Sunday, September 16, 2012
80 POUNDS SHORT OF A SELLOUT CROWD
HOW NOT TO DRESS FOR SUCCESS: The MavTV 500 pole winner during his news conference Friday at Auto Club Speedway.
A necessary piece of personal business required me to travel to the Los Angeles area last week. I took that opportunity to then head over to Auto Club Speedway for IndyCar's return to the California oval and the Izod series' finale, the MavTV 500.
Roger Penske said he had a huge group of employees and their families there for the race. Thank goodness. The most optimistic attendance number shared with me was around 20,000. I don't know for sure but will say, to my eye, there were more folks in the grandstands than I would have thought and probably more than most people predicted. Yes, the bar has been lowered and that's terribly sad, but I'll be positive and say there just might be something there for the Speedway and IndyCar to build on.
For want of 80 pounds, they could have sold out!
Let me explain . . .
In what was a truly interesting week for me, after a long interview with Jeff Gordon on Tuesday (see below), I spent almost a half-hour with A.J. Foyt Saturday. The main purpose was for a project I'll explain at a later date. But, in sitting with A.J. in his transporter office at ACS, the Indy 500's first four-time winner brought up the subject of Mike Conway. As I'm sure you know, Foyt driver Conway (who relocated to my residence city of Scottsdale earlier this year) decided he simply was not comfortable on ovals and stepped-out of the No. 14 ABC Supply Co.-Honda after the first practice session. I'll bet you are not surprised that the Great A.J. was not happy and here's what he told me Saturday.
"I told the crew, if I was about 80 pounds lighter, I'd get back in (the car) now. I'm using weight as an excuse. I really wanted to because, tracks like this, I liked. What I'm trying to say -- you know what I'm talking about -- it's a challenge. I said to myself, 'A.J., you're 77, you know better.' Since I got out, I have not sit back in one. Not that I don't want to, don't get me wrong. I know I can't do what I did at 30 years old."
After some other talk, Foyt went on: "I respect Mike very highly for telling me he don't want to run. But don't wait until we get here."
A.J. went on, but you get the point. Can you imagine the national headlines -- and last-minute ticket sales -- if word went out Foyt was going to get in the No. 14 and race? !
(More amazing A.J. quotes somewhere down the line, including what he thinks of today's generation of driver -- in a way you might not have heard before.)
Great, touching, wonderful tribute to Bob Jenkins pre-race on the NBC Sports Network. Bob's retirement marks the end of a race broadcasting era. AARWBA presented him with a nice award. Now, on the other end of the spectrum, there's Mr. Irrelevant, Wally Dallenbach Jr. "Expert" WD suggested on TV that Penske should pull Ryan Briscoe out of his car and put Will Power in as a way to take the championship after Power's crash. Relief drivers are not eligible for points! Nothing like the TV "experts" doing their homework to actually know the rules!
NASCAR dispatched Jeff Gordon to Phoenix last week to promote the Chase and Phoenix International Raceway's Nov. 11 Chase semifinal. What a great conversation Mark Armijo and I had with Jeff, who is such a professonal. Jeff -- and I think Rick Mears is another -- is one of those people who has the ability to not only say interesting things, but make you feel he's totally engaged in what you are saying. My Arizona Republic story was played BIG at the top of sports Page 1.
Be careful what you wish for, NHRA fans. Here's my September CompetitionPlus.com column:
[ more next Monday . . . ]