still in the garage. (Maybe it was sequestered.) Here’s to a good season.