Like most American kids that grew up in the 80's I watched the Indy 500 every year and became interested in motorsports thanks to that race, but I didn't really get hooked until I started watching Formula 1 racing in the late 90's. My favorite era were those years with the great Mika Hakkinen/Michael Schumacher battles. (I was a Mika Hakkinen fan) So my fondness for Formula 1 waned once Mika retired and Schumacher started winning everything, even at the expense of his teammate Rubens Barrichello. My interest in F1 has only been lukewarm since.

Then I turned to Champ Car racing here in the US for my motorsports fix. However that was quickly extinguished once Champ Car and Indy Car merged and we were stuck with Tony George and his many foibles. (It was entertaining to watch the Hulman/George drama I'll admit.) My interest has been less than lukewarm with Indy Car lately, even without Tony George at the helm.

Over time however, the excitement I once had for motorsports has slowly gone. Maybe it has to do with my age, I don't know. But I think I will pour my efforts into my Trooper and my interests in the outdoors to add excitement to my life.

Thanks for checking out my blog, I hope you enjoy it. I will still post racing news when I find something interesting or noteworthy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stars aligned in open-wheel world

(by John Oreovicz 11-26-09)

There's a tendency in life to focus on what's wrong with things, and racing is no exception.

But in the spirit of the holiday season, here's a look at what's right. In other words, a few things to be thankful for in the world of open-wheel racing.

Everyone involved with the IndyCar Series is thankful that Izod has come on board as a title sponsor that will aggressively market the series.

Izod and IndyCar officials are thankful that Danica Patrick will concentrate primarily on open-wheelers for the next few years. But they wish she and her handlers would finally get around to announcing it.

A lot of people who spend time at IndyCar races are thankful for the quieter exhaust system Honda Performance Development created for the Honda Indy V-8 -- not to mention Honda's continued support of American open-wheel racing.

All the IndyCar Series drivers appreciate the consistent excellence of the Firestone tires they race on, and are also thankful for the introduction this year of red-sidewall alternate tires for road and street courses.

Speaking of road racing, the vast majority of the IndyCar field is thankful that additional road races (Brazil, Barber) are popping up on the schedule.

But I'm sure I wouldn't be the only thankful person if somebody figured out a way to solve the Milwaukee Mile's financial problems so Indy racing's century of history at the historic venue could be extended.

I don't think I am alone in wanting to see Cleveland and Road America on the IndyCar slate as well.

I'm glad that Indy car racing still attracts world-class drivers like Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves.

I'm thankful that Juan Pablo Montoya is starting to show NASCAR and the world that former Indy car drivers really can adapt to stock car racing.

Franchitti and almost every other IndyCar Series competitor are thankful that the ever-slow and always-erratic Milka Duno didn't ever sweep them into a crash.

Another world-class Indy driver, Will Power, is thankful that Roger Penske is stepping up to run a third car for him in 2010.

I'm thankful that the broken back Power suffered (and the broken leg sustained by Nelson Philippe in the same practice crash at Infineon Raceway) was the worst injury of the IndyCar season.

I'm also thankful that I got to witness Justin Wilson's victory for Dale Coyne Racing at Watkins Glen -- one of the best racing stories of the year. A surprisingly long list of drivers out there is grateful to Coyne for his 25 years in the sport.

I'm hopeful that the next wave of American road racing talent -- including JR Hildebrand, Jonathan Summerton, John Edwards, Alexander Rossi and Gabby Chaves -- gets a fair shot at competing in the IndyCar Series, or even F1.

Speaking of F1, world champion Jenson Button is thankful that Red Bull Racing didn't get its car sorted until midseason.

Kimi Raikkonen must be ecstatic at the thought of being paid an eight-figure salary to watch F1 from the sidelines next year.

Felipe Massa is thankful for the safety advances in modern helmets -- as are the Brazilian's legions of fans.

A lot of people remain happy that a few traditional F1 racetracks like Spa, Monza and Suzuka continue to endure the onslaught of fabulous yet characterless Hermann Tilke-designed facilities.

Finally, I'm thankful that my 3-year-old son, Patrick, seems to enjoy watching just about any form of racing as much as his daddy does.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

IndyCar deal with Izod a real shot in the arm

(by John Oreovicz 11-06-09)

"Let's get the party started!"

With those words from Indy Racing League vice president of public relations John Griffin, the IndyCar Series rolled out the red carpet for its first title sponsor since 2001. With the marketing muscle of Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. behind it, the Izod IndyCar Series may finally get noticed as "The Fastest Race in the World."

At first glance, the notion of an apparel brand and a racing series teaming together doesn't add up. But if you look at the initiatives taken (not to mention the promotional dollars spent) since Izod entered Indy car racing as a personal sponsor of American star Ryan Hunter-Reay 16 months ago, it starts to make sense.

"It obviously has been a long time since we've had a title sponsor, and to be honest with you, it's probably the first legitimate title sponsor we've ever had," said IRL competition president Brian Barnhart, without mentioning short-lived former partners Pep Boys (1998-99) and (2000-01).

"I think the best thing about it is going to be the activation aspect of it because they're going to spend a lot of money raising the awareness of the series and increasing the amount of eyeballs that are watching our sport. That's the first step in raising the value of participation in this series."

It certainly sounds like the way the six-year deal (with an option for Izod to extend) has been structured will benefit everyone involved with Indy car racing. Aside from the cash influx the Indy Racing League needed at a critical juncture for the company, Izod's money will be allocated to participants as part of the TEAM revenue-sharing program. It's a given that PVH will promote the sport through aggressive television, print and Internet media ad buys and driver appearances at Macy's stores.

Izod is likely to reserve plenty of track signage and work closely with promoters in local race markets.

"We expect to be very aggressive in our spending," said Mike Kelly, PVH executive vice president of marketing and creative.

The title backing, worth upward of $10 million annually, is part of PVH's strategy of building Izod's brand image through sports marketing, including securing naming rights for the Meadowlands arena that the New Jersey Nets call home.

The IndyCar Series also offers PVH the opportunity to cross-market its premium brands, including Calvin Klein, Timberland and Sean John, to the demographically upscale open-wheel audience.

Kelly was Hunter-Reay's guest at the 2008 Indianapolis 500 and said, "It took about four seconds before the needle was in my arm."

By the Watkins Glen race on July 4 weekend, RHR had earned a personal sponsorship contract from Izod. The driver arguably responsible for delivering the Izod title sponsorship to the IndyCar Series affirmed his enthusiasm for the partnership during the presentation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pagoda Pavilion on Thursday.

"This is a fresh start for the IndyCar Series," said Hunter-Reay, who is reportedly on the brink of clinching -- with Izod's support -- the open fourth seat with Michael Andretti's team. "This is what we've been waiting for. They're more a marketing company than anything else and the sky's the limit right now."

With the economy in a continued tailspin and Indy car racing's public profile at a low point, Izod couldn't have picked a better time to get on board with open-wheel racing and the chances of the sport making a comeback increased significantly with Thursday's title sponsorship announcement.

"As a corporation, if you see what we're doing across all of our brands, we have not pulled back in our marketing spend even though the environment became difficult," Kelly said. "We have grown, our brands have grown, we've grown in market share -- we believe in share of units, share of dollars, also share of voice and share of mind.

"While our competition has pulled back on their spending, we see it in the marketplace. We've been aggressive with the spend. We're fortunate to be able to do so as a healthy company. It's bearing fruit for us."

Kelly said he and PVH were captivated by the potential of using the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Centennial Celebration as a marketing platform and believe Indy car racing can regain the stature it enjoyed in the 1980s and '90s until the battle for control of the sport between the IRL and CART/Champ Car killed whatever momentum the formula carried.

"The assets are so rich," Kelly said. "If you think about the power of [Indy car racing] during the '80s and the '90s on the American racing landscape, now you've got a next generation that just doesn't realize how sexy and cool this sport is. I think we have a lot to offer the league, but the league has a lot of great assets to tell a story with.

"It's an opportunity, no question," he added. "If everything was rosy and the series was mature after the unification, I'm not sure we could afford it. I think it's right time, right place, and we do see upside. If you think of it as a toddler that's on its feet now, that's the kind of position we like. We want to be part of it, because we're not just committed for the short term."