Well, that was an exciting way to begin my 35th Indianapolis 500 and the run-up to the 100th anniversary Greatest Spectacle.
I arrived late Wednesday to an Indiana-wide tornado watch that had the local TV affiliates going to continuous weather coverage instead of network programming from about 5 p.m. until after midnight. Fortunately, other than some heavy rain, downtown Indy itself was OK. But rain carried over to mess-up Thursday planned Indy Lights on-track running.
Meanwhile, on the PR front, back in 2005 IMS started taking all 33 qualified drivers to New York City Monday of race week. As I told the powers-that-be back all the way back then that first year, this was a waste of time for most of the drivers, as only a handful of them actually did any meaningful interviews. Given the significant inventory of unsold seats, I told them the smarter course of action was to take a few big names to NYC, then scatter others to Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis and the surrounding areas where people might actually buy tickets and make it a one-day trip. In fact, in 2005, I didn't make the trip (even though I had a reserved seat on the charter plane), instead spending the day lining up local radio interviews for Tuesday and Wednesday -- MUCH more effective for the purposes of my driver, team and sponsors.
That's what I said and wrote -- you can look it up.
Well, finally, they listened.
Danica (surprise!), Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves did go to the Big Apple. But the group was dispatched to 13 different cities to promote the centennial -- including several of those I listed in 2005. Plus, some major race markets like Boston, Miami, Las Vegas and Dallas.
Let the record show that, for all the nonsense talk about IndyCar wanting to open its 2012 season in Phoenix, they didn't sent any drivers to the Valley of the Sun. That should tell you more than a little something.
Thursday was media day -- a poorly orchestrated one at that. The No. 1 topic was if this will be Danica's last I500. Enough said.
It's a little-known fact: Roger Penske, Indy's 15-time winning car owner, started off as a drag racer. Read about it, and what Roger has to say about the current motorsports economy and sponsorships, in my CompetitionPlus.com exclusive:
Indy's top 10 legends:
Rolex series champion Scott Pruett's PruettVineyard.com is presenting a magnum of limited edition Napa Cabernet Sauvignon to each Indy 500 team owner with race centennial logo on the label. http://pruettvineyard.com/ .
FAST LINES: It's gotten to the point where I'd rather the PTI pseudo-intellectuals just didn't talk about racing. Last Tuesday, Cranky Tony Kornheiser said Tony Kanaan was an Indy 500 winner. And this error wasn't corrected by the fact checker, probably because he was too busy practicing tossing paper balls at a camera . . . Something to watch for Sunday: For the last two years, ABC's announcers have completely botched the all-important Indy winner's circle interview. Will they go for the hat trick?
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