Why IndyCar Should Be Thankful

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought that it might be appropriate to list a few things that the Izod Indy Racing League should be thankful for. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are a few items that fans and anyone involved with the league should be grateful for, in no particular order…

The Izod Sponsorship – There was not a whole lot of imagination required to come up with this one. At a time when economic uncertainty surrounds almost every industry, the IRL landed the golden goose with the deep pockets and vast marketing power of Izod parent company Phillips-Van Huesen. There is to be an influx of cash but more importantly, they have the ability to reach out and tap into an entirely new fan base for the series. The six-year deal also lends an air of stability and makes it a little easier for teams to close potential sponsorship deals.

Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing – Although everyone complained that these two teams won sixteen of seventeen races in 2009, we should be thankful we have these teams to shoot for. Other than whoever Danica Patrick is driving for, these are the most visible teams in open-wheel racing. They are the Steelers and Cowboys; the Yankees and Red Sox or the Celtics and Lakers. They are two teams that have been at it for years. Each team may have its down years, but year in and year out – one or both of them is the team to beat. Before either team moved over to the IRL, there was not a whole lot of satisfaction or notoriety involved in beating Cahill Racing or Bradley Motorsports. Like them or not, they set the standard for the rest of the series.

Danica Patrick – If you’ve been reading this site for very long, you probably realize I’m not a huge Danica fan. I see her as a slightly better than average driver that tends to be a little too conservative. She never seems to push the car to the limit, but she usually brings her equipment home in one piece. At least she isn’t one of those drivers who toils near the back of the field and still find a way to put it in the fence.

Even though I sometimes resent the attention she gets, at least someone is getting attention. The thought has been that she would generate interest and these new fans would stick around once they sampled our product. That hasn’t been the case. Instead, we’re stuck with a bunch of drunk, overweight guys wearing Danica T-shirts that seem to hang around the track thinking they might actually get to date her.  Maybe Izod can devise a way to retain these new customers sampling her brand.

Honda & Firestone – These companies are more than just partners or vendors to the league. They have both taken the initiative to work with the IRL to do whatever it takes to keep their product on the track. Honda reluctantly became the sole engine provider as their competition withered away after the 2005 season. They detuned the engines to improve reliability and have worked with the league as they switched from methanol to ethanol. They are encouraging other manufacturers to join the series but they have made it clear they still want to participate. Firestone has also worked with the league to provide a safe yet reliable tire. It speaks volumes for Bridgestone-Firestone engineers that they are the only tire company that has not been embarrassed by bringing a faulty tire to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the last few years.

A.J. Foyt – Although his team was uncompetitive in CART and the current decade in the IRL, he has been loyal to the league and has been a fixture on the grid for my entire life. While many teams would have packed it in years ago, Foyt shows up year after year and always has a car in the field in a time when car count is a big concern. In some years, without Foyt there may not have been a full field in the Indy 500.

The man is a living legend. He has now grown into a caricature of himself, but he is a link to the past that we are lucky to have. Most of the drivers in the field today would do well to gain just a quarter of the passion that AJ Foyt still brings to the track. He turns seventy-five next January and is still extremely active. Some would say he is too active, but we need to appreciate the man while we’ve still got him. Once he’s gone, it’ll be a huge blow to the sport.

The Andretti Family – Like them or not, they have remained just as much a part of this sport as Foyt. Mario Andretti is another legend that is still very active in the sport. Michael Andretti has been fielding at least four cars on the grid since 2004. His team, which has just been renamed Andretti Autosport, has underperformed for the last couple of years but the league is a lot better off with his presence. His team has fielded some of the biggest stars in the sport in their short history. If he suddenly grew tired of being a car owner and closed up shop, I shudder to think what it would do to the league.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway – There aren’t enough accolades for the property that sits at 16th and Georgetown. There would certainly be no series without the famed 2.5-mile oval. The Hulman-George family, for all of its recent shortcomings, has done a phenomenal job of preserving the past while moving the facility into the future. Like his grandfather, Tony George realized what his facility meant to so many people. Although I didn’t agree with everything he did, I never questioned his dedication to the institution that the Speedway had become. I can only hope that Jeff Belskus and the sisters act with one eye on the bottom line with another one on the track’s heritage.

There are a lot of problems within the IndyCar inner-workings and there is a tremendous amount of work to be done by a lot of people in 2010 and beyond. But we’ll worry about that next week. Right now, it’s time to realize and appreciate what is right with the series.

George Phillips

*Please note – There will be no blog this Friday Nov 27. I am traveling this weekend and will be eating turkey at my mother’s home in the house that I grew up in, which I am very thankful for. I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend. I will return here on Monday Nov 30. – GP

13 Responses to “Why IndyCar Should Be Thankful”

  1. Good stuff George,
    Have a Happy Thanksgiving


  2. I’m thankful for the good humor and dedication of the fans of IndyCar! It is fun to be among you all!

  3. made me think, as usual, george. especially about penske and ganassi, the standard to which all teams aspire.

    have a good thanksgiving, george and george-readers.

    redd autosport

  4. tim nothhelfer Says:

    I think we can be grateful for any new involvement with the series.

  5. imjustsayingisall Says:

    George, I think that you are absolutely on the money, most especially with regard to Super Tex and the Andrettis.
    I also feel the same way about Danica, that inasmuch as she has drawn exactly the element you mentioned, she has however also drawn quite a few adolesent girls and their dads along with many young women to the sport. She has also been a lackluster competitor, and only an average driver at best….
    I hope that you and yours have a very pleasant and restful Thanksgiving Holiday.

  6. I think Dani hasn’t converted because she doesn’t win. If she’d won more races, I think a lot of her temporary fans would have stayed around.

    But at the same time, I think she’s appealing to a lot of the very young girls, and you won’t see the harvest from that for another decade or so.

  7. I’m thankful for always having one Danica-Hater to counter the rumored Danica Mania 💡 ❗ ❗

    Amazing how ANY lackluster & just average driver finishes BEHIND the dominant Penske & Ganassi combos… what an underachieving driver eh 🙄 I’ll admit she is not the caliber of a Dario, Dixon, Briscoe, or Helio… but if Ms Patrick is lackluster then a helluva lot of ICS drivers have some explaining to do for their 2009 overall season performances 💡

    I’m thankful that IZOD stepped up in a tough economy & I’ll really be thankful if the new car Curt Cavin wrote about is seriously being considered by the IZOD Indycar Staff ❗ ❗ ❗

    • imjustsayingisall Says:

      Perhaps not so much the drivers, as the teams in general…. Further, if Danica was say more the likes of an Ed Carpenter, or pick any number of also rans, rather than a petite attractive young woman driving in the IRL. I think that the non-descript or lackluster moniker could easily be applied…. I am not saying that the arrival of Ms. Bunnies and Rainbows has not been of great benefit to the IRL. I’m just saying, that had she been just one more of generally mediocre competitors with a fistfull of dollars to arrive on rhe scene recently, if this had been anyone else, after the past several seasons, you would have seen their sponsorship money dissappear faster than the funding for ACORN has.

      • And if grandma had balls she would be grandpa ❗

        Danica is a woman & since we have had about 5-6 women TOTAL compete in the history of Indycars she can’t be dumped into a “Just One of the Boyz” type of list 💡

        Many have admitted that AGR was on a slide, yet a member of that team finished 5TH in the season’s championship. Sorry, but I don’t consider a Top 5 in a season long series lackluster or mediocre. She beat Tony Kanaan who is far from lackluster. She finished just behind him (& ahead of her other AGR teammates) in 2008. We agree she is not 5th best driver… but please, can we find a middle ground between this & lackluster ❓ ❓

  8. The TonyCar league should be thankful for fans and longtime partners Firestone and Honda. I am thankful for Oilpressure and the informed and intelligent fans who comment on it.

  9. I agree with everything you wrote, George. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

  10. George, happy thanksgiving day and weekend…enjoy your family trip and keep up the good work.

    I would like you to (if you can) review how similar the IZOD IndyCar Series seems as a growing sport compared to CART in 1983 toward the 90s (low attendance, low TV ratings, low/medium sponsorship involvement, etc). I remain very optimistic on the series growth and eventual national exposure in 3-5 years.

    Thanks for being an ambassador of the sport.

  11. Great post. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

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