No. 934
February 21, 2018
 

About The Autoextremist

@PeterMDeLorenzo

Author, commentator, influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established Autoextremist.com on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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Fumes


Tuesday
May202008

FUMES #446

May 21, 2008

The Future is Now for Indy.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit.
The 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 is shaping up to be not only the most competitive race in years, but certainly the most pivotal one in terms of what it means to the sport of major league open-wheel racing in the United States. The momentum that has been building after the unification of the warring open-wheel factions in the U.S. has been growing with each event run so far in 2008. And the media has started to turn a more receptive ear to what's going on with the IRL and the IndyCar Series, too, primarily on the news of Danica Patrick's first win in Japan and also with Graham Rahal's first win in St. Petersburg. The news from open-wheel racing has gone from a giant negative to a hopeful and encouraging positive virtually overnight. And the month of May, which has even the casual stick-and-ball media turning its attention to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is proving to be a tremendous opportunity for the sport of open-wheel racing to reposition itself and forge a new identity in the media and with the public.

The fact that NASCAR is sailing into serious headwinds now is playing right into the IRL's hands too. While trying to shift blame for its burgeoning litany of problems to the general state of the nation's economy, the reality for NASCAR is something much more ominous. The laundry list of NASCAR's problems runs together in an unforgiving blur of declining TV ratings, reduced corporate sponsorships (or worse, sponsorships drying up altogether), costs spiraling upward for both the competitors and the fans, a dramatic departure from traditional race dates and tracks, and an overall sameness - enhanced by the weird-looking, cookie-cutter cars - that hangs over the series like a giant wet blanket of boredom.

Add to all of this negativity the fact that the powers that be in Daytona Beach seem to believe that none of what's going on is an indicator of long-term stress - but rather just a mere "bump" in the road that will soon pass - and it's easy to see why they can't see or understand that NASCAR has indeed peaked, and that the downward spiral has well and truly begun.

The juxtaposition of the troubles in NASCAR-land as opposed to the burgeoning "up" feelings surrounding open-wheel racing should not be underestimated at this point. The Danica Factor is both real and a positive, as the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated indicates. And with names like Andretti, Foyt and Rahal back in the mix at The Speedway, it's a comfort to a media searching for a bit of familiarity at Indy and to long-suffering open-wheel racing fans who are desperate to be able to love their sport again.

The new reality for racing in this country is that for the first time in the better part of twelve years open-wheel racing feels to be on almost equal footing with NASCAR in terms of "buzz." Does it still have a long, long way to go before it can get on the same page with NASCAR in terms of interest and exposure? Absolutely, and the fact of the matter is open-wheel racing may never get there again.

But for the month leading up to Sunday's 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 at least - and hopefully for the race itself - Indy has definitely got its mojo back.

And if the IndyCar Series can build on the momentum of Sunday's '500' and go forward into the future with a dynamic new series, we may be able to look back on Sunday's race as the beginning of a new golden era for major league open-wheel racing in this country.

 

Publisher's Note: In our continuing series celebrating the "Golden Era" of American racing history, here is another image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

mtrsptshist_1550_HR1.jpg
(Ford Racing Archives)
Indianapolis, IN, 1969. Mario Andretti in victory lane with Andy Granatelli (left) after winning the 1969 Indianapolis 500.